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I Wish I Could Quarantine This Tom Friedman Column From My Brain

Things are bad enough right now, but you can always count on New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to make a terrible situation worse, and boy has Friedman come through with his latest column.

Like the vast majority of New York Times columnists, Friedman only has about four ideas that he has circulated over and over again for the past 25 or so years: Something about “innovation” and how America needs to do math again; something about globalization; something about how Arabs are filth; something about stopping all the partisan madness for a change—rinse, repeat. Today’s column falls firmly into that last category, but it is an especially bonkers entry in the Friedman canon. Here is part of the first paragraph:

At the Democratic convention [Biden] 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.

His reasons are basically “things are bad right now, so centrism will save us.” As you digest this patently ludicrous idea—a version of which Friedman has already floated during the primaries, because he is that lazy—remember that this man has a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful positions in American journalism, and is writing things that would be laughed off as some kind of weirdo fantasy bilge if you or I floated them. But Tom Friedman gets to do the New York Times centrist version of 1 AM stoner talk because the world is unfair. Anyway, let’s get to his actual picks:

For vice president, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala or Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island; for Treasury secretary, Mike Bloomberg; health and human services secretary, Bill Gates; secretary of oversight for the trillions of dollars in emergency coronavirus spending, to make sure it’s done fairly and productively, Elizabeth Warren.

Attorney general, Merrick Garland; homeland security secretary, Andrew Cuomo; secretary of state, Mitt Romney; defense secretary, Michèle Flournoy; labor secretary, Ro Khanna (who co-chaired Sanders’s campaign).

Secretary of national infrastructure rebuild, a new cabinet post, Walmart C.E.O. Doug McMillon; commerce secretary, former American Express C.E.O. Ken Chenault; O.M.B. director, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio; education secretary, Laurene Powell Jobs; U.N. ambassador, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

HUD secretary, Ford Foundation chief Darren Walker; Interior secretary, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico; energy secretary, Andy Karsner (a green Republican who led renewable energy for George W. Bush); E.P.A. administrator, Al Gore.

It’s hard to know where to begin because engaging seriously with this kind of thing takes an exhausting amount of intellectual charity. It’s like having someone come up to you with their fan fiction about what would happen if Darth Vader and Harry Potter teamed up, and you have to nod and smile. My favorite part is when he says that AOC should be the UN ambassador. Like, what? AOC and Mitt Romney are teaming up on foreign policy? What Brookings report is Tom Friedman rolling up and smoking?

Even Friedman knows he’s ridiculous because he follows this nonsense by writing, “A fantasy, you say? No, no. I’ll give you fantasy. Fantasy is thinking we’ll be OK, post-Covid-19, with toxic politics as usual or, God forbid, four more years of Trump’s lying, dividing and impugning experts.” Good try, Tom.

In conclusion, Tom Friedman once said that the Iraq War was good because it allowed the United States to tell the entire Middle East to “suck on this,” and now he wants the head of Wal-Mart, Bill Gates, and AOC to team up to show coronavirus the door. The consistent awfulness is almost comforting in a time of such turmoil.

Screenshot via McKinsey (lol)