In a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, a hot microphone inadvertently caught President Barack Obama telling Medvedev, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," him being incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama continued, "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."
Obama's political rivals jumped on the comment. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the remark was an "extraordinary moment caught on tape where the president basically said to a Russian leader, 'Please wait until after the election so I can sell out.'"
Mitt Romney too slammed Obama for the remark. However the former Massachusetts governor is experiencing some backlash of his own due to his criticisms. "Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage, and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling, very alarming," he said. Romney went as far as to call Russia, "without question, our number one geopolitical foe." He later clarified that a nuclear Iran or North Korea would actually be the most dangerous to the United States. A number of Democrats and Obama supporters, including Gen. Wes Clark, former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, and former Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer released statements calling Romney's anti-Russia remarks out of touch and even dangerous. Nevertheless, some political analysts argue that the Democrats' heated response to Romney's comment actually reveals how politically worrisome Obama's original slip was.
Obama tried to make light of the open mic moment. Later when he met Medvedev, he covered his microphone, and laughingly said, "Wait, wait, wait." However, Obama defended the remark in seriousness too: "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support, and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations." Medvedev also jumped in on the controversy, saying, "Regarding ideological clichés, every time this or that side uses phrases like 'enemy number one,' this always alarms me, this smells of Hollywood and certain times [of the past]." Even Speaker of the House John Boehner distanced himself from Romney's attack, "Clearly while the president is overseas, he's at a conference, and while the president is overseas I think it's appropriate that people not be critical of him or our country." However his official Twitter account did tweet, "When the president returns from S. Korea, we look forward to hearing what he meant by having 'more flexibility' on missile defense," signifying Boehner would not be letting go of Obama's comment just yet.
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