Tom Friedman’s Selective Outrage

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 8:39 pm by Neal

Paul at powerline has a great piece on the hypocrisy and stupidity of NY Times columnist Tom Friedman’s latest column. “Why Tom Friedman should have followed his alleged instincts” starts with an excerpt from Pete Wehner:

I’ve written before about the importance of civility in public discourse and the need for what has been called the “etiquette of democracy.” One question, though: When George W. Bush was being routinely savaged by those on the Left–including prominent Democrats like Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Harry Reid–where were those Friedman columns of ringing condemnation? I don’t recall them; perhaps you do.

When there was actually a movie made about the assassination of President Bush (Death of a President), I don’t recall Friedman writing about “creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.”

When Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker declared that Bush’s “legitimacy is hard to accept,” I don’t recall Mr. Friedman worrying that Bush was having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the Left (adding a mild line of criticism against liberals now, in order to gain the patina of fair-mindedness, simply underscores that Friedman was AWOL when it counted).

I should add that when Jonathan Chait of the New Republic published a piece in 2003 that began, “I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it,” one admirable New York Times columnist did speak out. His name is David Brooks. (“The quintessential new warrior scans the Web for confirmation of the president’s villainy,” Brooks wrote. “The core threat to democracy is not in the White House, it’s the haters themselves.”)

Most of us struggle with the temptation to employ double standards, to cloak political agendas in the language of moral concern and outrage. Some individuals do an admirable job resisting that temptation. Others, like Tom Friedman, do not. He would have a lot more credibility now if he had actually spoken out before.

Right on. This selective “moral concern and outrage” is nothing more than an attempt to stifle speech. Bush endured ten times worse, and hypocrites like Tom Friedman forfeited their credibility through their silence.

Paul writes:

Beyond the hypocrisy, Friedman’s piece is simply foolish. In a democracy, there will always be enough harshly worded antagonism towards the nation’s leader to permit a column like Friedman’s. For example, Friedman is old enough that he may recall a play about Lyndon Johnson, called “MacBird,” in which Johnson was portrayed as a MacBeth figure who was behind the Kennedy assassination. The play was popular among leftists. Nonetheless, if Johnson had been assassinated only the most foolish partisan would have blamed “MacBird” or the radicals who were fond of chanting “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today”?

Lincoln aside, assassinations and attempts at assassination in American have largely been idiosycratic acts, as opposed to ones that arise from political currents. Reagan, for example, was shot (if memory serves) by someone attempting to prove his affection for Jody Foster. No one believes that the assassination of JFK was random, but people can’t agree upon which conspiracy caused it. One thing is just about universally accepted, though: the initial take of the Tom Friedmans of that era — that the assassination was a product of the culture of right-wing hate in Dallas — was incorrect. …

Friedman does, in fact, have a problem with substantive criticism of Obama and of the liberal policies Obama is pushing. That was the thrust of his column about the relative merit of China’s “enlightened autocracy.” Disgust with the positions and arguments of opponents of the Democrats’ climate change and health care reform bills was Friedman’s stated reason for favoring Chinese style autocracy.

The whole piece is excellent.

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