President Obama was caught by an open mic Monday telling outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would “have more flexibility” in missile negotiations “after the election.”
Republicans jumped all over Obama for the remark implying that it showed he wasn’t being as tough as he should with the Russians.
But reassuring Russians about your public inflexibility in a campaign year is almost a tradition, and George H. W. Bush engaged in it back in the 1980s.
George H. W. Bush privately reassured Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that he didn’t mean the hard line things he would say during the 1988 presidential campaign, and was only talking that way because of the “intellectual thugs” in the Republican party. That is, Bush implicitly told Gorbachev that he would have more flexibility after the election. Arnold Beichman explained:
“The Beschloss-Talbott book directly quotes Bush as telling Gorbachev in 1987 that in the coming presidential campaign he would be saying things in his speeches that would displease Gorbachev but that Gorbachev should disregard. He had to make such speeches, Bush said, because of “the marginal intellectual thugs” around President Reagan.”
Some things don’t change. The Soviet Union is gone but the marginal intellectual thugs are still around.