the national interest

Tom Friedman Taking Baby Steps

Thomas L. Friedman
Our ideal columnist would look sort of like this, but more so. Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Tom Friedman concedes in his column today that there won’t be a third party candidate running on President Obama’s platform. So he is calling for President Obama to run on President Obama’s platform:

What the president should have done is follow the advice of the Princeton University economist and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, namely lay out a specific “three-step rehab program for our nation’s fiscal policy.” Call it the Obama Plan; it should combine a near-term stimulus on job-creating infrastructure, a phase-in, as the economy improves, of “something that resembles the 10-year Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan — which would pay for the stimulus 15-20 times over” and a specific plan to “bend the health care cost-curve downward.”

You may find it bizarre for Friedman to call on Obama to support short-term stimulus, long-term deficit reduction, and a specific plan to bend the health-care curve when he has done all three. Still, it represents clear progress for Friedman to recognize that the candidate most likely to win an election running on the Obama agenda is Obama.

Yet Americans clearly do not know that Obama is in favor of Obama’s program. We need better opinion leaders to help inform them and elevate the debate. The New York Times, our nation’s leading newspaper, can help. What it needs to do is find some kind of trusted op-ed columnist to fill this role. A seasoned reporter, who can travel around the globe speaking with the elites of the business and political world, and taxi drivers as well. A pithy writer and formulator of analogies, who can bridge the gap between optimistic, future-oriented leaders and wearers of mustaches. The effect of finding such a writer would be revolutionary — earth-flattening, even. Why — why? — can’t the Times seem to find such a columnist?

Tom Friedman Taking Baby Steps