Donald Trump: The Sam McDowell of American Diplomacy


Do you think he could learn to throw a change-up?

Marcus Noland (PIIE)



Before there were advanced analytics, pitchers kept notes on hitters on index cards. The scouting cards of the Cleveland Indians’ big lefthander, Sam McDowell, reputedly all consisted of a single line: “Smoke ‘em inside.”

(For readers unfamiliar with baseball, this phrase means to throw the ball very hard very close to the hitter. It is an intimidation tactic aimed at forcing the batter away from home plate.)

McDowell rode that singular tactic to 141 career wins, but I’ve always wondered how many more games he could have won if he had learned to throw the change.

"President Trump handed the Kim regime the soundbite of the century." 

(Personal aside: as a youngster this lefthander achieved McDowell-like intimidation through sheer wildness, once striking three consecutive batters, including one in the head.  My pitching was sort of the “madman theory” applied to the Little League diamond.)

Donald Trump, like Sam McDowell, appears to know only one pitch. It's campaign rally mode. From that perspective, the name-calling (“Rocket Man”) and bluster (threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea) this morning before the United Nations General Assembly are not surprising, but remain disappointing. Worse, such tactics are completely counterproductive: the Kim regime feeds on a narrative that North Korea is under existential threat by hostile foreign forces led by the United States. With those words, President Trump handed the Kim regime the soundbite of the century. It will play on a continuous loop on North Korean national television. Trump’s defenders can argue that he then went on to state an interest in avoiding this catastrophe and even signaled an interest in diplomacy by invoking the UN, but the damage has been done. But Trump’s words were not simply sound and fury signifying nothing, as Carl Bildt implied earlier this month—they are worse: they are utterly self-defeating.

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