The microphone has long been both a politician's best friend and worst enemy. In 1948, for example, Thomas E. Dewey got himself into trouble when the train he was traveling on lurched backward toward a crowd of supporters in Illinois, just as the Republican presidential candidate was preparing to speak into a microphone. "That's the first lunatic I've had for an engineer," Dewey huffed. "He probably should be shot at sunrise." Never one to miss an opportunity, Democratic incumbent Harry Truman praised the "all Democratic" train crew, while the "lunatic" engineer himself declared, "I think as much of Dewey as I did before, and that's not very much."
You'd think we would have learned a thing or two in the six decades since, but apparently not. President Barack Obama has been stung by the open mic on three separate occasions. And on Monday, it happened again. Microphones caught Obama telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after a meeting in Seoul that he would have more "flexibility" to deal with issues such as missile defense after the U.S. presidential election. Here's a transcript and video of the exchange, per ABC News:
Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space.
Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you...
Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
The conversation has sparked an outcry among conservatives. Mitt Romney's campaign pounced, tweeting, "@BarackObama: I'll have more flexibility to _______ after the election," prompting followers to fill in the blank with everything from "impose peace plan" on Israel to "act more European." The Republican National Committee has already come out with an ad asking, "What else is on Obama's agenda after the election that he isn't telling you?"
Just a tip: if you have to ask "Is this thing on?" better to be silent than sorry. Here's a look at the worst tempests in a teacup roiled by the open mic. And if you think Obama put his foot in his mouth, just wait until you hear Putin's rape joke or recall what Reagan's slip of the tongue almost caused.
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