Tom Friedman, Or ‘The Man Who Freed Himself from Thinking’

I miss Charlie Rose. I miss his interviews of Tom Friedman, theNew York Times columnist, who looks like a holdover from the 19th century—with his walrus mustache and Mastiff-like jowls—in a 21st-century outfit of fleece and microfiber. I miss seeing him, recently deplaned from Davos (or the Aspen Institute) and delivered via an autonomous, solar-powered rickshaw to Rose’s studio in New York, where, minus the stub of a lift ticket (soon to be replaced by a retinal scan) hanging from the pull tab of the zipper to his jacket, as if he were a walking passport and a piece of luggage bearing the faded labels of grand hotels and luxurious locales; I miss his supper club performances of shallow thoughts and summary judgments about the world.

I miss his reductionism of foreign policy to a screed unworthy of publication by even the Flat Earth Society. I miss his Freudian analysis of war in the Middle East to a family squabble between Isaac and Ishmael, where, by my attempt at translation, hummus and Hamas are the same.

What I do not miss, because I make it a point to never miss them, are Friedman’s columns. He is a man for all seasons, with the fleece to match, as well as a man of almost all vocations: climatologist, cosmologist, and now, oncologist.

His column urging readers to vote a straight Democratic ticket, so they may halt the “cancer” that is the Trump presidency, is a study in nuance and a case study in inventive phrasing, except when it is not.

Despite the unacknowledged allusion to John Dean’s description of “a cancer within, close to the presidency,” regarding the fate of Richard Nixon, and notwithstanding Friedman’s residency at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the column proves at least one thing: this non-licensed, non-board certified physician is no psychiatrist. He may need one, but he has yet to believe he is one.

There is nonetheless one column Tom Friedman has not written and may never write. It is the one where he is right about something.

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