The Cable

Obama: If I Didn’t Attend Baseball Game in Cuba, the Terrorists Win

President Obama said the terrorists responsible for the Brussels attacks would win if he didn't attend a baseball game in Cuba.

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President Barack Obama’s decision to attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game in Cuba following terrorist attacks in Belgium that left more than 30 dead drew the scorn of Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. But Obama said canceling his appearance is precisely what the terrorists responsible for the attack — most likely, the Islamic State — want.

Speaking to ESPN commentators during the top of the third inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team Tuesday, Obama said, “It’s always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack around the world, particular in the age of 24-hour news coverage.… The whole premise [of an attack] is to try to disrupt ordinary lives.”

He then cited an appearance by Boston Red Sox first baseman and designated hitter David Ortiz, who, days after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, declared at Fenway Park, “This is our fucking city,” before his team resumed play in defiance of those responsible for the attack.

“That is the kind of resilience that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorist attacks,” the U.S. president said.

Obama also said he met with dissident groups Tuesday, though he did not specify which ones. He said he recognized that Washington and Havana are far apart on Cuba’s treatment of opponents to President Raúl Castro’s regime but added: “If you do something for 50 years, you have to do something different if it doesn’t work.”

Obama’s comments aren’t likely to quell anger in some corners of social media over his attendance. Obama entered the baseball stadium, known as Estadio Latinoamericano, with the Cuban president, and they sat next to one another as they took in the game.

But perhaps the sharpest denunciation of Obama’s trip to Cuba has come from ESPN personality Dan Le Batard, whose parents were exiled from Cuba. In a Miami Herald column and on his radio show this week, Le Batard blasted the president for the entire trip and his own network for its coverage of it.

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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