Thomas Friedman has some damn nerve. Years ago he was a George Marshall scholar in England; Colin Powell recently canceled a scheduled appearance at a Marshall scholars' reunion in London, citing "security concerns," and Friedman, the puffed-up, self-satisfied solipsist, has now written an entire column claiming that the spoiling of his reunion by the secretary of state means that "we" -- meaning, apparently, all Americans -- are displaying insufficient backbone in the post-9/11 world:
I wouldn't want the responsibility of deciding when the president or secretary of state should appear in public.
These are tough calls. It's always hard to know where the line should be. But I fear we're starting to cross it in ways that could actually be dangerous for us all. Whether we're talking about our public officials or your family deciding whether to vacation in Istanbul, we all have to learn to live with more insecurity. Because terrorists are in the fear business, and every time we visibly imprison ourselves, they win another small victory and become more emboldened.
I don't even know if I believe the official explanation for Powell's absence, which Friedman assumes was accurate. I think it's just as likely that the president and Karl Rove ordered Powell to stay away, unwilling to tolerate any news footage of a key member of the administration being confronted by protesters. (Friedman notes that some banner-wavers did show up at the ceremony.)
And if Powell did stay away out of genuine concern for safety, what does that have to do with the rest of America? Hey, Tom, I live in Manhattan. I was here for 9/11. I didn't skip town. The streets are still crowded here. So are the tunnels and bridges, which we know terrorists have targeted. So, I'm told, is the Golden Gate Bridge on the other coast. People fly and attend theme parks and visit skyscrapers around the country. We're living pretty much the way we did 27 months ago.
No, I haven't planned a trip to Istanbul. You know what, Tom? Most Americans aren't like you. We haven't been to Istanbul. We haven't been to a lot of places. Most of us dream of so many trips we've never taken that we could spend the rest of our paltry two or so weeks of vacation per year traveling just to pleasant or remarkable places that haven't been subject to terrorist attack. Hell, Tom, I've never even been to New Orleans, or Alaska, or Yellowstone, or Mount Rushmore, or the Caribbean, or Italy, or France. If I'm not planning a lovely holiday in Istanbul right now, cut me a frigging break.