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Pareene writes: "The conceit is that if Winston Churchill were alive and for some reason very invested in American domestic policy debates, he would be outraged at the modern Republican Party for its intransigence on immigration reform."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: Getty Images)
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. (photo: Getty Images)

Thomas Friedman Is a Bad Columnist, Churchill Edition

By Alex Pareene, Salon

17 July 13


In which Thomas Friedman pretends Winston Churchill would disagree with modern immigration opponents

oday's Thomas Friedman column is headlined, "If Churchill Could See Us Now." The conceit is that if Winston Churchill were alive and for some reason very invested in American domestic policy debates, he would be outraged at the modern Republican Party for its intransigence on immigration reform.

Here is the first paragraph:

Whenever we go into political drift as a country, optimists often quote Winston Churchill's line that Americans will always do the right thing, after they've "exhausted all other possibilities." I don't think that's true anymore. Churchill never met the Tea Party, and he certainly never met today's House Republicans, a group so narrow-minded and disinterested in governing - and the necessary compromises that go with it - that they're ready to kill an immigration bill that is manifestly in the country's economic, social and strategic interests.

Here is the end:

By focusing exclusively on fences, we will not stop undocumented immigration - because 40 percent of illegal residents are people who overstayed their visas - but we will fail to invest in the infrastructure that represents a critical foundation for our future. More important, says Pastor, we will also be telling "the Mexicans and the Canadians that we view them as threats, not as partners."
The whole approach is shortsighted, does not play to our strengths, increases the deficit and ignores where the world is going and how America can best compete and lead within it. Churchill would be aghast.

Here is what Winston Churchill thought about immigrants:

On 3 February 1954, under the agenda item 'Coloured Workers', Churchill is quoted, with abbreviations, by Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook as saying: 'Problems wh. will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in UK? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won't tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.'

Churchill also, on another occasion, said, "I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion." He would not be particularly aghast at the modern Republican Party.

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+77 # margpark 2013-07-17 21:44
Winston Churchill has no voice in the actions of the Republican Party. However, I as a citizen of the United States of America am deeply disappointed in the actions of the modern Republican Party.
+22 # TrustMovies 2013-07-17 21:55
Friedman must be paying the Times reams of money to keep himself on the masthead. But, really, NYT, money ISN'T everything. (Although I know, it does keep you -- and the rest of us -- going....)
+59 # TCinLA 2013-07-17 22:04
Newsflash: thomas Friedman is an idiot.

In other breaking news, water is still wet.
+8 # Hey There 2013-07-17 23:07
made me smile. Thanks
+17 # Grimstad 2013-07-18 04:00
He was wrong on the Iraq war, without penalty.

Why would Churchill's opinion matter anyway?
+26 # JSRaleigh 2013-07-18 09:09
Quoting TCinLA:
Newsflash: thomas Friedman is an idiot.

In other breaking news, water is still wet.

Still, even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn.

He may not know jack-sh*t about Churchill, but Friedman's got it right about the border fences being a waste.
+15 # dkonstruction 2013-07-18 09:54
Quoting TCinLA:
Newsflash: thomas Friedman is an idiot.

In other breaking news, water is still wet.

If he were an idiot we could just dismiss him. Problem is he isn't and this is why he is also dangerous and can't simply be dismissed. He is extremely selective in the "facts", "evidence" that he provides to make his case and he damn well knows better so at best he disingenuous and at worst outright dishonest intellectually e.g., in his book touting the wonderful benefits of globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree" he doesn't even mention third world (or any other either) debt and how debt is one of the biggest problems that "globalized" poorer/weaker nations have to contend with nor anything about the "structural readjustment" programs of the IMF and the broader neo-liberal economic policies. It's not that he doesn't know about him. So, while I would agree in some ways that he's "an idiot" I think that makes it too easy to just dismiss him and we should be wary about dismissing someone who has the platform that he does.
+14 # Billsy 2013-07-18 12:53
I appreciate your thoughtful posts. Dismissing people with whom we disagree as "idiots' may provide some light & brief psychological satisfaction, but allows one to underestimate an opponent while abandoning effective debate. I will never forget how one particular 'idiot' served as commander in chief for 8 years.
+32 # keenon the truth 2013-07-17 23:11
Oh my, oh my! Someone hasn't done their homework. I am British, and at least amongst the people I talk to, we are all aware of what a racist Churchill was!
+7 # Maturus 2013-07-18 09:32
As were the slave-owning Founder Fathers, of course. In reality they were people of their time and they spoke in their time.Churchill' s experience of the Battle of Omdurman against the Mahdi's army and the events preceding it shaped his view of radical Islam with its blind fanaticism and its treatment of women - a fairly modern view in some people's eyes. Unfortunately, Londoners did not welcome West Indian immigrants with open arms and there was much racial discrimination and resentment (a common boarding house sign was 'No Irish or Blacks'). Would you not expect political leaders to discuss this issue?
+7 # karenvista 2013-07-18 20:40
[quote name="Maturus"] Unfortunately, Londoners did not welcome West Indian immigrants......

Are you actually referring to West Indians (meaning people from the Caribbean)or East Indians (meaning people from the "Jewel in the Crown") the country of India which Churchill's Empire had been forced to release from captivity and slavery to the Empire?

The Indians, whom Churchill despised, had provided vast income to England as well as most of the jewels which composed the Crown Jewels.

Their taxes had funded England and it's industrializati on and the taxes from Calcutta alone built the London Underground.

Many Indians had fought valiantly for the British Military as is evidenced by their participation in the Afghan Wars, the Boxer Rebellion and whatever other adventures England dragged the Indian Army into.

One of my heroes Sir Pratap Singh, was a career British Indian Army officer, Maharaja of the princely state of Idar (Gujarat)and often Regent of Jodhpur, and leader of the Jodhpur Lancers.

At the advanced age of 70, Sir Pratap Singh commanded his regiments heroically during the First World War in France and Flanders as well as in Palestine.

He was close to Queen Victoria and her family and aide de camp to the Prince of Wales. King Edward VII also named him to be his aide de camp.

I suppose Queen Victoria and the Royal Family had lower standards than the better bred Churchill!
0 # Maturus 2013-07-19 08:42
The Cabinet discussion was specifically referring to West Indians and followed the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 and the subsequent immigration from the West Indies. What was not explained (adequately) to the existing population at the time was the fact that the politicians had invited this immigration. Settling into working class areas, they were seen as an unwelcome foreign threat and met with predictable hostility which, among White Londoners, seems to continue to this day.
Churchill was very much against Indian independence, just as he was against Irish independence and probably anything else that would, in his eyes, weaken the Empire. That said, there was more than a hint of class issue in his opposition. I think you're use of hyperbole in describing India's position as being a result of 'captivity and slavery' blinds you recognising how the Empire (which only began when Victoria was named 'Empress of India) expanded. Britain could not possibly have 'conquered' vast areas of the world by its own efforts. The tactic used was always to be 'invited' into a country by a local faction who wanted to rid themselves of another faction. Hence, the maharajahs and princes who ruled large areas welcomed the appearance of the East India Company. The jewellery, by the way, were almost exclusively gifts from those rulers to Victoria. Churchill was fully at ease with the Indian ruling class - it was the 'lower class' of Ghandi and Nehru and their followers he really objected
-15 # randyjet 2013-07-18 07:21
So Friedman thinks that we do not need to stop most, 60%, of illegals? At least we know who the 40% are, PLUS they were invited here with a visa. So they are a far less serious problem. We have fences around our yards and property, airports, prison, etc.. so if they don't work, we need to get rid of all of them since they are a waste of money.
+10 # Buddha 2013-07-18 09:27
Ha, this is nothing. Friedman had a far better gem a couple months ago after the Snowden "revelations" (as if anybody with a modicum of political and historical awareness didn't know this was going on). In that piece of wonderful Friedman Logic in the NYT, he opined that we should be OK with how we've given up our civil liberties to create this Surveillance State because if another terrorist attack happens, it will convince Americans we need to give up even more of our civil liberties and build up the Surveillance State into a Police State! Brilliant! How about getting Americans to see that giving up our civil liberties and turning us into a Police State is exactly the response terrorist attackers are trying to provoke out of us, and that alone is reason enough not to do it????

BTW: This, along with how it cheerled the rush to War in Iraq, really shows how far down the Old Grey Lady has sunk, hasn't it? NYTimes, you are just a rag sheet nowadays...
+6 # billk11 2013-07-18 10:40
. . .How about getting Americans to see that giving up our civil liberties and turning us into a Police State is exactly the response terrorist attackers are trying to provoke out of us, and that alone is reason enough not to do it???? . . .

+1 # Doubter 2013-07-18 22:03
Are there any actual terrorists or are the all, or most of them CIA offshoots?
+1 # tm7devils 2013-07-19 10:57
Yes, THE US GOVERNMENT! Our government, with the aid of the CIA, the DOD, the IMF and the WB is the greatest militarial and financial group of terrorists on the planet to date. We are probably complicit in, at least, 75% of the woes of the World.
If you don't believe it...then you are definitely NOT well read.
But, hey...we are the greatest nation on Earth! Go figure...
+6 # RMDC 2013-07-18 09:57
Winston Churchill was an asshole. I'm tired of people quoting him. He was a drunk and a philanderer. He was a fascist who worked only for the British empire. There's nothing to admire in his miserable career. That Friedman loves him just shows more of Friedman's idiocy.
+1 # Maturus 2013-07-18 11:46
I'm sure you missed something...... ..
+6 # Maturus 2013-07-18 11:57
Oh yes, I realise what it was - engage your brain before writing garbage like that. He was a drunk: well he certainly liked a drink; a philanderer: I hadn't heard that, do you have examples?; a fascist: don't be absurd; he worked only for the British Empire: which is why he bankrupted it by standing up to Hitler in1940; his miserable career: pretty patchy, poor in parts - but the highlights! Churchill would certainly not survive modern press practices and his career would not have survived Gallipoli under modern scrutiny. Therefore, in 1940, with no Churchill,Halif ax would have sued for peace and there would have been no,Battle of Britain; Hitler's attack on Russia would have started earlier in 1941 and been strengthened without those losses; the Eastern front would have played out differently and possibly fatally for Stalin. Where would you be now if that had happened? Churchill was a man of his times, the leader that Britain - and possibly the world - needed at that time, irrespective of his faults.
-1 # bingers 2013-07-21 05:13
Yeah, and even Ron Paul is right occasionally.
+3 # David Starr 2013-07-18 11:23
Freidman says the GOP is so narrow-minded in its immigration policies. But Freidman has been within the same right-wing spectrum as them. The latter are more overt about it; Freidman's basic principles are right-wing, conservative, etc. The basis of their objectives are the same. It's like two sides of one coin.

And Freidman bringing Churchill into his commentary gives an odd, disjointed tone to the issue he comments on.
+4 # Cougar27 2013-07-18 14:47
Churchill also called Mohandas K Gandhi a "naked little fakir." I don't remember if the fat little brandy boozer had an opinion of Nelson Mandela, but I'm betting if he did it wasn't flattering.
-10 # 2013-07-18 15:45
Conceit? Allow me to use a few words to describe the writing of Alex Pereene:
Trite, and
+8 # Cougar27 2013-07-18 20:51
Hello, Mama Friedman, I knew it was you.
0 # drew 2013-07-30 20:19
I don't read Freedman much - though I know his book The Earth is Flat (and stance on climate change) is right - this particular article was also right in it's main point: that Republicans are total douchebags, throwing us under the bus constantly (by obstructing positive, productive, necessary policies), all for the sake of trying to win the next election cycle by saying "look how little the majority/Presid ent has gotten done? Look how bad things still are ... ". Republican politics are toxic & twisted and they have done SO much damage to this Country! Who really cares if Freedman used a bad example and it turns out Churchill wouldn't have agreed (as it turns out maybe he was a short-sighted racist too??

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