That Used to Be Us: What Went Wrong with America - and How It Can Come Back

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That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780349000091
  • Publisher: Abacus Software
  • Publication date: 6/28/2012

Meet the Author

Thomas L. Friedman
Thomas L. Friedman
Occasionally blunt, often educational, but never boring, Thomas L. Friedman is among the best known and respected analysts of the Middle East. A three-time Pulitzer winner, his books and column for the New York Times take a no-nonsense, authoritative approach to complex global issues.

Biography

When September 11 drastically reshifted America's focus and priorities, Thomas L. Friedman was the author readers turned to as a guide to the dynamics of the Middle East. In a mediascape crowded with pundits, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist and author has emerged as the preeminent commentator in his field, informed by his 20-plus years as a journalist covering the rapidly shifting politics in the region.

The title of his first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, describes his trajectory as New York Times bureau chief in both cities in the '80s. He interrupted his journalism career in 1988 when the Guggenheim Foundation awarded him a fellowship to write a book about his experiences. The result was a personal narrative that described not only his harrowing experiences in Lebanon and Israel but also contained exposition about the roots of his interest in the Middle East, a visit to Israel that burgeoned into a full-blown obsession. Friedman himself put it best, in the book's prelude: "It is a strange, funny, sometimes violent, and always unpredictable road, this road from Beirut to Jerusalem, and in many ways, I have been traveling it all my adult life." From Beirut to Jerusalem won the National Book Award and spent a year on the Times bestseller list.

This road analogy is one of several Friedman will make over the course of a column or book. He reduces the intimidation factor of complex subjects by offering ample (but not copious) background, plain but intelligent language, and occasional humor. On Iraq's history before Saddam: "Romper Room it was not." On globalization: "If [it] were a sport, it would be the 100-meter dash, over and over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day."

Friedman again offered complex concepts in appealingly dramatic terms in 1989's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, his distillation of the new global economy. He sets up the contrast between the old, Cold War system ("sumo wrestling") and the new globalization system (the 100-meter dash). Another part of why Friedman can be so readable is that he sometimes makes it seem as if his life is one big kaffeeklatsch with the scholars and decision makers of the world. In a chapter from The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he mentions a comment made by a friend who is also "the leading political columnist in Jordan." The day after seeing this friend, Friedman writes, "I happen to go to Israel and meet with Jacob Frenkel, then governor of Israel's Central Bank and a University of Chicago-trained economist." Thus another illustrative point is made. Friedman frames the world not just as he sees it, but also includes the perspective of the many citizens he has made it a point to include in the dialogue.

In 2002, Friedman won a third Pulitzer for his writing in the New York Times, and the demand for his perspicacity post-September 11 makes the release of Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 almost a foregone conclusion. Breaking the book into before, during, and after, Friedman presents what he calls a "word album" of America's response to the tragedy. It is undeniably a changed world, and Friedman is undeniably the man to help readers make sense of it.

Good To Know

Friedman lives with his wife Ann and daughters Orly and Natalie in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington.

In high school, Friedman became "insufferable" in his obsession with Israel, he says. He wrote in From Beirut to Jersualem: "When the Syrians arrested thirteen Jews in Damascus, I wore a button for weeks that said Free the Damascus 13, which most of my high-school classmates thought referred to an underground offshoot of the Chicago 7. I recall my mother saying to me gently, 'Is that really necessary?' when I put the button on one Sunday morning to wear to our country-club brunch."

As the chief diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times from 1989 to 1992, Friedman logged some 500,000 miles following Secretary of State James Baker and chronicling the end of the Cold War.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C. area
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 20, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University, 1975; M.A. in Modern Middle East Studies, Oxford University, 1978
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 65 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 66 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2011

    Boycott Tom Friedman!

    Tom Friedman was one of the great proponents of globalization and "making the world smaller." Now that globalization and hyper-capitalism has led to the collapse of the West, Mr. Friedman wants to feed us a load of crap about how we can once again recapture the business, industry and virtues that we sold cheaply for our mass consumption service economy. Mr. Friedman can join the Republicans and Democrats and bite me.

    11 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2011

    Thought Provoking, Intelligent Read

    The hardest part of reading this book was setting aside preconceived notions in order to fairly analyze what Friedman and Mandelbaum clearly lay out. The authors stick fairly close to centrist ideas though some political leanings come through in their choice of examples and descriptions. While the presentation of problems and solutions are the opinions of the authors, they come across in an honest, credible manner. Whether you agree or disagree with the content, there is no doubt this book is thought provoking and intellectually challenging especially if you are worried about the future of the US.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    That Used to Be Us

    In this self-styled ¿wake-up call and pep talk,¿ award-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman and professor and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum offer their diagnosis of what they see as America¿s decline and set out some ideas to arrest its fall. In the first part, they largely succeed, detailing with illustrative, eye-opening stories and studies the depth of the problems Americans have ignored for too long: globalization, technology, national debt and climate change. However, they lose some steam in their prescriptive section where the challenges they outline seem to call for more than a pep talk ¿ although their ideas are worth considering and are great fodder for debates on real issues. Be prepared: Parts of this book make you want to cry; others make you want to scream; some pages do both. getAbstract suggests this bestseller to those in education, business and the public sector who want to understand the magnitude of America¿s challenges before rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on solutions.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    Comments about Friedman & Mandelbaum’

    Comments about Friedman & Mandelbaum’s book titled:
    “That used to be us”

    Much of the book describes the severe problems of our economy, our politics, industry and educational system. At the same time, much space is devoted to well known USA accomplishments in the past, and rightfully so. Space is also devoted to how often foreign people do a much better job today than Americans in areas such as education and economic growth, not to forget financial management. All true.

    The authors’ dearest wishes are for America to learn from their observations and in particular accept the fact that in their view of the modern world it would be essential for the USA to make the Government, much more of a real partner in business to become broadly competitive again. Clearly, that last part might cause very serious problems with those who believe that as little government as possible is preferable. Government should be supportive of a free market economy but not a competitor and player. Since Government assets and power greatly exceeds the business community’s resources it would not take long for us to end up like any other socialist Republic in the world. That’s not how we got to be who we are. Many people today, unfortunately, are not aware of it.

    Furthermore and unfortunately, the authors appear to be unqualified in matters of general physics and particularly in their attempt to make green energy and other hair-brained energy schemes basic elements of their recommendations to achieve a more promising future. In reality, it puts some of their energy related recommendations off the table. Plentiful and eventually cheap energy, from fossil fuels to nuclear and hydro and geothermal will take care of our future for at least the next 100 years. The lesson here is to let the energy industry keep us in a surplus energy condition and not allow the Government to waste billions of tax payer’s money on ill conceived green energy plots.
    As a graduate engineer I appreciate that neither carbon dioxide nor ocean acidification is likely to cause us problems for a very long time, if ever.

    The Chapter on education is the most challenging in my view and describes some of the currently active and innovative approaches to achieving serious improvements in the knowledge levels of teenagers and college students. Without achieving that, college level education is really a waste of money and time and will do nothing to make these youngsters more employable.

    What disappoints me in the book though is the lack of a common thread running through the issues that contributed to if not caused our current below-par condition as a nation of historically well-educated and clear thinking Americans. In my opinion that thread is our cultural demise during the past 60 years. Ask yourself, where is the spirit of hard work, at a job or in school? Where is the famous American habit of shaking hands on a deal without a 50 page legal document to back it up?



    Why is it that so few people really know the basics of our national history? This deplorable condition allows schools to teach that American culture is no better or worse than anyone else’s. Which is a preposterous affront to teach, of course, but indicative of our problems.

    In my view these are some of the aspects that caused our current political, educational and economic condition. The authors recognize our practical national problem and they believe, notwithstanding the contrary evidence, that we still have enough guts, skills, drive, imagination and assets to get us out of this box to a better future. I hope they are right. Frankly, I am not so sure, for the simple reason that the cultural deficiencies at the root of our problem are also the hardest and most challenging aspects of our national existence to repair.

    The book closes on a positive note but at the same time may mislead us in thinking that our challenge is just “another job” we have to perform to be back in shape again soon instead of the existential attempt it really is at recapturing our critical and unique national dynamics of exceptionalism and the world’s “least offensive policeman”.

    Frederik Engel 3/4/2012

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

    A must read

    Great read, I would almost say a must read. This book exposes our current thinking in the US and what we need to get back on track. You may not agree with all of it but the facts provided will make you think. Republicans and Democrats we can all learn a bit from this.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2012

    "Covers a lot of territory & provides a lot of food for

    "Covers a lot of territory & provides a lot of food for thought, and some interesting insights, but the suggested answer to every problem seems to be some version of "more government". Also goes off on a horribly one-sided (and only loosely-related) rant on "global warming" that seems out of place a midst the other topics. Plenty of interesting discussion, but very biased, bordering on ignorant, in much of the presentation. I sometimes felt like I was just listening to a semi-educated MSNBC addict, rather than a best-selling author."

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2012

    Every American should read this book!!

    Normally when I read books like this I am snoozing halfway through but this one kept my attention. This book covers both our weaknesses and our strengths but this country is quickly slipping while our political leaders are basically ineffective. America has been able to do great things when our backs are against the wall but we need to wake up...NOW!!! Read this and get inspired!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    This author is onto something

    I'm considering writing my college thesis on Thomas Friedman especially the more I read his books. I first came up with the idea after my government professor loved a paper I had written about him. I'm looking for feedback from anyone who has an opinion about whether or not this would make for a good thesis topic? Thanks to all who take the time to reply.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Very recommended

    A very good review of our problems. The proposed solutions are of course to be argued.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    Recommended

    Friedman and Mandelbaum are insightful journalists who have been all over the world, so they bring a fresh perspective about how to help America.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Same ole same ole story. It ignores we are spending much of our

    Same ole same ole story. It ignores we are spending much of our national treasury on wars, bases, and corporate resource grabbing all over the world. We act like the old British Empire. Who said we should rule the world and decide for other nations their future?

    London banksters rob our treasury using bailouts which aren't even American but international with no oversight or punishment. Whose on "Welfare"? There is no regulation in Britain of banks so they stole them all. How about we set up off shore banks in Hawaii and encourage the wealthy in Britain, Switzerland, etc. a "secret tax haven" here? It is only fair.

    The refusal to tax the billionaires who hide their stash in off shore banks says it all. Our troops protect drug fields in Afghanistan and we call it "Al Qaeda". The fox (global banksters, military industrial compiex, health and insurance corporations, etc.) is in the hen house (White House) and new party leaders make no difference.

    Globalization has destroyed our treasury and jobs...companies gone off shore. Follow the money. It certainly isn't here to build our infrastructure, educate our own, or defend ourselves.

    Until we understand the problem we can't solve it Mr. Friedman.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2012

    May i rp Dawnkit?

    May i rp Dawnkit?

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Great easy read and information is presented clearly. The book is insightful and very helpful for understanding/identifying the problems of the economy and the stagnation of the workforce.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    That used to be us

    It's fareasier to dissect and analyze Humpty's fall from grace than to put him back together again. The book is a great analysis, but solutions?? Not so much.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Should be required reading for U.S. high school students.

    Great for anyone trying to understand how the U.S. got into the situation it's in, and why it's important to have more than one skill as far as your employment.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Somewhat Boring.

    Mr. Friedman should learn to write better. He is not much of a story teller, and I found myself sleeping when I picked up this book.

    APC 2012

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Not Typical Friedman

    Somewhat disappointed... especially by conclusions. Constant rehashing of themes. Could have made salient points in 1/3 the pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Opinion supported with fact.

    Makes you think and most ideas are right on.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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