Obama revamps his foreign policy baseball metaphor
May 29th, 2014
08:50 AM ET
6 years 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. Tommy G

    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.
    --

    Yet another in a very long list of tasks he is failing miserably at accomplishing. I will use another sports phrase to describe Obama.... TRASH TALKER. He talks like he knows the game, but talk is his ONLY game. And the whole world knows it, especially our enemies.

    May 29, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. rs

    Smitty

    Be nice to see the pres make it thru one day without screwing up, well hopefully tomorrow !!!!
    ________________________
    He did use big words and large concepts. Try harder. He also didn't say it was hard to "put food on your family" a la Bush.

    May 29, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. Johnnie

    The economy DECLINED 1% in the first quarter (revised down from the original 0.1% growth) and yet there is no story on the Ticker. But there are stories about Hillary Clinton's new book. Come on CNN. Is it not bad enough the MSM has buried the bad unemployment numbers? Do you even have to hide a DECLINE in our economy? I know you don't want to inform the American people just before they need to vote on the Democrats that have been wrecking the economy now for 6-8 years.

    May 29, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. rs

    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.
    ___________________
    Good point, although I kind of like the way the President did it- he spoke as an American, and to understand what he said, foreign leaders will have to understand the American metaphors-they might not get all the nuance, but they'll have to work at it a little bit. It's in our terms our terminology.

    May 29, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. bobo

    It is still tentative and passive.... Not a good leader.

    May 29, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. don in albuquerque

    Gunderson
    Ahhhh.......Ronnie Reagan, Bush 1, Shrub 2, just kind of jump out at me. What do you mean Repubs haven't been in charge in the last 100 years, or is that again like your surviving three world wars, and two sheep shearings? Never mind replying, I have to go to work which apparently you don't. But then to have survived three world wars you must be about 100 so I'm certain you could tell us first hand all about everything. Did you ride dinosaurs with Jesus?

    May 29, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. rs

    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.
    ____________________
    You miss a lot living in a Fox "soundbite" world, and demonstrate you don't really understand any of the issues you list.

    May 29, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. Bill from GA

    Lynda/Minnesota – a leaderless national political party begins showing its true colors of ineptness

    Lynda, how can you cal them inept? Their goal is to block President Obama any time he tries to move the country forward, and they generally succeed. Their goal is to push the country to the right, and they generally have succeeded. Even Democrats are running from Obama and Progressive concepts.

    If repubs can't be in charge, they want the country to fail, and they are quite good at bringing us down. 🙂

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

    Johnnie

    The economy DECLINED 1% in the first quarter (revised down from the original 0.1% growth) and yet there is no story on the Ticker. But there are stories about Hillary Clinton's new book. Come on CNN. Is it not bad enough the MSM has buried the bad unemployment numbers? Do you even have to hide a DECLINE in our economy? I know you don't want to inform the American people just before they need to vote on the Democrats that have been wrecking the economy now for 6-8 years.
    ________________________
    Really, you blame the President for the weather-? No wonder you guys call him supreme leader, you think he can control the weather. Meanwhile, why not remind the audience what the GOP and their TEA Party terrorists have done to fix their little economic disaster- anything from the last 6 years would be fine.

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

    Obama`s foreign policy has been awful so far. Syria, Lybia, Egypt, and now Ukraine are all in chaos because the Obama admin. and left wing goons(Soros, code pink, Carter) supported coups in those countries.

    May 29, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. rs

    Tommy G

    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.
    -

    Yet another in a very long list of tasks he is failing miserably at accomplishing. I will use another sports phrase to describe Obama.... TRASH TALKER. He talks like he knows the game, but talk is his ONLY game. And the whole world knows it, especially our enemies.
    _______________________
    Here's a hot tip Tommy- you can't go to war without raising taxes. Bush proved that. You get the government you PAY for- and right now the GOP seems to think cutting taxes and spending somehow still works. You want failure? I give you the GOP-the do nothing Party. 6 years, zero accomplishments- except for attacking civil rights, and legislating the female reproductive system.

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

    Johnnie – " The economy DECLINED 1% in the first quarter (revised down from the original 0.1% growth) and yet there is no story on the Ticker. "

    if it concerns you so much, why don't you tell the whole story?

    We all know that the economy was slow because of the weather. if you read the article on CNN-Money rather than on the right wing propaganda network, you would have seen "but it's not a big deal" in the headline. (Joe Biden woulda said it better!)

    May 29, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. tom l

    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.
    ====

    Silence, what rumors is amazed spreading? Did you listen to the speech?

    May 29, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. Fed up

    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.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Actually, Mr. President has killed more then 2,400 humans by bombing via drones including around 800 civilians (200 of which were children). I know, I know... Bush Bush Bush....makes it Aok!

    May 29, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  15. smith

    @Silence-Really? Do you think that when Obama became potus there were no more soliders dying in Iraq or Afghanistan? Didn`t we bomb the heck out of Ghadffi? What about the drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan?

    May 29, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. Silence DoGood

    Yes. The rumor was that some conservative talk show entertainers listened to the speech. Instead of concrete factual criticism, they over imagined that the clapping was somehow indicative of how they thought the cadets might feel about the presidents entire philosophy. It was so abstract as to be comical. These talk show entertainers rely on hanging innuendo and the promise of the Next Big Scandal rumor to keep listeners entertained.

    May 29, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Reality Check

    rs
    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Say Gundy- a rich guy give you crumbs yet?
    --

    Typical lefty that thinks people sit around and expect others to give them things. No, here in the real world we work and earn what we want. We then also have to work hard enough to support you lazy slackers as well. Get off your back sides and go earn your bread and stop begging crumbs.

    May 29, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. tom l

    rs,
    Maybe you can post some more comments exploiting the deaths of 6 Americans in Santa Barbara and talk about more gun legislation even though California is one of the strictest states for gun control laws and nothing that is currently proposed by the democrats would have prevented that mass shooting nor would it be stricter than the laws that California has. Tell me this, how are you any better than the repubs that are trying to raise money off of the deaths of Benghazi? You both are exploiting tragic events for gain. Pretty pathetic on both fronts (both you and the repubs trying to raise money off of Benghazi).

    May 29, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    Lynda, how can you cal them inept? Their goal is to block President Obama any time he tries to move the country forward, and they generally succeed. Their goal is to push the country to the right, and they generally have succeeded"

    You know what, Bill? I'm going for a big "oops ... my bad" on your comment. You are absolutely correct. Going forward, I'll leave off the ineptness rhetoric ... yes? They HAVE succeeded, haven't they, in moving us backward?

    "If repubs can't be in charge, they want the country to fail, and they are quite good at bringing us down." 🙂

    GOPerville has been very vocal in wanting the country to fail. Indeed, as you stated above, they've succeeded in doing just that. Apparently "progressive" has become a terminology those calling themselves thus have decided is not worth fighting for politically state by state.

    I suspect that eventually even those in Red State America will learn to understand what they have lost ... one issue at a time.

    Until such time, yeah. GOPerville holds all the cards. But, hey. Let's give progressives some credit. They've allowed it to happen by not getting out and voting, especially in mid-term elections.

    May 29, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Bill from GA

    smith – " Obama`s foreign policy has been awful so far. Syria, Lybia, Egypt, and now Ukraine are all in chaos because the Obama admin "

    Yeah, all those countries were so much better off under their Dictators.

    It was OK with you righties for W and cheney to INVADE Iraq, cost us thousands of American lives, trillions of dollars, destroy our good name, oh, and destroy the balance of power in the entire region. Not a Problem.

    The people in Libya and Egypt have a chance for Democracy, mostly of their own making. Give them a few years to work out the bugs. Our own country is still a Works In Progress.

    May 29, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Silence DoGood

    @Fed up
    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.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Actually, Mr. President has killed more then 2,400 humans by bombing via drones including around 800 civilians (200 of which were children). I know, I know... Bush Bush Bush....makes it Aok!
    -----------
    That is a good point. But how does this bombing of many terrorists fit into the criticism of him not being strong? At least many of his targets were terrorists. Bush invaded the entire wrong country in search of Al Queada and WMD. And would Obama bombing more terrorist targets make the conservative hawks happier? You cannot have it both ways. The reality is that Obama has taken a balanced approach that has made us safer (no 2nd 9/11, bin Laden, pirates, etc.).

    May 29, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. rs

    Fed up

    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.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Actually, Mr. President has killed more then 2,400 humans by bombing via drones including around 800 civilians (200 of which were children). I know, I know... Bush Bush Bush....makes it Aok!
    ____________________________
    Exactly! Against Mr. Bush's total: 125,000 civilians dead in Iraq, 2 million made refugees, 7,000 American soldiers killed, 50,000 seriously wounded, that 2,400 number just pails by comparison. Never mind the 45,000 that died in America last year in states where Republican Governors denied their citizens access to an expanded Medicaid. It just proves for real inhumanity, you need a Republican.

    May 29, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Typical lefty that thinks people sit around and expect others to give them things. No, here in the real world we work and earn what we want. We then also have to work hard enough to support you lazy slackers as well. Get off your back sides and go earn your bread and stop begging crumbs."

    Oh dear. The "real" world versus the "make believe" world RW talking points filled with rhetorical nonsense to stimulate those who, oh I don't know, aren't any better off than those they point fingers at.

    And on such a lovely morning, no less.

    May 29, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  24. tom l

    Silence DoGood

    Yes. The rumor was that some conservative talk show entertainers listened to the speech. Instead of concrete factual criticism, they over imagined that the clapping was somehow indicative of how they thought the cadets might feel about the presidents entire philosophy. It was so abstract as to be comical. These talk show entertainers rely on hanging innuendo and the promise of the Next Big Scandal rumor to keep listeners entertained.
    =====

    I listened to the speech. I'm still trying to figure out what global warming, errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr climate change, has to do with cadets graduating from West Point. And I can tell you that they were pretty quiet even at times where it would have seemed he was looking for a positive reaction. That's not a rumor. That's reality. Or am I wrong?

    May 29, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. rs

    tom l

    rs,
    Maybe you can post some more comments exploiting the deaths of 6 Americans in Santa Barbara and talk about more gun legislation even though California is one of the strictest states for gun control laws and nothing that is currently proposed by the democrats would have prevented that mass shooting nor would it be stricter than the laws that California has. Tell me this, how are you any better than the repubs that are trying to raise money off of the deaths of Benghazi? You both are exploiting tragic events for gain. Pretty pathetic on both fronts (both you and the repubs trying to raise money off of Benghazi).
    _______________________
    You're obsessing, Tom. Real people killed by real guns that the GOP and the NRA want to ensure crazy people can buy. Real crimes, real people, a solvable problem. You're bloviating on about the GOP's fake "scandal" in Benghazi. Do explain how fundraising off of 4 brave Americans dying in a foreign civil war even remotely resembles the deaths of innocent Americans strolling around a California street on a summer's evening- and anyone trying to stop that needless atrocity. Even you aren't that twisted..

    May 29, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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