Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama is retooling the foreign policy metaphor that caused his critics to claim he was taking a passive stance abroad.
Instead of hitting singles and doubles, Obama now says he’s focused on swinging at the right pitch.
“Every once in a while, a pitch is going to come right over home plate that you can knock out for a home run. But you don’t swing at every pitch,” Obama said in an interview with NPR News. He sat down with the radio network Wednesday following his speech at West Point’s commencement ceremony.
Baseball phraseology entered Obama’s foreign policy arguments last month in Manila, when the president said his policies in countries like Syria and Ukraine were meant, in part, to “avoid errors.”
“You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Obama said. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”
That caused some consternation among some newspaper columnists and pundits, who said it portrayed a president unwilling to utilize American power around the globe.
“A singles hitter doesn’t scare anybody,” Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times. “It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world.”
Speaking to NPR, the President said his “singles and doubles” statement was “only a partial quote.”
“What I said was that when it comes to foreign policy, that oftentimes the United States has made mistakes not by showing too much restraint but by underestimating how challenging the environment is out there,” Obama said.
Switching sports, he explained “there is a lot of blocking and tackling to foreign policy” that his critics sometimes underestimate.
“If you want to stick to baseball, that a lot of what you want to do is to advance the ball on human rights, advance the ball on national security, advance the ball on energy independence, to put the ball in play,” he said.
Later in the chat, Obama said he wanted to leave the next occupant of the White House - whether it's a man or a woman - an advantageous starting point when it comes to foreign policy.
"I’m going to keep on pushing because I want to make sure that when I turn the keys over to the next president, that they have the ability, that he or she has the capacity to – to make some decisions with a relatively clean slate," he said.