Thinking a microphone was turned off, President Barack Obama whispered some secrets to Dmitry Medvedev the other day. He and the Russian president were in Seoul, South Korea. That, you would think, is a long distance from American politics, though not so long when the microphone is really turned on in an age of immediate, long-distance, blanketing communications.
"On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it's important to give me space," said our leader, master of wink-wink, nudge-nudge, and Medvedev got it, smiled back, seemed buoyant: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you ... " While maybe not needing to, Obama explained more.
"This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility," he said, with Medvedev all but sticking a $5 bill in Obama's shirt pocket as he replied again how he understood and would "transmit this information" to Vladimir Putin, who is Russia's czar, or if that title is wrong, something very much like that.
In no time at all, the whole world knew how our president, who did everything conceivably wrong on the subject of missile defense and Russia in his first term, plans to do more wrong in a second term, with this proviso: He does not want the public to know about it now because that knowledge might complicate his re-election prospects.
Once the election is done, it is Katy-bar-the-door, and Obama has tricked poor Katy just about every time she has tried to bar that door in the past.
There was a time when Poland and Czechoslovakia were going to let the United States set up bases for short-range missiles that could knock down long-range missiles from the Middle East. Russia said phooey on that. It claimed the Russian people would be threatened by those bases -- typical Russian hogwash -- and warned it would point its own missiles at our missiles and refuse to cooperate with us on much of anything else.
Oh, OK, said the Obama administration, thereby making two new European democracies feel less secure. He proposed another missile-defense plan, hoping the Russians would help dissuade Iran from any nuclear ambitions, which it didn't do. Russia is actually closer to being a cheerleader for an Iran equipped to instigate World War III, while still screaming its head off about any missile-defense system in that part of the world.
This is the subject on which Obama was promising Medvedev solutions -- meaning, more moves to kissy-face defenselessness -- as soon as he had space from democracy.
As if one were needed, this is a tipoff about what an Obama re-election would mean on other issues, such as cap and trade. The public didn't much like the idea of measures that would undermine the economy while failing to deter global warming unless China and India did the same, and maybe not even then. Obama backed off, but if he gets a second term, I promise you his "greenie" faith will make him fight for the measure.
There would be more. More debt, for instance, and more taxes and more of a welfare state. And there would also be less. Less sovereignty. Less national defense.
But then again, some still believe in hope and change, and all those other 2008 campaign stands, such as the one against a health-care plan requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Hillary Rodham Clinton was for that, and Obama was against it, and he stuck by that stand, didn't he? No, he didn't. It ended up in "Obamacare" and we are having a Supreme Court case testing whether that multibillion-dollar, Constitution-busting, freedom-denying change of position will still stand.
We can learn from such a breach of trust, just as we can learn from a blessedly functioning microphone on the Korean Peninsula.
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, lives in Colorado. Email SpeaktoJay@aol.com.