Thomas L. Friedman is the United States' pre-eminent foreign affairs columnist. His syndicated column is printed in hundreds of newspapers, both at home and abroad. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary three times. He is articulate. He is experienced. He is also a sucker.
Thomas Friedman is a sucker because he thinks the world revolves around him. Wine and dine Thomas Friedman, and you'll have an advocate for life. In Thomas Friedman's mind, if you treat him well, you must be a good person.
Which is why Friedman is a patsy for every country that hosts him. In March 1999, Friedman visited China, where he observed: "Visiting Shanghai is always a useful reminder of how frozen perceptions of China are in America today, and how far reality has moved here." Friedman went on to laud China's "flourishing of personal freedoms" and then mention that, by the way, the Communist Party asks only that its constituents "dare not challenge its authority and ... have only one child."
In February 2002, Friedman traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he played journalistic footsy with the Saudi royal family. Since the world revolves around him, Friedman decided that he would propose his Middle East peace plan to Crown Prince Abdullah. The plan involved an Israeli move to pre-1967 borders and acceptance of the phantom Palestinian "right of return" -- in short, Israeli suicide. Oh-so-shockingly, Crown Prince Abdullah asked Friedman: "Have you broken into my desk?" Delighted that he had discovered the solution to Middle East peace, Friedman played the part of Saudi mouthpiece, breathlessly praising Abdullah as "the staunchest Arab nationalist among Saudi leaders, and the one most untainted by corruption."
In June 2002, Friedman visited Iran, where he proclaimed: "The most striking thing about Iran today is the honesty you can find in the newspapers. Some mornings, they take your breath away." The Iranian government, one of the most restrictive in the world, shut down at least 90 newspapers between April 2000 and January 2003.
Thomas Friedman is a sucker because he believes that he never makes mistakes. Friedman believes he knows the universal theory to explain all political events: economics. As Friedman explains on his website, globalization "now shapes virtually everyone's domestic politics and international relations." Friedman's theory means that nations always act in their own economic self-interest, that leaders are rational, and that the majority of any population wants economic prosperity above all else. There's only one problem: This is utter bunk. But when the facts disprove his theory, Thomas Friedman discards the facts.