Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Fire Tom Friedman Now Edition)

Brendan Nyhan has shrill contempt and scorn for Tom Friedman:

The Horse's Mouth: On the other hand, Tom Friedman, who was never a prose stylist, seems on the verge of mental collapse midway through today's column (before calling for yet another attempt to make peace in Iraq).... Just so we're clear: He's not truly baffled -- he's "truly, truly" baffled. $50 per year is a bargain for this kind of analysis!

Here is Friedman:

The Central Truth - New York Times: We are stalled in Iraq... because of how the Bush team, the center of U.S. policy, approached Iraq from the start. While it told the public -- correctly, in my view -- that building one example of a tolerant, pluralistic, democratizing society in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world was really important in the broader war of ideas against violent radical Islam, the administration acted as though this would be easy and sacrifice-free.

Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld told us we are in the fight of our lives against a new Islamic fascism, and let's have an unprecedented wartime tax cut and shrink our armed forces. They told us we are in the fight of our lives against a new Islamic fascism, but let's send just enough troops to topple Saddam -- and never control Iraq's borders, its ammo dumps or its looters. They told us we are in the fight of our lives against a new Islamic fascism, but rather than bring Democrats and Republicans together in a national unity war coalition, let's use the war as a wedge issue to embarrass Democrats, frighten voters and win elections. They told us we are in the fight of our lives against a new Islamic fascism %u2014 which is financed by our own oil purchases -- but let's not do one serious thing about ending our oil addiction....

[I]t is the "moral confusion" at the heart of the Bush policy -- a confusion between its important ends and insufficient means -- that has hobbled us from the start. It truly, truly baffles me why a president who bet so much of his legacy on this project never gave it his best shot and tolerated so much incompetence. He summoned us to D-Day and gave us the moral equivalent of the invasion of Panama.

Tom Friedman is "truly, truly baffled." He could be unbaffled if he learned how to use the internet. He would find that his question was answered three and a half years ago, by Daniel Davies, here:

D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: And another hit and run:

I find myself with a few spare minutes and make the mistake of reading Thomas Friedman again. His conclusion after a long, dull and witless ramble about the introduction of "democracy" to Iraq... reads "If [it is] done right, the Middle East will never be the same. If done wrong, the world will never be the same".

There's not much you can say to that except "shut up you silly man".

But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

  1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
  2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
  3. It wasn't in some important way completely f----- up during the execution.

...I literally can't think what possible evidence Friedman might be going on in his tacit assumption that the introduction of democracy to Iraq (if it is attempted at all) will be executed well rather than badly. Worst piece of counterfactual speculation by Friedman since the day he pondered the question "If I grew a moustache well, I would look distinguished and stylish; if I grew one badly, I'd look like a pillock."

I think that it is time for an op-ed accountability moment here. Fire people--like Tom Friedman--who have said witless and stupid things and now profess to be "truly, truly baffled" at the witless stupidity of the Bush administration. Friedman of all people should find witless stupidity easy to understand.

Replace people who have shown themselves to be witless and stupid by people smart enough to have pointed out their witlessness and stupidity in advance.

I hereby call upon Gail Collins to replace Tom Friedman with Daniel Davies.

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