Friedman: “Putin: Born on Third Base and Thinks He Hit a Triple”

New York Times, OP-ED, January 22, 2013

Break All the Rules by Thomas L. Friedman

Mr. Friedman, a three time Pulitzer Prize winner, in a column about the nomination of John Kerry for secretary of state to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks to the difficulties of the job, and the current condition of the world.

Some quotes from the first, second, and third paragraphs:

“First, my congratulations and condolences to John Kerry for being nominated to be our next secretary of state. There is no one better for the job today and no worse job to have today. It is no accident that we’ve started measuring our secretaries of state more by miles traveled than milestones achieved. It is bloody hard to do big diplomacy anymore.

 “Why? Well, as secretary of state today you get to deal with Vladimir Putin, who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. That is, even though Russia’s economy is hugely corrupt and nowhere nearly as innovative as it should be, Putin sits atop a huge reserve of oil and gas that makes him think he’s a genius and doesn’t need to listen to anyone. When recently confronted with his regime’s bad behavior, his first instinct was to block American parents from adopting Russian orphans, even though so many of them badly need homes. If there were an anti-Nobel Peace Prize, Putin would win hands down.”  

The italics are mine to highlight the idiom/metaphor from baseball: “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”  

Hitting a triple is huge, as it is the last base before home base and a run scored, but Putin got there because “he was born on third base.”  He didn’t get there because of skill.  

Mr. Friedman goes on:

“So what’s a secretary of state to do? I’d suggest trying something radically new: creating the conditions for diplomacy where they do not now exist by going around leaders and directly to the people. And I’d start with Iran, Israel and Palestine. We live in an age of social networks in which every leader outside of North Korea today is now forced to engage in a two-way conversation with their citizens. There’s no more just top-down. People everywhere are finding their voices and leaders are terrified. We need to turn this to our advantage to gain leverage in diplomacy.

Let’s break all the rules.”

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