A Lawyer’s Perspective on Obama’s Open Mic (aka: Selling Out Your Client)

BY Glen Tschirgi
12 years ago

By now most everyone has heard or read about the latest Obama mess– the “off the record” conversation between Obama and outgoing Russian President Dimitry Medvedev inadvertently caught by at least one microphone that the two thought had been turned off.  A friend referred to it this incident as a “gaffe,” but that is far too generous a term.  This incident is one of those rare, clarifying moments when the heavily painted facade of a charlatan mistakenly falls away and the audience is allowed a brief glimpse at the truth.

And by now as well, everyone has heard or read various analyses of the incident, none of which are dire enough for my taste.  But there is not much to add.

Now we have reached the aftershocks of this White House temblor where Obama and his sycophants attempt to spin the story and explain it away.

In this reverberation, this assault on our intelligence and patience by El Presidente, William Kristol over at The Weekly Standard.com renders us all a great service in pointing out the many levels of duplicity and shocking arrogance:

Obama is being disingenuous: His private comments to Medvedev were not about reducing nuclear stockpiles. They were about missile defense: “On all these issues, particularly on missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” he said. And Obama didn’t just ask for “space” until after Election Day. He promised: “After my election I have more flexibility.” So Obama was promising more accommodation to Vladimir Putin’s Russia next year, not simply reiterating his commitment to nuclear weapons reduction.

Obama’s new comment is also revealing. What does Obama mean by saying that the current environment isn’t conducive to “thoughtful consultations” with the Pentagon, as well with Congress? Obama is, it seems, suggesting he’ll be able to override military advice more easily once he gets past the election. That’s good to know. And that his consultations with the Pentagon fall for Obama into the same category as negotiations with congressional leaders from the other party. This is revealing—and scary.

Finally, Obama doesn’t seem at all aware of how inappropriate his whole line of discussion with Medvedev was. It’s one thing to acknowledge election year imperatives when discussing domestic issues at home. It’s quite another to do so when discussing foreign policy with a foreign leader. A president of the United States, meeting with a foreign leader abroad, should surely maintain the posture that he’s acting in the best interests of the United States at all times. Others can explain election year considerations sotto voce if necessary. But it’s deeply inappropriate for the president to discuss election year considerations—especially with a foreign leader whose country is often hostile to U.S. interests.

(Emphasis mine)

This is all very true and very well put by Kristol, but when I read these paragraphs I experienced an instantaneous connection with my other life as a trial attorney that puts Obama’s behavior in a very comprehensible light.

As most civil trial attorneys will tell you, there is often precious little, actual trial work.  The truism that most cases settle before trial is, not surprisingly, true.   How a case reaches a settlement, however, is a little known and surprising secret.   In my experience– anecdotal and possibly unrepresentative though it may be– cases settle very often because the attorney representing the other side sells out his client. Beyond the fact that this behavior is blatantly unethical and goes against the very heart and soul of the attorney-client relationship, I am constantly amazed at how attorneys will, for example, reveal damaging information about their client, or express frustration or even open hostility toward their client, all in the pursuit of the magic Settlement Agreement.   The Agreement that will allow them to move on to less taxing, more rewarding, more interesting work for someone else who always seems to pay better or have a better claim on their time.

Why would an attorney do this?  I am not sure.  An educated guess is that these attorneys are perhaps lazy and do not want to be bothered by the time and effort required to bring a case to trial.  Or perhaps these attorneys have taken on too many, other cases and are desperate to reach a Settlement that will mean one, less case to worry about.  Many of these attorneys I deal with express regrets about taking on their clients (“they don’t/can’t pay me” or “they are completely out of control” etc…).   In any event, after reading William Kristol’s piece, I immediately identified Obama’s behavior with the double-crossing attorneys I often encounter.

This is what I contend Obama was caught doing with President Medvedev: selling out his client, the United States of America, in order to achieve some kind of magical Settlement Agreement with the Russians.   Why?  Again, I can only guess but probably the same reasons apply to Obama as with the trial attorneys:  he doesn’t like his client, he is annoyed or even desperate to move on to other, more interesting or personally profitable work.   Reaching the magic Settlement Agreement may, in Obama’s mind, reinforce his egoism– the all-important Legacy.

That Obama appears willing to sell out the U.S. to Russia is a terrible thing, indeed.  But even worse (if that’s possible) is the certain knowledge that someone who will sell out his client in one case will do so again and again in other cases.   Just as Obama was caught by Danish television telling a string of visiting Nordic leaders the same, hokey line about “punching above their weight,” you can bet that Obama has been having the same, Medvedev-like conversation with other world leaders who are every bit (if not more) hostile to the U.S. than Russia.

Does anyone think, for example, that Obama has not already told President Erdogan of Turkey that he will be much more “flexible” after re-election to sell out Israel?   What about selling out U.S. interests to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?  Iran?  Syria?  China?  In all of these cases, Obama desperately wants that magical Settlement Agreement.   And like the attorneys I deal with all too often, Obama will sell us all out to get the deal he wants and needs.

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  1. On March 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm, JeffC said:

    to quote Thomas Paine —
    “It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional beliefs to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.”

  2. On March 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm, carl said:

    Very good analysis. I didn’t know that about attorneys.

    As to this “Why would an attorney do this? I am not sure.” I would guess that a big reason is that attorneys identify much more with their colleagues, other attorneys, than they do with their clients. They are much more likely to have a common educational, cultural and social background with other attorneys than they do with their clients. Also it is much more likely that their friends and acquaintances are other attorneys. If that be the case, attorneys may have a greater incentive in some cases to please other attorneys, whom they will see often in the coming years, rather than their clients, who they may never see again.

    How this applies to Obama is pretty scary. He identifies and is more eager to please those he regards as his peers, other international leaders (even scarier is that he could regard a killer like Putin as a peer), than he is the Americans, his countrymen. We are in a sense an enemy to be defeated to benefit his peers. That is consistent with other things I have read about Obama in that he considers himself a member of an educated elite that transcends political boundaries and national identities.

    All in all, I think our President considers himself a special American meant to force America to a place the international elites think it should be; a special American who really doesn’t like Americans nor the United States of America.

    There is no way to look at this that isn’t scary.

  3. On March 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm, TS Alfabet said:

    Great comments, Jeff and Carl.

    I buy into the idea that attorneys tend to identify with each other more than their clients.

    And that would totally explain Obama’s chumminess with thugs like Hugo Chavez, Vladmir Putin and particularly Turkish president Erdogan. He identifies with (and probably even admires or at least envies) “strong” leaders who have the power to dictate policies without meaningful restraint.

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