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Consider This…


I have never cared for Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.  This particular piece of his is rather good though. 

Where Did ‘We’ Go?

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

And this is the dangerous game that the people behind Fox News, the Republican Party and their think tanks, PACs and other proxies are playing.

….And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

And they are whipping up their deluded base into paroxysms of anger that eventually will find some release.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

I admire Mr. Friedman for his words of caution.  However, he is also a part of why the level of discourse is so vitriolic and over the top.  His disingenuous and dis/mis-informative style of journalism has been just another straw on the camels back of tolerance and reality based debate.  His pro war stance in regard Iraq and his attacks on liberals that did not support that action added to the animosity directed towards Democrats and progressives.  Friedman’s near silence on the abuses and extreme policies and actions of the Bush administration gave implicit consent and he failed in his job as a journalist to hold our elected officials accountable.  Thomas Friedman’s sins as a journalist are as much sins of omission as sins of commission.  He is part of the problem and the reason that our national discourse has been reduced to an Elementary School bathroom argument.  Obfuscating and misrepresenting facts, being a cheerleader for needless wars and at the same time silent on calling out that the Emperor had no clothes for eight years makes him culpable in the offenses he now warns us about.

But his warning should be heeded nonetheless.

But it won’t be.  And when will the “unforgivable and unthinkable” finally manifest itself?  I don’t know, but a small part of the fabric that it will be woven from will have been sown by Mr. Friedman himself.

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