The Obama administration is the most tight-lipped White House in recent memory. Senior administration officials fiercely control access to the president, routinely bypass the national media to instead grant interviews to regional reporters from key battleground states, and have launched more criminal investigations into individual leaks than any of their predecessors.
During the White House’s 2009 Afghanistan debate, President Obama ordered then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make sure no further parts of the deliberations leaked out of the White House. Obama even personally typed up his war strategy and hand-delivered it to senior Pentagon and military officials to prevent it from being passed to reporters.
For all of its precautions, however, the administration is routinely being tripped up by a different kind of leak: open microphones picking up comments that were never meant for public consumption. The problem began in March 2010, during the signing ceremony for the White House’s health care reform bill, when a microphone recorded Vice President Biden telling Obama that the legislation was a “big [expletive] deal.” Since then, microphone-related gaffes have been routinely causing the White House heartburn. The latest took place just this week, when a microphone picked up French President Nicolas Sarkozy referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “a liar,” prompting Obama to complain that he had “to deal with him every day.”
Below, some high points—or, depending on your point of view, low points—of the Obama administration’s ongoing troubles with microphones.