Dog Bites Man: Tom Friedman Still Doesn’t Get It

4 comments October 14th, 2007at 02:00pm Posted by Eli

Tom Friedman’s column today starts out sounding like he knows what he’s talking about, but then he goes off the rails again:

Seeing Al Gore so deservedly share the Nobel Peace Prize, it is impossible not to note the contrast in his leadership and that of George W. Bush.

Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush each faced a crucible moment. For Mr. Gore, it was winning the popular vote and having the election taken away from him by a Republican-dominated Supreme Court. For Mr. Bush, it was the shocking terrorist attack on 9/11.

Mr. Gore lost the presidency, but in the dignity and grace with which he gave up his legal fight, he united America. Then, faced with what to do with the rest of his life, he took up a personal crusade to combat climate change, even though the odds were stacked against him, his soapbox was small, his audiences were measured in hundreds, and his critics were legion. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore stuck with it and over time has played a central role in building a global consensus for action on this issue.

“No matter what happens, sooner or later character in leadership is revealed,” said David Rothkopf, author of the upcoming “Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making.” “Gore lost the election and had to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. He took the initiative to get the country and the world to focus on a common threat — climate change. Bush won the election and for the first year really didn’t know what to do with it. When, on 9/11, we and the world were suddenly faced with a common threat — terrorism and Al Qaeda — the whole world was ready to line up behind him, but time and again he just divided us at home and abroad.”

Indeed, Mr. Bush, rather than taking all that unity and using it to rebuild America for the 21st century, took all that unity and used it to push the narrow agenda of his “base.” He used all that unity to take a far-right agenda on taxes and social issues that was going nowhere on 9/10 and drive it into a 9/12 world.

So far, so good, right? Here’s where he starts to go wrong:

Never has so much national unity — which could have been used to develop a real energy policy, reverse our coming Social Security deficit, assemble a lasting coalition to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe even get a national health care program — been used to build so little. That is what historians will note most about Mr. Bush’s tenure — the sheer wasted opportunity of it all.

Uh-oh. Afghanistan, sure; Iraq, hell no. I would also suggest that the “build so little” formulation is perhaps a little mild. “Destroy so much” would have been more apt.

Yes, Iraq was always going to be hugely difficult, but the potential payoff of erecting a decent, democratizing government in the heart of the Arab world was also enormous. Yet Mr. Bush, in his signature issue, never mobilized the country, never punished incompetence, never made the bad guys “fight all of us,” as Bill Maher put it, by at least pushing through a real energy policy to reduce the resources of the very people we were fighting. He thought he could change the world with 50.1 percent of the country, and he couldn’t.

Yes, a Democratic government in the Arab world would be nice, and yes, Dubya failed at all of those things Friedman lists, but none of that means that invading Iraq was a good idea. Democratizing Iraq wasn’t “hugely difficult”; it was impossible. It was always impossible, and even more so with a proven incompetent as Commander-In-Chief.

Friedman finishes with some pretty good stuff about the economic and even military benefits of a greener economy and the need for a president who understands that, but he makes a fool out of himself every time he insists that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, and the only failure was one of execution. Not only was it doomed from the start, but it wasn’t even undertaken for the noble reasons that Friedman imagines it was.

Please, Tom, either wake up or go away.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Media,Wankers,War


  • 1. Cujo359  |  October 14th, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Was Iraq impossible? I sometimes wonder, but I suspect that it might have gone better. It was definitely not a good idea to invade, though. Just invading a country so you can turn it into a better place is, well, let’s just say there’s a whole lot more irony in that idea than is allowable in a healthy diet. I suspect that the reason Bush and Co. tried to do this war on the cheap was that if we knew the real costs up front, Americans wouldn’t have supported it. This is yet another reason invading wasn’t wise. Not to mention that we were already involved in one war, and that wasn’t a sure thing, either.

  • 2. PoliShifter  |  October 14th, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    I liked the way he casually slipped social security in there like the tool he is.

    I wish the drivel I write on my blog could make me as much money as Friedman. I wish I could write about how invading Iraq was the greatest thing ever for 3 years then reverse my position when it looks like i’m the last one standing, yet still manage to get my comlumns published in the NYT.

    I’ll never understand. I guess it helps to have friends in high places and a famous father.

    Economics? Is that all it takes to be a qualified writer these days? I got the wrong degree. I should have got a degree in economics. Then maybe would take me as serious as they do Tom Friedman.

    I’ll never understand.

    I saw Greenspan on Letterman the other day driveling on about how great free trade is, how we have lifeted large swaths of the world into the middle class, well not quite the middle class, but they are better off than they were…so we should all feel good about that while flipping burgers at our second job.

    And then there’s Bush with his free trade means more jobs for Americans.

    I’ll never understand. I guess that’s why I’ll never get paid to write drivel.

    Letterman showed pictures of Greenspan with Presidents Nixon up to Bush Jr.

    How can this man, the economiic guru of our time have allowed the U.S. to build 9 Trillion in debt and run deficits year after year.

    He was not in charge but he had influence and he didn’t use it.

    Excuse me if I don’t see the brilliance of economists.

    It probably just means I’m a dullard.

  • 3. Eli  |  October 14th, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Cujo, I don’t think Iraq ever had much chance, especially if the desired outcome is a *pro-American* democracy. Not with a Shi’ite majority and three large religious/ethnic factions that distrust and hate each other. The most likely outcome would be a democratically elected Shi’ite theocracy…

    Poli, I did notice the Social Security reference, but it was more like a subliminal flicker. Besides, Dubya *did* try to spend his political capital on “fixing” Social Security; he just failed miserably because fixing wasn’t what he was trying to do.

  • 4. ellroon  |  October 16th, 2007 at 12:48 am

    I’m quoting from my own blog when I tried to read what Vanity Fair wrote about Gore and what the media did to him in 2000:

    If Gore had become president…. we’d have had a president who would have paid attention to the historical paper on Osama bin Laden. If 9/11 had still occurred, President Gore would have rallied the world to assist in hunting Osama down. If invading Afghanistan was necessary, President Gore would have finished the job, making sure the Taliban had no foothold and working with all involved to make a functional government. We would not have attacked Iraq.

    We would not have attacked Iraq. We wouldn’t be in this mess. We wouldn’t have so many American soldiers, so many innocent Iraqis dead and mangled, so many more terrorists now committed to hurting the United States.

    So many other things, no ignoring the Constitution, no removal of the wall between church and state, no indifference to the rule of law, no ruin of the environment, no warrantless spying, no torture, no Gitmo, no Abu Ghraib, no depleted uranium poisoning, no trashing of treaties, mocking the Geneva Convention, breaking of the military…

    After all these years.

    It still hurts to think of what might have been if the media had not sold its soul to the Bush cabal and delivered us into hell.

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