Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Tom Friedman approvingly quotes a Singaporean diplomat:
There will be no painless solution. ‘Sacrifice’ will be needed, and the American people know this. But no American politician dares utter the word ‘sacrifice.’
That's right: it's yet another chapter of Tom Friedman apparently pays no attention at all to the President of the United State of America.

From an obscure web site called, let's see...

September 5 in Detroit, the big Labor Day speech:
That’s the bedrock this country is built on. Hard work. Responsibility. Sacrifice.
He took a call from college student body presidents in August, so he could tell them (according to the WH blog):
President Obama jumped on the call to speak with these young Americans about the need for a solution that finds a shared sacrifice for all Americans. Just as was pointed out in the letter, he said that solving this problem is about investing in our future and making sure young people today have the same chances past generations had. 

Here's a weekly address from July. Hint: he says it three times.

The big budget speech in April (note, by the way, the URL on that link):
But we are going to have to ask everybody to sacrifice. And if we’re asking community colleges to sacrifice, if we’re asking people who are going to see potentially fewer services in their neighborhoods to make a little sacrifice, then we can ask millionaires and billionaires to make a little sacrifice.
The federal employee pay freeze last November? Yup:
The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require broad sacrifice. And that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government...I did not reach this decision easily. This is not just a line item on a federal ledger. These are people’s lives. They’re doctors and nurses who care for our veterans; scientists who search for better treatments and cures; men and women who care for our national parks and secure our borders and our skies; Americans who see that the Social Security checks get out on time, who make sure that scholarships comes through, who devote themselves to our safety. They’re patriots who love their country and often make many sacrifices to serve their country. In these challenging times, we want the best and brightest to join and make a difference. But these are also times where all of us are called on to make some sacrifices. And I’m asking civil servants to do what they’ve always done -- play their part.
Is that enough?

OK, so I don't blame Friedman for missing the phone call to the student body presidents. But the rest of these were all major public statements (and I tossed in the college one because it hints that he's been throwing the word around constantly, as you would expect of something he includes in so many major speeches).

For previous chapters of this incredible saga of how one of the most prominent columnists in the nation apparently has no clue who is currently president or what he says or does, see Steve Benen here and Greg Marx here and here. For my critique of sacrifice talk, see here.

And thus concludes yet another chapter of Tom Friedman apparently pays no attention at all to the President of the United State of America.


  1. You're right, of course. However, it's only fair to point out that the President's use of the term in the cited examples is not accompanied by much in terms of specifics. The public seems to be fine with sacrifice as a general concept, but tends to balk when their personal interests are involved.

    Note that I'm not faulting Obama on this; he's better than most. We get the government that we deserve, and we (collectively) are selfish and shortsighted.

  2. Friedman does the same thing with "why don't Muslims condemn terror". You can find tons of clerical denuciations of terrorism, if you only look for them (though granted they're unlikely to show up in the American media). But Friedman is too lazy to confirm his talking points with actual data.

  3. The open of this thread reminds of those resume sniffers in soulless HR departments ("Applicant O uses the term 'sacrifice' eleventy-ten times in this compendium of his speeches! He must be sacrifice-y!")

    An alternative interpretation is the management one: what sacrifices has Obama asked for from his position of leadership? Any increased taxes on anyone? How about the recos of his own debt commission? Or confrontation with the increasingly defiant, indulgent opposition? And on and on.

    If I may offer a tepid defense of Friedman, I believe part of his problem is lack of clarity with his terms: he seems to be talking about a "lack of management/enforced sacrifice" (which is fair) in the context of speeches (which is foolish).

  4. Friedman is a lazy fool.

    That being said, is it a political problem for the White House when nobody listens to what they say.

  5. Well yeah, Obama makes a lot of "speeches".

    But Pelosi wrote up Porkulus, Baucus did same with ObamaCare, and the disgraced Dodd and Frank took care of their murky business. Meanwhile, Obama gave more "speeches". He's giving another one coming up here soon, I understand.

    When Obama actually crafted and delivered an actual piece of work, the 2012 budget, sans speeches... it was scorned by all, and ignored, until Reid was shamed into holding a vote on it... and I guess not a single member of the Senate musta been listening to the "speeches", given the vote count. So Obama gave another speech. But the CBO director musta not been listening close enough either, because he said he couldn't score a speech.

    Friedman's only saying what we all know to be true. Nobody much cares what this guy says now. The emperor has no clothes... just "speeches". Now, if he puts something on the table, and climbs down into the arena and works, people might listen. But at this point, if he clings to past positions and speechifies, he'll be ignored. That's just the political reality here.

    And by the way, just to correct Mr. Friedman in the way that he is actually wrong here, the Ryan Plan did offer a prescription for sacrifice. And it was worked up and voted on... by politicians... putting their incumbency on the line. So somebody's doing what Friedman's calling for... it's just not Obama and the US Senate, which is still in a secure undisclosed area, budget-production-free for a few years now.

  6. I think wkdewey has the important point here.

    Sure, Friedman pays no attention to anything the president of the United States says or does.

    But in fairness to Friedman, he doesn't appear to know anything about anything else, either.

    The journalism industry's practice of zero-accountability, lifetime tenure for op-ed writers is not much good for journalism or discourse or America.


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