Maybe I’ve been unfair to Tom Friedman. Lord knows, the meanest thing you can do to him is quote him accurately.
I made the mistake of taking him seriously. Turns out, he’s their humor columnist—Dave Barry with a ‘stache (and without the humor). Mark Steyn without the wit and insight.
President Obama is assembling his new national security team, with Senator John Kerry possibly heading for the Pentagon and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice the perceived front-runner to become secretary of state. Kerry is an excellent choice for defense. I don’t know Rice at all, so I have no opinion on her fitness for the job, but I think the contrived flap over her Libya comments certainly shouldn’t disqualify her. That said, my own nominee for secretary of state would be the current education secretary, Arne Duncan.
My first reaction was outrage: Sandy Duncan is more qualified to be Secretary of State. (Put her in a Peter Pan costume and at least she could fly anywhere without a plane!)
But that’s just falling into Friedman’s trap. Like the other mustachioed piss-taker, Borat, he’s just trying to get a rise out of us:
Let’s start with the obvious. A big part of the job is negotiating. Well, anyone who has negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union, as Duncan did when he was superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools before going to Washington, would find negotiating with the Russians and Chinese a day at the beach. A big part of being secretary of education (and secretary of state) is getting allies and adversaries to agree on things they normally wouldn’t — and making them think that it was all their idea. Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.
A big part of the job of secretary of state is also finding common ground between multiple constituencies: Congress, foreign countries, big business, the White House, the Pentagon and the diplomats. The same is true for a school superintendent, but the constituencies between which they have to forge common ground are so much more intimidating: They’re called “parents,” “teachers,” “students” and “school boards.”
There is a deeper point here: The biggest issue in the world today is growth, and, in this information age, improving educational outcomes for more young people is now the most important lever for increasing economic growth and narrowing income inequality. In other words, education is now the key to sustainable power. To have a secretary of state who is one of the world’s leading authorities on education, well, everyone would want to talk to him.
Because Arne Duncan ran the Chicago public schools, he is qualified to talk turkey with Vladimir Putin and whoever (Hu-ever) is running China these days. Ri-i-i-ght.
If we still don’t get the joke (some of us can be quite obtuse), he gives the game away:
[I]t would be very helpful to have a secretary of state who can start a negotiating session with Hamas leaders (if we ever talk with them) by asking: “Do you know how far behind your kids are?” That might actually work better than: “Why don’t you recognize Israel?”
By playing the fool, Friedman takes us for fools. This is what Hamass teaches its kids:
“[Oh] lovers of the trigger:
Killing the occupiers [Israelis] is worship that Allah made into law…
Arise, oh determined men. The color of [the Martyr's] blood protects the land.
Oh masked one wearing a keffiyeh (i.e., Arab head scarf), terrifying the Jews… call out in Zionism’s face: ‘Muhammad’s army has begun to return.’”
Yeah, that’s the ticket! We’ll send a Chicago hack to stare down the thugs, goons, bullies, and schmucks of the world. That’ll work!
Oh Tom. As the Brits say: go on, pull the other one, it’s got bells on.