The Common Sense Man – Thomas Friedman

January 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

For the past five years I have been reading Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed column in The New York Times.  Suffice it to  say, I am a fan.  What strikes me most about his opinion pieces is their simple common sense.

Take today’s column, “Adults Only, Please,” in which Mr. Friedman is on the lookout for adults at a time when “situational values” appear to have trumped “sustainable values.”  He argues that, while the economy is in recovery mode, this recovery is tenuous and not guaranteed.  “Obviously, the political and financial elites to whom we give authority often act on the basis of personal interests. But we still have a long way to go to get out of the mess we are in, and if our elites do not behave with a greater sense of the common good we could find our economy doing a double dip with a back flip.”  What the country needs are people who take very seriously the long-term consequences of the decisions they are making and actions they are taking today.  Mr. Friedman goes on to provide examples of the opposite – the reactionary, it’s all about me, short-sighted situational actions – that threaten to put the country off the rails once again.

When our government is this deeply involved in propping up our economy, and the economy is this fragile, politics as usual will kill us. We badly need leaders inspired by sustainable values, not situational ones. Without that, we’ll just be digging our hole deeper and making the reckoning, when it comes, that much more ferocious.

Another of my other favorites is “More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” in which he says,

Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America on the cutting edge. The best way to counter the Tea Party movement, which is all about stopping things, is with an Innovation Movement, which is all about starting things. Without inventing more new products and services that make people more productive, healthier or entertained — that we can sell around the world — we’ll never be able to afford the health care our people need, let alone pay off our debts.

And then there is “Father Knows Best” which he wrote in response to the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight.  In the piece Mr. Friedman praises the father of the alleged bomber for going to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to report his son as a suspected radical.  For, while the U.S. government needs to its part to keep the country safe, Mr. Friedman argues that what is equally if not more important is how a society deals with religious extremists, and “the West is not immune. … Does it tolerate it, isolate it or shame it? The jihadists are a security problem for our system. But they are a political and moral problem for the Arab-Muslim system. If they won’t address this problem for us, I truly hope they will do it for themselves.”

I could go on, but I’ll leave the post with this.  Every time I read one of his columns I think, I hope that the people running the country are reading this too.


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