Would it be too much to ask for someone -- perhaps one of his New York Times colleagues -- to give famously airheaded columnist Thomas Friedman a bit of an explanation of what is actually going on in the world of politics? Or just provide him with some sort of real world mooring point to which his precious barnacles of thought could cling? I ask because of this part of his most recent column:
Here we are in America again on the eve of a major budgetary decision by yet another bipartisan "supercommittee," and does anyone know what President Obama's preferred outcome is? Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut? The president's politics on this issue seems to be a bowl of poll-tested mush.
Here we are in America on the eve of a major budgetary decision that Friedman wants to write about, and he's somehow unaware of the fact that the President's preferred outcome is publicly available, and a mere Google search away. But Matt Yglesias, who steps up today to serve as Friedman's intern on the matter, has made it very easy. Here is Obama's preferred outcome in depth and here it is in brief.
Here is the telephone number for the Office of Management and Budget's "media inquiries" department: 202-395-7254. Thomas, you should "unlock" your iPhone, press the "phone" icon, then press "keypad," then type in those numbers in order, and finally press "call." (Oh, and put your ear to the phone! You will hear some noises, but try not to panic: eventually they will sound like a recognizable language.)
Now, the hilarious thing about all of this is that when Friedman actually reads these widely available documents, he's going to feel a little chagrined. Greg Sargent explains why:
The amusing thing is that Friedman himself has said in column after column that the deficit must be balanced through the approach Obama has offered -- a blend of spending cuts, including entitlements cuts, and tax increases.
How does Friedman deal with the fact that he and Obama roughly share the same vision? There's the above approach -- pretend Obama hasn't been clear about what he wants. Friedman has adopted other dodges, too. He has claimed that Obama's version of the Grand Bargain doesn't go far enough, because a Grand Bargain absolutely must contain entitlements cuts. Again, Obama and Dems have signaled a willingness to cut entitlements, dismaying many on the left. And even when Friedman admits that Republicans are more to blame for the lack of compromise, he makes up for it by somehow simultaneously claiming that "history" will hold Obama more accountable for failure to reach a deal.
Oh, lord, I almost forgot about Friedman's whole "Grand Bargain" fetish. Someone should also take it upon themselves to alert Friedman to the precise terms of the "Grand Bargain" that Obama actually offered. Let's take the wayback machine back to July of this year:
Obama had proposed to Republicans a "grand bargain" that accomplished a host of individual things that are unpopular on their own, but that just might pass as a huge package jammed through Congress with default looming. Obama offered to put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts on the table in exchange for a tax hike of roughly $100 billion per year over 10 years. Meanwhile, government spending would be cut by roughly three times that amount. It's no small irony that the party's dogmatic opposition to tax increases is costing the GOP its best opportunity to roll back social programs it has long targeted.
Republicans are now banking on a smaller deficit reduction deal that would still make major cuts, somewhere in the range of $2 trillion.
So, let's review: that offer combines "spending cuts, including entitlements cuts, and tax increases." Furthermore, what the President offered was rejected by House Republicans, who instead wanted a "smaller deficit reduction deal." So it's illogical to complain that the administration's position "doesn't go far enough" when the opposition's position goes even less far. Finally, the key sentence there that might help Friedman finally untangle the Great Mystery Of Why There Hasn't Been A Grand Bargain is this one: "It's no small irony that the party's dogmatic opposition to tax increases is costing the GOP its best opportunity to roll back social programs it has long targeted."
Sargent writes that Friedman seems incapable of "admit[ting] the obvious." The Obama administration and the Democrats are essentially standing in the "ideological middle" -- to their tremendous detriment, as lefty activists tend to critique this as the "sell out" position -- and Friedman "agrees with them on the broad strokes of what need to be done." He just doesn't seem to understand it!
I haven't the foggiest idea why Friedman hasn't yet grasped how annoying he's being by constantly arguing that the people who share his point of view and actually have to pay the cost of acting on it aren't really doing the things that they're doing. My guess is that these facts simply inconvenience his desire to spin alternate histories or remark upon the Kevin Costner movie he just watched. But if you're in the position to lend Friedman a hand, print these things out and give them to him, please. Better yet, print them out, kick down the door and tell him, "Suck on this!"