Apparently, he’s got range:
Tom Friedman is a hack. I have pointed this out before. It is time to point it out again.
He opens today’s most emailed NYTimes.com article with a block quote from some Financial Times shill (who, when I read the words ” retired Singaporean” I knew — just fucking knew – would be a “taxi driver,” but who instead turns out to be a an ex-diplomat; you can’t always be right):
Kishore Mahbubani, a retired Singaporean diplomat, published a provocative essay in The Financial Times on Monday that began like this: “Dictators are falling. Democracies are failing. A curious coincidence? Or is it, perhaps, a sign that something fundamental has changed in the grain of human history. I believe so. How do dictators survive? They tell lies. Muammar Gaddafi was one of the biggest liars of all time. He claimed that his people loved him. He also controlled the flow of information to his people to prevent any alternative narrative taking hold. Then the simple cellphone enabled people to connect. The truth spread widely to drown out all the lies that the colonel broadcast over the airwaves.
“So why are democracies failing at the same time? The simple answer: democracies have also been telling lies.”
Coulda fooled me. I thought that dictators survived by being ruthlessly violent against dissenters and competitors within their populations. And by having imperial allies who want to extract their natural resources at favorable prices. But, whatevs. Tom Friedman is about to talk about our democracy gap, and how to solve the problem of “telling lies.” YES! Preach it, Tom Friedman!
Mahbubani noted that “the eurozone project was created on a big lie” that countries could have monetary union and fiscal independence — without pain. Meanwhile, in America, added Mahbubani, now the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, “No U.S. leaders dare to tell the truth to the people. All their pronouncements rest on a mythical assumption that ‘recovery’ is around the corner. Implicitly, they say this is a normal recession. But this is no normal recession. There will be no painless solution. ‘Sacrifice’ will be needed, and the American people know this. But no American politician dares utter the word ‘sacrifice.’ Painful truths cannot be told.”
Jesus, when did Friedman become a blogger/aggregator? Okay, okay. This isn’t really Friedman’s bad, except in the sense that he’s quoting it and stroking his caterpillar approvingly, but it still deserves to be trashed.
All we hear about from national politicians — all that we dealt with the whole summer with the debt deal debacle — was how we needed to tighten our belts and share the sacrifice in order to get us back on track to prosperity and debt reduction and grandma and apple pie. It was a fucking meme on the liberal blogosphere to make fun of the “shared sacrifice” bit, because, implicitly, this “sharing” of the “sacrifice” was understood to be, in real policy terms, undertaken by the poor and the middle class. You see, all people share equally, but some people share more equally than others. And since the rich have orders of magnitude more money than the poor and the middle class, it was understood by the chattering classes that they would share a teeny tiny bit more than those groups, and save the rest for “job creation.”
Get it? No? Good. It never made a damn bit of sense.
Of course, there is a big difference between America and Libya. We can vote out our liars, unlike certain Arab — and Asian — countries. Still, Mahbubani’s comparison warrants some reflection this week, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the president’s jobs speech. It is a great week for truth-telling.
9/11 wuz an inside job!!!!!!!!
But seriously, what did you just say, Tom Friedman? When have we ever voted out liars in this country? I mean, we vote out liars every few years during election season, but — this is the important part — we just replace them with more liars! I prefer some liars to other liars, surely, but to pretend that we’re going to find a legion of Pinnochios to rescue our political system is… childish? Has Tom Friedman never seen a campaign advertisement? What the hell kind of political observer is this guy?
Can you remember the last time you felt a national leader looked us in the eye and told us there is no easy solution to our major problems, that we’ve gotten into this mess by being self-indulgent or ideologically fixated over two decades and that now we need to spend the next five years rolling up our sleeves, possibly accepting a lower living standard and making up for our excesses?
For me, this is the most important thing to say both on the anniversary of 9/11 and on the eve of President Obama’s jobs speech. After all, they are intertwined. Why has this been a lost decade? An answer can be found in one simple comparison: How Dwight Eisenhower and his successors used the cold war and how George W. Bush used 9/11. America had to face down the Russians in the cold war. America had to respond to 9/11 and the threat of Al Qaeda. But the critical difference between the two was this: Beginning with Eisenhower and continuing to some degree with every cold war president, we used the cold war and the Russian threat as a reason and motivator to do big, hard things together at home — to do nation-building in America. We used it to build the interstate highway system, put a man on the moon, push out the boundaries of science, teach new languages, maintain fiscal discipline and, when needed, raise taxes. We won the cold war with collective action.
He answers his own question (George Bush was the cause of the “lost decade”) and then ignores it in order to pivot into… collective action? Where is this going exactly?
George W. Bush did the opposite. He used 9/11 as an excuse to lower taxes, to start two wars that — for the first time in our history — were not paid for by tax increases, and to create a costly new entitlement in Medicare prescription drugs. Imagine where we’d be today if on the morning of 9/12 Bush had announced (as some of us advocated) a “Patriot Tax” of $1 per gallon of gas to pay for education, infrastructure and government research, to help finance our wars and to slash our dependence on Middle East oil. Gasoline in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, averaged $1.66 a gallon.
But rather than use 9/11 to summon us to nation-building at home, Bush used it as an excuse to party — to double down on a radical tax-cutting agenda for the rich that not only did not spur rising living standards for most Americans but has now left us with a huge ball and chain around our ankle. And later, rather than asking each of us to contribute something to the war, he outsourced it to one-half of one-percent of the American people. Everyone else — y’all have fun.
We used the cold war to reach the moon and spawn new industries. We used 9/11 to create better body scanners and more T.S.A. agents. It will be remembered as one of the greatest lost opportunities of any presidency — ever.
“And I advocated for all of it right up until, oh, I dunno, 2007 or so.”
My fervent hope is that on Thursday Mr. Obama will set an example and tell the cold, hard truth — to parents and kids. I know. Honesty, we are told, is suicidal in politics. But as long as every solution that is hard is off the table, then our slow national decline will remain on the table. The public is ready for more than Michele Bachmann’s fairy-dust promise that she can restore $2 a gallon gasoline.
For once, Mr. President, let’s start a debate with the truth. Tell us what you really think will be required to get us out of this stagnation, what kind of collective action and shared sacrifice will be needed and why that can lead not just to muddling through, not just to being O.K., but to restoring American greatness.
A leading columnist in the country’s most important newspaper is seriously calling on the president to stop hurting his feelings and use his jobs speech to heal the nation. Never mind that Republican obstructionism will prevent anything from being accomplished legislatively until at least the end of this Congress (and possibly forever). What galls me is this: “For once, Mr. President let’s start a debate with the truth.” It is a journalistic atrocity along the lines of Peggy Noonan’s famous “Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” What kind of formulation is that? Does this guy even read his own newspaper? He seems to be under the impression that the onus is on the president — not the climate change denialists, or the anti-evolution crowd; not the abortion-is-murder party, or the “Founding Fathers were all religious zealots” set, or the “ACORN killed my grandma and is racist” folks; nope, the president — to be the truthful party here. To finally stand up and defend the truth! The troof! Proof! Just like that, and America will be saved. If President Obama gives a really cool and awesome and THATWASDEEPMAN and radical (but not in the Bill Ayers way) speech, Friedman sez, we can haz national unity. Or something. He never really explains how it will come about. Presumably, it just will.
This kind of faux-naive political dialogue, unfortunately, is the norm in this country. And I’m afraid that as long as it remains so, we’re essentially fucked. See you kids in the soup line.
Obama moved his speech on jobs and the economy after John Boehner had a very loud and public bitch-fit about it clashing with the millionth of a billion Republican “Presidential” debates (yes, this madness will last for the next 14 months):
Any hopes that a kinder, gentler bipartisan Washington would surface once Congress returns after Labor Day were summarily dashed on Wednesday when President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner clashed over, of all things, the date and time of the president’s much-awaited speech to the nation about his proposal to increase jobs and fix the economy.
In a surreal volley of letters, each released to the news media as soon as it was sent, Mr. Boehner rejected a request from the president to address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m. — the same night that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled.
In an extraordinary turn, the House speaker fired back his own letter to the president saying, in a word, no. Might the president be able to reschedule for the following night, Sept. 8?
For several hours, the day turned into a very public game of chicken.
By late Wednesday night, though, the White House issued a statement saying that because Mr. Obama “is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy,” he “welcomes the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8.”
STAND UP FOR YOURSELF, POINDEXTER! Jesus.
Freddie deBoer asks how the American Left can get its groove back:
The long term success of the Tea Parties is yet to be decided. As the man said, though, in the really long run, we’re all dead. I think it is fair to say that they have, for all of my distaste for them, been quite successful in moving politics to the right and in getting the Republican party to represent their interests.
How did they do it? I would argue that they created a serious threat to incumbent Republicans that compelled them to move to the right or risk losing a primary. They succeeded in removing many moderate Republicans, at many levels of government, and more, they succeeded in pushing Republicans who held their seats to more conservative positions. The blogosphere made a great deal of noise about races where Tea Party-approved candidates ended up splitting the vote and giving races to Democrats, but these were notable in large part because they were so rare. There are far, far more sitting candidates that have been pushed to the right than those who lost safe Republican seats due to primary challenges. Note too that even if right wing protest candidates don’t unseat sitting Republicans, the threat inevitably moves the candidate to the right, particularly in Congressional races and others where terms are quite short.
This, I want to put to you, is a model for how left-wing politics in America could be revitalized. It wouldn’t be easy. We face a hostile media environment, the power of entrenched and moneyed interests, and a lot of structural impediments. But change comes slowly and gradually, and I would point once again to the example of Barry Goldwater and conservatism: both were a joke, and then they weren’t.
It’s a damn good essay, and the whole thing is worth reading, but one quick side point brought up in the essay (and really, my main problem with a lot of the commenters and a couple front-pagers at Balloon Juice): criticizing Obama from the left is not a bad thing. It’s silly, of course, to fall into the mindset that so many did in 2000, where “Bush=Gore, and I’m gonna vote for Nader!!!! Nyah nyah nyah!” But I would contend that a lot of people were chastened by eight years of Bush. That is, they learned their lesson. I mean, even Noam Fucking Chomsky endorsed Gore in 2000, just as he endorsed Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008. Why? Because even though the differences between the parties aren’t huge on paper, when those differences play out on a macro-level in the world’s biggest economy, with a population of 300+ million, they are huge in that place known as the Real World.
TBogg, of course, put it much more pithily than I can in a famous post a couple years back called “Your Mumia sweatshirt won’t get you into heaven anymore.” Responding to a Nader-ite who said that the Democrats didn’t deserve his vote, he wrote:
Let me see if I can explain it this way:
Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
You don’t live there.
Grow the fuck up.
Which is to say, criticism from the left of the party that has come to represent them in our increasingly oligarchical government should be welcome from self-identifying Democrats. But throwing hissy fits and sitting out elections so that you can “burn the village in order to save it,” a la Ralph Nader & co., is childish, selfish, self-defeating, and stupid.
I’m going to vote for Obama next year. You should, too. But that doesn’t mean you have to pretend to like everything he does.
According to Wikipedia,
Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa [emphasis my own] since 30 November 2006, when the Civil Union Act, 2006 came into force, having been passed by Parliament earlier that month. A ruling by the Constitutional Court on 1 December 2005 had given Parliament one year to make same-sex marriage legal. South Africa is the fifth country, the first in Africa, the second outside Europe, and the first republic to legalize same-sex marriage.
In case you’ve forgotten, South Africa prohibited mixed marriage until 1985 and maintained a policy of apartheid — i.e., legally enforced racial segregation — until 1994.
Holy shit, Obama. It’s awkward enough having to listen to you pretend that your religious beliefs prevent you from fully supporting gay marriage. If you don’t obliterate DOMA and all its narrow-minded brethren at a federal level your first month after reelection — when you no longer have anything to lose — you will officially cross the threshold from a political coward to a moral one.
(via – ish)
Via Ed, at Gin & Tacos, which you should be reading every day:
The pay is subpar compared to the alternatives available to anyone capable of being elected president. The president has no normal family life, and neither his spouse nor his children can go anywhere without heavy security. In the average month 500-1000 different individuals threaten to kill you, about 1% of whom are making an actual plan to do so. The president works 70 or 80 hours per week and is on call 24-7. Everything on TV and in the newspaper is about how terrible the president is, why everything he does is wrong, and why he has ruined the nation. In the modern era, 60% is considered an astronomically high approval rating, i.e. the best you can hope for is that only about 120,000,000 Americans will hate you and consider you an abject failure. The odds of leaving office as a “success” are virtually nil.
Since Obama’s inauguration, the Republicans have been honing a new rhetorical strategy, and it’s something I don’t think I have seen before in the political theater, (Disclaimer: I don’t have a poli sci or history degree so ‘cusez if my political history falls short.) seemingly flying in the face of the rhetorical strategies of old.
How did rhetoric used to work? As political criticism goes, for as long as I can remember, the mainstay has been oppositional differentiation, right? Political parties and politicians derive a large portion of their platform and identity from what they are not, what they’re against – think photo negatives. Liberty because not socialist, small because not big government, pro-life because not pro-choice, etc. I am this because I am not that.
Now contrast that with Fox News — its slogan “fair and balanced,” which insinuates that all non-Foxes are biased. Think Sarah Palin, especially some of her criticism of Obama. Notice how, when it gets specific, it tends to be equally — if not more — applicable to her. Think of her recent dissing of Obama’s inexperience. Or this gem, which Krugman pointed out in his column a couple days ago:
President Obama has officially declared March 2011 Irish American Heritage Month. More importantly the White House also announced that the president would be brewing his own beer called White House Honey Ale for St.Patrick’ Day.
Obama, who said he will pay for the beer making equipment himself, has made presidential history by being the first U.S. president to brew beer at the White House.
Obama of course made headlines as a nancy-boy Bud Light drinker after the 2009 ‘Beer Summit’ — a beer selection that likely cost him the beer-snob vote for a generation. So it’s nice to see him fighting to regain the affection of sots and booze-hounds and drunks across the land. We really should be a natural constituency.