As his most fervent critics are fond of pointing out, any time you get wind that Thomas Friedman is about to attempt a metaphor, it's best to evacuate the immediate area and wait a safe amount of time before returning to the scene to sort out the linguistic atrocity. But, in his most recent piece for the New York Times, "This Is Not a Test. This Is Not a Test," Friedman actually does sort of okay!
I mean, it tested my faith a little bit to hear that the financial crisis had led us to a precipice that we should think of as "...the big one...August 1914...the morning after Pearl Harbor...9/12." And I wasn't prepared to fully accept that the "banking system that pumps blood to our industrial muscles" was "our heart," but in the end, I was ready to let that go. Anyway, it was the next paragraph where he really goes out on a limb:
Yet I read that we're actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That's insane. It's as if our financial house is burning down but we won't let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn't too much chlorine in the water. Hello?
I get it! The Fire Department is the Treasury, "we" are apparently critical of unpaid taxes and nannies, who are, collectively, the chlorine in the fire quenching water that symbolically stands in for "dozens of key appointments." It would work better if it were simply "house is burning down" and not "financial house is burning down," of course. And I suppose the whole thing hangs on whether or not it matters if there is too much chlorine in hydrant water, or any at all.
Also? Technically, that's a simile, but you know what? It's almost okay! I'm going to have to give this Friedman metaphor a tentative approval.
But, yeah, Matt Taibbi should still be allowed to beat Friedman, with sticks.