Oh it has not been a good time to be my husband Thomas Friedman. He has spent the Memorial Day Weekend alternately in a rage and in a fugue state.
When not yelling and screaming, shaking his fists at the plaster on the ceiling, or stomping his feet, he has been curled up in the fetal position sucking his thumb.
I have not seen anything like this before. Even when Gail Collins changed the op-ed schedule he was not this upset. And that is Gail Collins, not Gale Collins. Before I met Ms. Collins, I assumed all those remarks about the destructive gale Collins was my husband Thomas Friedman's railing against the destructive aspects of nature, that he was truly concerned with the lives of others. Needless to say, in weeks that have followed, I have had to revamp that opinion.
Not even Thomas Friedman's favorite snack, soda crackers and cheese from a can, could calm him down this weekend. Nothing could. At one point I attempted to get him to put on his Judy Miller wig but he was having none of that. When I grabbed diapers and put on the Peggy Noonan mask thinking he might want to play William Safire, he ripped the mask off my face.
Even Iraqi invasion or Bill Keller Kisses Thomas Friedman's ass have not been games he has wanted to play.
At one point, when he was ripping out his hair and wouldn't stop, not even when I pointed out that he couldn't get those highlights he's been considering if he was bald, I dropped to the floor and kissed his feet while saying, "Look, I am Nicholas Kristof." Although that stopped his hair pulling, even me playing Nicky was not enough to end his Days of Rage and Whine.
All I have wanted to do was to get on the computer and collect my thoughts. But there has been no time for that. Friday he was feeling slightly well until Nicky K told him that he thought previous columns were better. Nicky K did not realize that I had written the columns that he was praising. I am not sure how many people grasp that. My husband Thomas Friedman has spun around so many times that a shift in tone at this point just appears to be more back pedaling on his part.
At first, Nicky did not realize how upset Thomas Friedman was. I could tell by the look in his eyes that Thomas Friedman was about to explode. Taking a soda cracker off the platter, Thomas Friedman moved over to Nicky and asked him if he'd like one.
"Yes, thank you," responded Nicky.
Thomas Friedman slammed the cracker into Nicky's face nearly poking out Nicky's eyes and making a mess on the carpet.
"Ow! My eye! My eye! That damn cheese stings!" Nicky screamed.
The two got into a horrible row that only ended when Nicky asked Thomas Friedman if he realized he could have blinded him. Thomas Friedman's response sent Nicky storming out of the apartment.
Here it is in full:
"So what! It's not like you use them or you wouldn't insult the greatest writer of all time --"
That would be Thomas Friedman.
"-- so it would be no loss at all. You Joan Crawford, hand-wringing, simpering, psuedo think-tankering, sincerity oozing Dear Abby of the global village! Get out before I kick you up and down Lexington Avenue in your candy ass!"
Needless to say, Nicky stormed out. I am not sure whether it was due to his offense at the way Thomas Friedman characterized Nicky's writing or whether Nicky realized how serious Thomas Friedman was about kicking his ass up and down Lex.
And so began the Days of Rage and Whine.
Things did not get better when Thomas Friedman learned that Baghdad Burning had criticized his writing.
He printed it up and stormed around the apartment reading aloud from it, spitting out each word as he puffed on one of those thin Cuban cigars while I realized that whether or not Nicky was a "modern day Joan Crawford," Thomas Friedman certainly is the Bette Davis of his set.
Here is one portion that he read aloud:
One thing I found particularly amusing about the article- and outrageous all at once-was in the following paragraph:
"Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization."
Now, it is always amusing to see a Jewish American journalist speak in the name of Sunni Arabs. When Sunni Arabs, at this point, hesitate to speak in a representative way about other Sunni Arabs, it is nice to know Thomas L. Friedman feels he can sum up the feelings of the "Sunni Arab world" in so many words. His arrogance is exceptional.
"Arrogance!" he exploded. "I am not arrogant! I am the most generous man in the world! Am I not the most generous man in the world? I am! Betinna, you are a backward woman so Riverbend should be able to relate to you. Get online right now and tell that woman at Baghdad Burning that I am not arrogant! I will dictate what you will write because I know better how to communictate with people like you!"
Needless to say, Riverbend did not respond to the e-mail Thomas Friedman dictated and made me send. Which I am glad about because Thomas Friedman does "shape" events in his narratives. He does promote exceptionalism and, yes, he can be arrogant. As someone who has been on the receiving end of a tossed can of cheese, I would have to say that calling him arrogant is not stretching the truth.
But that was not all that enraged Thomas Friedman. Perhaps to goad him on during his Days of Rage and Whine, Nicky e-mailed him an article he found online. Thomas Friedman was so pleased to see Nicky's e-mail in his inbox.
"Betinna," he called. "Come here at once!"
I was in the kitchen squeezing his prune juice but he said that could wait.
Wondering what the fuss was, I wiped my hands and went to find out.
He was beaming and I was so happy thinking that perhaps his dark mood might be over and he might actually stop his tantrum and possibly bathe and put on something other than his shorty robe.
"Look," he said gesturing to the computer screen. "Nicky has come groveling back to apologize."
"You be nice to him, Thomas Friedman," I said still wiping my hands because prune juice is so sticky. "He has always been very nice to you and stuck up for you. You should not torture him the way you do."
"Nonsense," Thomas Friedman said puffing on his tiny Cuban cigar. "He is the gas bag Baby Jane to my intellectual Blanche. My emotional kicks to his psyche are cleansing for him. That is why I do it."
Baby Jane and Blance are characters in the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? so obviously, even Thomas Friedman grasps that he has Bette Davis-ish qualities and, no, I do not mean his eyes.
"Now sit, my backward Betinna," Thomas Friedman said patting his lap, "and we will read his genuflecting together because all good shamings must include an audience. And Nicky would not be so quick to put on his Third World, sweat shop produced hair shirt if he did not enjoy it on some level."
Trying to aovid a particularly nasty stain, one that looked still damp, on his shorty robe, I sat down as he opened the e-mail . . . and quickly exploded.
There was no "Thomas Friedman, I am humbled before you" kind of talk. It was a link to an editorial and it enraged Thomas Friedman.
Here it is because I so enjoyed it that I bookmarked it thinking that, at a later date when Thomas Friedman is really getting on my nerves, I might print it up and hand it to him.
Editorial: Sunday Times says we attempted to goad Iraq into war in 2002, is Bush a liar or just willing to risk the safety of American citizens?
The Sunday Times has an article by Michael Smith entitled "RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war." It opens with the following:
THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.
The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.
The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make "regime change" in Iraq legal.Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that "the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime".
We realize that our readers are far more intelligent than the mainstream press corp but indulge us as we address the above. The Bully Boy and his cohorts went around screaming that we didn't want a "mushroom cloud," that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. To accept those lies today, in the face of The Sunday Times of London's story, you have to accept that the Bully Boy was perfectly okay with the United States being attacked with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. If that were true, then the only response would be to call for an immediate impeachment. The leader of the country is not supposed to actively court the destruction of our nation.
But to believe the lies we were told, that truly is the most obvious conclusion.
Of course, the fact of the matter is that we were lied to. Everything we were told leading up to the invasion and everything that's followed can be characterized as lies and more lies.
Lying a nation into war is a pretty serious offense.
Now there are some who feel that the recent defense of Newsweek has awakened our press corps. We'd love for that to be the case. However, it can also be argued that the press is just closing ranks, protecting their own and still willing to swallow every lie the administration feeds them and duly spit it back out in a report.
Look, this is a serious matter. We'd even be willing to hold our tongues regarding Judith Miller and other stenographers if The New York Times or any other institution wanted to do now what they should have been doing in the lead up to the invasion, investigating the administration's claims and telling the people the truth.
Scott Shane, Douglas Jehl or Monica Davey (or anyone else) could be front paged with stories about the difference between what we were told and actual reality and we'd be willing to hold our tongues about Miller and the others. (Miller's the most infamous, she was far from the only one. And to date, no television program has issued any mea culpa that we're aware of.)
Why could a group of smart asses like The Third Estate Sunday Review do that? Because the bigger picture demands that Americans start getting some truth with their journalism. It's past time for some truth. We spent thirty minutes discussing this (Ava, Jim, Jess, Ty, Dona, Rebecca, Betty and C.I.) and we all agree that the truth coming out now (strongly and on the front page -- not tucked safely inside the paper where it can be ignored) is a great deal more important than Miller's head on a platter at this moment in time.
What we're saying is that we could take The Times running truth telling stories without requiring them to note "by the way Judith Miller reported this differently." (Or any newspaper or TV program doing the same without making a point to name their reporters who got it wrong.) And here's a thought, who knows the lies that were told better than Miller? Get her committed to exposing reality and team her up with someone more trust worthy and let it rip. We're willing to bet that the sympathy she's been unable to garner for her current court issues, despite repeated attempts to garner sympathy, would suddenly emerge.
We're not going to spin here and say that all is forgiven and forgotten regarding Miller (to focus on The New York Times). That's not the case. It never will be. But if The New York Times wants to get back into the news business, we're perfectly willing to table our criticism of Miller for several months. Because we feel, and we can only speak for us, that the truth on the invasion/occupation is far more important than any individual reporter.
The latest from London's Sunday Times is explosive (as was the Downing St. memo). The press seems to have awakened a bit after the attacks on Newsweek. Our guess is that the way the domestic press handles the very serious issues emerging from across the Atlantic will tell us whether recent press coverage was about truth telling or protecting one of their own.
Lastly, we'll give credit to BuzzFlash for making The Sunday Times article their main headline.As always, the editorial is the last feature (other than our "note") that we work on. As soon as we finish everything else, we rush around online (BuzzFlash is always one of the stops) to come up with potential topics for our editorial. There was no debate this week. All eight of us agreed that the only topic was The Sunday Times revelations. Congratulations and thanks to BuzzFlash for catching the story and prominently running it at their website.
posted by Third Estate Sunday Review @ Sunday, May 29, 2005
Oh, did that make Thomas Friedman mad.
He was peeved that his paper was being called to task for their own actions. But he was especially mad that Judith Miller got mentioned.
"What is this obsession with Judith Miller!" he screamed, tears streaming down his face. "I am American's sweetheart, not Judith Miller! When will the world start to give me my props! Why must they disrespect me and dis me thusly!"
"Now, Thomas Friedman," I said evenly, "Judith Miller was not praised. So perhaps you should be glad that you were not mentioned."
"Nonsense!" he sputtered. "They mentioned Scott Shane, Douglas Jehl and Monica Davey! Who's ever heard of those nobodies! I work at the paper and I don't even know those losers!
You cannot mention the paper and not mention me! I am the paper! I will have to speak with Bill Keller about this! These damn bloggers! Arm chair critics on a ride at Magic Mountain with no concept of what and who I am! They will tremble at my might! Tremble! I am the great Thomas Friedman and I will not be ignored! Keller will have to institute a new policy ASAP or it will be his A-S-S! He will have to declare that whenever the paper is mentioned it will be called 'Thomas Friedman's New York Times!' That every comment on the paper will include my name! There has not been a greater miscarriage of justice ever, not even when Britney Spears was denied a deserving Oscar nomination for her delightful and engaging turn in the emotionally draining but spiritually uplifting Crossroads! Why do these silly fools deny those of us who sparkle and entertain, who warm the hearts of America, their due? When will I get my props!
Betinna, talk to your peeps, give them the 411 and tell them Thomas Friedman is a great man!
Like Hillary Duff's moving performance in the modern day classic A Cinderalla Story, I have been ignored! Must we all wear thigh high boots and engage in oral sex like that hideous Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman to be rightly crowned America's sweetheart!"
I was about to suggest that thigh high boots or not, engaging in oral sex might be something he should consider because Lord knows I could use a little satisfaction and reciprocation but he was still raging and I fell to the floor as he suddenly stood up and began pacing around the room.
"Must the 411 come from the AP wire for me to get my props! When will the global village issue a cry of 'Raise the roof, y'all!' for me, the great Thomas Friedman! Give me my props!"
Watching him puff away on that tiny cigar and gesture dramatically with it, I'd argue Thomas Friedman already has one prop. Eye balls popping and shorty robe flying as he stormed around the room, I wondered when the latest tantrum would end.
I didn't have to wait long before he collapsed to the floor and began banging his fists against it as he repeatedly screamed, "Give me my props! Give me my props! Give it up for your global Daddy!"
After thirty minutes of this, and numerous calls of complaints from neighbors, Thomas Friedman finally curled into a fetal position and began sucking his thumb. He's been like that for over eighteen hours.
His last words to me, before insterting his thumb into his mouth, were said with moist, red eyes: "Just tell me this, who's gonna' love my ass? Huh? Who's gonna' love my ass?"
Last time this happened, I wasted a great deal of time worrying. Today, I have just ran the sweeper around him and enjoyed being able to be the one to control the remote control and watch what I wanted. For the last eighteen hours, anyway, it has been a vacation.