Obama revamps his foreign policy baseball metaphor
May 29th, 2014
08:50 AM ET
2 months ago

Obama revamps his foreign policy baseball metaphor

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.

Obama outlines foreign policy vision

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.

 


Filed under: 2016 • Foreign Policy • President Obama
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Amazed

    It was interesting to listen to Obama's speech at West Point on Wednesday. The attendees to the graduation ceremony were sitting on their hands; polite applause at best.

    May 29, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  2. Thomas Harold Richards

    So Obama's foreign policy is to "strike out" as much as possible?

    Obama's America no longer has the tools to effectively carry out any effective foreign policy.

    Economically: US economy has not recovered as Obama has promised. China is forecasted to surpass the US by years end. The "you will be facing the world's most powerful economy" threat gas been neutered.

    Allies: Got caught spying on our allies. Blatant support our terrorist affiliated groups.
    "The US and her Allies will band together to defeat you" threat is neutered

    Military: just hope that you don't get injured and have to deal with the VA

    Credibility: "It's not my red line", "I only heard about it when it came out in the news", "You can keep your policy. Period.", "We are not spying on US citizens.", "the IRS did not target political groups", "it was just a spontaneous group if protestors upset about the YouTube movie"

    Obama has put us in a very weak position in the World that unfortunately puts us all in danger.

    May 29, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. Stuffitu

    Pick a scandal, any scandal, this incompetent, inept, corrupt union toady always says he will get to the bottom of it. He never does. Remember you can keep your doctor and keep your plan and his laser like focus on the economy which shrank 1% last quarter. Then democrat liberals question the experience of Ben Carson a man who has actually had a job other than hanging posters on telephone poles for the SEIU.

    May 29, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. MieinMT

    Strike three!! Time for the bench.

    May 29, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    It just shows how petty and stupid the GOP IS. You lost the ELECTION, actually the LAST TWO. The voters voted AGAINEST foreign adventures and OBAMA has kept us OUT of NEW WARS that only benifit the GOP STOOGES defense contractors and CHENEYS halburtion!!!!

    May 29, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. just saying

    the more obama speaks, the deeper he digs his hole with these very lame and weak analogies. the russian bear is ding on this strike out artist. he is batting 0.000 and still trying to get a single. and worse, the entire world and the bad cast of characters out there knows obama is a weak, dithering leader from behind.

    May 29, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  7. Smitty

    Be nice to see the pres make it thru one day without screwing up, well hopefully tomorrow !!!!

    May 29, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Silence DoGood

    @Amazed
    It was interesting to listen to Obama's speech at West Point on Wednesday. The attendees to the graduation ceremony were sitting on their hands; polite applause at best.
    -------–
    Thanks for almost exactly parroting talk show entertainer radio.
    Try thinking for yourself.
    Stop spreading rumors and get back to reality.

    May 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Bill from GA

    " “A singles hitter doesn’t scare anybody,” Maureen Dowd "

    At one time we had power and influence that came from moral superiority, as well as military power. We counted on more than fear to influence the world. We didn't loose that superiority because of spying; every country spies to the best of their ability.

    We lost that moral authority because we generally did the right thing in world politics. We did NOT invade a country needlessly. We did NOT engage in torture. And we also took care of our own country first, because we can't project power abroad when our own country is falling apart.

    Even worse than the the structural demise of our country is the political divide that is so insidious. Once politicians, and their supporters, could disagree without trying to destroy the country. Now the attitude is the country SHOULD fail as long as one party doesn't like the other.

    The American people elected President Obama, twice. Let him govern. When he first came into office, our country and the entire world economy was heading toward collapse. In the two years that he had the ability to get things done without republicans blocking his every move, we made great progress. it might happen again if republicans would get out of the way, or work with him.

    May 29, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Tom

    My only issue is baseball doesn't have a worldwide following. Most people in America will get the metaphors, but a lot of people in other countries will not have a clue what he's talking about. If he's going to talk foreign policy, Obama ought to use metaphors people in foreign lands are sure to understand.

    May 29, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Bill from GA

    And, BTW, all these sports metaphors sound totally stupid.

    May 29, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. don in albuquerque

    In a country where a little less (actually way less) then half still vote against their own best interest and the gospel truth only comes from Fox Entertainment, a baseball analogy may have been a bit of a stretch......Scooby-Doo and Shaggy would have probably reached more.

    May 29, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    "That caused some consternation among some newspaper columnists and pundits, who said it portrayed a president unwilling to utilize American power around the globe."

    And I'm sure all those columnists and pundits have all enlisted (along with their children) to serve in our military in combat positions ... right?

    May 29, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @Smitty: "Be nice to see the pres make it thru one day without screwing up, well hopefully tomorrow !!!!"

    Just because you're too dim to understand his metaphor doesn't mean he has "screwed up."

    May 29, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @just saying: Funny how you support Putin and in the next breath complain that President Obama is a "dictator."

    Go move to Russia, just, so you can cozy up to the object of your man-crush.

    May 29, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  16. smith1

    the repo war mongers are out in force. On another article it was asked if Ben Carson was qualified to be president. seems like a dog turd is qualified according to the republican party. That's what they keep sending. These pistol packen patriots want to keep the war machine going forever. And repo congressmen feel the same. even though most have never served but just like to look and feel like John Wayne. What a farce

    May 29, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. Stuffitu

    GOP did not lose the election. A Mercia was lied to by the most inept, incompetent, corrupt president in history.

    May 29, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. much thunder...little rain

    3 strike and your out....obama care....irs scandal....va....what a leader..ugh

    May 29, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The American people elected President Obama, twice."

    Indeed they did, Bill. It's been a sore spot for GOPerville, no doubt about it. Let him govern, you say? It's not going to happen. One thing with GOPerville has become blatantly apparent: they themselves don't have a clue how to govern, but oh lordy, do they know how to whine!

    Why anyone would ever suggest that the GOP defines Leadership (with a capital L) is beyond me. Thank goodness the rest of America has seen what happens when a leaderless national political party begins showing its true colors of ineptness and empty handed hand wringing.

    Too bad individual states are still living in their "we versus them" bubble of self made (and totally unfounded) superiority.

    May 29, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    much thunder...little rain
    3 strike and your out....obama care....irs scandal....va....what a leader..ugh
    --------–

    Oh, yeah. Two terms and you're out as well.

    May 29, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. Gunderson

    Well Golly,
    If you don't like what happened over the last 100 years be advised the peasants voted for it! If you can't cut it don't expect anyone else to do it for you. You don't like what the Republicans have done the last 100 years. Be Advised they weren't in charge!! It was the Dumbo Crats that were in charge. And if everything isn't fixed by now I have to ask, WHAT HAPPENED!!
    Too many of you have Champagne Taste and KoolAid pocketbook. You are like current occupant of white House, YOU DON'T KNOW WHICH END IS UP!! Screw you Summer Solders! Well, sorry, you screw yourself and don't know what happened !!! Next stop. 1930's Revisited.

    May 29, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. rs

    Fascinating to see our friends on the Right actually demand war. They don't see the correlations to their whining. "The economy hasn't improved like he said". No, it hasn't, but then again the Republicans have not helped at all, blocking virtually all legislation, and actually shutting down the government- driving up unemployment.
    "we look weak". No, we don't, the Right looks stupid and subversive. "Veteran Affairs scandal". There is no scandal- just the logical conclusion of underfunding an agency that cares for Vets, while creating wars that quadruples the numbers of Vets needing service. I know, that one is like an old algebra problem- and math is like science- which the GOP doesn't believe in.

    Bottom line- our foreign policy works- and we've not been involved in any new wars, and we've nearly shut down the GOP's last two.

    May 29, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. rs

    much thunder...little rain

    3 strike and your out....obama care....irs scandal....va....what a leader..ugh
    _____________________
    "Scandals" aren't things you make up when you disagree politically. IRS- no scandal, ACA- 8 million newly insured Americans- real success, VA- sorry, too old to be a scandal- besides the Right voted down the needed 28 facilities.
    Stop being delusional.

    May 29, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Silence DoGood

    Conservative critics of Obama's foreign policy starts to sound like a 5 year old tantrum:
    "Why can't we bomb random stuff like that Bush kid did?"
    Peace is a good thing. Not having another 9/11 is a good thing. US soldiers not being killed is a good thing.
    Thanks Mr. President.

    May 29, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. rs

    Gunderson

    Well Golly,
    If you don't like what happened over the last 100 years be advised the peasants voted for it! If you can't cut it don't expect anyone else to do it for you. You don't like what the Republicans have done the last 100 years. Be Advised they weren't in charge!! It was the Dumbo Crats that were in charge. And if everything isn't fixed by now I have to ask, WHAT HAPPENED!!
    Too many of you have Champagne Taste and KoolAid pocketbook. You are like current occupant of white House, YOU DON'T KNOW WHICH END IS UP!! Screw you Summer Solders! Well, sorry, you screw yourself and don't know what happened !!! Next stop. 1930's Revisited.
    _________________________
    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Say Gundy- a rich guy give you crumbs yet?

    May 29, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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