There is no real need to recount the many reasons why Tom Friedman has been justly ridiculed on this site.
His record of numbingly wrong headed ideas and seemingly endless list of silly pronouncements in the Times and lightweight fictions like The Lexus and the Olive Tree have been well catalogued.
But just as an incompetent batsman flirting with the Mendoza Line might make solid contact with the ball every fifth at bat, this morning Mr. Friedman hit one in the gap.
Follow me over the fold for an explanation ...
With all the venom he can muster (well, okay without any venom at all) Friendman leads with a bit of a zinger ...
President Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill has been dissappointing.
... and then throws a smart punch ...
No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 — and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.
For me this is the key critique and observation. So far, President Obama has wasted the gulf oil spill crisis with a temperate and often tepid response. Where is the outrage? Where is the understanding that this is a singular moment? Where is the recognition that this is an opportunity to act, to rally the nation around a new energy future, to move boldly and decisively beyond the carbon age?
Here Friedman links Obama's lack of a vigorous response to a critique of GWB's post-9/11 behavior, a response that has been much ridiculed on this site ...
President Bush’s greatest failure was not Iraq, Afghanistan or Katrina. It was his failure of imagination after 9/11 to mobilize the country to get behind a really big initiative for nation-building in America. I suggested a $1-a-gallon "Patriot Tax" on gasoline that could have simultaneously reduced our deficit, funded basic science research, diminished our dependence on oil imported from the very countries whose citizens carried out 9/11, strengthened the dollar, stimulated energy efficiency and renewable power and slowed climate change. It was the Texas oilman’s Nixon-to-China moment — and Bush blew it.
Had we done that on the morning of 9/12 — when gasoline averaged $1.66 a gallon — the majority of Americans would have signed on. They wanted to do something to strengthen the country they love. Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping. So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail. Heck of a job.
So the failure of imagination and will that was rightly pinned on President Bush is one Friedman (and I share his opinion) thinks should be directed at Obama.
I don’t buy it. In the wake of this historic oil spill, the right policy — a bill to help end our addiction to oil — is also the right politics. The people are ahead of their politicians. So is the U.S. military. There are many conservatives who would embrace a carbon tax or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. If Republicans label Democrats "gas taxers" then Democrats should label them "Conservatives for OPEC" or "Friends of BP." Shill, baby, shill.
It is time for President Obama to lead. It's time for him to recognize this disaster as the defining moment of his presidency.
Please don’t tell us that our role is just to hate BP or shop in Mississippi or wait for a commission to investigate. We know the problem, and Americans are ready to be enlisted for a solution. Of course we can’t eliminate oil exploration or dependence overnight, but can we finally start? Mr. President, your advisers are wrong: Americans are craving your leadership on this issue. Are you going to channel their good will into something that strengthens our country — "The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act" — or are you going squander your 9/11, too?
He must not let a failure of will or David Axelrod's imagination or an abundance of Rahm Emmanuel's fear force him to miss this once in generation opportunity to steer away from the brick wall civilization is speeding towards.
This is Obama's moment to lead. It is his 9/11 moment. He must seize the day.