On Monday at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, President Barack Obama met with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. One of the issues discussed between the two was a proposed NATO missile defense system in Eastern Europe. NATO claims the system is designed to detect missiles fired out of Iran. The Russian leadership, however, believes this system may be used against Russia, hindering their ability to counter an attack. This was also a focus for Vladimir Putin during his recent re-election to president. It appears the Cold War has not ended.
You've heard the saying, “There's no time like the present." Often this phrase is used as a counter to procrastination of an important task. The phrase could be said to Obama, as well as other career politicians regarding re-election campaigns. Putting off major policy discussion until re-election is unfair to the citizens of the United States. We, the citizens, expect our elected officials to perform the duties of their office and not spend their time winning votes for re-election. Obama let slip where his time is spent.
At the conclusion of this meeting, an open mic picked up a candid discussion between the two.
A video of that discussion shows Obama telling Medvedev, “This can be solved, but it is important for him (Putin) to give me some space ... This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Medvedev responded that he will pass the information on to Putin. This off the record discussion raises some questions in my mind about a senior elected official's ability (or willingness) to perform the duties of office during an election year.
Obama's comment translates to, “We will deal with this, but I can't do it right now. I'm in the middle of a campaign and what we agree to might hurt my image. Once I'm reelected, we will solve the problem.”
Excuse me? Who says you are going to be reelected, Mr. President? Why not deal with the matter now while you are definitely the president. We elect our president to do the job for four years. If the president pushes this to the side for campaign reasons, what else is he putting on the back burner? What other major decisions is he holding back on until his second term? Foreign policy issues, especially those regarding national security should not be placed on hold for political reasons. Lucky for the United States, it appears Russia is also not in a position to address this problem yet. They recently finished an election in which Vladimir Putin will take office for the third time, succeeding Medvedev.
Of course, Obama is not the first elected official to take this approach. Politicians often avoid controversial decisions during an election year, because they are worried about how citizens will react. The question for us as citizens, is how can we prevent it? The simplest way is to institute single terms. Politicians will focus on the job at hand, and not their job security. Hopefully, decisions will no longer be made based on doing the popular thing, but by doing the right thing.