New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on Sunday accused Barack Obama of badly misreading his Election Day mandate, and said the current White House is the worst communicating administration he's ever seen.
Appearing on the Roundtable segment of ABC's "This Week," Friedman blasted the President saying, "I'm for more health care. I'm glad we've extended it to more Americans. But the fact is there's a real, I think, argument for the case that Obama completely over-read his mandate when he came in."
Friedman continued, "He was elected to get rid of one man's job, George Bush, and get the rest of us jobs. I think that was the core thing, and by starting with health care and not making his first year the year of innovation, expanding the economy and expanding jobs, you know, I think looking back, that was a political mistake."
Moments later, the Times columnist said, "I've never seen a worse communicating administration" (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
TOM FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES: Walter Shapiro had a column the other day which I think made a good point. Look, I'm for more health care. I'm glad we've extended it to more Americans. But the fact is there's a real, I think, argument for the case that Obama completely over-read his mandate when he came in. He was elected to get rid of one man's job, George Bush, and get the rest of us jobs. I think that was the core thing, and by starting with health care and not making his first year the year of innovation, expanding the economy and expanding jobs, you know, I think looking back, that was a political mistake.
Not surprisingly, Friedman's colleague at the Times blamed it all on Republicans.
PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES: He needs now to say it's the other guys who are blocking action. He needs to lay out a philosophy. I'm not sure if there's any way to save the House, but if he can, it can do it not by actually changing the economy in the few weeks remaining, but by making this an issue. Do you really want these guys' economic plan? And then he has to campaign for it.
Amanpour then referred to an article by Richard Cohen about to be published in the Washington Post talking about Obama as the incredible shrinking president.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: He says, "The folks who ran a very smart presidential campaign in '08 have left the defining of the Obama presidency to people on the edge of insanity." But then he goes on to talk about his Oval Office address this week, about Iraq, about turning to Afghanistan and the economy. He says, "It was only his second Oval Office address, and so great importance was attached to it. He should have had something momentous to say." Is that fair?
FRIEDMAN: I think it is fair. You know, one of the criticisms certainly I've had and many others have had, this is not I think original, there's been no narrative to this administration. To me, I think Barack Obama was elected for one thing - which I'm not sure he ever fully understood - to do nation building at home, to do nation building in America. That to me was the central tent pole. Under that was health care, jobs, you know, economy, innovation, education, energy, okay? He's never tied it together it seems to me under one single narrative. And then, therefore, he's fought each issue against a different constituency. There's never been a unifying message. I've worked here since 1989. I've personally just as a reporter, columnist in Washington, I've never seen a worse communicating administration, just at the basic technical level of, hey, we've got a good plan, you know, maybe someone out there would be interested in writing about it, since I've been to Washington.
Friedman was spot on here. There is no question that Obama and Company over-read what voters were saying in 2006 and 2008.
To a large extent, both elections were a reflection of disappointment in what Bush and the Republicans had done after being given their mandate in November 2004.
Unfortunately, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid took it as a sign Americans wanted their nation to become a modern version of the Soviet Union.
Clearly, that wasn't the case.
Of course, maybe if the press would have actually examined the junior senator from Illinois' record before jumping on his bandwagon in 2007, they would have known that everything in his background pointed to his vision of a socialist, activist United States government.
Maybe more importantly, had they accurately reported this during the primaries rather than allowing themselves to get caught up in the image of America electing its first black president, the electorate would have had a clearer picture of what this man stood for.
Then people like Friedman wouldn't be criticizing the President today for over-reading a mandate they helped him believe he had.
I guess that would have been too much like journalism.