New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is asked to appear in all the liberal salons, including the rarefied air of the Charlie Rose show on PBS in the late hours, where few Republicans appear. Last Wednesday, he and his co-author Michael Mandelbaum (a foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign) came to promote their new book That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.
Rose and Friedman once again discussed how inferior American politics is to communist China, which naturally knows how to get things done...with such authoritarian panache. Friedman talked up how we feel weak, like when we couldn't have a Minnesota Vikings game when the Metrodome roof collapsed. We'd say "if this were China, they would have walked to the game in the snow, and doing calculus along the way."
CHARLIE ROSE: Another point about this around the corner is you went to China in 2010 to one of these World Economic Forum conferences in China. And you`re in this magnificent place and you think, God, they`ve got all this stuff and then you had what thought?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Well, then I come home and Michael and I live in Bethesda, Maryland and we take the subway to work both of us often and go to the subway and the escalators there had been broken or in repair for six months each one with 21 stairs. And I was struck that it was stuck too but China had built this convention center in 8.5 months -
ROSE: 8.5 months.
FRIEDMAN: And they were taking six months to prepare 21 stairs in the escalator. And again as Michael said, this is not one of these oh, if we`re only China, no. China figures into this book on like two pages I think. What we`re trying to say is the feeling that`s kind of inchoate out in the country is I came from a trip, I`d been in a convention and I`d been with some high school students. And I said to Michael I had a really interesting conversation with junior high school students.
And I just said to him like and we quote, one from the book, "When I say China to you what does it evoke?" And this one young woman just said, "It feels like they have more will than we do." And so what we really argue in the book is China has become a mirror, the obsession with China. We had Governor Ed Rendell, you know, criticizing the NFL for canceling the Philadelphia Eagles-Viking football game in December and saying we're a bunch of wusses. If this were China they would have walked to the game in the snow. and doing calculus along the way. You know.
But that notion - what we`re saying is China`s really become a mirror for us of things that what we feel we once had, particularly Charlie, one thing, the ability to act collectively. Because all the problems that Michael talked about and the things we need to do - what they all have in common is they all require collective will. They all required collective action. We can`t do this with one arm tied behind our back.
ROSE: Why isn`t the President successful in creating the narrative, the pep talk and having it resonate in a way that people will realize that they have to back to what they were in order to become what they want to be again.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, you said it earlier, Charlie, Obama seems to be in favor of all these things and he was for grand bargaining but we never quite got the details. You know what I mean?
ROSE: That`s a failure of leadership.
FRIEDMAN: Yes, exactly. And that`s been my frustration because I think in his heart he knows what needs to be done. In his head he knows what needs to be done but there`s way too much poll reading going on there as far as I`m concerned.
ROSE: Look, you`re one of columnists that he calls in, he reads, and seeks out your opinion. What happens in these conversations?
FRIEDMAN: In my column and in the few opportunities I`ve had to talk and to convey these things personally I think what you - what I take away from things the President said in public, you know, is that he feels we don`t appreciate the opposition he`s had...That he`s had a foe that has been basically out to obstruct everything he`s done.
Poor Obama. The liberals don't seem to appreciate the ferocity of Republican obstructionism. Later, Rose returned Friedman to his despot-for-a-day wishes, to impose Chinese "focus" on American policy:
ROSE: I`m trying to remember, is that you and I have done this so often. What was it you said once, that I`d like to be President of China for an hour.
FRIEDMAN: For a day, for a day.
ROSE: For a day.
FRIEDMAN: And now I said, I actually I would be happy even for a minute. You know it`s just -
ROSE: Because you can order things and be done.
FRIEDMAN: Because you can get - get things done but then what I quickly said is that I actually don`t want to be President of China for a day. I don`t - I don`t want us to be China for a day.
FRIEDMAN: I want us to be America. I want our system to work with the same focus, authority and stick to it that was just democratically that China does by ordering it autocratically from the top down. And that`s our frustration. It`s - as we say in the book, we think with have the superior political system to China. Unfortunately right now Charlie, China is getting 90 percent out of their inferior system and we`re getting about 50 percent out of our superior system.
Because look at - everything coming out of Washington is all sub-optimal. For how long do we remain a great power when all that our political system can produce are sub-optimal solutions? That - that`s got to add up and it is adding up.