A classic column from the New York Times's Thomas Friedman begins by quoting a story the Onion titled "Giuliani to Run for President of 9/11." Friedman then says, "Like all good satire, the story made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true--how much, since 9/11, we've become 'The United States of Fighting Terrorism.' "
Like some bad writing, this made us laugh. Does "all good satire" really make Friedman "both laugh and cry"? If so, he either judges satire by impossibly high standards or is highly emotionally volatile.
Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there's no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don't need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.
What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid.
Here is an example of how 9/11 has made "us" stupid:
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.
Who is most stupid:
* America, for detaining terrorists at Guantanamo Bay?
* "A lot of the world," for imagining that "it's a place we send visitors who don't give the right answers at immigration"?
* Thomas Friedman, for recommending "dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans"?
We report, you decide. Friedman then veers off into an Andy Rooneyesque list of gripes that have little to do with terror policy:
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.
It's even worse than that. Try flying form Zurich to La Guardia, and you'll find it can't be done. La Guardia is not an international airport!*
I still can't get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda [Md.] 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.
We're not sure, but it seems quite possible that if Friedman investigated why his cell phone service is spotty, he'd find it's because liberal NIMBYs in places like Silver Spring and Takoma Park have blocked the construction of cell phone towers. In any case, it hardly seems reasonable to suggest that China is outpacing America because there you can get a cell phone signal in an airport.
Amid all this nonsense, Friedman does make some reasonable points. For example, he notes that Microsoft recently opened a facility in Canada rather than the U.S. because our restrictive immigration policies make it difficult to bring in skilled workers.
But why is it necessary to diminish 9/11 and pooh-pooh the continuing terrorist threat? Our guess is that Friedman, ignored by the world for the past two years during which his paper kept him hidden behind TimesSelect, is saying outrageous things because he is starved for attention. We hope this item is enough to satisfy his appetite.
*To be precise, it is an international airport only inasmuch as Canada is a nation.
And here is Taranto tying the lubricious idiot who was our 42nd POTUS into knots:
....When he was inaugurated, Mr. Clinton was 46--a year younger than Barack Obama will be on Jan. 20, 2009. Maybe those wanting a Clinton reprise would be better off with Obama than with Mr. Clinton's soon-to-be-sexagenarian better half.
The Bloomberg wire service reports on Mr. Clinton's effort to distinguish his younger self from Obama:
"There is a difference," Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital With Al Hunt" that [aired] this weekend. "I was the senior governor in America. I had been head of any number of national organizations that were related to the major issue of the day, which is how to restore America's economic strength." . . .
Bill Clinton, 61, said Obama's experience today is closer to his own in 1988, when he decided not to pursue a White House run. "I came within a day of announcing, because most of the governors were for me and I had been a governor for six years," Clinton said in the interview taped in New York. "And I really didn't think I knew enough and had served enough and done enough to run."
Obama has the added difficulty that the international situation is more complicated today, with the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, than it was in 1992, Clinton said.
At that time, the most pressing international issue "was how to build a post-Cold War world," he said. "We didn't have the terror threat. We didn't have the troops in Iraq. We didn't have the Afghan issue hanging fire."
So Mr. Clinton acknowledges that in 1992 he was experienced enough to be president only because the job was less demanding in those peaceful times.
But wait. How peaceful were they? Clinton says "We didn't have the terror threat" in 1992. Yet by the time he was elected, the following acts had already occurred:
* The November 1979 invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the holding of hostages, who were not released until Inauguration Day 1981.
* Hezbollah's 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241.
* The holding of American hostages, and murder of some, in Beirut throughout the 1980s.
* The 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
* The 1985 bombing of a Madrid restaurant frequented by American soldiers.
* The 1985 Hezbollah hijacking of TWA flight 847 and murder of a U.S. Navy flier on board.
* The 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, in which an American passenger was murdered.
* The 1986 bombing of TWA flight 840, which killed four Americans.
* The 1986 bombing of a disco in Berlin, which prompted a retaliatory strike on Libyan targets.
* The 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270.
Clinton had been in office barely a month when terrorists first tried to destroy the World Trade Center, killing six. His term saw the following attacks on American interests overseas:
* The 1995 car bombing of U.S. military headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five servicemen.
* The 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, killing 19 Americans.
* The 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224.
* The 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, less than a month before the election of Mr. Clinton's successor, killing 17 American sailors.
Then of course came 9/11, less than eight months after Mr. Clinton left office. How can anyone, looking back in 2007, claim "we didn't have the terror threat" in 1992?
It would be accurate to say that we, meaning most Americans, didn't understand the gravity of the terror threat back then. But this points to an inconvenient truth about Mr. Clinton--namely that this failure of understanding continued throughout his presidency. As we saw last year, Mr. Clinton is extremely touchy, to the point of belligerence, about this aspect of his legacy.
Experience is valuable only if we are able to learn from it. At the next debate, someone should ask Mrs. Clinton if she agrees with her husband that in 1992 "we didn't have the terror threat."
Taranto also deconstructs Bill Richardson on the same page, but like T. Friedman, I'm both laughing and crying....but in this case, crying from laughing so much!