Those of us masochistic enough to read the New York Times op-ed page with any regularity know that Tom Friedman has a long and distinguished history of praising the autocratic communist Government in China as means of denigrating things here in the U.S. Today's column, however, might just take the cake. It starts with a cutesy premise — what if China's diplomatic cables were wikileaked? What would they say?:
There is a willful self-destructiveness in the air here as if America has all the time and money in the world for petty politics. They fight over things like — we are not making this up — how and where an airport security officer can touch them.
He's messing with us, right? It's supposed to be some sort of trenchant commentary that China would mock us for for silly objections to getting groped by TSA agents? This coming from a government that regularly dragoons to labor camps people for crimes such as making sarcastic tweets.
But wait! There's more:
Americans just had what they call an “election.” Best we could tell it involved one congressman trying to raise more money than the other (all from businesses they are supposed to be regulating) so he could tell bigger lies on TV more often about the other guy before the other guy could do it to him. This leaves us relieved. It means America will do nothing serious to fix its structural problems: a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent.
HA! HA! It's these capitalist running dogs and their silly Democracy! If only they dispatched with such inconviences and let an enlightened politburo make all the decisions. Moving on:
The ambassador recently took what the Americans call a fast train — the Acela — from Washington to New York City. Our bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin would have made the trip in 90 minutes. His took three hours — and it was on time! Along the way the ambassador used his cellphone to call his embassy office, and in one hour he experienced 12 dropped calls — again, we are not making this up. We have a joke in the embassy: “When someone calls you from China today it sounds like they are next door. And when someone calls you from next door in America, it sounds like they are calling from China!” Those of us who worked in China’s embassy in Zambia often note that Africa’s cellphone service was better than America’s.
You can't make this stuff up — Tom Friedman is actually arguing that the anoyances he experiences on his commute between D.C. and New York are a sign of America's decline. And Africa's cell phone service is better than America's? Uh huh. You believe that?
It just keeps getting better:
But the Americans are oblivious. They travel abroad so rarely that they don’t see how far they are falling behind. Which is why we at the embassy find it funny that Americans are now fighting over how “exceptional” they are. Once again, we are not making this up
Because ordinary citizens in China do a lot of international travel? You know, because they're so wealthy they can afford it and their government is famously permissive about letting them go. I can't take much more of this, but:
Most of the Republicans just elected to Congress do not believe what their scientists tell them about man-made climate change. America’s politicians are mostly lawyers — not engineers or scientists like ours — so they’ll just say crazy things about science and nobody calls them on it. It’s good. It means they will not support any bill to spur clean energy innovation, which is central to our next five-year plan. And this ensures that our efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric car industries will not be challenged by America.
Once again, I am not making this up: Friedman is praising China's environmental efforts. Hey, here's a 2007 article from, um, The New York Times about China's stellar record as bastion of green enlightenment:
Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.
Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.
Yup, looks like they are way ahead of us on adapting to climate change! I mean they won't make any international concessions about carbon emissions, but whatever. (And Tom Friedman cares so much about having a small carbon footprint he lives in the Versailles of the D.C. suburbs.)
Every week I think Friedman's obdurate unwillingness to appreciate basic American freedoms at the expense of heaping praise on communists has to have a limit — and yet, here we are. Can't wait to see how he tops this.