Tom Friedman Woefully Offbase — Again

January 27, 2005

I know even some of you conservatives think New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is at least fair sometimes and that he’s thoughtful, etc. I don’t get it. Read his latest column and see if you agree with him. If you do, I don’t understand you either. But can’t we just all get along???????????????

Let me just make a few points about Friedman’s wrongheadedness:

He writes:

Having spent the last 10 days traveling to Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, I have one small suggestion for President Bush. I suggest that when he comes to Europe to mend fences next month he give only one speech. It should be at his first stop in Brussels and it should consist of basically three words: “Read my ears.”

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven’t met them yet.

In such an environment, the only thing that Mr. Bush could do to change people’s minds about him would be to travel across Europe and not say a single word – but just listen. If he did that, Mr. Bush would bowl the Europeans over. He would absolutely disarm and flummox people here – and improve his own image markedly. All it would take for him would be just a few words: “Read my ears. I have come to Europe to listen, not to speak. I will give my Europe speech when I come home – after I’ve heard what you have to say.”

Notice Friedman’s liberal instincts here. Instead of going after the Europeans for their close-minded attitude, which he is reporting based on his own supposed firsthand knowledge, he says President Bush ought to listen to them.

Moreover, why should he go there to listen and not to speak? Is that what we want the leader of our nation to do? Do we want him to take his marching orders from people who have contempt for us and for the principles of freedom and democracy? Do we want to take our cues from people who refuse to stand up against tyranny and brutality in the world — who refuse to take a stand against international terrorists?

And listen to this painfully naive thought from the celebrated Times pundit:

Listening is also a sign of respect. It is a sign that you actually value what the other person might have to say. If you just listen to someone first, it is amazing how much they will listen to you back. Most Europeans, though, are convinced that George Bush is deaf – that he cannot listen or hear. Just proving that he is not deaf, and therefore the Europeans don’t have to shout, would do wonders for Mr. Bush’s standing.

Memo to Tom: If the Europeans think the president is deaf or stupid or close-minded or pugnacious or imperialistic, it is probably due more to his detractors in the Old Media than his own actions. Regardless, he doesn’t need to put a muzzle on himself — and thus America at large — in order to appease nations who have chosen to be on the wrong side of history. That has been their choice, Tom, and you should chide them for it, not President Bush. There’s more. Read this part:

Many young Europeans blame Mr. Bush for making America, since 9/11, into a strange new land that exports fear more than hope, and has become dark and brooding – a place whose greeting to visitors has gone from “Give me your tired, your poor” to “Give me your fingerprints.” They look at Mr. Bush as someone who stole something precious from them.

Tim Kreutzfeldt, the bar owner, said to me: “Bush took away our America. I mean we love America. We are very sad about America. We believe in America and American values, but not in Bush. And it makes us angry that he distorted our image of the country which is so important to us. It is not what America stands for – and this makes us angry and it should make every American angry, because America lost so much in its reputation worldwide.” The Bush team, he added, is giving everyone in the world the impression that “somebody is coming to kill you.”

Please. Friedman would have us believe that these America-bashing people feel like America has been stolen from them — that they loved her with a passionate love and commitment of loyalty? But now we are nothing but militaristic imperialists? We’ve robbed them of their pleasure in glamorizing us as in their image? Give me a break. And please don’t tell me this type of European embraces “American values.” Does he believe that we should confront evil in the world? Between Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman, I’m not sure which has the most childish ideas. I realize Friedman is considered to be thoughtful and original. I defy you to read this column and continue to believe that.