This morning, Tom Friedman spent close to 300 words in his New York Times column to tell you the fact that President Barack Obama does not have pink hair. "Barack Obama once had black hair. But his is gray now, not pink. That’s also the tax you pay for thinking about the Middle East too much: It leads to either gray hair or no hair, but not pink hair," Friedman writes with this preface:
I was at a conference in Bern, Switzerland, last week and struggling with my column.
Friedman has always tried to convince us that his way of moseying in sideways into serious national conversations with anecdotes about his daughter's roommate, a Mariott hotel clerk, and, famously, his taxi driver weren't signs of laziness by a writer trying to smash a column together, but rather, a feature.
And Friedman has made a career spinning those chats with industry employees into gold. That Mariott hotel clerk gave him the chance to plunk down words about the Egyptian crisis. And sometimes they don't even need to interact with him. In one of his most popular "ask a cabbie, get a lede" episode, his Parisian driver was actively ignoring him. That didn't stop Friedman from writing about him and imagining a narrative. "It’s a pity. He was a young, French-speaking African, who probably had a lot to tell me," Friedman wrote in 2006, waxing on the sadness of Bluetooth.
When Friedman really struggles, apparently his
props people just need to have a different hair color. He writes:
To clear my head, I went for a walk along the Aare River, on Schifflaube Street. Along the way, I found a small grocery shop and stopped to buy some nectarines. As I went to pay, I was looking down, fishing for my Swiss francs, and when I looked up at the cashier, I was taken aback: He had pink hair. A huge shock of neon pink hair — very Euro-punk from the ’90s. While he was ringing me up, a young woman walked by, and he blew her a kiss through the window — not a care in the world.
Friedman's Carrie Bradshaw moment has the Internet calling this column "Peak Friedman" — a so on-the-nose caricature of Friedman unknowingly written by Friedman himself. And it might just be too convenient.
As some have pointed out and rationalized, Friedman could be smarter than we give him credit for, and his opening paragraphs could just be an elaborate and self-aware exercise in trolling. After all, pretty much everyone that made it past those lead paragraphs are in agreement that the rest of his column is pretty good.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.