Planet Gore

Tom Friedman: It’s An Envrionmental 9/11

“Mr. China. Is. Awesome.” writes today:

President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing.

I say that not because I endorse the dishonest conservative critique that the gulf oil spill is somehow Obama’s Katrina and that he is displaying the same kind of incompetence that George W. Bush did after that hurricane. To the contrary, Obama’s team has done a good job coordinating the cleanup so far. The president has been on top of it from the start.

No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 — and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.

President Bush’s greatest failure was not Iraq, Afghanistan or Katrina. It was his failure of imagination after 9/11 to mobilize the country to get behind a really big initiative for nation-building in America. I suggested a $1-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline that could have simultaneously reduced our deficit, funded basic science research, diminished our dependence on oil imported from the very countries whose citizens carried out 9/11, strengthened the dollar, stimulated energy efficiency and renewable power and slowed climate change. It was the Texas oilman’s Nixon-to-China moment — and Bush blew it.

Had we done that on the morning of 9/12 — when gasoline averaged $1.66 a gallon — the majority of Americans would have signed on. They wanted to do something to strengthen the country they love. Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping. So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail. Heck of a job.

Ummm, no. From my search of NYTimes.com,  Friedman announced his Patriot Tax not on 9/12/01, but on October 5, 2003. So, what was Friedman writing after 9/11? Items like this — get “a little bit crazy”:

I’m still not sure the world fully appreciates what this has meant to Americans. We are not fighting for Kosovo, and we are not fighting for Bosnia, Somalia or Kuwait. We are fighting for our country. And Americans will fight for their country and they will die for their country.

The big question is how we fight this war to deliver to Americans what they want — which is not revenge, but justice and security. It requires a new attitude toward the battle and new strategy on the battlefield.

What attitude? We need to be really focused, really serious, and just a little bit crazy. I don’t mean we should indiscriminately kill people, especially innocent Afghans. I mean that the terrorists and their supporters need to know that from here forward we will do whatever it takes to defend our way of life — and then some. From here forward, it’s the bad guys who need to be afraid every waking moment. The more frightened our enemies are today, the fewer we will have to fight tomorrow.

Nothing about a gas tax here.

But let’s be fair to Mr. Friedman. I encourage President Obama to suggest a “Patriot Tax” on gasoline. We’ll have a chance to vote on it in November.

One thing I do agree with Friedman, however, is that the failure of the Deep Horizon rig should be a 9/11 type wake-up call to the oil industry. What’s happening now was not supposed to happen under any circumstances, but it did.

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