HL 95 – Thomas Friedman’s Brain is Flat

March 4, 2020

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And seemingly deflating more each day. Thrice Pulitzer winner Thomas Friedman is a journalist who has made some very astute observations, as in his From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World is Flat.  But like many of us, Friedman has also loudly and persistently advocated some very bad positions.  Both because of his influence and the importance of the causes he has championed, good and bad, one can debate whether at this point Friedman is a plus or minus player in the grand game of whole life hockey.

Thomas Friedman

HL would say Friedman has been a net plus, at least until recently, and that despite persistent and staunch advocacy for the Iraq war.  Which one?  The one that seemingly has been a never-ending disaster.  Which one of those?

Friedman also advocates for virtually unregulated trade between the U.S. and its so-called trading partners.  In part, no doubt, because Indian journalists are not sending the New York Times op-eds at a fraction of the price they pay Friedman for his.  And while HL is on the sub-continent, we recall Friedman’s fierce and dismissive (of criticism) advocacy of the “Unique Identification” program where Narendra Modi’s government intends to store biometric information on each of the 1.339 billion residents of India.

Mohammed bin Salman

Displaying his especial knowledge of the Greater Levant, Friedman became an early supporter of Saudi Royal Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jared Kushner’s pal and the alleged motivator behind the murder of fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  As in “who will rid me of this insolent reporter?”

In very recent days Friedman’s desire for us all to be rid of Trump – one we hope is shared by at least 270 electors on January 6, 2021 – has led him to advocate that Democrats do some very stupid and counterproductive things and do them in a truly stupid fashion.  First, Friedman advocated closing ranks behind Mike Bloomberg in a February 11, 2020 op-ed titled Paging Michael Bloomberg.

Cory Booker

Two weeks later in his February 25, 2020 op-ed, titled Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide, Friedman prescribed that Democrats present the electorate with a Bloomberg/Klobuchar slate and a pre-determined cabinet that would include Treasury Secretary Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden as Secretary of State.  The Friedman seal of approval cabinet would also have Elizabeth Warren at Health and Human Services, Kamala Harris as Attorney General, Cory Booker for Housing and Urban Development, Mitt Romney at Commerce, Andrew Yang as Secretary of Energy, Admiral William McRaven as Secretary of Defense, Senator Michael Bennet for Education, Congressman Rohit Khanna at Labor and Tom Steyer for a new infrastructure cabinet position.

Steyer’s department is new because Friedman seems unaware that Interior is in charge of major infrastructure projects such as the dams, Hoover and Grand Cooley and the TVA.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is designated for Ambassador to the U.N. – a perfect choice because from her office in the East 40s she would have a spectacular view across the river to Long Island City, where her demagoguery deprived Queens of 25,000 Amazon jobs with an average annual salary of $150,000.

Michael Bloomberg

Explaining why Bloomberg was the Dems best bet for beating Trump, Friedman wrote that Mayor Mike “is not always politically correct” exemplifies “personal integrity and a willingness to pursue bipartisanship whenever the other side is ready” and is “a moderate progressive with a heart of gold but the toughness of a rattlesnake.”

Let’s take those in order.  It’s not merely that “stop and frisk” was politically incorrect, it was a massive and systemic multi-year violation of civil liberties and human rights.  One that Bloomberg was still touting well after leaving office and apologized for a nanosecond before admitting his candidacy.  That doesn’t mean Mike wasn’t a very good mayor who accomplished a lot of very important things.  Think FDR and the internment of Japanese-American U.S. citizens.  But think if those same citizens were a large, core and committed Democratic voting block in an election where Roosevelt was a candidate just eight years later.

Bloomberg’s willingness to pursue bipartisanship has been resoundingly self-serving.  He helped fund execrable Republicans like Lindsey Graham and supported Bush 43 over John Kerry in the 2004 contest.  He did that so the GOP would continue allowing him to masquerade as a Republican.

None can forcefully doubt the power of Mike’s gold and it will be needed by whomever the Dems nominate.  And some of that gold may indeed gild Bloomberg’s heart.  Billions of it have been given to worthy causes like Planet World a literary museum in formation, run by Friedman’s wife.  Bloomberg’s truly wonderful philanthropy has always strategically included institutions and causes near and dear to opinion makers like Thomas Friedman.

Tom Steyer

At HL we like the utopian concept of a pre-fab cabinet, though we, like you dear readers, might change some of Friedman’s choices for this secretariat or that.  However, for a moment consider what would play out if Bloomberg or Biden or Sanders, whomever the nominee is, actually announced it.  The press and oppo research specialists working for Trump would pounce with enough names to spend a good portion of each day between now and November hearing about the alleged disqualifying acts of each cabinet designee.  Think Tom Steyer, the past owner of for-profit prisons as supervisor for trillions of dollars in needed infrastructure spending.  Or what a splendid job Cory Booker did with housing in Newark before resigning his mayoralty to become a senator.  Or the inevitable myriad revisited and closer inspections of the fabricated underprivileged youth of AOC.  And the truthfulness or validity of such critiques would hardly matter during this short time frame.  Just the reality that Dems would have erected many additional conspicuous targets to attack.  Friedman’s February 11 op-ed, the one touting Bloomberg, also trashed Bernie Sanders as virtually unelectable.  It is a measure of some quality possessed by Friedman that 14 days later in his second op-ed he opined that Dems could inflict a “landslide” on Trump if either Sanders or Bloomberg announced their running mate and cabinet choices, with those choices already supplied by Friedman.

Friedman wrote the above two opinion columns and HL also penned what is above before Super Tuesday.  With all due immodesty ours was prescient, but Friedman rather than take a break of reflection tripled down.

The morning after Super Tuesday and Biden’s resurrection to erect a two-person contest for the nomination, the good Dr. Friedman held forth again in a column titled Forget Super TuesdayIt’s the Day after That MattersOn that day – yesterday – Friedman conceived a meeting in the Capitol of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bill Clinton, Biden, Bloomberg and Warren to agree on the candidate to thwart Sanders and defeat Trump.  Friedman has constructed this political wet dreamscape for the stated purpose of making sure that Bernie “lose the nomination to a moderate democrat . . . fair and square” because “his supporters are too important to a winning democratic coalition in November.  They need to be on the team.”

Even run flat tires work for only about 100 miles.  Friedman passed the last exit to rationality and good advice a long time ago.


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