Opinion | Who Can Win America’s Politics of Humiliation? – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Joe Biden at a community meeting in Kenosha, Wis., last week.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

About four years ago, without asking anybody, I changed my job description. It used to be “New York Times foreign affairs columnist.” Instead, I started calling myself the “New York Times humiliation and dignity columnist.” I even included it on my business card.

It had become so obvious to me that so much of what I’d been doing since I became a journalist in 1978 was reporting or opining about people, leaders, refugees, terrorists and nation-states acting out on their feelings of humiliation and questing for dignity — the two most powerful human emotions.

I raise this now because the success of Joe Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump may ride on his ability to speak to the sense of humiliation and quest for dignity of many Trump supporters, which Hillary Clinton failed to do.

It has been obvious ever since Trump first ran for president that many of his core supporters actually hate the people who hate Trump, more than they care about Trump or any particular action he takes, no matter how awful.

Opinion | Trump’s Wag-the-Dog War – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“Some presidents, when they get into trouble before an election, try to “wag the dog” by starting a war abroad. Donald Trump seems ready to wag the dog by starting a war at home. Be afraid — he just might get his wish.

How did we get here? Well, when historians summarize the Trump team’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus, it will take only a few paragraphs:

“They talked as if they were locking down like China. They acted as if they were going for herd immunity like Sweden. They prepared for neither. And they claimed to be superior to both. In the end, they got the worst of all worlds — uncontrolled viral spread and an unemployment catastrophe.

“And then the story turned really dark.

“As the virus spread, and businesses had to shut down again and schools and universities were paralyzed as to whether to open or stay closed in the fall, Trump’s poll numbers nose-dived. Joe Biden opened up a 15-point lead in a national head-to-head survey.

“So, in a desperate effort to salvage his campaign, Trump turned to the Middle East Dictator’s Official Handbook and found just what he was looking for, the chapter titled, ‘What to Do When Your People Turn Against You?’

“Answer: Turn them against each other and then present yourself as the only source of law and order.”

America blessedly is not Syria, yet, but Trump is adopting the same broad approach that Bashar al-Assad did back in 2011, when peaceful protests broke out in the southern Syrian town of Dara’a, calling for democratic reforms; the protests then spread throughout the country.

Had al-Assad responded with even the mildest offer of more participatory politics, he would have been hailed as a savior by a majority of Syrians. One of their main chants during the demonstrations was, “Silmiya, silmiya” (“Peaceful, peaceful”).

But al-Assad did not want to share power, and so he made sure that the protests were not peaceful. He had his soldiers open fire on and arrest nonviolent demonstrators, many of them Sunni Muslims. Over time, the peaceful, secular elements of the Syrian democracy movement were sidelined, as hardened Islamists began to spearhead the fight against al-Assad. In the process, the uprising was transformed into a naked, rule-or-die sectarian civil war between al-Assad’s Alawite Shiite forces and various Sunni jihadist groups.”

I was against the demonstrators in Portland, until I read a NYT comment by a 74 year old woman, retired educator, who testified that she witnessed the armed soldiers, our Federal soldiers, shoot into peacful demonstrators and beat some of them. She reported the vandalism was very limited.
Most of the week’s news has left me unexcited, but Thomas Friedman put my deepest concerns into words in this column, in which he wrote: “I have zero tolerance for any American protesters who resort to violence in any U.S. city, because it damages homes and businesses already hammered by the coronavirus — many of them minority-owned — and because violence will only turn off and repel the majority needed to drive change.
But when I heard Trump suggest, as he did in the Oval Office on Monday, that he was going to send federal forces into U.S. cities, where the local mayors have not invited him, the first word that popped into my head was “Syria.” “
The demonstrators should all go home and relax, unless they can figure out how to control their very few troublemakers with the fire crackers and stones.

Opinion | “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other,” Should Be Biden’s Bumper Sticker – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

“I almost — but not quite — feel sorry for Donald Trump. He’s at war with two “invisible enemies” at once — the coronavirus and Joe Biden — and both remain highly elusive, the pathogen by nature and the politician by design.

Biden, who made a rare public appearance on Tuesday, has been wise to stay out of sight. Trump is now in a full-on race to the bottom with himself, pushing uglier and uglier positions that appeal to smaller and smaller segments of the American public. Why get in his way?

Of course, eventually Biden will debate the incumbent and will need a simple, clear message to counter Trump’s tired “Make America Great Again” trope.

I have an idea for Biden’s bumper sticker.

As I think about what kind of president Biden wants to be and what kind of president America needs him to be, the slogan that comes to mind was suggested to me by the environmental innovator Hal Harvey. Harvey didn’t know he was suggesting it; he just happened to sign off a recent email to me by writing: “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.”

David Lindsay: Thomas Friedman keeps getting great ideas from the environmentalist Hal Harvey, whose short plan for saving the planet is called the four zero’s, and has been incomporated into the show Kathleen and I present on nature and climate change.

Opinion | China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My favorite story in John Bolton’s book about the Trump Fun House — sorry, White House — was that President Trump appealed to China’s leader to buy more U.S. agricultural products to boost Trump’s farm vote and his re-election.

Donald: Stop begging. Both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have decided to vote for you. Don’t worry!

They know that as long as you’re president, America will be in turmoil. For Xi, that means we’re a less formidable economic rival, and for Vlad, that means we’re a less attractive democratic model for his people. They also both know that as long as you’re president the U.S. will never be able to galvanize a global coalition of allies against them, which is what China fears most on trade, human rights and Covid-19 and Russia on Ukraine and Syria.

Don’t take it from me. Here’s what Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese trade negotiator and deputy representative in Geneva, told Bloomberg’s Peter Martin: “If Biden is elected, I think this could be more dangerous for China, because he will work with allies to target China, whereas Trump is destroying U.S. alliances.”

Chinese officials, Martin reported, see a unified front on trade or human rights by the U.S. and its allies as “Washington’s greatest asset for checking China’s widening influence,” and Trump’s behavior ensures that will never come about.”

David Lindsay:

It has become clear to me that Bolten’s publisher sent free advance copies of his new book to every columnist at the NYT who writes about foreign policy ever. I should complain to my own publisher, and perhaps fire them, for not doing the same courtesy for my book, The Tay Son Rebellion!

Opinion |  How to Make the Coronavirus Pandemic Even Worse – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Having a pandemic is really bad. Having a pandemic and a civil war together is really, really bad. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America 2020.

If you feel dizzy from watching Trump signal left — issuing guidelines for how states should properly emerge from pandemic lockdowns — while turning right — urging people to liberate their states from lockdowns, ignore his own guidelines and even dispute the value of testing — you’re not alone.

Since Trump’s pronouncements are simultaneously convoluted, contradictory and dishonest, here’s my guess at what he is saying:

“The Greatest Generation preserved American liberty and capitalism by taking Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day — in the face of a barrage of Nazi shelling that could and did kill many of them. I am calling on our generation to preserve American liberty and capitalism today by going shopping in the malls of Omaha, Nebraska, in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that will likely only kill 1 percent of you, if you do get infected. So be brave — get back to work and take back your old life.”

Yes, if you total up all of Trump’s recent words and deeds, he is saying to the American people: between the two basic models for dealing with the pandemic in the world — China’s rigorous top-down, test, track, trace and quarantine model — while waiting for a vaccine to provide herd immunity — and Sweden’s more bottom up, protect-the-most-vulnerable-and-let-the-rest-get-back-to-work-and-get-the-infection-and-develop-natural-herd-immunity model, your president has decided for Sweden’s approach.

He just hasn’t told the country or his coronavirus task force or maybe even himself.

But this is the only conclusion you can draw from all the ways Trump has backed off from his own government guidelines and backed up his end-the-lockdown followers, who, like most of the country, have grown both weary of the guidelines and desperate to get back to work and paychecks.

But, in keeping with my D-Day analogy, Trump has basically decided to dispatch Americans into this battle against this coronavirus without the equivalent of maps, armor, helmets, guns or any coordinated strategy to minimize their casualty count. He’s also dispatching them without national leadership — so it’s every platoon, or state, for themselves, maximizing the chances of virus spread between people who want to go shopping and those who still want to shelter in place.

He’s also dispatching them without a national plan to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly, and without setting the example that everyone should wear face masks and practice social distancing whenever they are at work or in a public setting. Finally, he’s dispatching them without a plan of retreat if way too many vulnerable people are infected and harmed as we take to the malls of Omaha and beyond.”

David Lindsay: Great op-ed, and comments. One of my favorite comments:

bill
sunny isles beach, fl
Times Pick

There could have been federal leadership if our federal leader did his job. It could have been good for him too. If Trump had taken the impending arrival of a pandemic seriously, he could have looked like a hero, instead of a snake looking for a hole to hide in while he blames everyone…I mean everyone…for our disaster but himself. ] Meanwhile Trump is still not doing his job regarding the pandemic. We still don’t have a national strategy for testing sufficient numbers so that we can identify the disease spreaders, isolate them, treat them, and track who they might have spread the disease to. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. It takes a functional, grown-up president to oversee and coordinate it. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have one. I’ve never been a great fan of Andrew Cuomo, but contrast how effectively he’s handling the New York pandemic compared to Trump. It’s appalling. Trump has got to go…the sooner the better.

4 Replies553 Recommended

Opinion | Make America Immune Again – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“If Joe Biden is looking for a bumper sticker for his campaign against Donald Trump, I’d suggest this one: “Make America Immune Again.”

This pandemic has both exposed and exacerbated the fact that over the last 20 years we as a country have weakened so many sources of our strength. We’ve simultaneously eroded our cognitive, ecological, economic, social, governance, public health and personal health immune systems — all the sources of resilience we need to get through this pandemic with the least damage to lives and livelihoods.

All these immune deficiencies are the logical outcome of how we’ve let ourselves go as a country, how we’ve let ourselves be dumb-as-we-wanna-be for so many years — devaluing science and reading, bashing public servants for political sport, turning politics into entertainment, not to mention adopting horrible eating habits that have left 40 percent of Americans obese.

Dumb-as-we-wanna-be is epitomized by the guy in Austin, Texas, who last week shoved a “park ranger into the water while the ranger was explaining to a crowd the need for social distancing,” as CNN reported.”

Opinion | We Need Great Leadership Now, and Here’s What It Looks Like – By Thomas L. Friedman with Dov Seidman- The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Martin Barraud/Getty Images

David Lindsay: This NYT editorial is in my opinion, their articulate position on a new political platform for the post covid world. It takes up an entire page of print in the paper.
I have pulled out one of my favorite parts below after the intro.

“In a time of crisis, like we are in now, with people feeling frightened and uncertain, leadership doesn’t just matter more. It matters exponentially more.

Because even small errors in navigation can have exponential consequences when you’re spending $1 trillion in a week — while fighting a pandemic that spreads so fast that hesitating for just a week can totally sap your ability to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.

In moments like these, when the choices we make are so impactful, people desperately want to believe that their leaders know what they’re doing. But they quickly learn that in times like these, leaders either grow or swell — they either grow out of their weaknesses and rise to the level of the challenge or all of their worst weaknesses swell to new levels.

And pandemics leave nothing hidden. They flow into every tiny corner and pore and expose every weakness or strength in your society: how much trust you have in your government; how much social trust exists in your community to enable collaboration; the strength of your companies’ balance sheets; how prepared your government is to tackle the unexpected; how many of its people are living paycheck to paycheck; and what kind of public health care safety nets you’ve built.”

‘”. . .  Because this is such a critical leadership test at all levels, and because it is so not over, I called my teacher and friend Dov Seidman — who is the founder and chairman of both the ethics and compliance company LRN and the How Institute for Society, which promotes values-based leadership — to explore this issue. This is an edited version of our conversation:. . . ”

Opinion | What America Needs Next: A Biden National Unity Cabinet – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

“In the last Democratic debate, Joe Biden declared that he would nominate a woman as his vice-presidential running mate. That felt right at the time. But times have changed. Biden needs to go much, much further: At the Democratic convention he needs to name not just his vice president, but his entire cabinet. And it needs to be a totally different kind of cabinet — a national unity cabinet — from Democrats on the Bernie Sanders left to Republicans on the Mitt Romney right. Why?

Because while most people are playing nice right now managing this virus, the wreckage, pain and anger it will leave behind will require megadoses of solidarity and healing from the top.

And even if we get to the other side of this crisis by January, there are going to be a set of wrenching debates around who got bailed out and who didn’t and around how much civil liberty we should sacrifice to track and quarantine Covid-19 carriers until there is a vaccine. If handled on a partisan basis, those issues will rip our country apart.

In short, if this isn’t the time to leave behind the hyperpartisanship that has made it nearly impossible for us to do anything big and hard for two decades, then when?

Considering all the people who have come together in this crisis to tend to neighbors, contribute to hospitals, share scarce resources and learn from one another how to combat Covid-19, would it be asking too much for our political system to mirror the best in us rather than to continue to exacerbate the worst? Americans today deserve the government they need more than ever. It has literally become a matter of life and death.

Biden, because he doesn’t run anything right now, has had a hard time demonstrating leadership. The one giant contrast that he could draw with President Trump, though, is the approach he would take to governing.

Americans are not focused on this now — but they will be. And when they are, Biden needs to show that he isn’t running to be president of the 48 percent (or less), as Trump is; he’s not trying to suppress the vote, as Trump is; he’s not running to squeak by in the Electoral College, as Trump is. He needs to show he’s running to be a majority president, a unity president — but not just unity for unity’s sake, but unity of purpose based on a set of shared values for rebuilding America.

Biden should enlist people ready to embrace these values:

1) They have to believe in science — and not just around the coronavirus but around climate change, which is the next train coming at us.

2) If they were in power during this crisis, they have to have led their city, state or business in a way that took the science of this epidemic seriously from the start and cared for those under them.”

David Lindsay: This not my favorite Friedman piece. Pete Buttigieg was my choice for VP. I think saying the VP has to be female, was Biden’s first really big mistake. He mentions three women, but they are unknowns to most of us. We know that Buttigieg can speak, and think like a president.

The comments are interesting, and here is my favorite so far:

Drew
San Jose, Costa Rica
Times Pick

A good start but a few adjustments are needed. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is far the best person for Ambassador to the UN. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should stay put for now. And perhaps Andrew Yang should be Secretary of Energy over Karsner. But the big flaw in this line-up, there has to be some role for Sen. Sanders. Something important. Some office with real authority. Something worthy of the man. Not sure what it could be but for certain VP Biden must bring in Sanders in a visible way, address his concerns and gain his cooperation. The appearance of exclusion was Secretary Clinton’s biggest mistake.

25 Replies653 Recommended

Opinion | With the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“. . .  Mother Nature was not impressed by Trump or his markets. Mother Nature, alas, doesn’t “open” her workday at 9:30 a.m. or close it at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and then take weekends off. So precisely when Trump was autographing his one-day stock chart to be touted by the knuckleheads at Fox, Mother Nature was silently, relentlessly, mercilessly and exponentially spreading the coronavirus among us.

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.” Do not mess with Mother Nature.

But that is exactly what Trump did initially with the coronavirus — and is trying to do still with climate change. Yes, we must absolutely focus on combating this virus now. And Trump seems to have finally become properly awed by the power of Mother Nature’s Covid-19, ordering federal distancing guidelines to stay in place until April 30. That is a good thing.

But as we win this battle with the coronavirus and begin to think about the next round of stimulus that we want to inject into the economy — and there will be a next round — it is vital that we keep in mind just how much more destructive climate change could be for all of us, and make sure that we invest in long-term resilience against that as well.

Because there is one huge difference between the coronavirus and climate change: Climate change doesn’t “peak” — and then flatten out and then maybe dissipate or be permanently prevented by vaccine — so normal life resumes.

No, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice melts, it’s gone, and we humans will have to contend with the implications of sea level rise, mass movements of populations and various kinds of extreme weather — wetter wets, hotter hots and drier dries — forever.

There is no herd immunity to climate change. There are only endless impacts on the herd.”

Opinion | Dems, Want to Defeat Trump? Form a Team of Rivals – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

“If this election turns out to be just between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath, we will be in a terrible, terrible place as a country. How do we prevent that?

That’s all I am thinking about right now. My short answer is that the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.

What would this super ticket look like? Well, I suggest Sanders — and Michael Bloomberg, who seems to be his most viable long-term challenger — lay it out this way:

“I want people to know that if I am the Democratic nominee these will be my cabinet choices — my team of rivals. I want Amy Klobuchar as my vice president. Her decency, experience and moderation will be greatly appreciated across America and particularly in the Midwest. I want Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders) as my secretary of the Treasury. Our plans for addressing income inequality are actually not that far apart, and if we can blend them together it will be great for the country and reassure markets. I want Joe Biden as my secretary of state. No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe. I will ask Elizabeth Warren to serve as health and human services secretary. No one could bring more energy and intellect to the task of expanding health care for more Americans than Senator Warren.”

David Lindsay: I’ve watched at least half of all the debates, and this idea has been in my mind since the first one. Thank you Tom Friedman, for saying so clearly what I and, according to the comments, many others, have been thinking.