What do presidents do when no one else can hear them? The same thing the rest of us do: complain about other people! Like on Monday, when President Obama and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy were caught on microphone bitching about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama and Sarkozy gave a press conference together at the G20 meeting in Cannes on Monday afternoon, heading to a another room afterwards to speak privately. Also heading with them: their mics, which were still on, allowing the first few minutes of their conversation to be overheard by reporters who still had the translation earpieces in their ears. And what a juicy conversation!
The conversation apparently began with President Obama criticizing Sarkozy for not having warned him that France would be voting in favor of the Palestinian membership bid in UNESCO despite Washington's strong objection to the move.
The conversation then drifted to Netanyahu, at which time Sarkozy declared: "I cannot stand him. He is a liar." According to the report, Obama replied: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!"
The remark was naturally meant to be said in confidence, but the two leaders' microphones were accidently left on, making the would-be private comment embarrassingly public.
The hot mic moment (which hasn't been commented on by the White House) was first reported by Arret Sur Images, which also claims that the reporters who heard the complaints were asked to keep quiet about their content. (Le Monde writer Arnaud Leparmentier mentioned Obama and Sarkozy's "private" discussion of their "difficult relationship" with Netanyahu.)
Of course, it's not exactly a secret that Obama and Netanyahu have a tense relationship at best. (Ben Smith compares the gaffe to the Wikileaks "revelations": "Things that are widely understood, but not supposed to be spoken aloud.") But isn't it so much more fun to hear directly?