Sunday, May 8, 2022

Tom Friedman Flacks for Joe Biden

An old saw in the media business had it that journalists should only report the news; they should not be the news.

Apparently, the old saw has been overthrown by the New York Times’ own Tom Friedman. We have had occasion, recently, to praise the acuity of Friedman’s analysis of the war in Ukraine. To do such analysis requires objectivity and sound judgment.

But, today we see another Friedman, one who seems to be working for the Biden administration, covering for an inept president whose incompetence and stupidity was on full public display in a prior Friedman column.

Anyway, fair is fair. If we are happy to offer praise where praise is due, we are equally happy to call out flackery, even when it is disguised as a newspaper column.

Here is the background, as Friedman reports it:

First, The Times disclosed that “the United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials.” Second, The Times, following a report by NBC News and citing U.S. officials, reported that America has “provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces locate and strike” the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. This targeting assistance “contributed to the eventual sinking” of the Moskva by two Ukrainian cruise missiles.

Of course, the Biden administration leaked this story to the Times, either because it has no idea of the potential repercussions or because it is simply inept or incompetent. The alternative, that it is trying to provoke Russia into a war, as reasonable an interpretation as any, is so stupid that we tend to dismiss it. Of course, with the Biden administration, stupid is the order of the day.

Anyway, Friedman continues that after the Times issued a report that was supposedly a fine instance of macho bravado, he, great journalist that he is, checked the story with the Biden people. Now, you would have thought that he, what with his contacts, would have done so earlier, but alas:

As a journalist, I love a good leak story, and the reporters who broke those stories did powerful digging. At the same time, from everything I have been able to glean from senior U.S. officials, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the leaks were not part of any thought-out strategy, and President Biden was livid about them. I’m told that he called the director of national intelligence, the director of the C.I.A. and the secretary of defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

An astonishing paragraph, if ever there was one. The people who were speaking on behalf of the Biden administration had all gotten into their minds that they should start trying to provoke a war with Russia.

Now, how did it happen that they had all gotten this message so wrong. Could it be that they like to speak off the cuff, without coordinating their positions? If that is true, then the Biden administration is filled with people who have simply gone rogue.

Or else, need we note, they simply do not bother to check their pronouncements with the White House because they know full well that the empty-headed senile old fool residing there has no idea what he doing or where he is even going. 

Of course, Joe Biden appointed all these people, and apparently they do not respect him very much at all.

We will note a final salient point about the Friedman paragraph. Namely, the journalist wants to announce to the world that Joe Biden is in charge, that he is strong and resolute, that he knows what he is doing and wants to round up his out-of-control team.

Now, how nimble do you need to be mentally to recognize that the paragraph is manifestly a lie, designed to overcome the natural tendency to understand, from previous Friedman columns, that Joe Biden does not have a clue and is not in charge. If his column asserts that Joe Biden is fully cognizant of the stakes in Ukraine, that can only mean that Joe Biden is not fully cognizant of much of anything. With a serious president no one would need to assert that he knows what is going on. Joe Biden is presiding over an administration whose foreign policy, especially the one involving Ukraine, is in complete disarray. 

And how smart do you need to know that Vladimir Putin, while considering whether or not to invade Ukraine, gave some considerable weight to the fact that the man in the American White House is not in charge, even of getting dressed in the morning. Taking the measure of Biden meant seeing him at his senile demented worst.

So, someone made a quick call to Tom Friedman, to ask the columnist to make it appear that Biden is in charge. Dare we mention that no sentient foreign leader would accept that assessment. It’s largely for domestic consumption, for the citizens who are stupid enough to believe that Joe Biden is compos mentis.

And of course, Biden’s pathetic incompetence, shown clearly in the fact that his foreign policy team has happily made up policy without consulting with Joe, is dangerous.

Friedman continues, by saying that the war has been a catastrophe for Putin, which is one, but not the only interpretation of events. And then he adds that, despite what the Biden team has been suggesting, we should not want to get involved in a war against Russia. He adds the salient point, namely that the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, has been doing everything in his power to get us more involved.

Have no illusions, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has been trying to do the same thing from the start — to make Ukraine an immediate member of NATO or get Washington to forge a bilateral security pact with Kyiv. I am in awe of Zelensky’s heroism and leadership. If I were him, I’d be trying to get the U.S. as enmeshed on my side as he is.

But I’m an American citizen, and I want us to be careful. Ukraine was, and still is, a country marbled with corruption. That doesn’t mean we should not be helping it. I am glad we are. I insist we do. But my sense is that the Biden team is walking much more of a tightrope with Zelensky than it would appear to the eye — wanting to do everything possible to make sure he wins this war but doing so in a way that still keeps some distance between us and Ukraine’s leadership. That’s so Kyiv is not calling the shots and so we’ll not be embarrassed by messy Ukrainian politics in the war’s aftermath.

The view of Biden and his team, according to my reporting, is that America needs to help Ukraine restore its sovereignty and beat the Russians back — but not let Ukraine turn itself into an American protectorate on the border of Russia. We need to stay laser-focused on what is our national interest and not stray in ways that lead to exposures and risks we don’t want.

Walking a tightrope suggests some level of balance. And Friedman just told us that the Biden team does not have a clue about what it is doing.

But, Friedman feels compelled to look as though he is trying out for the position of Biden flack. He seems certainly to have taken leave of his judgment. Consider this paragraph:

One thing I know about Biden — with whom I traveled to Afghanistan in 2002 when he was a senator heading the Foreign Relations Committee — is that he is not easily romanced by world leaders. He has dealt with too many of them over his career. He’s got a pretty good sense of where U.S. interests stop and start. Ask the Afghans.

Say what? Biden abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban. Afghan women today are learning the true meaning of misogynist oppression. What do they think about America?

The American withdrawal was incompetent to an extreme. It probably told Putin that Joe Biden’s America was being led by incompetent buffoons. The notion that the Biden of 2002 is the same as the Biden of 2022 is risible.

And then, Friedman cheers the Biden work in keeping China out of the conflict-- as though he knows whether China is buying Russian energy or is supplying Russia:

As America navigates Ukraine and Russia and tries to avoid being ensnared, one bright spot in the effort to avoid a wider war is the administration’s success at keeping China from providing military aid to Russia. This has been huge.

After the war started, Biden personally explained to Xi in a lengthy phone call that China’s economic future rests on access to the American and European markets — its two largest trading partners — and should China provide military aid to Putin, it would have very negative consequences for China’s trade with both markets. Xi did the math and has been deterred from helping Russia in any military way, which has also made Putin weaker. The Western restrictions on shipping microchips to Russia have begun to really hobble some of his factories — and China has not stepped in, so far.

Perhaps Friedman has noticed, but many parts of China are currently shut down. Major Chinese ports are shut down, thus causing severe disruptions in international trade. Supply chains have ground to a halt. And China is ramping up its energy trade with Russia. It is even working to pay for Saudi oil in yuan, not dollars. Great work, Joe.

As it happens, the United States has restricted sales of microchip manufacturing to China, so perhaps we should not become mindless cheerleaders for Biden.

Besides, has it crossed anyone’s mind that shutting down Shanghai has as much to do with China’s effort to push back against Western sanctions and defamatory rhetoric as it has been a way to control the spread of the virus. 

Keep in mind, as Friedman does not, that the Biden team’s inept comments about Saudi Arabian leader Mohammed bin Salman, has caused that nation to refuse to take Biden’s phone calls and has caused it to refuse to ramp up petroleum shipments.

Another great moment for a Biden administration that Tom Friedman is valiantly trying to prop up.


Anonymous said...

"Of course, the Biden administration leaked this story to the Times, either because it has no idea of the potential repercussions or because it is simply inept or incompetent. The alternative, that it is trying to provoke Russia into a war, as reasonable an interpretation as any, is so stupid that we tend to dismiss it. Of course, with the Biden administration, stupid is the order of the day." I see it as a two-for: both inept AND incompetent.

Also: The STUPID is STRONG in these ones...

Anonymous said...

As I see it, the Democrats and the media are in cahoots, and neither can be trusted.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
IamDevo said...

Friedman, of course, is a known liar when he is not being stupid. Like a stopped clock, he occasionally gets it right. (Well, except for the fact that the clock is correct twice a day, whereas Friedman may be--being generous here--correct once per decade or so.) At any rate it is necessary only to recall that Biden has literally called for Putin to be ousted from his position in a speech recently given in order to see that this little bit of retconning by Friedman is a lie. I can only wonder what he was given or promised by the cabal to publish this tripe?

Anonymous said...