For President Barack Obama, international relations can be explained with a host of sports metaphors. Just pick your sport.
In an extensive radio interview Wednesday that followed his big foreign policy speech at West Point, Obama deployed a variety of baseball and football terms to articulate both when the United States should accept risks abroad and the overall complexity of the international arena.
In April, he explained his foreign policy doctrine by casting it as small ball, saying, “You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.”
“It’s interesting, though, you know, the comment I made about singles and doubles I think is — is only a partial quote,” Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep when asked about that comment Wednesday, according to a transcript provided by NPR.
“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, not thinking through consequences, that there is a lot of blocking and tackling to foreign policy, to change sports metaphors.”
The president proceeded to return to the original baseball framing.
“[O]r, 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. “And 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. And we have opportunities right now, for example … to advance a Iranian agreement on their nuclear program that could be historic. We may not get it, but there’s a chance that it could still happen.”
Inskeep continued the baseball metaphor in order to press Obama on his still unfulfilled vow to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
“Let me ask about one ball you’ve tried to advance your entire term,” Inskeep said. “You wanted to close Guantanamo in your first year. About a year ago you gave a speech in which you said you wanted to close Guantanamo. You referred to it again in this speech here at West Point.”
“Just chipping away at it,” replied Obama. “I think it is very important for us to close Guantanamo.”
The full interview is set to air on the Thursday morning broadcast of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” View the full transcript below:
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