In August, Thomas Friedman presented a policy platform he believes is absent from America’s political discourse, but neglected to mention that it was practically word-for-word the same platform President Obama already supports. In September, Friedman did it again. And over the weekend, the NYT columnist did it once more.
In this case, Friedman was praising the legacy of Steve Jobs, in part because he “personified so many of the leadership traits we know are missing from our national politics.” Jobs, Friedman argued, was a visionary, and “there isn’t a single national politician today” like him.
It’s tempting to note the differences between a political leader and a corporate CEO. Imagine, for example, what Apple would be like if Jobs’ board of directors refused to approve any new products and openly admitted that they intended to destroy Jobs’ tenure before the next stock-holders’ meeting. (If you think that’s hyperbole, watch Washington more carefully.)
But let’s put that aside for now, and consider Friedman’s case.
Neither party is saying: Here is the world we are living in; here are the big trends; here is our long-term plan for rolling up our sleeves to ensure that America thrives in this world because it is not going to come easy; nothing important ever does.
What is John Boehner’s vision? I laugh just thinking about the question. What is President Obama’s vision? I cry just thinking about the question. The Republican Party has been taken over by an antitax cult, and Obama just seems lost. Obama supporters complain that the G.O.P. has tried to block him at every turn. That is true. But why have they gotten away with it?
Maybe because of columns like these, which cast a pox on both houses, when only one deserves it?
“What is President Obama’s vision?” Tom, it’s the same vision you’ve already endorsed.
I saw Friedman on “The Daily Show” last week, presenting the “formula for success” that the nation has traditionally embraced: investments in education, investments in infrastructure, safeguards against financial industry recklessness, sensible immigration policies, and expansive government-funded research. Who supports all of these priorities? The president Friedman condemns as “lost” and lacking vision.
If Friedman disapproves of Obama’s (and his own) vision, that’s fine; he can make the case against it and offer an alternative. If he wants policymakers to be responsible and act on the president’s forward-thinking agenda, that’d make a good column, too.
But this columnist has a bad habit of presenting sound, sensible ideas, but pretending that the White House isn’t already on his side. It’s more than bizarre; it does a disserve to readers who would benefit from a more complete picture.