I love baseball.
I also believe that it’s important to keep moving forward with our daily lives even in the face of terrorist threats. If we cower and hide in our homes, the terrorists gain a victory.
But I’m not the president of the United States.
Remember that position? President? It includes being commander-in-chief of the military and in most recent history acting as leader of the free world.
So yesterday it was incredibly uncomfortable seeing President Obama sitting next to Raul Castro while clearly enjoying an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.
And when I say enjoy, I mean enjoy. Sleeves rolled up and sunglasses on, he looked like a lot of men I’ve seen who’ve gone straight from work to catch an afternoon game at the ballpark. Wife, kids, and mother-in-law in tow, he seemed to be having a great time. He even joined the crowd in the wave.
On some lazy August afternoon with Congress out of session and the news cycle slow, that sort of activity might have been fine (leaving out, of course, the issue of hanging out with one of the Castro brothers).
But this was no ordinary day. This was the day a terrorist attack struck in the heart of the European Union, Brussels. People were killed. Hundreds were maimed. Americans were seriously injured and a few are still missing.
So what message does it send to an ally when all this is happening that the “leader of the free world” would very publicly prefer to be watching a baseball game?
Back in the days of decorum when there were some rules about what you didn’t do in a certain situation, you would never find the U.S. President engaging in such public behavior on a day like yesterday. Following the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and the outbreak of World War I, for example, there is no record of a Woodrow Wilson interview from a baseball game with him saying, “Sorry to hear about that, but life goes on you know.” And conversely, the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t prompt Winston Churchill to send his condolences before heading off to a cricket match. These men accepted a job requiring them to occasionally forfeit their own entertainment for the good of their countries and the world.
And while it’s true that Raul Castro probably is a tough nut to crack on the diplomatic front (assuming we want to anyway), does anyone really believe that Obama would have set back diplomatic relations with Cuba by skipping or at least cutting very short a trip to a baseball game?
Obama attempted to justify his actions in an ESPN interview where he said, “The whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives. It’s always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world.”
Maybe that works for you and me, but he’s the president.
In February, my husband and I travelled to London. On the cab ride from Heathrow to our hotel, the cab driver was a very nice fellow eager to talk American politics. Naturally, Donald Trump came up in the conversation (more on that in a later blog perhaps).
The biggest thing this man wanted to discuss, however, was Barack Obama.
“Where is your president?” he asked me. “It’s like he’s checked out from the world. We’re all looking for American leadership and he’s nowhere to be found.”
Throughout the rest of our trip, we noticed that this was becoming something of a theme. In Europe, the sense appears to be that Americans are consciously retreating from the world stage and leaving Europeans, in particular, to their own devices. And clearly the Europeans aren’t particularly happy about it.
Let’s pray nothing happens here, but if it does, we are certainly in no position to judge or take offense if David Cameron or Francois Hollande simply sends their regards from an exhibition hockey game attended with their old pal, Vladimir Putin.