President Barack Obama was criticized for adhering to his schedule to stay in Cuba and watch a baseball game instead of flying home to the U.S. or to Belgium following the terror attack in Brussels. The president has defended his decision as symbolic that terrorists will not derail Americans' lives (video below).
On Mar. 22, as the world was horrified by the suicide bombings in Brussels that claimed at least 31 lives, President Obama gave a short response that the U.S. would stand with the grieving nation of Belgium.
The president then attended MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays’ game against Cuba’s home team, a move that stateside critics deemed a lousy way to reassure Americans that the situation was being dealt with.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Tom Brokaw stated that even if Obama cutting his trip short in Cuba would have been symbolic instead of serving any practical purpose, it would still have been the better move.
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“So much of politics and national security is a combination of symbolism and reality,” Brokaw said, according to Mediaite.
“The reality is that we did have that attack yesterday… the symbolism is that the president stayed at the baseball game all day long… there’s a real urgency about it, and he has got to convey that, not just to the American people but to the world,” Brokaw concluded.
President Obama indicated during the baseball game that he was well aware of symbolism, but countered that it was important to show that the fear terrorists generate cannot be rewarded by disrupting something as important as a game of solidarity between former enemies U.S. and Cuba.
“You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation,” Obama said, according to The Huffington Post. “But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.”
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The president pointed to the people of Boston’s response to the Boston Marathon attack as “the kind of resilience and the kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists.”
The president added that terrorists such as ISIS have no actual way of defeating America; their only weapon is fear.
“What they can do is scare… and disrupt our daily lives and divide us,” the president said. “And as long as we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to be OK.”
On Mar. 23, during his stop in Argentina, Obama assured reporters that defeating Islamic terror was a top priority.
“There’s no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them,” Obama said, according to USA Today. “The issue is how we do it in an intelligent way.”