Tag: Thomas Friedman

Daddy Issues

My Washington Examiner column this week looks at the bipartisan conniption over President Obama’s “responsibility” for the Gulf oil spill:

It’s “taking so doggone long,” Sarah Palin wailed, for Obama “to dive in there” (literally?). “Man, you got to get down here and take control!” James Carville screeched. “Tell BP, ‘I’m your daddy!’ “

When Hurricane Katrina hit, liberals who had spent years calling President Bush a tyrant suddenly decided he wasn’t authoritarian enough when he hesitated to declare himself generalissimo of New Orleans and muster the troops for a federal War on Hurricanes.

Now the party of “drill, baby, drill” – the folks who warn that Obama’s a socialist – is screaming bloody murder because he’s letting the private sector take the lead in the well-capping operation. It’s almost enough to make a guy cynical about politics.

“Did you plug the hole yet, daddy?” is an understandable reaction from an 11-year-old like Malia Obama.  Grown-up pols and pundits have no such excuse, however, and when they confuse the chief executive with an all-powerful father-protector, the results are likely to be bad policy and an increasingly imperial presidency.

Right on cue, as I was finishing the column, came Sunday’s New York Times with a pair of cringe-inducing opeds illustrating the perils of presidential “daddyism.”  According to their bios,  Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd are 57 and 58 years old, respectively. You’d never guess it from their columns.

Friedman urges Obama to “react to this spill as a child would.” (Aren’t plenty of people doing that already?)

Like a chirpy, earnest kindergarten teacher, Friedman insists us that

Kids get it. They ask: ….Why aren’t we doing more to create clean power and energy efficiency when so many others, even China, are doing so? And, Daddy, why can’t you even mention the words “carbon tax,” when the carbon we spill into the atmosphere every day is just as dangerous to our future as the crude oil that has been spilling into the gulf?

That is what a child would want to know if he or she could vote.

And if you think a surfeit of political maturity is our major problem these days, maybe we should expand the suffrage to grade-schoolers.

On the opposite page, Maureen Dowd echoes a theme she struck back in January, when she complained that with his calm, sober reaction to the failed Christmas bombing, Obama missed his “moment to be president…. to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders.”  As I wrote at the time, “Could there be a more infantile conception of the chief executive’s role?”

In Sunday’s column, MoDo whines that Obama’s acting like “President Spock,” instead of our “Feeler in Chief.”  How, she asks, can we possibly survive with a chief executive who  ”scorns the paternal aspect of the presidency”?

I don’t know, maybe we could… grow up?

NYT Columnist, Meet NYT Reporter

In the New York Times this weekend, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “[W]e may be tired of this ‘war on terrorism,’ but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more ‘creative.’”

On September 26th, the New York Times reported in a story by Scott Shane:

Many students of terrorism believe that in important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline — with its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world.

Who’s right? Should we be more concerned or less?

Well, the statements are not inconsistent. But unlike the analysts cited in the news story, columnist Friedman uses loaded terms and broad generalizations like “war on terror”, “bad guys”, and “creative” to misconstrue the nature of the terrorist threat.

Friedman says “war” a dizzying seventeen times in his short column, misdescribing the many different efforts that go into suppressing terrorism, dissuading terrorist recruits, and capturing or killing terrorists.

He lumps all terrorists together as “bad guys” despite expert counsel against assuming they have similar aims and motives, or that they collaborate.

And “creative”?—well, putting a bomb in your keister is creative, but it is not an effective way to harm anyone other than yourself.

But don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. The point is not to dismiss terrorism as a threat. It’s to know that terrorists are fallible, al Qaeda is on the wane, and law enforcement is on the case. In terrorism, we are not confronted by anything close to an existential threat.

Friedman’s column is a reach, and it does a distinctly bad job of working with any of these subtleties. (The only reason I feel compelled to call them “subtleties,” I suppose, is because they seem to remain beyond the grasp of an otherwise intelligent and thoughtful New York Times columnist.)

Thomas Friedman’s New Math of Democracy

52237408AW011_Meet_The_PresThomas Friedman’s New York Times column today would be astonishing in its incoherence if only Friedman hadn’t long ago sapped us of our ability to be astonished by his incoherence. Like many capital-‘d’ Democrats, Friedman has soured on democracy for failing to deliver on his policy wish list.

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.

Why does Friedman say the United States has one-party democracy? Because the Republican Party is effectively opposing the Democratic Party’s agenda! Not even kidding. Get this:

The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions.

Only the Democrats are really playing! You might think that would mean they can do whatever they darn well please. But no! The Democrats can’t do anything! Because the other party’s opposition is so effective! So it’s exactly as if there’s just one party: nothing gets done!

My hunch is that the Times’ editors see Friedman aiming the gun at his foot, but watching a man stupid enough to actually pull the trigger is so fun they hate to intervene. That or they’re trying to explode the myth of American meritocracy.

So where were we? Oh, yes: one-party democracy is aggravating because sometimes one party can’t do what it wants because the other party gets in the way. Sooo frustrating!!! Why have democracy at all when all you end up with is a single party stymied by the other one! And so it is that Friedman comes to wax romantic about communist central planning:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.

Nikita Kruschev, the enlightened leader of a now-defunct one-party autocracy, was also committed to overtaking the United States in technology and so much more. “We will bury you” is how he put it. At the time, more than a few left-leaning American opinionmakers suspected he was right. After all, how can inefficiently squabbling democracies possibly keep pace with undivided regimes wholly devoted to scientifically centrally planning their way into the brighter, better future? And that, children, is why we speak Russian today.