Monday, March 26, 2012

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN? Obama to Medvedev to "Vladimir," Twelve Years to the Day Putin was First Elected President

"I understand.
I will transmit
this information
to Vladimir."

Moscow, March 26, 2000 
the day he was first elected President of Russia 

On March 26, 2012, in Seoul, Korea, for a nuclear security summit, U.S. President Barack Obama leaned over to Russia President Dmitry Medvedev to ask for patience on the contentious missile defense issue. Obama pointed out that "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev, who has only forty-two more days left as president, replied, in English, "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir." 

Whether Vladimir Putin was listening to a direct transmission or not, both American and Russian correspondents were listening to it on a live microphone. (You can listen to it here.) 

Republicans immediately pounced on Obama's gaffe (e.g., here). 

But this is hardly a first. There is George W. Bush's July 2006 "Yo, Blair," exchange with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia (transcript here). And, still inexplicably, there was Ronald Reagan's declaration that the bombs would fly to that outlaw nation, Russia (still the Soviet Union then, in August 1984), in five minutes -- this by the old radio announcer warming up for his Saturday radio address (more here). 

And as to business of explaining to the leader from Moscow that the American politics may require patience and/or understanding, there is the lesson from Bush the father: 

"During their meeting in Washington in the back of Gorbachev's Zil limousine in December 1987, the American vice-president had told him not to mind the cannons of rhetoric that he, George Bush, would be obliged to fire in his upcoming presidential campaign." (RUSSIA REDUX, Chapter Three

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