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Of Course, Friedman Has Already Written This Column A Gazillion Times

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B- junior high school essay or New York Times column? Alas, the title gives away the answer:

Any candidate with that four-part agenda [i.e. who agrees with Tom Friedman about everything] would win — and so would the country, because he would win with a mandate to do what needs doing.

Let’s leave aside this strange idea that presidential elections are decided almost exclusively by policy details, or that the Thomas Friedman’s priorities mirror the public’s exactly. I assume the errors here are too obvious too require refutation. Instead, I’ll point out that as soon as someone uses the word “mandate” there’s about a 99% chance you’re hip-deep in bullshit. I’ll give first term George W. Bush this — when pundits were explaining that after his election “victory” he had no choice but to govern as a bipartsian, he seemed to understand that you have a “mandate” to pass anything you have the votes in Congress to pass. (The second term Bush seemed to forget this.) Anyway, if Republicans control any legislative veto point the chances of a major infrastructure program or significant tax increases passing are nil, and this is true no matter what platform the winning candidate of the Tom Freidman is Right About Everything Party runs on.

Incidentally, Bill Keller makes the same silly argument in his argument about why Hillary Clinton should be added to the 2012 ticket: “he will not be a lame duck with a gridlocked Congress but a rejuvenated president with a mandate and a Congress that may be a little less forbidding.” How, exactly, would Hillary Clinton help pass legislation? How would putting an important public figure with no Republican support on the ticket produce a “mandate” anyway? Pundits never have to answer these questions. I think “mandate” does more work to cover up craters within arguments than “bully pulpit.”

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  • Warren Terra

    I miss the “Hillary Clinton Should Have Stayed In The Senate, Kicked Some Butt, And Ousted Harry Reid” counterfactuals. These “Obama/Hillary 2012, Hillary 2016) proposals just don’t do it for me.

  • Any candidate with that four-part agenda would win

    DRAFT PALIN!

  • joejoejoe

    Tom Friedman wants America to have anchovies on our national greatness pizza because he loves him some anchovies so attention must be paid to the anchovies of greatness that Tom Friedman knows in his heart are the true topping of moderate corporate liberty. If only we poor unwashed SOBs would listen and stop ordering the goddamn pepperoni and cheese* America could be great again.

    * also known as Social Security & Medicare

  • God, Friedman is really obsessed with the Simpson-Bowles plan; the fact that it’s hated by wonks and the public alike is immaterial.

    His second point is completely vacuous.

    His third point is auto-mockery; he wants a president who’s in favor of upliftingness? Ignoring that this kind of thing is Obama’s wheelhouse is par for the course.

    His fourth point is a new obsession.

    And of course he ends with “put all of your money in stocks! Dow 50,000!”

    • Joshua

      One day a week, NPR, for some reason, gets EJ Dionne and David Brooks to talk shop. It’s pretty much the same shit every week, but hey, I guess they need to fill airtime.

      Anyway, I cannot tell you how giddy Brooks sounded when Obama and Boehner were working on their vaunted “compromise” (before the House teabags sunk it). He was just so thrilled, like he was witnessing a watershed moment in American political history.

      These people really do put tremendous stock in the [i]idea[/i] of bipartisanship. “Working together to solve America’s problems” actually means something to these people. Bowles-Simpson was truly meaningful to Friedman/Brooks/etc., even if the people in charge were morons, even if everybody hated their plan, and even if they couldn’t even actually release a final report because the committee members couldn’t agree.

      There’s one caveat here: I am talking about bipartisanship when it involves screwing over the working stiffs. As we have seen, they don’t really talk about the bipartisan telecom immunity bill, the bipartisan drone-strikes-that-kill-little-children policy, the bipartisan war on some people who do drugs, etc. I’m pretty sure they all love that stuff. Suck. On. This.

  • Kadin

    the Thomas Friedman’s priorities mirror the public’s exactly

    I assume that the definite article there is an error, but I rather like the sound of it. Calling him “the Thomas Friedman” makes him sound like some sort of robot programmed to output market-fundamentalist/dogmatic-centrist/Pain-Caucus nonsense at every available opportunity. “Beep boop… the Thomas Friedman is displeased with Democratic Mediscare tactics… beep boop members of Congress must put aside their differences and work together to privatise Social Security.”

  • R Johnston

    I think “mandate” does more work to cover up craters within arguments than “bully pulpit.”

    “Bully pulpit” may be somewhat lame, but why, exactly, should we expect a President using his control over a veto point, his control over party funds, his ability to raise funds on behalf of candidates, his control over the President of the Senate, and his relatively easy access to the media as compared to other governmental actors as leverage to influence legislators to have no effect whatsoever? Are legislators simply incapable of being influenced, with the implication that not only can the president to nothing to change their minds but also that anger over Citizens United and lobbyist access is completely misplaced?

    • Scott P.

      What does any of that have to do with the bully pulpit?

      • rea

        He doesn’t know what it means, but he
        is convinced Obama’s failure to use it (whatever it is) make him as bad as GWB.

        • Scott Lemieux

          There’s also his repeated, very wrong belief that “President of the Senate” is a position of substantial power.

      • How isn’t what is described the bully pulpit? At the very least easy access to the media has to be part of the bully pulpit, unless you don’t think the President has relatively easy access to the media

        • I should add except for the president of the senate thing. That makes a difference once every blue moon

    • Murc

      We should expect a President to do all of those things you list.

      We should also expect that there are going to be some legislators for whom none of those things will supply sufficient leverage, or against whom applying that leverage constitutes an extremely dangerous high-stakes game.

      Example: there are a number of Senators who enjoy the support of well-functioning statewide political machines, have substantial personal wealth and/or fundraising apparatus’ that are wholly or somewhat separate from that of the national party, and who enjoy substantial personal popularity within their states. These guys can be BRIBED, and they can be arm twisted by enough of their fellow legislators, but the President can’t force them to do anything short of a straight-up “Senator has betrayed his party, you should vote him out next election. I will be campaigning for his primary opponent” full-court press.

      And that’s just almost certainly never going to happen. Even if a President did have the ability to do it successfully (and I can see scenarios in which he would) the rest of the Senate would revolt en masse.

      his control over the President of the Senate

      What control would that be, precisely?

      Vice-President is an elected position. It’s part of the Executive Branch, but unlike basically every other member of said branch, he is an elected official. He does NOT serve at the pleasure of the President.

      Obviously, of course, a President has leverage over the VP. But “control”? No. VPs have told Presidents ‘no, fuck YOU’ (always in private, but still) any number of times.

      Hell, if I remember right, the Office of the VP even has its own budget, and since impoundment is illegal these days the President can’t even jerk the purse strings.

  • c u n d gulag

    Thomas Friedman:
    Just in case anyone wondered where David Brooks got his bullshit from.

    Ladies and Gentlemen – your “Liberal” NY Times!
    OY!!!

    Time to read me some Krugman.

  • Pith Helmet

    Cab drivers or it didn’t happen.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      +1

    • witless chum

      Nice.

  • rea

    And of course, Friedman’s position seems to be that he wants the Obama program without Obama. There’s just something that colors Friedman’s views on Obama–he doesn’t seem to realize that their differeences are just skin-deep . . .

    • c u n d gulag

      I see what you did there. :-)

  • DrDick

    Our Very Serious People(tm) are very seriously clueless and deranged. they are also closet autocrats who want to impose their will on the country, regardless of what the majority of the people want (which based on policy preferences, is for idiots like Friedman and Keller to STFU).

  • Joshua

    Christina Romer, the former chairwoman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, put it best when she told this newspaper on Dec. 31 that the U.S. “faces two daunting economic problems: an unsustainable long-run budget deficit and persistent high unemployment. …

    That sounds like one problem to me.

    People with jobs pay taxes.

  • witless chum

    I guess I’m sorta Clinton as VP curious. She could function as a base-shoring up like substance, if spun in the right way? I guess I can imagine her bringing in more votes to Obama than Biden, as few as that might be.

    • rea

      If you look at the arc of their careers, Biden is significantly to the left of Clinton on most issues, so how ditching him for Clinton shores up Obama’s relationship to the base, I don’t know.

    • Stag Party Palin

      But look who wants her to run – the GOP. She would be a Hindenburg-sized target in the campaign, no doubt inspiring millions of Republicans who hate their own candidate more than Joe Biden but much much much less than Hillary. She would bring tons more votes to the opposition.

  • If you only watch Presidential debates, there’s a good chance you would make the mistake these guys are running for dictator-for-life. Congress is only mentioned when one explains he would reform the institution without their permission.

  • Anonymous

    The column says “junior high school student essay” but the accompanying photo screams “junior high school vice principal”.

  • If any first term President in recent memory had a “mandate” it was Obama: winning his election going away (really, McCain ought to be glad it wasn’t the SECOND Tuesday in November), AND a majority in the House and Senate.

    Kinda squandered that…

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