May 25, 2005


C.E.O.'s, M.I.A. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 5/25/05, NY Times)

After six weeks of being a foreign correspondent traveling around America, the biggest question I have come home with is not "What's the matter with Kansas?" but rather, "What's the matter with big business?"

America faces a huge set of challenges if it is going to retain its competitive edge. As a nation, we have a mounting education deficit, energy deficit, budget deficit, health care deficit and ambition deficit. The administration is in denial on this, and Congress is off on Mars. And yet, when I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive - America's business leaders - they seem to be missing in action. I am not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives. I am worried about the disappearance of an internationalist, pro-American business elite.

In his fine new book, The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan, John Ehrman delineates the failure of Democrats to respond in any fashion to the Reagan Revolution and is particularly critical of the way they remained wedded to an absurd theory of American decline, all the while bewildered that no one was listening to them. Mr. Friedman has apparently decided to pick up where Paul Kennedy left off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 25, 2005 8:24 AM

The heartfelt shibboleths on American decline have been around for some time now.

And who knows? They may even be true (heh, heh).

But even if they're not, those Cassandras with klaxons clanging have the (enviable?) luxury of being able to both trash the administration and then feel virtuous because they've been able to give expression to their deepdown concern over America's welfare.

Best of all worlds.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 25, 2005 8:46 AM


[W]hat troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don't just favor different policies than I do - they favor a whole different kind of America.

-- Thomas Friedman, November 4, 2004, op-ed.

But, in this column, he assures us he's "not worried about the rise of the cultural conservatives."

Is this guy capable of taking a position and sticking to it?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 25, 2005 9:20 AM

Depends on what's for lunch.

Posted by: Luciferous at May 25, 2005 9:55 AM

America has an "ambition deficit" ?


America engineered, built, and put into operational use the F-22 Raptor, four to ten times as lethal as the fine F-15, and TWICE as lethal as the Euro-Fighter 2000. This superb design is likely to be the world's best fighter plane for at least thirty more years.

America designed, built, and flew the world's first privately funded reusable spaceship.

Americans have built an actual working teleporter, thereby beating the Star Trek universe by about 200 years.

The World Wide Web was created by Americans.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 25, 2005 10:06 AM

We can bash Friedman all we want - he deserves it - but he is on to something here.

American Business - and big business in general - has become downright hostile to liberty.

Gates, Buffet, Jobs, et. al. all are culturally left, and the rest of the drones are no better.

Posted by: BB at May 25, 2005 10:12 AM

Matt: it's not that he can't stick to a position, it's that he has to temporize obvious observations to stay in the good graces of the NYT readership ..
for instance, he bitched constantly about how the administration was botching the war -- anyone without the left's bias against GWB understands that history, not contemporanous reportage, will judge the efficacy of the effort(s).

BB: I suspect that lil' Tommy is not overly concerned that big business is too far left.

in general, all you really need to know about Friedman is that he carries something like a 2-handicap in golf ... the boy ain't workin' that hard!

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at May 25, 2005 10:36 AM

"Even a dufus like Tom Friedman."

My wife thinks that there are two Tom Friedmans and that columns like this are products of the bad Tom Friedman.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at May 25, 2005 10:44 AM

It's tough working for the Times and still seeking either internal advancement or peer approval. Unless you're an outsider with no chance of moving beyond your column, like David Brooks, or are fearless about what others in the building think about your views, like John Tierney, the only options are to slosh from one side to the other, like Friedman does, trying to keep the hard-liners happy while maintaining one foot in the real world, or you can jump off the pier completely like Dowd or Krugman and end up with Daniel Okrent calling you liars or clueless in the Sunday paper.

Posted by: John at May 25, 2005 11:18 AM