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“There are two important recessions going on in the world today. One has gotten enormous attention. It’s the economic recession in America. But it will eventually pass, and the world will not be much worse for the wear.”

— Friedman, Thomas L. 2008. “The Democratic Recession” The New York Times. May 7, 2008: A.27.


‘Asian Values’

Twenty Friedman units ago, our writer returned from another leave spent “researching” another book. Not to worry, though, as he returned in midseason form with this gem:

“We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: ‘You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.'”

These “Asian values,” of course, are the same ones Max Weber talked about in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

— Friedman, Thomas L. 2008. “Who Will Tell the People?” The New York Times. May 4, 2008: WK.12.


20 Friedman units ago, our columnist was bemoaning the absence of Iraq and Kuwait at the Annapolis peace conference.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think Annapolis was useful. But when you toil for a year to throw a party and some of your worst enemies R.S.V.P., but the two people whose lives you’ve once saved don’t show up, it’s beyond rude. It’s interesting.”

A fair point for Kuwait, perhaps, but Iraq? Did that decent outcome we’ve heard so much finally happen and no one said anything?

— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Making Peace with Pieces.” The New York Times. Dec. 9, 2007: 4.10.

About our hero

We take a break today from Friedman’s own words for some words about him. This whole article is worth a read, but here’s a highlight: “I was mostly in charge of fixing paper jams in the printers and keeping track of Thomas Friedman’s schedule, among other things (fun fact about Thomas Friedman: whenever he sends an email, he makes the subject line ‘Thomas Friedman’).”

Something decent…

Friedman now admits the much-ballyhooed “decent outcome” is a long shot and calls for a schedule for withdrawal:

“So either we get help or get out. That is, if President Bush believes staying in Iraq can still make a difference, then he needs to muster some allies because the American people are not going to sustain alone — nor should they — a long-shot bet that something decent can still be built in Baghdad.”

So check back in six months?

— Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “Iraq Through China’s Lens.” The New York Times. Sept. 12, 2007: A21.

Feeling green?

Today, 20 Friedman units ago, we got to witness a skillful exercise in taking a good idea and layering it with so many buzz words and “branding” that it becomes almost unpalatable.

“Well, I want to rename ‘green.’ I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism.

“How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states – not an America divided between red and blue states.”

We’ve seen worse ideas out of Friedman but rarely more execrable expression of those ideas, combined with Friedman’s “common sense” centrist idea that we would be so much better off if the parties would just put aside their differences to do things. What things? You know — things.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The Power of Green.” The New York Times Magazine. April 15, 2007: 40-51,67,71-72.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

“I would argue that for the first time we have — by accident — the sort of balanced policy trio that had we had it in place four years go might have spared us the mess of today. It’s the Pelosi-Petraeus-Bush troika.”

Finally! Maybe this thing can be salvaged, maybe in the next six months or so.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “The Troika and the Surge.” The New York Times. March 21: A21.

The Switzerland of the Middle East

Twenty Friedman Units ago, we were treated to another explanation of how the invasion of Iraq would have been just peachy if only the Bush administration had done it Friedman’s way.

“The irony of Iraq is that it’s the one place where Mr. Bush decisively chose regime change, but he then executed it so poorly, with insufficient troops, that Iraq never stood a chance. If Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney had spent as much time plotting the toppling of Saddam Hussein as they did the toppling of Colin Powell, Iraq today would be Switzerland.”

Switzerland. Yeah, that’s it.

Friedman, Thomas L. 2007. “A Foreign Policy Built on Do-Overs.” The New York Times. Feb. 23: A21.