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The Softcore Thomas Friedman

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I don't know if any of you have been paying attention, but New York Times metaphor-mangler and haver-of-thoughts Thomas Friedman has really been on a nonsensical tear lately. Back on July 23rd, Friedman was gushing over this super-cool project called "Americans Elect" that he believed would yield the centrist unicorn that America was going to ride into the future, based upon the aggregation of feelings-people-have-about-politics-and-stuff collected in a series of online questionnaires. And just yesterday, Friedman returned to the pages of the Times with his "Theory of Everything (Sort Of)," in which he, for whatever reason, decided to intrude on the "Microtrends" turf of the similarly vacuous Mark Penn.

Sport was to be had with these columns, and along similar lines, I had a good time dissecting the Friedmanic drivel of the intervening week, when he dreamed up an alternative history of America in which Capitol Hill's top lawmakers solve the debt crisis by becoming completely different human beings who use the power of hugs to stave off the vulgar realities of power politics. And what do Friedman's fantasy lawmakers achieve? Well, they don't save the country. They don't solve the unemployment crisis. They don't alter the reality of income inequality. They don't hold economic malefactors to account. They don't even admit their own wrongdoing -- putting the interests of Big Money ahead of ordinary Americans. But they do, through the power of sentiment, cause the Dow to have a record setting day!

This is something of an ever-present theme with Friedman -- America is always just one Beltway cuddlepuddle away from the bipartisan solution that will solve our problems, so long as by "our problems" we mean "the existential concerns of rich elites." But even after I'd had my way with his piece, something nagged at me. There was just something missing from Friedman's work. Something that, if it were added, would make it -- if not better -- more entertaining and readable.

And that's when it hit me. What does Friedman's writing need to make it whole? Softcore eroticism, that's what.

So, wisely recognizing that I lacked the talent to jumpstart a "Thomas Friedman erotica" genre myself, I reached out to some great writers I knew, seeking out someone up to the task. Most of the people I contacted, wisely recognizing that this idea of mine -- like all ideas of mine -- was a likely reputation-killer, begged off. Fortunately for us all, I know Raw Story executive editor and Huffington Post blogger Megan Carpentier, and she does not give a damn about her bad reputation. What follows is her re-imagining of the Friedman piece, "The Day Our Leaders Got Unstuck."


Coming to terms with your basest desires for "bipartisanship" can be a scary moment. The response to those long-held urges to reach across the aisle for succor in your moments of deep need may not be easy, but it is obvious. We need, I need, a Grand Moment Of Coming Together by the leaders of America's two parties -- and I need it right now. Until you read the following, you might not even know how much you wanted it ... but I did. I wanted it so bad it hurt.

Washington (PENTHOUSE LETTERS) - It wasn't always like this. When he took office, President Barack Obama used to just be able to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when things got too hard, even if it was late at night and official Washington had taken to bed. It was such a short drive to 1600 to "talk" about what they needed to ram through the House, and who they might want to join in the action. And if Nancy alone wasn't enough for him on a given night, she'd get Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the phone, smiling all the while, inviting him to come over so she could teach him how to wield his power like his predecessors.

But by 2010, Nancy's raw energy and ability to dominate was flagging, and no amount of discipline seemed to give Harry the desire or ability to take his own recalcitrant caucus to the woodshed when Barack needed them to stop rolling over for his rivals. Instead, there were two very different men eclipsing Nancy and Harry in Barack's daily thoughts: the vital, if emotional, new House Speaker John "Don't Call It A Boner" Boehner and the effeminate-but-strong-willed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Though Mitch lacked the obvious power Harry had at his disposal, he did have the ability to use his secondary status and sly mouth to achieve his own ends, even while leaving more powerful people convinced that it was their idea in the first place.

Barack recognized the charade for what it was, but there was something about Mitch's smirk when he did it that the president couldn't resist.

Naturally, Barack's shifting loyalties caused tension among his four steady companions, as Nancy sniped at John and Barack when they got too close, and chastised Harry's inability to dominate despite being on top. John, the egoist, wore his new position with an overweening sense of pride, smacking down his subordinates -- like House Minority Leader Eric Cantor -- when they would imply that they had more of Barack's attention than he did, lording his position of power over Nancy, pushing Harry around like he was as powerless as Mitch. Mitch sauntered around, smirking at Nancy and Harry, knowing he would eventually give Barack only what he absolutely needed to have to keep going and Barack would thank him with more passion then he ever showed to Nancy when she gave him everything he asked for. Eventually, the tension got so thick between the four of them that they could hardly get through sessions without them devolving into petty, unproductive arguments about who would get to appear on top to outsiders. So, Barack called a meeting.

"Guys, I know that things have been tense, and there are things we all need and want. And I know that every good relationship is about compromise, and I want us to stay in this room until everyone's gotten enough of what they want to be satisfied, even if not perfectly so." And then he beckoned them into a back room, away from the hungry eyes of the cameras and the voyeuristic press corps that lapped up the results of their argumentative congresses almost more eagerly than the unhurried intimate ones, and shut the door.

He continued, "Nancy, you have to understand, some times you just have to swallow some p's, even from across the aisle. I know that it's all hard, and might be bitter to swallow in the end, but if you want to get some of what you want, you have to give someone else what they want. And I don't mean just Harry -- we all know he wants to play big and tough but when we're not around you dominate him as you always have. John has needs, too, and I can't be the only one offering to meet him halfway down or give him a hand. And I know you liked it when it was just the two of us hammering everything out amongst ourselves, but just because there are more people to take into consideration doesn't mean we both can't get some of that old magic back."

Nancy, feeling a little chastened, looked at John and smiled. Shocked, he smiled back. The two former adversaries almost didn't need to say a word. During all their times together on opposite ends of the conflagrations, they'd been watching each other intently, and now they knew what it would take to mesh their needs successfully. He reached out for her hand this time, and Barack looked on approvingly as they began to hammer out a compromise that would satisfy them both. He knew he'd lend a hand there eventually ... but first he had to tackle Mitch and Harry.

"Mitch," he said, "I know that behind those sly smirks and sad eyes thrown over your shoulder lies a need to dominate, at least a little ... and I think we all know that, for all his bluster, Harry just wants to be told what to do. After all, he wouldn't constantly let you get him over a barrel if he didn't like it. So rather than everyone pretending to be something they aren't, let's switch things up: Harry will let you lead, and I'll jump in when there's a bone of contention or something needs to be worked out that just isn't getting the attention I think it deserves. Make sense?" Mitch smiled broadly, while Harry nodded more cautiously, as he'd never really let anyone but Nancy or Barack lead him. "Don't worry, Harry," Barack said, "I think once you just take a deep breath and let Mitch show you where he wants to go with this, you'll see it isn't really very far from where you want to be. And I'll be here to make sure you feel safe with what's happening. You feel safe with me, right?" Harry nodded, and Barack added, "And if Mitch gets too rough with you, I'll be right behind him to remind him who the big boss is."

And so began the bipartisan compromise congress Barack had been hoping for. He moved between chambers with more ease than normal, giving Nancy a hand when John got too swept up in hammering away at her, filling John's mouth with bipartisan words to spit out when he forgot himself, making sure Harry and Mitch swapped when their negotiations began to bottom out and always making sure that no one ignored his need for attention, love or political satisfaction.

And when it was all over, they walked out of the back room together, beaming and all but holding hands. Barack wiped his mouth and offered some more bipartistan words to the clamoring, ravenous press corps that had stood with their ears to the door for hours, imagining what had gone on within that they weren't allowed to see.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Barack began, "we came together tonight for the good of the country. Not everyone got exclusively what they wanted, but in these long, hard hours of going at it, we came to a conclusion that we know is what's best for this great nation. And you'll be glad to know that everyone got a little of what they wanted..."

John interrupted, "Actually, I got about 98 percent!"

Barack laughingly acknowledged the joke, adding, "John got 100 percent of what he didn't even know that he wanted when we started! And I'm satisfied that everyone is happy, and that what we created here tonight will make all of our constituents proud and will be something our colleagues strive to emulate in their own houses."

Seeing how thoroughly satiated by their attempts to achieve bipartisan compromise Barack and his coterie of former rivals were, the submissive press corps felt something stir inside them. Not simply a desire to please themselves and their colleagues by reconstructing the scenarios usually laid out by their masters for consumption inside the Beltway, but a need to really force this bipartisanship down the throats of Americans everywhere, so they could understand the base pleasure it had brought everyone. And as they spread the word through Twitter and reports from the press's warm pool, some men on Wall Street perked up at the imagery of just how hard and long Barack went to hammer out this compromise with his colleagues. The Dow, like the traders themselves, surged forward mere minutes after hearing of the new arrangements that had come to be in the Oval Office, straining against the once-tight belt of the economy as though it had a Cialis-fueled priapism for which there was no cure.

See! I think that makes Thomas Friedman's bipartisan fantasias much easier to swallow.

[Megan Carpentier is the Executive Editor at The Raw Story. Previously, she was an Associate Editor at Talking Points Memo; the Editor of News and Politics at Air America; an editor at; and an Associate Editor at Wonkette. Her work has appeared most recently on The Guardian's Comment is free, RH Reality Check, Firedoglake, the Women's Media Center, On The Issues Magazine, Bitch, Jezebel, The Gloss,, Spinner and the Washington Independent. She has also written for the Washington Post, Foreign Policy's "Madame Secretary" blog, Ms., Radar Magazine, Us Weekly, Glamour's "Glamocracy" blog, and the Daily Beast.

Prior to writing about politics, she spent 7 years working in them as a lobbyist. She has a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University.]

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