Turkish opposition takes a swing at Obama

Did Obama threaten Turkey with a big stick?

Julia Rooke By Julia Rooke

U.S. President Barack Obama has caused outrage in Turkey among opposition politicians and sections of the military. The source of his offense: a baseball bat.

A photo of President Obama while on the phone with the Turkish Prime Minister. (White House photo/Pete Souza)

After the White House website released a photo of the President with his right hand on a baseball bat as he talked on the phone with Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s opposition party went on the offensive.

Umut Oran, a deputy representing Istanbul for the staunchly secular opposition party, the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, or the Republican People’s Party), has challenged the Prime Minister to inform Parliament how exactly he intends to respond to President Obama’s outright insult:

“Will you take any action so that this photo, and the implied insult, for both Turkey and Turkish citizens, is removed from the  web page?” Oran asked.

A swing and a…

You may wonder how a baseball bat provided an insult.

Was it perhaps that Obama was seen as evoking Theodore Roosevelt’s big stick policy? Was it that Turks thought Obama was channelling Al Capone? Or, did the bat evoke American nationalist imagery at Turkey’s expense?

An Oran advisor, Mensur Celik, emailed Latitude News that the bat symbolized Obama “showing who is the boss,  (maybe saying “i’ve got the club so be carefull)”. [sic]

Celik said the photo shows again the weakness of Erdogan’s Turkey, which has seen the nation suffer slights like a plane being shot down by Syrian forces and responded only with condemnation.

“Now, Mr. Obama, talks with you with a baseball bat and is this the sign of the friendship that you’ve mentioned,” Celik said in his email.

Of course, Obama almost certainly didn’t mention the bat while on the phone.

So is the baseball bat incident just sour-grapes? An excuse for Turkey’s increasingly embittered secular opposition to take a good swipe at their Islamic Prime Minister? Perhaps Turkey’s wounded pride will be salved, thanks to the CHP’s vigilance in surfing the web. Somehow, “Baseball-Gate” it’s not.