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I Believe I Can Fly

New York Times
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: November 13, 2010

Reading the headlines these days, I can’t help but repeat this truism: If you jump off the top of an 80-story building, for 79 floors you can think you’re flying. It’s the sudden stop at the end that tells you you’re not. It’s striking to me how many leaders and nations are behaving today as though they think they can fly — and ignoring that sudden stop at the end that’s sure to come.

Where to begin? Well, first there’s Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, who has been telling everyone how committed he is to peace with the Palestinians while refusing to halt settlement building as a prerequisite for negotiations. At a time when Israel already has 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, Bibi says he can’t possibly take another pause in building to test whether the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas — a man Israelis say is the best Palestinian security partner Israel has ever had — can forge a safe two-state deal for Israel. The U.S. is now basically trying to bribe Bibi to reverse his position. Maybe he will, but it’s unseemly to watch and doesn’t bode well. Rather than take the initiative and say to Arabs and Palestinians, “You want a settlement freeze? Here it is, now let’s see what you’re ready to agree to,” Netanyahu toys with President Obama, makes Israel look like it wants land more than peace and risks never forging a West Bank deal — thereby permanently absorbing its 2.5 million Palestinians and eventually no longer having a Jewish majority. That’s the sudden stop at the end — unless the next war comes first. But, for now, Bibi seems to think he can fly.

Closer to home, America’s climate-deniers mounted an effective disinformation campaign that made “climate change” a four-letter word in the Republican Party. This undermined efforts to get a clean energy bill — the sort that might break our addiction to oil and take money away from the people our soldiers are fighting in the Middle East. And all of this happened in 2010, which is on track to be the Earth’s hottest year on record. So here’s the math: 98 climate scientists out of 100 will tell you that man’s continued carbon emissions pose the risk of disruptive climate change this century. Two out of 100 will tell you it doesn’t. And “conservatives” today tell you to bet on the two. If the climate-deniers are right — but we combat climate change anyway — we’ll have slightly higher energy prices but cleaner air, more renewable energy, a stronger dollar, more innovative industries and enemies with less money. If the deniers are wrong and we do nothing, your kids will meet the sudden stop at the end.

Many of the same people working against clean energy are working to scuttle Senate ratification of the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty that Mr. Obama signed with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. This treaty is right in line with the previous three U.S.-Russia arms reduction deals, all negotiated by G.O.P. administrations. It leaves America secure, a world and a Russia with fewer nukes and it promotes better ties with the Kremlin. Scuttling the treaty, just to deny Mr. Obama a success, which is what some Republican senators are up to, will not only ensure that U.S.-Russian relations sour, it will also make it much less likely that the Russians — whose pressure on Iran and willingness to deny it surface-to-air missiles have been critical in slowing Iran’s nuclear program — will continue to cooperate with us on that front. But, hey, who cares about weakening Iran or U.S.-Russian ties if you can weaken your own president? We can fly.

Finally, there is something deeply wrong about Mitch McConnell, the Senate G.O.P. leader, saying that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell explained that that was not because Republicans simply crave power (heaven forbid), but because this is the only way Republicans can achieve their goals of repealing the health care bill, ending bailouts, cutting spending and shrinking government.

Where do I start? We know that these were not the Republican goals because they had eight years under George W. Bush to pursue them and did just the opposite. And even if we assume that this time they really mean it, they’ve never explained what programs they would cut and how doing that now won’t make our recession worse. But even if they did, these are the wrong priorities. Our priorities now are to mitigate the recession that was set in motion under Bush and to put the country on a path to sustainable economic growth. That will require vastly improving the education and skills of our work force and enabling them with 21st-century infrastructure so they will be smarter and more productive. We know that tax cuts alone won’t do that; we just had that test, too, under Bush. It requires a complex strategy for American renewal — raising some taxes, like on energy, while lowering others, like on workers and corporations; and investing in new infrastructure, schools and research, while cutting other services.

I don’t mind if Republicans win with fresh new ideas — but not with a grab bag of tired clichés. That’s just begging for a sudden stop at the end.

View the original article at the New York Times

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  1. Tweets that mention I Believe I Can Fly | Dark Politricks -- Topsy.com linked to this post on November 14, 2010

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