Opinion | George Washington for President – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“Dear Reader. I think you know, after 23 years of my writing this column, that I’m not lazy. I always try to come up with fresh ideas. Today, though, I am fresh out of fresh ideas. More than any time in my career, I think our country is in danger. It has a disturbed man as president, whose job description — to be a healer of the country in times of great national hurt and to pull us together to do big hard things that can be done only together — conflicts with his political strategy, which is to divide us and mobilize his base with anger and fear. And time and again he has chosen the latter.

When a person is promoted to a top job in life, usually one of two things happens: He either grows or he swells — he either evolves and grows into that job or all of his worst instincts and habits become swollen and just expand over a wider field. I don’t have to tell you what happened with President Trump. He is a shameless liar and an abusive bully — only now he is doing it from the bully pulpit of the presidency.

When you have a president without shame, backed by a party without a spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, reason is not an option and hope is not a strategy. The only restraint on Trump is a lever of national power in the hands of the opposition party that can force some accountability.”

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Opinion | The American Civil War- Part II – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“I began my journalism career covering a civil war in Lebanon. I never thought I’d end my career covering a civil war in America.We may not be there yet, but if we don’t turn around now, we will surely get where we’re going — which was best described by Senator Jeff Flake on Monday: “Tribalism is ruining us. It is tearing our country apart. It is no way for sane adults to act.”

Sure, we’ve experienced bouts of intense social strife since the American Civil War of 1861. I grew up with the assassination of Martin Luther King and raging street battles over civil rights and Vietnam. And yet this moment feels worse — much less violent, blessedly, but much more broadly divisive. There is a deep breakdown happening between us, between us and our institutions and between us and our president.”

“. . . . .  It would be easy to blame both sides equally for this shift, noted Ornstein, but it is just not true. After the end of the Cold War, he said, “tribal politics were introduced by Newt Gingrich when he came to Congress 40 years ago,” and then perfected by Mitch McConnell during the Barack Obama presidency, when McConnell declared his intention to use his G.O.P. Senate caucus to make Obama fail as a strategy for getting Republicans back in power.

They did this even though that meant scuttling Obama’s health care plan, which was based on Republican ideas, and even though that meant scuttling long-held G.O.P. principles — like fiscal discipline, a strong Atlantic alliance, distrust of Russian intentions and a balanced approach to immigration — to attract Trump’s base.

Flake, the departing Arizona Republican, called this out this week: “We Republicans have given in to the terrible tribal impulse that first mistakes our opponents for our enemies. And then we become seized with the conviction that we must destroy that enemy.”

The shift in the G.O.P. to tribalism culminated with McConnell denying Obama his constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court justice with almost a year left in Obama’s term. As NPR reported: “Supreme Court picks have often been controversial. There have been contentious hearings and floor debates and contested votes. But to ignore the nominee entirely, as if no vacancy existed? There was no precedent for such an action since the period around the Civil War.”

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Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has been an opponent of bipartisan governance.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

In a speech in August 2016, McConnell boasted: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’”

That was a turning point. That was cheating. What McConnell did broke something very big. Now Democrats will surely be tempted to do the same when they get the power to do so, and that is how a great system of government, built on constitutional checks and balances, strong institutions and basic norms of decency, unravels.”

Opinion | A President With No Shame and a Party With No Guts – Thomas Friedman – NYT

“If your puppy makes a mess on your carpet and you shout “Bad dog,” there is a good chance that that puppy’s ears will droop, his head will bow and he may even whimper. In other words, even a puppy acts ashamed when caught misbehaving. That is not true of Donald Trump. Day in and day out, he proves to us that he has no shame. We’ve never had a president with no shame — and it’s become a huge source of power for him and trouble for us.

And what makes Trump even more powerful and problematic is that this president with no shame is combined with a party with no spine and a major network with no integrity — save for a few real journalists at Fox News like the outstanding Chris Wallace.”

Opinion | Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

LANCASTER, Pa. — Last week I wrote about why political parties across the industrial world are fracturing from the top down. Today I’m writing about the political units that are working. On this Fourth of July, if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up.

I know — the current cliché is that we’re a country divided by two coasts, two coasts that are supposedly diversifying, pluralizing, modernizing and globalizing, while in flyover America everyone is high on opioids, cheering for President Trump and waiting for 1950 to return. That’s totally wrong.

Our country is actually a checkerboard of cities and communities — some that are forming what I call “complex adaptive coalitions” and are thriving from the bottom up, and others that can’t build such adaptive coalitions and are rapidly deteriorating. You can find both on the coasts and both in the interior — and you can find both in just one little corner of south-central Pennsylvania.

I was invited in April to give a paid book talk here in Lancaster, and I was so blown away by the societal innovation the town’s leaders had employed to rebuild their once-struggling city and county that I decided to return with my reporter’s notebook and interview them.

 

My original host was the Hourglass, a foundation founded by community leaders in Lancaster County in 1997, when the city of Lancaster was a crime-ridden ghost town at night where people were afraid to venture and when the county’s dominant industrial employer, Armstrong World Industries, was withering.

Some of the leading citizens decided that “time was running out” — hence “Hourglass” — and that no cavalry was coming to save them — not from the state’s capital or the nation’s capital. They realized that the only way they could replace Armstrong and re-energize the downtown was not with another dominant company, but by throwing partisan politics out the window and forming a complex adaptive coalition in which business leaders, educators, philanthropists, social innovators and the local government would work together to unleash entrepreneurship and forge whatever compromises were necessary to fix the city.”

David Lindsay Jr:

Bravo Thomas Friedman. DLTB GUD

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

This piece reminds me of how excited I was in Business School at the University of Washington, to hear a Professor Cecil Bell talk about Organizational Development and its tool kit. That is the same subject, or set of tools and practices described in the town of Lancaster.  Bell collaborated on a small text book with Wendell French called Organization Devolopmment, which is the most valuable set of tools I learned of in my MBA program, if you are interested in the renaissance of communities or organizations.

Get the right people together, get them to trust each other enough to brainstorm, sort and prioritize the data, and then the natural proclivity of humans to problem solve will kick in, and miracles can and do happen.

Get Out of Facebook and Into the N.R.A.’s Face – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived last week’s mass shooting, wrote a beautiful essay for CNN.com that declared: “At the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools. But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.”Cameron, God bless you for that sentiment. But just one piece of respectful advice: If your generation and mine want to get serious about a gun control crusade, we all need to get out of Facebook and into someone’s face: the N.R.A.’s.This fight can’t be won on Twitter or Instagram. They do get people into the streets. But social media have created a world of faux activism — “Hey, I tweeted about it” — that the bad guys take advantage of. The N.R.A. is not just in the chat rooms. It’s in the cloakrooms of Congress and state legislatures. And it’s there with bags of money and votes it uses to reward lawmakers who do its bidding and hurt those who don’t.I loved seeing the 100 students from your high school taking buses Tuesday to Florida’s capital to directly press lawmakers. That’s a great start. I hope every high school follows.But, ultimately, nothing will change unless young and old who oppose the N.R.A. run for office, vote, help someone vote, register someone to vote or help fund someone’s campaign — so we can threaten the same electoral pain as the National Rifle Association, which, according to PolitiFact, spent $203.2 million between 1998 and 2017 funding its candidates, defeating gun control advocates and lobbying. This is not about persuading people with better ideas. We tried that. It’s about generating raw electoral power and pain.

General Mattis- Stand Up to Trump or He’ll Drag You Down – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“That leaves Mattis as the last man standing — the only one who has not been infected by Trump’s metastasizing ethical cancer, the only one who has not visibly lied on Trump’s behalf, and who can still put some fear into Trump.

Well, Secretary Mattis, here’s some free advice to the last man standing: Don’t just stand there. If you just stand there, you’ll be next. Because Trump and Sanders will be looking to enlist your old uniform next in their defense — that is, if Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus first to escape responsibility for the bungled operation in Niger.Secretary Mattis, we don’t need any more diagnosis of the problem. We need action. And I am not talking about a coup. I mean you need to lead McMaster, Tillerson and Kelly (Pompeo is a lost cause) in telling Trump that if he does not change his ways you will all quit, en masse.

Trump needs to know that it is now your way or the highway — not his. That is how you talk to a bully. It’s the only language he understands.Tell him: No more ridiculous tweeting attacks on people every morning; no more telling senators who forge bipartisan compromises on immigration or health care that he’s with them one day and against them the next; no more casual lying; no more feeding the base white supremacist “red meat” — no more distracting us from the real work of forging compromises for the American people and no more eroding the American creed.

Led by you and you only, Secretary Mattis, your little squadron with Tillerson, Kelly and McMaster still has power. And if you can’t together force Trump onto an agenda of national healing and progress, then you should together tell him that he can govern with his kids and Sanders — because you took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to wipe up Trump’s daily filth with the uniform three of you wore so honorably.”

David Lindsay:  I’m afraid I agree with Tom Friedman. I second this piece.

 

If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim – Thomas Friedman – NYT

“It’s also corrupt. Because it’s driven by money and greed — by gunmakers and gun-sellers and oil and coal companies, and all the legislators and regulators they’ve bought and paid to keep silent. They know full well most Americans don’t want to take away peoples’ rights to hunt or defend themselves. All we want to take away is the right of someone to amass a military arsenal in their home and hotel room and use it on innocent Americans when some crazy rage wells up inside them. But the N.R.A. has these cowardly legislators in a choke hold.

What to do?Forget about persuading these legislators. They are not confused or under-informed. They are either bought or intimidated. Because no honest and decent American lawmaker would look at Las Vegas and Puerto Rico today and say, “I think the smartest and most prudent thing to do for our kids is to just do nothing.”

So there is only one remedy: Get power. If you are as fed up as I am, then register someone to vote or run for office yourself or donate money to someone running to replace these cowardly legislators with a majority for common-sense gun laws. This is about raw power, not persuasion. And the first chance we have to change the balance of power is the 2018 midterm elections. Forget about trying to get anything done before then. Don’t waste your breath.Just get power. Start now.”

Yes, and, here are the top three comments, which I endorsed.

Jocelyn Ahlers Vista, CA 2 hours ago

I am starting to wonder whether the NRA could be called a terrorist organization, or, at the very least, a sponsor of terrorism. Terrorism is defined as the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political or ideological in nature. The ads and political monies the NRA spend deliberately attempt to convince people that the only response to mass shootings is for everyone to own weapons. At the same time, they quash any efforts to enact sensible gun control legislation, leaving the door open for anyone to amass an arsenal that can easily kill and injure hundreds. And then they circle back around to convince people that they should own weapons to protect themselves from nuts with weapons. If that isn’t using the threat of violence (enabled by lax gun control) to further a political/ideological aim, I’m not sure what is.

And none of this even begins to address the politics of race inherent here. If people of color were gathering weapons in these numbers and using them to commit heinous acts such as this… Well, I’m thinking the response would be different.

Reply 257 Recommended

NYT Pick
matteo Port Washington, NY 2 hours ago

Tom’s right on this one. We should follow the advice of the nation’s chiefs of police: register all guns like cars; require licensing exams, strict licensing policies on the municipal level; Require insurance to cover these murderous events events, thus getting insurance companies who bear financial risk to conduct investigations; automatic weapons only for Police and Armed Forces. There’s a lot we can do that’s common sense and still gives legitimate law abiding citizens the right to bear their arms.

Reply 208 Recommended

JDS Ohio 2 hours ago

I heard on the mainstream radio today that the “kit” Paddock apparently used to convert a semi-automatic weapon to an automatic one cost about $50, and are legal, at least in Nevada. Would it be too much for the NRA to outlaw these kits? Are deer hunters using automatic weapons to shoot deer? Do we need automatic weapons to defend our homes? I’m all for a sane interpretation of the second amendment; let’s have one.

Reply 149 Recommended

Folks- We’re Home Alone – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a famous memoir, “Present at the Creation,” about the birth of the post-World War II order — an order whose institutions produced six decades of security and growth for a lot of people. We’re now at a similar moment of rapid change — abroad and at home. Many institutions have to be rethought. But any book about Washington today would have to be called “Absent at the Creation.”

Surely one of the most cynical, reckless acts of governing in my lifetime has been President Trump and the G.O.P.’s attempt to ram through a transformation of America’s health care system — without holding hearings with experts, conducting an independent cost-benefit analysis or preparing the public — all to erase Barack Obama’s legacy to satisfy a few billionaire ideologue donors and a “base” so drunk on Fox News that its members don’t understand they’ll be the ones most hurt by it all.”

Great column Thomas Friedman, thank you.

I had to read through many weird comments before I got to one I could endorse, which is:

Phil Korb

Philadelphia, PA 1 day ago

What an excellent, insightful, important and hugely depressing column. Trump’s very slogan, Make America Great Again, meaning Let’s pretend it can be 1950 again, is precisely the opposite of what we need. I became a grandfather two months ago, and I want, and have a duty to try to make, her world a better place, or at least not a worse place, than it is for me. The current president and the GOP leadership seem committed to ruining her future.

Be Strategic- Not Impulsive- on North Korea – Thomas Friedman – NYT

“Bader, who has served multiple administrations in diplomatic and policy jobs related to China and is now a private consultant, begins by asking the best question any American strategist could ask when thinking about how to deter a nuclear-armed foe: What would George Kennan do?

Kennan was the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union, which had tens of thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at us for roughly half a century.

Kennan, argues Bader, would grasp that “while some situations may be unacceptable, they do not lend themselves to short-term fixes. The North Korean challenge is one of them.” ”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments.

Great column Thomas Friedman. I loved your proposal. “What should the American proposal say? It should tell the North Koreans, says Bader, that in return for their complete denuclearization and dismantling of their missile program, we would establish full diplomatic relations; end the economic embargo and sanctions; and provide economic assistance, investment and a peace treaty to replace the 64-year-old armistice agreement.”

In response to Susan Rice’s excellent op-ed, I wrote: ” I read a good idea by a commentator at the NYT who suggested, the US should woo North Korea into a de-escalation. We could, for example. offer to pull our military forces out of South Korea in exchange for their giving up their nuclear weapons program. It would be useful if talks could start, aimed at giving both countries what they want or need. I add to the commentators idea, it might be necessary to let the North Koreans keep the nuclear weapons that they have. This might be acceptable, if we could get them to allow verification that they stop all further development. I continue to be depressed by most of the discussion. It is arrogant for the US to think that it has to be in charge of North Korea, when they are China’s neighbor and vassal state. We should remind ourselves continually, that this part of the world is not our backyard, but China’s.”

I’m not sure Your approach is better, Mr. Friedman, but your right, we should laugh at every missile launch as pathetic and stupid.

Democrats- Start Aiming for the Gut – by Tom Friedman – NYT

“Trump connects with these gut issues and takes them in a destructive direction. It’s vital for Democrats to connect with them and take them in a constructive direction.What issues? Here’s my list:
• We can’t take in every immigrant who wants to come here; we need, metaphorically speaking, a high wall that assures Americans we can control our border with a big gate that lets as many people in legally as we can effectively absorb as citizens.
• The Muslim world does have a problem with pluralism — gender pluralism, religious pluralism and intellectual pluralism — and suggesting that terrorism has nothing to do with that fact is naïve; countering violent extremism means constructively engaging with Muslim leaders on this issue.• Americans want a president focused on growing the economic pie, not just redistributing it. We do have a trade problem with China, which has reformed and closed instead of reformed and opened. We have an even bigger problem with automation wiping out middle-skilled work and we need to generate more blue-collar jobs to anchor communities.
• Political correctness on college campuses has run ridiculously riot. Americans want leaders to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country when globalization is erasing national identities. America is not perfect, but it is, more often than not, a force for good in the world.Voters don’t listen through their ears. They listen through their stomachs. And when you connect with voters in their guts, they feel respected, and when they feel respected, they will listen to anything — including big issues that are true even if Democrats believe them. Such as the fact that a majority of Americans like Obamacare and want to see it built to last, and a majority of Americans do not like the way Trump is despoiling the environment and bringing back coal. Indeed, the biggest wind power states in America — Texas, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — are all red states. The Democrats literally have the wind at their backs on health care and clean energy.”