President Obama’s unguarded comments on a live mic with outgoing Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev, about how he will have “more flexibility” to
deal on such issues as missile defense after the U.S. elections, are a
statement of fact.
Presidents who are no longer running for office in a second term have the opportunity to concentrate on legacy issues. It was in President Ronald Reagan’s second term that he signed a landmark agreement with the Russians on eliminating an entire category of nuclear weapons in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. But that was then, and this is now.
Influential House Republicans in Congress immediately accused Obama of seeking a deal with Russia that would not stand up to electoral scrutiny. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said that “Congress has made exquisitely clear to your administration and to other nations that it will block all attempts to weaken U.S. missile defenses.”
But beyond the ongoing trial of strength with Congress, it’s interesting that Obama was talking about a post-election situation. "This is my last election ... After my election I have more flexibility," Obama said to Medvedev.
So here is a president confident of reelection in eight months’ time. But a lot can happen between now and November, and Obama’s polling numbers are not great. It’s a close race. In fact, according to Rasmussen, he would lose by two points to Mitt Romney in the presidential election, if the former governor is selected as the Republican nominee.