Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I’m Tom Friedman—and I Demand a Government of National Unity

Someone at the progressive Sunday dinner table recommended Tom Friedman, Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide.

Now, let me just say, first off, that it must be wondrously gratifying to walk around like Tom Friedman, forever certain in your certainty. Today, what Friedman seems pretty much certain about is that the Democratic nominee will be either Sanders or Bloomberg. He is even certainer that either Sanders or Bloomberg is sure to lose, big time, unless the nominee adopts Friedman’s suggested strategy, namely, to propose a ticket of national unity giving both progressives and moderates a place in the scheme of things.

It’s one hell of a lineup he proposes—including Mitt Romney as Secretary of Commerce and AOC as ambassador to the U.N. And many, many others.

Well, here’ something about which I am pretty certain: if nominated, neither Sanders nor Bloomberg would do any such thing.

I’m also pretty certain that Friedman’s hair-on-fire fear of losing to Trump is far from certain.

Tom Friedman Rides Again

Tom Friedman

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember seeing all that much of Tom Friedman recently. Maybe that’s due to his record of eccentricity and error. (With possibly unintended humor, his Wickipedia article says, “He has been criticized for his staunch advocacy of the Iraq War and unregulated trade, his early support of Saudi Royal Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as his use of graphs that lack properly defined terms.” One wonders whether his past also include such transgressions as advocating the annihilation of Transylvania and appearing in public with his left shoelace untied.)

All that said, I commend to your attention yesterday’s op-end, titled Is America Becoming a Four-Party State? Fractures are growing among both Democrats and Republicans. Typically, it’s well written, contains much insight, but is a little bit fuzzy and confused.

In Friedman’s reasonably apt terminology, the emerging four parties are limited-government-grow-the-pie Republicans; hoard-the-pie, pull-up-the-drawbridge Republicans; grow-the-pie Democrats; and redivide-the-pie Democrats.

I am not sure whether Friedman is predicting that each of these four parties will run a presidential candidate in 2020, though he might be read that way.

I am not sure whether he is advocating that “grow-the-pie” Republicans and Democrats ought to work together to defeat the “two extremes,” though perhaps he could be read that way, too. If so, his thinking is roughly in line with my prediction of many months ago that we may be turning into a three-party system. (Though my views on an emerging three-party system were intended to be objective, not normative.)

In any event, I think the Friedman piece is worth your while.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

There are many who fear that the “grow-the-pie Democrats” and the “redivide-the-pie Democrats” will be at each other’s throats in 2020, leading to another rightwing victory. There are many who fervently hope for such a development.

Possibly, that might happen if, one way or another, Trump exits the scene before the 2020 election. Because that would change the calculus of risk and opportunity dramatically—for all parts of the political spectrum.

But mark my words. If Trump is still around, the Democrats are going to want to win, win, win. They will cast their primary votes with their heads, not their hearts. And they will go out of their way to avoid another corrosive internal fight.

Crazy Like a Fox, or Just Crazy?


That is the question posed by the headline over Tom Friedman’s column this morning. The column comes in three parts. All are interesting, especially the third.

Part the First: the Psychiatric Question

Friedman marshals (some of) the evidence:

You read all of Trump’s 100-day interviews and they are just bizarre.

Out of nowhere Trump tells us he would be “honored” to negotiate directly with the leader of North Korea, after weeks of threatening war. Out of nowhere he says he would consider a gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure. Out of nowhere he says he is considering breaking up the nation’s biggest banks. He also insists that his Obamacare replacement legislation contains protections for people with pre-existing conditions that it doesn’t.

There’s barely a dictator in the world for whom he doesn’t have praise. And he repeats a known falsehood — that Barack Obama wiretapped him — and tells reporters they should go find the truth, when, as president, he could get the truth from the F.B.I. with one phone call, and when pressed whether he stands by that allegation, answers, “I don’t stand by anything.”

Having, metaphorically, put the bullet in his mouth and rolled in around on his tongue for a while, Friedman can only bring himself to nibble:

Is this a political strategy unfolding or a psychiatric condition unfolding? I don’t know — but it tells me that absolutely anything is possible in the next 100 days — both good and bad. Trump is clearly capable of shifting gears and striking any deal with any party on any issue.

I have two observations, both of which arise from common sense and life experience.

First, if you are beautiful, you are probably inclined to think that being beautiful is the most important thing in the world. If you are really good at calculus, you may well believe that knowing calculus is the most important skill a person can have. In fact, being beautiful and knowing calculus are both good things, but life presents many circumstances to which neither beauty nor mathematical prowess is relevant.

Trump is not beautiful nor, I suspect, does he excel at calculus. Instead, the qualities which he possesses in unusual abundance—and which he therefore cherishes—are ignorance, low attention span, misdirection, prevarication, delusional clinging to false information that boots his fragile ego, and bluster. No strategy. Only tactics of highly limited utility.

Second, like Friedman, Aardvark is no psychologist. But I know that pretending to be crazy in pursuit of coherent goals is one thing, while behavior without any coherent explanation that looks like a psychological breakdown is something else.

Part the Second: What Has Saved Us Thus Far

Friedman writes,

In his first 100 days, allies and adversaries saved Trump and the country from some of his most extreme, ill-considered campaign promises. His foreign policy team stopped him from tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Friedman expatiates with other examples. Please read for yourself.

Part the Third: What Will Save Us

Friedman continues,

As for the next 100 days, who will protect us? Myself, I am not counting on the Democratic Party. It’s too weak. On the issues I care about most, I’m actually counting on California. I believe California’s market size, aspirational goals and ability to legislate make it the most powerful opposition party to Trump in America today.

It’s an interesting point. I won’t quote further, because you can read it in toto, if so inclined.

I’ll just close by observing that, though a Right Coast person, I have spent a lot of time on the Left Coast. (Dr. Aardvark’s family and all that.) And every time I go there, I see something strange, or I experience an unusual atmosphere, and I am reminded of the Chinese saying, 天高皇帝远, Heaven is High and the Emperor is Far Away.

In Friedman’s telling, this is a really good thing.


The Oval Office Effect, Vindictive Tweets, and No Freakin’ Idea*


Once again this morning, Morning BLO and his merry band plead with the Donald to start acting like a grownup and try to marshal evidence that his long awaited maturity from childhood into adolescence might at least be taking place.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman reports that he has pretty much given up on any hopes for mature and decent behavior—and marshals overwhelming evidence of “immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency.” He illustrates his point with multiple retweets.

Will Trump take a stroll down the road to Damascus, or will he be be the same person that 48.2 percent of us wisely voted against and 46.1 percent of us unwisely voted to elect? The correct answer comes, of course, from Joe Biden: “We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.”

*Thanks to Vasari for calling the image to my attention. It’s subject to copyright, but this is fair use.