ABC's George Will said that President Obama's open mic comments asking the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev for "flexibility" and "space" on missile defense until after November's election reinforced perceptions that he is "kind of slippery, very aloof, and mildly disdainful" of the views of American voters.
"What this does, what people say when no one's listening, or so they think, gives you some insight into who Mr. Obama really is," Will said on this morning's "This Week" roundtable. "And this reinforces a narrative, which is that he's kind of slippery, very aloof, and mildly disdainful of those people who inhibit his flexibility: AKA the American public."
At the end of a meeting last Monday with Medvedev, President Obama was overheard saying on a hot mic, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space… This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility."
Obama explained the remark the next day, saying, "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."
Will said Republicans were right to pounce on the comments, saying they showed President Obama's disdain for the public, similar to his remarks during the 2008 election saying that voters in small towns in the Midwest "cling to guns or religion… as a way to explain their frustrations."
But Matt Bai of The New York Times Magazine said President Obama's remarks were unremarkable.
"Are we really shocked that the president of the United States thinks that he may have more political maneuverability after he's re-elected than he does during an election?" Bai asked. "Do we think that this set off, you know, at the Kremlin, this set off waves of jolting surprise that he might have more flexibility?"
Former White House environmental adviser Van Jones agreed, saying, "Everybody knows you're not going to be negotiating arms treaties in the middle of election campaigns." Jones then praised Obama's work with Russia on reducing nuclear stockpiles.
"This is a president who recognizes that the number one threat to American security is a loose nuke in the hands of terrorists that cannot be deterred," Jones said. "He has picked up Ronald Reagan's mantle of trying to get us to nuclear disarmament. And he is moving forward aggressively."
But conservative commentator and author Ann Coulter said the open mic comments showed President Obama is willing to "give in" to Russia on missile defense.
"You wouldn't need to wait until after the election with more flexibility if this were going to be a popular policy, to give in to, as [Mitt] Romney correctly says, one of our leading geopolitical enemies," Coulter said. "The fact that he's making deals - or planning to make deals with … a country that is sending nukes and dangerous materials to terrorists, and it is a problem for the United States."