Posted: August 13, 2018
This delightful malaphor was uttered by Secretary of State Pompeo during a Senate hearing. He was responding to a number of comments regarding the President’s rhetoric being inconsistent with what his subordinates are actually doing. Here is the context:
“You basically have two different foreign policies in the United States, you have the foreign policy of the Trump administration and you have the foreign policy of President Trump himself,” historian Max Boot told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Thursday.
“What the President says and does is ultimately more important that what people underneath him are doing,” he continued. “They are not getting a unity of purpose and they are not getting a consistent message out because the President is completely at odds with his own government.”
Administration officials dismiss such commentary, either denying there is a gap between the President and his subordinates or insisting that he alone sets administration policy.
Pompeo faced repeated variations of this question during a fiery Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month.
“The President calls the ball. His statements are in fact policy,” Pompeo said. “This President runs this government. His statements are in fact US policy.” https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/03/politics/russia-election-interference-white-house-response-trump/index.html
This is a congruent conflation of “calls the shots” and “has the ball”, both meaning to be in command to make decisions. “Calls the play” might also be in the mix. My guess is that the speaker was also thinking of the idiom “calls the strikes and balls”, again meaning to make the decisions (like an umpire in baseball). A shout out to Vicki Ameel-Kovacs for hearing this one on MSNBC and sharing it.