But Does Friedman Have a Heart?

NY Times pundit Thomas Friedman published a mea culpa on the “war on terror” in yesterday’s NY Times, declaring:

I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

Well this is good, I thought. A change of heart — except that Tom Friedman and the word “heart” rarely occur together for me. Whether writing about globalization or the run-up to the Iraq war, the human suffering involved appeared as remote  to him as the suffering of the triceratops after the big comet hit the Yucatan. A tin woodsman, that Tom Friedman, but with no desire to visit Oz.

Yesterday he did acknowledge weeping for the victims of September 11, 2001. And he shared his reasons for now opposing America’s preoccupation with 9/11:

You may think Guantánamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba for Al Qaeda terrorists. A lot of the world thinks it’s a place we send visitors who don’t give the right answers at immigration. I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans. Guantánamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Injustice attacked, concern for poverty peeping through. Do I hear a heart beating? Wait a minute —

The United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.

Oh, I see. Gitmo is hurting the tourist industry.

Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.

Oh. And our ariports and cell phones don’t help the tourist industry either. And we’re losing the world-is-flat race with China.

I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?

Yeah. That’s it. World-is-flat race with China. That matters. Hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan — where are they, Tom? Hell, where are the people in Minneapolis?

Be still my heart.


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