Thomas Friedman’s Five Worst Predictions
In this morning’s New York Times,columnist Thomas Friedman makes a grave prediction regarding Obama and the ongoing financial crisis: “I fear that his whole first term could be eaten by Citigroup, A.I.G., Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and the whole housing/subprime credit bubble we inflated these past 20 years.” Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a staple ofThe New York Times, and a bestselling author, and thus this prediction should be taken very seriously—in some alternate universe where the news media is a meritocracy and Thomas Friedman is a competent observer of the world and its workings. The rest of us can probably relax.
In October of 2000, Friedman decided that the Chinese regime would soon find itself threatened by a major unemployment crisis caused by an influx of American wheat and sugar into that country. In fact, American wheat and sugar failed to make any inroads whatsoever, while Chinese unemployment figures (however unreliable they may be) remained at low levels for a period of seven years.
In 2001, Friedman advised the American citizenry to “keep rootin’ for Putin,” hailing the K.G.B. veteran as “Russia’s first Deng Xiaoping” and a strong force for reform. Three years later, Friedman announced in his most awkward prose that “I have a ‘Tilt Theory of History’,” and called Russia “a huge nation” (this part checks out) “that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction” with regards to free speech, the rule of law, and the like. In 2007, Friedman finally noticed that Russia cannot even properly be termed a democracy and promptly wrote a column to this effect.
Then, a month into the Afghanistan conflict, Friedman complained that “the hand-wringing has already begun over how long this might last” and advised readers to “take a deep breath,” noting that Afghanistan is “far away.” Besides, Friedman had “no doubt, for now, that the Bush team has a military strategy for winning a long war.” A month later, he noted in passing that “America has won the war in Afghanistan” and that “the Taliban are gone,” though he did express some concern about “all the nonsense written in the press about the concern for ‘civilian casualties’,” a term he took to using with scare quotes. Seven years later, civilian casualties remain a major item of concern for Afghan’s in the non-won war against the non-gone Taliban.
In 2005, Friedman explained that it was necessary for Democrats “to start thinking seriously about Iraq” lest the party “become unimportant.” Though Democrats never came around to Friedman’s way of serious thinking , they did manage to take control of both chambers of Congress the following year, ushering in a period of nearly unprecedented political dominance that continues to this day, which strikes me as a pretty important thing to do.
Now, I don’t ask a lot of favors from the American citizenry and rarely even hit it up for money, but I was thinking that it might be kind of neat if everyone could stop pretending that Friedman’s prognostication deserves to be taken seriously.
Also, could we key his car or something? This is a time for bold moves.
Barrett Brown is the author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Easter Bunny and serves as director of communications for Enlighten the Vote, previously known as GAMPAC.