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.
Take his May 11 column, "Fathers and Sons." Friedman's basic theory on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is this: If the Israelis and Palestinians could only get past all this religious mumbo-jumbo, remove old leaders and accept one another, we could let globalization work its magic. Because Friedman thinks everything is about economics, he thinks peace can be achieved once Jewish settlements are abandoned and the Palestinians replace Yasser Arafat with another terror-supporting figurehead, Abu Mazen.
In this vein, Friedman argues that the best policy toward Israel is one of tough love; he writes that President George W. Bush should treat Israel as his father did by telling "Israel and Jewish lobby some very hard truths ... that expanding settlements would harm Israel's long-term interests, would shrink the prospects for peace and would help undermine America's standing in the Arab world." He calls the Jewish settler movement "renegade" and "lunatic" (epithets he reserves for Israelis, not suicide bombers) and claims the Christian right has hurt Israel by supporting it.
Friedman has learned nothing from the Oslo fiasco, because Thomas Friedman believes he is never wrong. In January 2001, Friedman briefly acknowledged that the Palestinian intifada left Oslo's advocates "feeling like fools." But now, Friedman has jumped on the Oslo II bandwagon. It does not matter to him that Abu Mazen was appointed by Arafat, not elected, and that 67.8 percent of Palestinians believe that Mazen was appointed only because of external pressure. It does not matter to him that Mazen has consistently and openly endorsed terror against Israelis as a continuing policy or that he was likely involved in the 1972 Munich Massacre. It does not matter to him that 64.6 percent of Palestinians support terror against Israeli targets or that 59.9 percent support suicide bombings. This is Thomas Friedman's world, and we're all just living in it.
Thomas Friedman is no doubt an intelligent man. Yet he is slobberingly sycophantic toward those who play up to him. He wholeheartedly believes that he is infallible. His vision is clouded by his own inflated view of himself. Thomas Friedman is a sucker, made to order.