One of the signal values of the constant drumbeat of obvious nonsense and propaganda that emanates from the Murdoch empire, right-wing talk-radio, Republican presidential candidates, etc., is the way it warps the minds of writers and thinkers who may be independent of such organizations but feel a need to remain relevant to a perverted debate.
Perhaps this syndrome is what is presently afflicting America’s most influential foreign affairs columnist, the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman. One hopes so, because explanation number two—temporary insanity—raises a whole host of questions about not only Friedman but also whether anyone at the Times is even paying attention.
As op-ed fans everywhere cannot help being aware, Friedman has been crusading of late for Americans to join in the creation of a third party that would undertake the “grand bargain” of spending cuts and tax hikes he insists is necessary to save the nation from ruin. His deeply purple prose sounds one alarm after another. “Where is the urgency?” he demands. “The code is red.”
Friedman’s insistence that no one of responsibility in the current political constellation recognizes the gravity of the situation and the necessary terms of his proposed grand bargain—the subject, coincidentally, of his most recent (co-written) bestseller—is rendered problematic at best, however, by the fact that the president has been pursuing exactly the strategy Friedman insists is so painfully lacking but has been stymied at every turn by a Republican leadership that is committed, above all, to his failure.
To deal with this inconvenient truth on one occasion—in the context of his wonderment as to whether “our leadership lost its mind”—Friedman writes, “President Obama says that he tried to strike a Grand Bargain with Mr. Boehner on taxes and spending but that the speaker of the House backed off, when it became clear that he could not deliver his own caucus. Boehner says it was the president who undercut the deal, when he asked for more tax revenues than the two of them had already agreed upon.” Friedman is unimpressed. “All I know is this: If either of you had been a real leader truly committed to a Grand Bargain—which you both know is what we need—you wouldn’t have just walked away from your negotiations. You would have taken the issue to the country and not let up until the other guy came back to the table.”
Note that the issue of raising taxes is one that Friedman insists must be part of the grand bargain. Without it, there is no “bargain” to be discussed. Otherwise, it’s just another Obama capitulation to Republican class war against the poor and middle class on behalf of the top 1 percent. The Republicans refuse even to entertain this notion, but Friedman’s solution is for the president to just, um, make them. He writes, “If the president really wants to lead from the front, he should summon the Democratic and Republican leadership, along with all 12 members of the House-Senate deficit ‘supercommittee,’ to join him at Camp David and tell the world that they are not coming back without a Grand Bargain.”