Amidst news of a downed Malaysian Airlines jet, and a foiled Iranian plot to send weapons to Gaza, this week appears to be shaping up as one of the most consequential in President Obama’s foreign policy dealings.
That’s why his decision to play golf in South Florida, and Tuesday’s much-viewed “Between Two Ferns” interview with Zach Galifianakis, left a lot of foreign policy pundits scratching their heads.
What they didn’t realize is that Obama’s “Funny or Die” interview wasn’t an Obamacare recruitment tactic but a stroke of sheer foreign policy genius—the kind of political theater that could leave historians marveling, years from now. Reviewing the dialogue with Putin’s Crimean invasion in mind, it’s clear our commander-in-chief was talking right past uninsured twenty-somethings, and directly to a Russian commander with his finger on the trigger in the sovereign country of Ukraine.
Here’s the way Mr. Putin should read between the lines:
- “Zach, if I ran for president a 3rd time it’d be kind of like doing a 3rd Hangover movie … didn’t work so well, did it?” Translation: ‘President’ Putin, how’s that 3rd term in office working out for you?
- “Everybody loves Bradley Cooper.” Everyone loved Mikhail Gorbachev.
- “I’m a nerd? Really? Do you honestly think a woman like Michelle would marry a nerd?” She didn’t—and by the way I was watching closely when you kissed her on the cheek.
- “I’m not letting you anywhere near Michelle.” Note to Russian submarine commander stationed 220 miles away, in Havana: I came down here to stare you in the face. We aren’t afraid of you. (And don’t even think about touching my wife.)
- “Young people like you tend to think you’re invincible, even with spider bites.” Careful, Vladimir: our covert operations teams are crawling up your arms as we speak. We’ve been watching you for months—but you have the power to de-conflict all this, before a possible March 31st Ukrainian-Russian (interim) peace agreement.
- “Any other message you need to plug, Mr. President?” There is one thing: a little red-button none-too-inconspicuously positioned like an elephant in the room? (Putin if you force my hand, I’d use this—Sochi games niceties notwithstanding.)
- And the brilliant finish: where’s all this happening? Not in a Hollywood studio, and not in Key Largo: in the White House Diplomatic Room—just a few steps, if need be, from the War Room.
Obama-naysayers have accused him of playing checkers, while Putin plays chess. Tuesday’s political theater was brilliant, though—brilliant. Watch it again to see what I mean.
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