Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thomas Friedman is (opposed to de-) legit (-imizing

You guys know I'm not really cherry-picking these right? I don't have time to slog through numerous well-written articles by reasonable liberals, only to find the ones that are completely unhinged. Keep that in mind when you read this.

Where Did ‘We’ Go?

To the land of scare quotes, apparently.

I hate to write about this,
So, why bother?
but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.
Moreso than Cats?

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995.
Buckle your seat belts people. This isn't your run of the mill name-drop.

I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords.
Of course, in retrospect, the "extreme right-wing settlers" were pretty much on the ball. But we're not debating Israeli concessions, are we?

They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

You know where he's going with this. He knows you know where he's going with this. Why doesn't he just go already?

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by

Use of the passive voice is one way to make an untenable argument more palatable.

one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Told you so. Incidentally, Friedman is presuming ignorance on our part. Yigal Amir (Rabin's assassin) himself organized protests, and his plan to assassinate Rabin had been hatched years prior. In fact, two previous attempts had failed. The Israeli secret service was aware of Amir's plans (which: problematic but irrelevant here), so it is not like some random loner heard the voice of God in unrelated protests and decided to do some killing.

Others have already remarked on this analogy,

So why are you writing this?

but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach:
I bet they do.

I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left.
Substantive criticism = criticism with which Thomas Friedman agrees. Anything less would be uncivilized.

Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

Correlation is not causation, and deligitimation is not assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?”

Pretty much run-of-the-mill madness.

The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating.
Sounds like they're taking care of the problem. I've heard many a liberal friend wax philosophical on the merits of killing George W. People don't always think before they communicate. To which, why are you writing this article again?

I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Rabin was the subject of a Facebook poll? What does the word "exactly" mean to Friedman?

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

It's a bit weird to bristle at being labeled a fascist, and in the same piece tout the empirical wisdom of collective action. That said, Friedman only began caring about "we" in January of this year. That makes him a hack, not a fascist.

Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president.
There is no way in hell Friedman has ever wondered this.

The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.

Cloud = bogus.

And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe.
Incidentally, is there some set of talking points somewhere calling for use of the word "legitimacy"? All I hear is about how right-wing goons are attacking Obama's legitimacy. What does that mean? What is illegitimacy in this context?

They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist”
So calling someone a socialist is delegitimizing? Also, why is the term in scare quotes, as though socialism isn't a real ideology to which many continue to adhere?

to calling him a “liar”...
If calling the president a liar is deligitimizing, we have never had a legitimate president.

And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Maybe this is because some of these attacks are, arguably, kinda true. Maybe he is more of a socialist than he is letting on, and is doing a bit of lying to sell his agenda as a bit more moderate than it actually is? Whether or not this is the case, arguing as much IS NOT TANTAMOUNT TO KILLING A SITTING PRESIDENT.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want.
I cannot come up with a more prototypical example of hacking away at a man's character than calling him a liar. If this were Family Feud, and the survey question was "ways people hack at a man's character", accusing him of lying would score like 56, followed by accusing him of having an affair (23) and engaging in shady land deals (9), and openly mocking his VP (4).

I know politics is a tough business.

Right. Explains pretty much everything here. Obama's opponents are playing hardball and calling him a liar. You do not think he is a liar. Politics is tough. The end. Stop writing. Do it. Do it now.

We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.
So drop Obama in 2012. By which I mean vote for someone else. If I encourage someone to vote for a candidate other than Barack Obama, am I obliquely arguing for his assassination, viz. deligitimizing? Discuss... I'll be eating nachos.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.”
Not really.

But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.
Paralysis IS the genius of our sytem, you idiot.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics;

the gerrymandering of political districts,
Hear, hear.
making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle;
Inherently false. If you create districts solely representing the far right or far left, you also, in the process, create districts that are distinctly centrist. Those centrist districts, then, hold tremendous sway over both houses of congress, thereby elevating the power of centrism.

a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics
Which is exactly what Friedman is doing in this piece. Maybe that's why he hates it so much.

that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world.
A job once reserved solely for the New York Times.

Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

That's not "on top of" so much as it is "a function of". What does this have to do with assassinations? Why is he still writing?

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

I would argue that no reasonable person can make heads or tails of this sentence. It takes a certain kind of smug to write something so convoluted, much less send it to print. Yikes.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

Which works out really well for whatever argument Friedman is making here, since one cannot prove that they are not tacitly encouraging anything. For all I know, he's tacitly encouraging sea monkeys to rise against their dolphin masters with this piece. He's not, but no more than conservative protesters are encouraging assassination.

I would tacitly encourage the New York Times to read this junk in light of the present value of its stock, and see if their might not be some sort of correlation. Deligitimizing indeed.


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