LAS VEGAS – Frontrunner Hillary Clinton should have to answer for a disingenuous foreign policy blunder during Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.
In response to an Anderson Cooper question about whether or not Clinton underestimated Vladimir Putin’s Russia during her time as Secretary of State, Clinton made a statement that would have made Gerald Ford blush.
Clinton explained away her failed diplomacy with the Russians by pretending that Putin was truly out of power during President Obama’s first term, when Putin was serving as “Prime Minister” of the country instead of “President” in order to skirt term-limit laws that he eventually just threw away. Close observers of the situation, as well as casual observers, all knew that Putin was still really in charge during the brief presidency of his ally Dmitry Medvedev.
“Well, first of all, we got a lot of business done with the Russians when Medvedev was the president, and not Putin. We got a nuclear arms deal, we got the Iranian sanctions, we got an ability to bring important material and equipment to our soldiers in Afghanistan,” Clinton said, as though the Medvedev administration was actually a different government.
“There’s no doubt that when Putin came back in and said he was going to be President, that did change the relationship,” Clinton added. “We have to stand up to his bullying, and specifically in Syria, it is important — and I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they’ve got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict.”
President Obama embarrassed himself in 2012 when he told Medvedev on a hot microphone that he would have more “flexibility” to negotiate missile defense issues after he won re-election. How did Medvedev reply to Obama?
“I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin],” Medvedev said, confirming that Putin was still in charge. Putin would later return to the presidency for a third four-year term following Medvedev’s brief placeholder term.
Clinton’s statements on Russia recall another major debate gaffe, in 1976, when incumbent President Gerald Ford said that there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The widely-mocked statement made Ford appear clueless in comparison to Jimmy Carter, and largely contributed to his electoral defeat.