When Inaccuracy Hurts

Kevin Drum points out that for a guy who's super-concerned about global warming, Tom Friedman doesn't seem to follow the issue at all, writing the following in a fake memo representing Iran's take on the United States:

True, thanks to Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Congress decided to increase the miles per gallon required of U.S. car fleets by the year 2020 — which took us by surprise — but we nevertheless "strongly believe" this will not lead to any definitive breaking of America's oil addiction, since none of the leading presidential candidates has offered an energy policy that would include a tax on oil or carbon that could trigger a truly transformational shift in America away from fossil fuels.

Sure, sure, none of the leading presidential candidates have done that. Except that Friedman might have wanted to note that John Edwards came out with a proposal to fully-auction carbon permits in the context of a cap-and-trade scheme aimed at aggressive emissions reductions, which is the same thing. For that matter, Barack Obama came out with the same proposal. And, um, Hillary Clinton. So rather than "none" of the leading presidential candidates favoring such measures all of the Democrats have proposals that would do this.

To me, this kind of pundit fuck-up -- declining to give credit to people who deserve it -- is probably the most damaging kind. For better or for worse, Friedman's become one of the leading voices on climate change and energy issues. And he's a very influential columnist. People probably read him hoping to see which politicians, if any, someone who finds his columns convincing should be supporting. In this case, they should be strongly favoring whoever wins the Democratic nomination. But Friedman won't say so. Instead, in order to reach a pox on both houses conclusion he finds himself ignoring the very strong similarity between auctioned permit plans and carbon tax plans. But if this is the treatment candidates stake out bold eco-friendly positions are going to get from prominent advocates, then who's going to bother. You can be sure the fossil fuel industry knows which politicians are their friends and which aren't. The ones who aren't need people to have their backs, not to just get slandered coming and going.