Political Animal


June 06, 2012 11:10 AM Friedman and the Pundit’s Fallacy

By Ryan Cooper

Thomas Friedman wants a grand bargain (again): “If I were President Obama, I’d focus my entire campaign now on an effort to reforge a “grand bargain” with Republicans based on a near-term infrastructure stimulus tied with a Simpson-Bowles long-term fiscal rebalancing,” he writes.

Maybe Friedman doesn’t remember, but Bowles-Simpson includes revenue increases and defense cuts. Those aren’t ideas Republicans are very fond of. The House already vehemently rejected it and the Senate isn’t going to vote on it.

The plan has no chance of passing. That’s not surprising; not much has a chance of passing this year. So what’s Friedman’s rationale for Obama bringing up the plan?

At a minimum, it would show that Obama has a sensible plan to fix the economy — which is what people want most from the president — and many in business would surely support it.

This is a classic example of the pundit’s fallacy. Most people, so much as can be discerned, would like the government to actually improve the economy, and low-information swing voters in particular don’t pay much attention to “sensible plans.”

Moreover, this badly misreads the politics. Obama has tried to be the adult in the room. Remember the debt ceiling fiasco last summer? The President attempted to forge a grand bargain then and John Boehner walked away. Subsequently, Obama’s approval ratings dipped below 40 percent. As the standoff continued, the markets dropped and in the end, the Republicans got a lot of what they wanted: $900 billion in immediate spending cuts and $1.2 trillion in triggered cuts. Sure, they hate the triggered defense cuts (the House has already voted to replace them), but the debt ceiling debacle hurt Obama, and therefore helped Romney. If Romney assumes the White House next year, don’t expect those cuts to stand.

Oh, and Republicans just love near-term infrastructure stimulus.

This post is by Danny Vinik, an intern at the Monthly. Follow him on Twitter @dannyvinik.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper


  • CharlieM on June 06, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Next time save blog space. Whenever Friedman says something, just use the form letter the rest of us use. "Dear Tommy. No one cares what you think. Go away."

  • Jim on June 06, 2012 12:20 PM:

    Moreover, this badly misreads the politics. Obama has tried to be the adult in the room. Remember the debt ceiling fiasco last summer? The President attempted to forge a grand bargain then and John Boehner walked away.
    And Mark Halperin, whom Tom Friedman can see in the over-stuffed leather chair near his own in the Self-Admiration Room of the Fallacious Pundits Club, called Obama a 'dick' on national television.

  • RalfW on June 06, 2012 12:29 PM:

    Thom Friedman is pretty much the definition of a fallacious pundit. It appears he's learned exactly nothing from the implosion from sheer boredom of AmericanSelect (er, um, Americans Elect).

    Obama is absolutely correct to ignore this useless punter.

  • bigtuna on June 06, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Earth to Tom. Boner does not have the support of his rank and file if he enters into any "negotiation" - ie, makes an attempt to govern, so there is no point in Obama doing anything with republicans.

    jeesh. What papers do you read, Tommy?

  • Heather on June 06, 2012 12:36 PM:

    To Mr Friedman...In the words of Austin Powers..."and I want a solid gold toilet, but it's not in the cards baby"

  • T2 on June 06, 2012 12:43 PM:

    Danny, Friedman is simply filling out his required "column" so he'll get paid for writing it. Clearly it suggests something that is 1) fantasy, and 2) already been tried by Obama and had it shoved back in his face as you yourself point out.

    Tip: don't read Friedman or Brooks at all. They are hacks....you won't learn anything.

  • j_h_r on June 06, 2012 12:45 PM:

    "Oh, and Republicans just love near-term infrastructure stimulus."

    Republicans won't even think about infrastructure unless some unavoidably public tragedy happens at a recognizably important site, i.e., the fscking George Washington Bridge collapses at rush hour on the day before Thanksgiving.

    Even then, they'll blame it all on liberal intransigence and liberals being evil and stupid and traitors and wrong and, well, liberals, and will use the tragedy as an excuse to jam through laws turning infrastructure maintenance over to right-to-work state based private contractors, and and when Democrats balk, shriek over and over that Democrats are traitors to the nation's roads and bridges and are probably in league with terrorists who want to blow said bridges sky high.

    (if you think I'm being unfair, please research the history of the Homeland Security and Patriot Acts)

  • Kathryn on June 06, 2012 12:46 PM:

    It seems Tom has nothing to write about so he recycles this crap meanwhile Maureen Dowd recycles her continued analysis of Obama interspersed with more on target criticisms of the Roman Carholic Church. Enjoying Frank Bruni but Frank Rich is irreplaceable as is Bob Herbert.

    Any indication of voting fraud in Wisconsin, by the way, apparently exit polls showed different numbers, we know about the robot calls? Wouldn't surprise me a bit if Walker had a backup plan to skew the vote. I hope commenters who believe he'll be indicted are correct.

  • esaud on June 06, 2012 12:53 PM:

    COnservatives have no interest in "fixing" high unemployment. Businesses are perfectly happy right now, having workers over a barrel.

    They euphemistically call it "enhancing productivity", but real people would call it screwing workers who have no recourse except to take it.

  • kd bart on June 06, 2012 1:04 PM:

    Must've been a long ride to the airport if the cab driver had that much to say on the subject.

  • Perspecticus on June 06, 2012 1:17 PM:

    "Moreover, this intentionally misreads the politics."


  • TT on June 06, 2012 1:31 PM:

    Friedman's just playing with us now. Either that or he's even higher than Lloyd Bridges at the end of Airplane.

  • JackD on June 06, 2012 2:21 PM:

    For some reason you call the Kevin Drum piece smart and them seem to ignore it.

  • biggerbox on June 06, 2012 4:00 PM:

    So, if Friedman were Obama, he'd focus his entire campaign on trying something he tried in 2009, which met with limited success and has been the target of Republican attacks ever since? And he'd do it so that it would "show a sensible plan", even though anyone who's been paying attention knows that the GOP hated and continues to hate even the modest stimulus passed back then, and has NO desire to see the government spend a dime to help the economy, only to help their rich constituents get a tax cut?

    The Mustache of Wisdom outdoes himself with brilliance.