The furor over President Obama's "open microphone" incident keeps swirling as more conservatives are piling on the Commander- in-chief for what they say was an admission of a "hidden agenda" to accommodate Russia if he wins re-election.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a letter to Obama, "I, and other members of the House have previously expressed concern about your administration's apparent willingness to make unilateral concessions to Russia that undermine our missile defense capabilities. Your comments reinforce those words."
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, told reporters that the president was "playing fast and loose with national security."Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman echoed McCain's comments."I thought that President Obama's statement to President Medvedev was disconcerting," Lieberman said."We built that missile defense system to protect our allies and us, particularly from Iran, from an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a weapon of mass destruction." Lieberman also said, "I don't know what the president meant when he said he'd be more flexible. I do think on the specific question on our missile defense in Europe, the president really ought to reassure all of us that he's going to stick with the program that we're on now because that program is, in my opinion, critically important to the security of the American people for years and years to come."
The controversy comes after Obama's comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which the president thought were private, that he would have "more flexibility" to negotiate on missile defense after the November election. The comments, made at an international conference in Seoul, Korea, were caught on tape on an open microphone, and they have caused considerable embarrassment for the White House.
The resulting criticism prompted Obama into damage control. He denied that he has a hidden agenda with Russia and insisted that he was only acknowledging the difficulty of getting support for his Russia agenda in an election year at home.
But Republican strategist Karl Rove, former political adviser to President George W. Bush, said the open-microphone incident could cause Obama a serious problem in the upcoming campaign.
In an essay for Fox News, Rove wrote that Obama was "in effect saying he is ready to do something the Russians will like, but that the American people won't. Mr. Obama has shown Russian leaders, and now the entire world, weakness."
Rove said there are other ramifications. "Is Mr. Obama also concealing unpopular domestic policies he'll spring the country in a second term?" Rove asked. "What the president calls 'flexibility' with Russian autocrats, American voters will likely view as a lack of candor with them. If that's the case, it could seriously undermine the president's chances for re-election."
Rove called on Republicans to raise the hidden-agenda issue "again and again in speeches, ads, videos and debates." And Rove already has a ready-made vehicle to do that—a well-financed political action committee called American Crossroads that Rove helped to start.