Thomas L. Friedman | Israelis, Palestinians and Their Neighbors Worry: Is This the Big One? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Let’s see, what happens when TikTok meets Palestinian grievances about right-wing Israeli land grabs in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem? And then you add the holiest Muslim night of prayer in Jerusalem into the mix? Then toss in the most emotional Israeli holiday in Jerusalem? And a power play by Hamas to assume leadership of the Palestinian cause? And, finally, a political vacuum in which the Palestinian Authority is incapable of holding new elections and Israel is so divided it can’t stop having elections?

What happens is the explosion of violence around Jerusalem on Monday that quickly spread to the Gaza front, and has people asking: Is this the big one? Is this the start of the next Palestinian uprising?

The Israeli government, the surrounding Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority all desperately want the answer to be “no” — Israel because it would find little support from a left-leaning White House, let alone the rest of the world, for a big crackdown on Palestinians; the Arab governments because most of them want to do business with Israeli tech-makers, not get mired defending Palestinian rock-throwers; and the Palestinian leadership because it would expose just how little it controls the Palestinian street anymore.

But unlike the Intifadas that began in 1987 and 2000, when Israel had someone to call to try to turn it off, there is no Palestinian on the other end of the phone this time — or, if there is, he’s a 15-year-old on his smartphone, swiping orders and inspiration from TikTok, the video app often used by young Palestinians to challenge and encourage one another to confront Israelis.  . . . “

Thomas L. Friedman | Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.”

“. . . There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again. . . . .”

Thomas L. Friedman | The Biden Boom – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“After our presidential election I wrote that what had just happened felt to me as if Lady Liberty had been crossing Fifth Avenue when out of nowhere a crazy guy driving a bus ran a red light. Thankfully, “Lady Liberty leapt out of the way barely in time, and she’s now sitting on the curb, her heart pounding, just glad to be alive.” But she knows just how narrowly she escaped.

I hoped that once Joe Biden took charge my anxiety over how close we came to losing our democracy would soon fade. It hasn’t.

Just listen to Donald Trump or Senator Ron Johnson or Fox News whitewashing the ransacking of the Capitol as a Republican white boys’ picnic that just got a little rowdy. Just listen to Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell trying to escape a lawsuit by arguing that no serious person would have believed her claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had helped to perpetrate a stolen election. Just watch Georgia’s legislature pass a measure supposedly designed to prevent the very fraud that Powell now says never happened by creating obstacles for Black voters — even making it a crime for anyone to serve water to someone waiting hours in a voting line.

Yes, that crazy bus driver is still out there and Lady Liberty is still in danger of being run over.” . .

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Thomas Friedman for making this day a good one. You had so many good paragraphs, here are my favorites: “What would Trump do if he presided over such a boom? HE’D PUT HIS NAME ON IT. That’s what Biden should do. If it comes, call it the “Biden Boom” — and celebrate entrepreneurs, capitalists, job creators, farmers and all those who work with their hands. Make clear that they all have a home in the Democratic Party, not just left-wing educated elites. That’s how you win the midterms. . .

. . . Then, once these green technologies are affordable, said Harvey, “you stimulate the private sector to make them steadily cheaper and more efficient by having the government set improved performance standards every year” — like California recently did, requiring the end of internal combustion engines in cars by 2035, and the way Obama did in 2012, when he required U.S. automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.”

A few commenters were upset about your call for a dash of Reagan. Let me try and explain to them, Reagan had a long list of faults as well as strengths. He was a brilliant marketer, even if of mostly right-wing ideas. He increased military spending, which I was against, but it contributed to the bankrupting of the Soviet Union and it’s collapse.

Sun Tzu wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself. I heartily support Friedman’s points, especially, borrow a page from Trump, the media maestro, and call your work the Biden Boom. Don’t follow Obama, who famously forgot to win elections.

Thomas L. Friedman | One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today?

We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.

Well, we just had the natural world equivalent of such a nuclear accident. It is widely suspected that a pathogen in a bat jumped to another animal to a human in China and then hopped onto the globalization express, causing extraordinary suffering and trillions of dollars in damage. And this happened after several decades of other pandemics set off by unhealthy human interactions with wildlife — with bats or civets in the case of Ebola and SARS-CoV-1 and most likely chimps in the case of H.I.V.

As we have just hit the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that causes Covid-19 — a pandemic, it’s appropriate to ask what smart collective action are we pursuing to prevent this from ever happening again.” . . .

Friedman talks about many aspects of the problem, but especially the need to ban wet markets like those in China, that were the probable source of this pandemic. We also have to ban the buying and selling of wild animals for restaurant food. Deforestation is a major cause for the bringing of wild animal viruses into proximity with humans, and might kill us off.
He ends with:

“As Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, remarked to me: “We marvel when a spacecraft lands on Mars to search for minute traces of life that may or may not exist.” At the same time here on earth, “we continue to destroy and degrade amazingly diverse ecosystems, like tropical forests and coral reefs,” that sustain and enrich us.

Halting that practice is the only truly sustainable vaccine against the next pandemic. In other words, it’s time that we stop looking for intelligent life on Mars and start manifesting it here on planet earth.”   -30-

Thomas L. Friedman | Israel, the U.A.E. and a New Middle East – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Luca Locatelli/Institute

“I was Googling around the other day for a factoid: how many Israelis had visited the United Arab Emirates since the signing of their normalization agreement, known as the Abraham Accords. Answer: more than 130,000.

Jumping Jehoshaphat, Batman! In the middle of a global pandemic, at least 130,000 Israeli tourists and investors have flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi since commercial air travel was established in mid-October!

I believed from the start that the openings between Israel and the U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — forged by Jared Kushner and Donald Trump — could be game-changing. We are still in the early phase, though, and having lived through the shotgun marriage and divorce of Israelis and Lebanese Christians in the 1980s, I will wait a bit before sending wedding gifts.”

“. . . Today, “there are three powerful non-Arab actors in the region — Iran, Turkey and Israel — and they have each constructed their own regional axis,” argues Itamar Rabinovich, the Israeli Middle East historian, who just co-wrote “Syrian Requiem,” a smart history of the Syrian civil war. Those three axes, Rabinovich explains, are Turkey with Qatar and their proxy Hamas; Iran with Syria and Iran’s proxies running Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; and Israel with the U.A.E., Bahrain and tacitly Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It’s the interactions of these three axes, says Rabinovich, that are really driving Middle East politics today. And because the U.A.E.-Israel axis brings together the most successful Arab state with the most successful non-Arab state, it’s radiating a lot of energy.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“What do the left-wing San Francisco Board of Education, Donald Trump’s right-wing G.O.P. and all the deer that hang out in my neighborhood have in common? So much more than you’d think. And the future of American democracy rides on understanding why.

Let me start with the deer. The reason they are so comfortable lollygagging through our yards and multiplying like rabbits is that they know from experience that they have no predators — no hunters, no mountain lions out here in suburban Maryland. So, they do all sorts of stupid stuff, like walk into the middle of the road and get hit by cars, rub the bark off tree trunks and eat all our flowers.

Well, those deer are like the San Francisco Board of Education when it recently decided — in a self-parody of political correctness — to prioritize renaming 44 public schools that had been named for people who, it argued, had exhibited racist behaviors in their lifetimes, including Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere and Senator Dianne Feinstein. They put this task ahead of getting kids back into those schools, which have been shut for the pandemic.

Such nonsense happens because, like my deer, San Francisco’s school board has no political predators. Liberal Democrats dominate politics there, so there’s no serious threat from a conservative alternative.

That is a lot like Trump and his followers, whose attachment to him has become so cultlike that every other Republican leader knows that challenging Trump is potential political suicide. The result: He, too, has no serious predators (I don’t count a waffling Mitch McConnell). This reality, plus Trump’s warped character, made him so reckless that he believed that he could shoot a whole branch of the U.S. government in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and his base would stick with him. And he was right!

My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.

For me, that starts with getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, granting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood (they each have more U.S. citizens than Wyoming) and passing a new Voting Rights Act that forbids voter suppression. While that may sound hyperpartisan, it’s the necessary, but not sufficient, remedy for America to regain its political health.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | President Donald J. Trump: The End – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Folks, we just survived something really crazy awful: four years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a network without integrity, each pumping out conspiracy theories without truth, brought directly to our brains by social networks without ethics — all heated up by a pandemic without mercy.

It’s amazing that our whole system didn’t blow, because the country really had become like a giant overheated steam engine. What we saw in the Capitol last week were the bolts and hinges starting to come loose. The departure of Donald J. Trump from the White House and the depletion of his enablers’ power in the Senate aren’t happening a second too soon.

Nor is Joe Biden’s inauguration, but he has his work cut out for him. Because we haven’t even begun to fully comprehend how much damage Trump, armed with Twitter and Facebook and leveraging the bully pulpit of the presidency and the cowardice of so many who knew better, has done to our nation’s public life, institutions and cognitive immunity.

This was a terrible, terrible experiment.

It’s not that Trump never did anything good. It’s that it was nowhere near worth the price of leaving our nation more divided, more sick — and with more people marinated in conspiracy theories — than at any time in modern history. We need to be simultaneously reunited, deprogrammed, refocused and reassured. The whole country needs to go on a weekend retreat to rediscover who we are and the bonds that unite us — or at least once did.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

“When all the facts come out about the treasonous attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by President Trump, impeaching him three times won’t feel sufficient. Consider this Washington Post headline from Monday: “Video Shows Capitol Mob Dragging Police Officer Down Stairs. One Rioter Beat the Officer With a Pole Flying the U.S. Flag.”

That said, while I want Trump out — and I don’t mind his being silenced at such a tense time — I’m not sure I want him permanently off Twitter and Facebook. There’s important work that I need Trump to perform in his post-presidency, and I need him to have proper megaphones to do it. It’s to blow apart this Republican Party.

My No. 1 wish for America today is for this Republican Party to fracture, splitting off the principled Republicans from the unprincipled Republicans and Trump cultists. That would be a blessing for America for two reasons.

First, because it could actually end the gridlock in Congress and enable us to do some big things on infrastructure, education and health care that would help ALL Americans — not the least those in Trump’s camp, who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated and left behind.”

Thomas Friedman | Never Forget the Names of These Republicans Attempting a Coup – NYT

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“The New Testament asks us in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and all their fellow G.O.P. coup plotters clearly have forgotten that verse — if they ever knew it — for they are ready to sacrifice their souls, the soul of their party and the soul of America — our tradition of free and fair elections as the means for peacefully transferring power — so that Donald Trump can remain president and one of these sleazebags can eventually replace him.

The governing “philosophy” of these unprincipled Trump-cult Republicans is unmistakably clear: “Democracy is fine for us as long as it is a mechanism for us to be in control. If we can’t hold power, then to hell with rules and to hell with the system. Power doesn’t flow from the will of the people — it flows from our will and our leader’s will.”

 
 
Credit…From left: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP; Samuel Corum/Getty Images; pool photo by Susan Walsh

For America to be healthy again, decent Republicans — in office and in business — need to break away from this unprincipled Trump-cult G.O.P. and start their own principled conservative party. It is urgent.

Even if only a small group of principled, center-right lawmakers — and the business leaders who fund them — broke away and formed their own conservative coalition, they would become hugely influential in today’s closely divided Senate. They could be a critical swing faction helping to decide which Biden legislation passes, is moderated or fails.

Meanwhile, the Trump-rump G.O.P. cult would become what it needs to become for America to grow together again — a discredited, powerless minority of crackpots waiting around for Trump’s latest tweet to tell them what to do, say and believe.

I know that fracturing an established party is not easy (or likely). But the principled Republicans, those who have courageously and dutifully defended Joe Biden’s electoral victory, have to ask themselves: “In a few days, when all of this is over, are we going to just go back to business as usual with people who are, in effect, attempting the first legislative coup d’état in American history?”

Because when this episode is over, Trump will be doing or saying something else outrageous to undermine Biden and to make collaboration impossible, and the Trump lap dogs, like Cruz, Hawley, Johnson and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will be demanding the party go along to serve their political interests, putting the principled Republicans in a daily bind. Every week there will be a new loyalty test.” . . . . 

Opinion | Is America Becoming a Four-Party State? – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman
Image
CreditCreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times
By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 19, 2019, 1082 c
Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“In case you haven’t noticed, long-established political parties across the democratic world are blowing up, with Britain’s Labour Party just the latest to fracture. Could America’s parties be next?

Could we have our first four-party election in 2020 — with candidates from the Donald Trump far right, the old G.O.P. center right, the Joe Biden center left and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez far left all squaring off, as the deepening divides within our two big parties simply can’t be papered over any longer? It’s not impossible.

Indeed, two phrases recently in the news that touch on core principles of the Democratic and Republican Parties are like fuses that could ignite much larger explosions in the coming year. Those phrases are: “unwilling to work” and “national emergency.”

On Feb. 7, Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional office sent out an F.A.Q. explainer of the Green New Deal that she’s proposing. The initiative aims “to mobilize every aspect of American society … to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.””