Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Friedman’

Axelrod Hopes 2012 Mirrors 2004

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Over the past year, I’ve often thought of the 2004 presidential election as a model for Obama. In 2004 Bush’s approval rating hovered below 50% for most of the year, hitting 50% only in the days leading up to the election. A few weeks ago, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd made the comparison and articles written last week by Howard Fineman and Thomas Schaller delve further into the parallels between the two elections.

As Fineman notes:

Starting with Richard Nixon in 1972, and moving on to Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George W. Bush in 2004, Republican incumbents assembled a strategic doctrine that includes the following basic plays: Stress culture, and exploit cultural and regional divisions, especially if doing so helps detract attention from a so-so (or worse) economic record. Declare one’s own strength as commander in chief and the opponent’s ignorance or weakness (or both) in military and foreign affairs. Paint the foe as out of the mainstream and/or elitist in terms of money, education or both. Highlight wedge issues to expand fissures in the other party. Where possible, speak in sweeping historical terms about the greatness and uniqueness of the country. And evoke symbols of manly recreational endeavor.

In one way or another, Barack Obama already has used all of those, and it is only May.

As Schaller notes, the comparisons to 2004 are even more apt when you consider the parallels between John Kerry and Mitt Romney. Both men are rich Massachussets blue-bloods from prominent families who have tried to run away from their past political history. Both have a penchant for squandering political advantage by sticking their foot in their mouth at inopportune moments and both have struggled to connect with everyday people.

As Thomas Friedman noted earlier this year, both Obama and Romney can be seen as running on the theme of “I’m not Mitt Romney.” While Obama is implicitly making the “You may not like me, but at least I’m not him” argument that Bush made, Romney is running away from his own Massachusetts legacy as fast as he can. Friedman bemoans the strategy from both sides as one that fails to deal with the serious issues we face as a country, but the experience of 2004 shows how effective it can be as an electoral strategy.

Thomas Friedman: Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio?

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Here’s Thomas Friedman on the death of Steve Jobs and how it taps into the greater American sense that this country is off the rails and in bad need of leadership:

Think of how cramped and uninspiring our national debate has become. It is all about cutting, filibustering, vetoing and blaming — or solving our problems by either untaxing or taxing millionaires alone.

Neither party is saying: Here is the world we are living in; here are the big trends; here is our long-term plan for rolling up our sleeves to ensure that America thrives in this world because it is not going to come easy; nothing important ever does.

What is John Boehner’s vision? I laugh just thinking about the question. What is President Obama’s vision? I cry just thinking about the question. The Republican Party has been taken over by an antitax cult, and Obama just seems lost. Obama supporters complain that the G.O.P. has tried to block him at every turn. That is true. But why have they gotten away with it? It’s because Obama never persuaded people that he had a Grand Bargain tied to a vision worth fighting for.

I’m an Obama fan, but he’s not being straight with you when he says that we can balance the budget long term by just taxing the rich. He’s not being any more straight than the Republicans are when they say that we can only balance the budget by cutting spending and that we can reduce massive deficits by decreasing taxes at a time when they’re the lowest they’ve been in 50 years.

Friedman’s obsession with “the Grand Bargain” has been pilloried by people like Frank Rich who rightly point out that Obama isn’t going to come to any Grand Bargain with people who consider closing tax loopholes just as bad as the mortal sin of raising income taxes. But Friedman is ever the optimist, arguing that leadership entails telling the truth and that the American people are hungering to hear it.

Given the history, I’m not so sure, but I agree that telling the truth to the people is more important now than it has been in some time.

Two Tribes Go To War

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Reading about Yemen this week, I was reminded of Thomas Friedman’s article a few months ago in which he drew a distinction between

two kinds of states in the Middle East: “real countries” with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called “tribes with flags,” or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens.

Among the secong group, Friedman includes Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

This seems particularly true for Yemen. Despite the fact that there has been a real democratic movement in Yemen, the deciding factor in the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh may be a squabble with another powerful family that has strong tribal overtones.

Veteran Middle East reporter Dexter Filkins, in an recent interview with Terry Gross talked about the tribal balancing act that has kept President Ali Abdullah Saleh in power for 33 years:

to President Saleh, the Americans, al-Qaeda, you know, we’re just a couple more tribes he has to deal with… This is a tribal society and he’s constantly balancing one tribe against the other…al-Qaeda’s a tribe and like the Americans are a tribe. So he’s just playing everybody off against everybody else but the ultimate aim, of course, is keeping himself in power.

More on this idea later. In the meantime, it looks increasingly line Saleh’s balancing act may have run its course.

The Navy Goes Green

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Nice column from Thomas Friedman.

This is what happens when you have smart leaders (in any organization) that think outside the box.