Turks Go Batty Over Obama Pic Pose
The sports metaphors were flying faster than Justin Verlander’s pitches as reporters gleefully covered the Turkish outrage over a bizarre photo of President Obama grasping a baseball bat while speaking on the phone with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
The White House had no clear explanation for why the President felt the need to hold the bat, autographed by the great Hank Aaron, during a conversation with a foreign leader, and moreover, while being photographed.
According to the New York Daily News:
In the shot, the president looks relaxed and contemplative. But some Turkish leaders didn’t seem to think so.
"The photo reveals from whom our Prime Minister receives orders to rule the country," Metin Lutfi Baydar, an opposition politician for Turkey’s Republican People's Party (CHP) party, said in a statement.
Another CHP leader, party vice president Umut Oran, called the picture "an implicit insult to Turkey and its citizens” in Parliament, Reuters reports.
It’s exactly the opposite message the Obama team was hoping to convey.
"We released the photo with only one purpose in mind, to highlight the President's continuing close relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan and draw attention to the important conversation they had about the worsening situation in Syria."
The White House hastened to undo the damage. Spokesman Robert Gibbs assured reporters:
The president has the greatest respect for all nations and international leaders, just as he respects all sports. It is what we are all about. It is the kind of diversity that made this country great, and it echoes the multilateralism that is at the heart of the President’s “lead from behind” foreign policy.
Admittedly, we cannot speak to the particular culture of every country. Obviously, it would be impractical for the President to try to hold a headless goat carcass while speaking with President Hamid Karzai, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t respect the great game of Buzkashi or the great Afghan people, who are making steady progress toward self-government and democracy thanks to their determination and the sacrifices of our brave young men and women who are daily in harm’s way.
But anything else is fair game.
The President, he said, would in the coming weeks be photographed speaking on the phone with leaders from around the world while holding all manner of sporting implements and paraphernalia.
If the President can hold it, he will, and you will be there to see it and share that with the American people. I promise you, you’ll be able to get all the pictures you want.
I can assure you, you will see him with volleyballs, shuttlecocks, basketballs, squash rackets, epees, nunchucks, bows, boomerangs, and hockey sticks: hell, even a falcon if we can find one (we had a hawk at the Library of Congress a while back but had to let it go).
If you’re lucky, you may even see a curling stone when he speaks to Prime Minister Harper of Canada, our great neighbor to the north. I can’t promise anything: The President recently hurt his wrist in a game of pick-up basketball, so I will have to get back to you on that one.
Responding to a final question, Gibbs denied persistent rumors that Obama was seen wearing boxing gloves while on the speakerphone with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jim Wald is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist