White House Tripped Up - Again - by Open Microphones

Nov. 8, 2011, 2:26 p.m.

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.