By Fred Lucas
Rep. Trent Frank (R.-Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, says Congress should hold a hearing to examine the inadvertantly recorded remarks in which President Barack Obama asked outgoing Russian President and soon-to-be Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to ask incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin to give Obama some "space" because he will have "more flexibility" after the November presidential election here in the United States.
Franks described Obama's remarks as "outrageous" and an "outright betrayal of his fundamental duty as president." Consequently, he said, Congress should seek to determine what Obama's actual policy is compared to what he is telling the American people and America's NATO allies.
"This issue certainly rises to the level deserving a congressional hearing," Franks told CNSNews.com in a written response on Tuesday. "The American people and our allies need clarification of the administration's policy on missile defense and national security in general. I know the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee is looking into possibly holding a hearing on this. Hopefully, they'll be able to find some time in the schedule for the administration to provide clarity on their missile defense policy."
Obama and Medvedev held a bilateral meeting on Monday in Seoul, South Korea, where both were attending the Nuclear Security Summit. During a tete-a-tete, a microphone picked up Obama and Medvedev talking about missile defense and other unspecified issues. Both Medvedev and Putin, who are political allies, are opponents of the planed U.S.-NATO missile defensive system for Europe. The missile defense is designed to protect U.S. allies and U.S. forces in the region from Iranian missile strikes.
Obama says in the exchange, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him [Putin] to give me space." Medvedev says, "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you." Obama then says, "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev responds, "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir."
Putin, 52, was a member of the Communist Party and served in the KGB from 1975 to 1991. He was first elected president of Russia in 2000 and served two 4-year terms, until early 2008. After that, he became prime minister of Russia, maintaining his power in the government. His friend and former first deputy prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, became president in May 2008. Putin then ran for the presidency in March 2012 and was elected with 63 percent of the vote. In his campaign, he vowed to appoint Medvedev, as prime minister. Putin will assume office in May.
Rep. Franks said the overheard exchange revealed a betrayal of Obama's "fundamental duty as president."
"To say that "this is my last election and after my election I'll have more flexibility' when referring to anything is outrageous," said Franks. "But to be saying this in reference to our missile defense and national security is an outright betrayal of his fundamental duty as president."
"In the past, Mr. Obama betrayed the Czech Republic, Poland, and the American people by abandoning missile defense sites in those countries when they had stood with us courageously in the face of Russian saber rattling," said Franks.
"Mr. Obama was cowed by Russia and significantly reduced our missile defense capabilities related to Iran," Franks continued. "Unfortunately, this president has been committed to weakening our country's defense at home and abroad since day one. We should all hope that a time does not come to pass when his agenda results in a very tragic event."
On Tuesday, a reporter in Seoul asked Obama about the open mic situation with Medvedev, and the president joked about the situation, saying, "First of all, are the mics on?"
Obama went on to say, "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, if I'm consulting with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support. And, frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations. I think the stories you guys have been writing over the last 24 hours is probably pretty good evidence of that. I think we'll do better in 2013."
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called this situation a "window" to Obama's foreign policy agenda if he wins a second term.
"It's deeply disturbing because we've made commitments not only to the American people in terms of missile defense and keeping them safe against the proliferation of ballistic missiles, but also our allies," he said. "And we know, previously, some of our allies weren't informed when President Obama made other changes previously and only learned about it in the press, which is an irresponsible way to conduct business among friends and allies."
"So I think it's a window into the president's inner most thoughts," said Cornyn, "and it's very disturbing, and that's one reason why I'm hopeful that he serves one term and no more."
CNSNews.com also asked if Cornyn believed Congress should hold hearings into the matter to determine the actual policy.
Cornyn said, "I think we can see what his policy has been. It's to restrict and undermine the missile defense program, which I think is unacceptable."
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Obama owes Americans a "clear and solid foreign policy."
"Unfortunately, when President Obama uses politics and his upcoming election as a negotiating tool for his so-called missile defense policy, it weakens our nation and gives the appearance of vulnerability to our enemies," Lee told CNSNews.com in a written statement. "As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I hope to hear the President explain his missile defense policy to the United States Senate, the people of this nation, and our allies."