Tom Friedman Wants Biden Cabinet That Looks Like Inside Of Tom Friedman's Head: White And Mostly Irrelevant
Is Tom Friedman a real person? Or is he a simulation? Are he and David Brooks mere subroutines dredged from the source code of the late David Broder? Whatever the case may be, Friedman has perpetrated another New York Times column, and for my sins, I was sent to read it. You'll never guess what it's about!
It's about leaving behind "hyperpartisanship." They're all about leaving behind hyperpartisanship.
Only this one is about how Joe Biden can really prove he's a leader worthy of taking on Donald Trump. Because this is a time for leadership, and a time to leave hyperpartisanship behind once and for all. Friedman notes that Joe Biden, not being actually in charge of anything except his own campaign at the moment, has a bit of a problem showing he's a leader right now, but he could easily demonstrate what kind of leader he would be, ideally by getting all his ideas from Tom Friedman.
Jesus, Tommy, we thought you wanted to beat Trump.
Anyhow, Friedman thinks Biden ought to go much farther than just naming his vice presidential choice. He needs to be bold! He needs to take a risk! He needs to embrace Mitt Romney! Yes, really:
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 [...]
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?
America, you have no idea how difficult it was not to just go with "Tom Friedman Wants To Do Something Big And Hard" for the headline, but these are difficult times, and we must move beyond such impulses.
Still, for yet another Tom Friedman Is More Sensibly Centrist Than You column, Friedman manages not to be too excessively annoying. [Editrix, still fuming, DISAGREE.] As ever, he's moderately annoying. And as ever, what's most annoying is his penchant for acting as if Today's Hyperpartisan Excesses were something both parties routinely indulged in, as if the Stephen Miller/Steve King/Louie Gohmert wackaloons were equally balanced out by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and "the Squad." One side wants a white ethnostate, the other thinks we need a higher marginal tax rate on the very rich.
Both-sides aside, Friedman at least lays out some non-terrible criteria for his Fantasy Cabinet League. To be a member of Joe-Tom Friedman-Biden's Cabinet, nominees must hold certain minimal values:
- They'd have to agree that science is real, "and not just around the coronavirus but around climate change, which is the next train coming at us." (Yes, the link is to another Friedman column. Wonkette takes no issue with excessive self-linking.)
- If they held office during Coronapalooza, they'd have had to take the public health threat seriously and acted accordingly.
- They would have to be willing to consider "extraordinary measures to help the poor, the unemployed and the bankrupted" following the crisis.
- No Grover Norquist government-drowners. (Friedman allows much leeway, though, calling for a "healthy balance between the public and private sectors.")
- This one's a beaut: "They have to want to extend health care to every American ..." Oh, Medicare for All? Cool! Haha, no, not that, not that at all: "... for starters by strengthening Obamacare and adding a public option." Thomas Friedman, just takin' a walk on the mild side.
Still, not a terrible starting point, although all of them are a bit like what Cory Booker says about listing "rejoin Paris" as part of a climate plan: That's only enough to get you through the door, now what's your policy?
Then Friedman gets into his list of Cabinet choices, some of which aren't really Cabinet positions, but it's his dream, so who are we to complain if there's no such thing as a Secretary of Cupcakes?
His picks really do range from the Bernie Sanders left to the Mitt Romney right, quite literally, since he wants Romney for secretary of State. Which we suppose he wouldn't suck at, as long as he's not allowed to drive in France. And as UN ambassador, Friedman names Sanders-endorser Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which seems ... odd? I'm sure she could do that, because she's hella smart, but of her many interests, foreign policy doesn't exactly spring to top of mind.
A lot of Friedman's choices feel just as arbitrary. Since Friedman love object Michael Bloomberg can't be president, let's make him Treasury secretary. Bill Gates for Health and Human Services, because he has a foundation I guess. And Elizabeth Warren for a position that Friedman just made up: "secretary of oversight for the trillions of dollars in emergency coronavirus spending, to make sure it's done fairly and productively." Similarly, Friedman would appoint Walmart CEO Doug McMillon as "Secretary of national infrastructure rebuild," which he helpfully explains is "a new cabinet post." Putting the Walmart CEO in charge of infrastructure, or anything in which people are supposed to not only get paid but get paid a "prevailing wage," also set your editrix's hair on fire, she reminds me.
And so on. Al Gore to run the EPA. Sure, that's nice. Merrick Garland, who never got his Supreme Court seat, for attorney general? Running the entire Justice Department does not seem at all like the same thing. (In Thomas Friedman's brain,say, Kamala Harris does not exist for AG or veep.) The cast of characters — mostly white, except one black person who is a former American Express CEO, and mostly rich, too — often feels like an excuse for Friedman to call attention to people in civil society he thinks we should know about, like his choice of Laurene Powell Jobs as Education secretary, instead of, like, someone with an actual career in teaching or running giant bureaucracies. But Powell Jobs has funded some gee-whiz educational projects, so in she goes — sort of a Betsy DeVos of the leftish side, but not evil (we assume) or dumb (we also assume). Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) nails the problem:
We agree 100 percent with two thirds of what Murphy says there.
In any case, once he wrote the list, Friedman still had half a column to go, so he blathered on about how this is an opportunity for Joe Biden to choose a "team of rivals" like Lincoln did, or a bold group of technocrats like FDR did. That ignores some significant historical-analogy problems, not the least of which was that Lincoln's Cabinet was more a happy accident than a search for 1860's brightest stars:
As for Roosevelt's team, they tended to be committed New Dealers, with a few exceptions. Had Friedman been advising FDR, he might have urged Roosevelt to listen to that nice Mr. Hoover and back off from all that risky government tinkering with the economy, which was so fraught with partisanship.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.