Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Does ANYONE at the NYT have a clue?

Apparently not.

Thomas Friedman joined the ranks of the congenitally clueless and hopelessly naive yesterday with an editorial entitled Wasting Warren Buffett. I still maintain that Friedman is not this stupid, despite another recent piece wherein he seemed to not understand how insurance works at all, but it's getting harder and harder to hold on to that position.

This new piece is basically a plan Friedman has fashioned that would--to use his terminology--help the President get his "mojo" back. And the plan boils down to one basic idea: run crying to Warren Buffett and ask for his help. He doesn't put it in those words, of course. What he suggests is that Obama fashion a recovery plan to attract the support of serious-minded independents. And in this regard, Friedman details the "key features" the plan should have:
To attract that second look will require a credible, detailed recovery plan that gets voters to react in three ways: 1) “Now that sounds like it will address the problem, and both parties are going to feel the pain.” 2) “That plan seems fair: the rich pay more, but everyone pays something.” 3) “Wow, Obama did something hard and risky. He got out ahead of Congress and Romney. That’s leadership. I’m giving him a second look.”
According to Friedman, such a plan would also sway prominent business leaders like Buffett, thus creating some sort of juggernaut to crush Romney because he's standing in the way:
I’d bet anything that if the president staked out such an Obama Plan, Buffett and a lot of other business leaders would endorse it. It would give the G.O.P. a real problem. After all, what would help Obama more right now: Repeating over and over the Buffett Rule gimmick or campaigning from now to Election Day by starting every stump speech saying: “Folks, I have an economic plan for America’s future that Warren Buffett and other serious business leaders endorse — and Mitt Romney doesn’t.”
And--again, according to Friedman--an endorsement like this from Buffett is huge because he's "respected by many." That's it. Friedman is actually laying out a strategy based on the assumption that many people respect Warren Buffett, nothing more. Apparently ignorant of the credibility hits Buffett has taken after sticking his foot in his mouth with the silliness about his secretary and his willingness to pay more taxes, even as his company fights with the IRS about back taxes owed, Friedman thinks Buffett is still some sort of rockstar to the American people at large. Let's recall Buffett's dopey challenge to House Republicans, after they pointed out that he was free to pay as much in taxes as he cared to. And let's remember that Buffett made his billions in some of the same ways as Romney, but he's been at it for quite a bit longer. Now, at over eighty years old, Buffett says he thinks he's undertaxed. After he's already made his fortune.

Friedman respects Warren Buffett. No doubt, so does Paul Krugman and most of the op-ed writers at the New York Times. And I'm sure there are plenty of other pundits who go into leg-tingling comas when they hear Buffett speak or read his editorials. But all of these people are already behind Obama, 110% or more. Friedman imagines there is some large chunk of people out there who--right now--aren't supporting the President but would if Obama mentioned Warren Buffett's name more frequently.

It's a laughable thesis. People who have been paying attention--independents who have been paying attention--were not impressed by the Buffett Rule side show and they won't be impressed with another one.

And if all of this weren't enough to make Friedman appear foolish, he also said the following in the same piece:
It would have been so clarifying to have an independent voice calling out Mitt Romney for running a campaign that consists of decrying the last three and a half years of the Obama presidency, while offering to reinstate the very same failed policies that made the eight years of George W. Bush a disaster that President Obama has spent most of his time cleaning up. And it would have been equally clarifying to have an independent challenger calling out Obama for failing to put a credible, specific economic plan on the table — at the scale of our problem — but relying instead on a campaign that amounts to a series of discrete appeals to each of the Democratic Party constituencies.
First, Obama has spent most of his time doing four things: 1) spending oodles of our money with nothing to show for it, 2) attempting to institute a government takeover of the healthcare industry, 3) playing golf, and 4) campaigning for reelection. Perhaps 1) might qualify as "cleaning up" after Bush, but Obama has sucked at the job. Otherwise, the "blame Bush" meme is a dead end and Friedman looks like a partisan hack injecting into this piece.


Second, so far Obama's campaign amounts to a series of attacks on Romney and Bain Capital, and not much else. And in context with Friedman's fanboy worshiping of Buffett--a man who is of the same sort as Romney--such a claim serves primarily to undermine Friedman's arguments. 'Twas a stupid thing to say.

Oh, screw it. I'm done with trying to defend Friedman as someone who is only occasionally clueless. It's clear there's nothing left in his tank. He's done and can join Krugman on Navel-Gazing Island, as far as I'm concerned.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. 2) “That plan seems fair: the rich pay more, but everyone pays something.”

    I remember someone having a plan like that a few years ago, and getting lanced, drawn and quartered, and garroted by every liberal with a blog, newspaper, and huffpo lemming on the planet. His name was McCain.

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