Friedman has achieved another media triumph with the debut of "Tom's
Journal" on the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." The feature
will be a "one-on-one debriefing of Friedman by Lehrer or one of the
program's senior correspondents," says a news release from the
influential PBS program. Friedman will appear perhaps a dozen times per
year -- whenever he comes back from a major trip abroad.
in foreign affairs, Friedman reaches millions of readers with his
syndicated New York Times column. And he's often on television --
especially these days. "In the post-9/11 environment, the talk shows
can't get enough of Friedman," a Washington Post profile noted. He
appears as a guest on "Meet the Press," "Face the
Nation," "Washington Week in Review" and plenty of other TV
venues. He even went over big on David Letterman's show.
A passage from Friedman's 1999 book "The Lexus and the Olive
Tree" sums up his overarching global perspective: "The hidden
hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's
cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air
Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon
Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy
and Marine Corps."
If he were as passionate about challenging global corporatization as
promoting it -- or as fervent about stopping wars as starting them -- it's
hard to imagine that a regular feature like "Tom's Journal"
would be airing on the "NewsHour."
has been a zealous advocate of "bombing Iraq, over and over and over
again" (in the words of a January 1998 column). Three years ago, when
he offered a pithy list of prescriptions for Washington's policymakers, it
included: "Blow up a different power station in Iraq every week, so
no one knows when the lights will go off or who's in charge."
In an introduction to the book "Iraq Under Siege," editor
Anthony Arnove points out: "Every power station that is targeted
means more food and medicine that will not be refrigerated, hospitals that
will lack electricity, water that will be contaminated, and people who
But Friedman-style bravado goes over big with editors and network
producers who share his disinterest in counting the human costs. Many
journalists seem eager to fawn over their stratospheric colleague.
"Nobody understands the world the way he does," NBC's Tim
Sometimes, Friedman fixates on four words in particular. "My
is very simple: Give war a chance," he told Diane Sawyer four months
ago on "Good Morning America." It was the same motto that he'd
used two and a half years earlier in a Fox News interview. Different war;
different enemy; different network; same solution.
In the spring of 1999, as bombardment of Yugoslavia went on, Friedman
recycled "Give war a chance" from one column to another.
"Twelve days of surgical bombing was never going to turn Serbia
around," he wrote in early April. "Let's see what 12 weeks of
less than surgical bombing does. Give war a chance."
Another column included this gleeful approach for threatening civilians in
Yugoslavia with protracted terror: "Every week you ravage Kosovo is
another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want
1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too."
Last November, his column was in a similar groove. "Let's all take a
deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance. This is Afghanistan
we're talking about. Check the map. It's far away."
Friedman seems to be crazy about wisps of craziness in high Washington
places. He has a penchant for touting insanity as a helpful ingredient of
U.S. foreign policy; some kind of passion for indications of derangement
among those who call the military shots.
During an Oct. 13 appearance on CNBC, he said: "I was a critic of
(Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld before, but there's one thing ... that
I do like about Rumsfeld. He's just a little bit crazy, OK? He's just a
little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able
to out-crazy us, and I'm glad we got some guy on our bench that our
quarterback -- who's just a little bit crazy, not totally, but you never
know what that guy's going to do, and I say that's my guy."
And Friedman doesn't just talk that way. He also writes that way.
"There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't
like," a Friedman column declared in mid-February, "but their
willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our
enemies, is one thing they have right."
Is Thomas Friedman clever? Perhaps. But not nearly as profound as a few
words from W.H. Auden: "Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in