Everybody loves Tom Friedman

Writing for The New York Observer Ken Kurson interviewed dozens of current and former staffers for the New York Times about their, cough, sometimes spotty editorial page. It may not surprise you that Tom “suck on this” Friedman embarrasses them as much as he does us.

One current Times staffer told The Observer, “Tom Friedman is an embarrassment. I mean there are multiple blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter feeds that exist solely to make fun of his sort of blowhardy bullshit.”

[…] Another Times reporter brought up Mr. Friedman, unsolicited, toward the end of a conversation that was generally positive about the editorial page: “I never got a note from Andy or anything like that. But I will say, regarding Friedman, there’s the sense that he’s on cruise control now that he’s his own brand. And no one is saying, ‘Hey, did you see the latest Friedman column?’ in the way they’ll talk about ‘Hey, Gail [Collins] was really funny today.’”

Asked if this stirring resentment toward the editorial page might not just be garden variety news vs. edit stuff or even the leanings of a conservative news reporter toward a liberal editorial page, one current Times staffer said, “It really isn’t about politics, because I land more to the left than I do to the right. I just find it …”

He paused for a long time before continuing and then, unprompted, returned to Mr. Friedman. “I just think it’s bad, and nobody is acknowledging that they suck, but everybody in the newsroom knows it, and we really are embarrassed by what goes on with Friedman. I mean anybody who knows anything about most of what he’s writing about understands that he’s, like, literally mailing it in from wherever he is on the globe. He’s a travel reporter. A joke. The guy gets $75,000 for speeches and probably charges the paper for his first-class airfare.”

Another former Times writer, someone who has gone on to great success elsewhere, expressed similar contempt (and even used the word “embarrass”) and says it’s longstanding.

“I think the editorials are viewed by most reporters as largely irrelevant, and there’s not a lot of respect for the editorial page. The editorials are dull, and that’s a cardinal sin. They aren’t getting any less dull. As for the columnists, Friedman is the worst. He hasn’t had an original thought in 20 years; he’s an embarrassment. He’s perceived as an idiot who has been wrong about every major issue for 20 years, from favoring the invasion of Iraq to the notion that green energy is the most important topic in the world even as the financial markets were imploding. Then there’s Maureen Dowd, who has been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president.”

Tommy Friedman should suck on that.

62 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    BREAKING: Friedman sucks!

  2. 2
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Christ, they must really hate Friedman if they barely notice that almost everything they said about him could be said about MoDo

    and I thought Friedman’s half-hearted efforts to promote the environment as a topic of discussion were a half-redeeming feature.

  3. 3
    Bort says:

    Give him six more months to turn it around!

  4. 4
    jheartney says:

    Maybe they should bring in some new blood, like William Kristol or David Gelernter. How about Mark Halperin, he doesn’t get enough exposure.

    Hey if they can’t get anybody good, they could at least get somebody entertaining.

  5. 5
    Howard Beale IV says:

    The best takedown of Freidman ever was done by Freidman himself when Taibbi held a contest.

  6. 6
    jenn says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Yeah, that’s the only thing about him I can stand! I did laugh at the MoDo comment, too.

  7. 7
    Tim F. says:

    @Howard Beale IV: No joke, one of the funniest things I ever read. It still makes me wake the dog up and I read it three or four times before.

  8. 8
    ulee says:

    Friedman is seperated from himself. It is words that he writes and not a representation. He should be forced to read Lester Bangs and learn how it is done.

  9. 9
    Eric S. says:

    @Bort: +1LikeThumbsUp etc

  10. 10
    waspuppet says:

    Tom Friedman is that guy in the office who never has to do any work because he walks around mumbling about how “the Internet is gonna change EVERYTHING, man,” and the boss thinks it’s deep and future-y.

    Then when something goes wrong with your Web site, everyone looks to him and he shrugs his shoulders, because he doesn’t really know anything about it.

  11. 11
    scav says:

    @waspuppet: His cabdriver suggests you try a reboot.

  12. 12

    I blame Obama for his demise.

  13. 13
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    In a nation with a population of 314 million it’s difficult for me to believe that that there’s no one who could do a better job than Friedman, MoDo, Jennifer Rubin, etc. Newspapers pay people like Friedman to write editorials because the Friedmans of the world won’t ever surprise them. They’re always wrong but, they’re comfortable.

  14. 14

    Learning too much more about New Jersey… Republicans that were bitching about the lack of oversight in the Sandy funding would have gotten our support had they bothered to mention that it would be Republicans misusing the funds.

  15. 15
    James E. Powell says:

    What’s not talked about too often is that Friedman isn’t that different from all the other regular OpEd writers in America. They are entitled big shots who almost never have anything interesting to say. They are the apologists for various factions in the ruling class.

  16. 16
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    The Andy in question is Rosenthal, current op/ed page editor

    and they put Andy in as sort of acting national editor for the duration of the 2000 coverage. During the 2000 campaign, he developed a very personal, gut-level animus toward Al Gore. And it showed in our coverage.\

    This doesn’t appear to change Kurson’s ideas about liberal left-wing bias in AR’s work.

  17. 17
    Yatsuno says:

    This is sooo Schrödinger Kitteh territory. I’m also wondering what she thinks of the new head of Microsquash.

  18. 18
    jl says:

    I’m curious about what the staffer meant who said that the WSJ opinion section rocks. Like shock rock, or death metal rocks? Like Insane Clown Posse rocks?

  19. 19
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Tim F.: Now if only some insane person would shave his mustache off he might get some situational understanding….

  20. 20

    Hahahahahahaha! Friedman sucks.

    I took a class about globalization in graduate school, and one of the books the teacher had us read was Friedman’s crappy book, the Lexus and the Olive Tree. I knew who he was, but I’d never read anything he’d written, none of his books, nor any of his columns. I couldn’t believe how shitty it was. I couldn’t read the whole thing. We had to review all the books we read in the class, and I wrote that it was so bad I couldn’t read the whole thing. The teacher was sympathetic. I think he assigned it because he (Friedman) wholeheartedly approved of globalization and everything that had to do with it, and he wanted us to get every side and make our own minds up.

    It made me almost sick to read Friedman’s utter disregard for the people who get screwed by globalization. His feeling seemed to be, “Well, if you can’t keep up with the way things are changing, that’s your tough shit. Just shuflle off and die already, so we world beaters make our fortunes without having to worry about your sorry asses.” Deeply depraved. When he spouted that shit about how we needed to pick up some “crappy little country” and slam it against the wall to make ourselves feel better after the horrific 2001 attacks, and gloated over how satisfying to tell Iraqis to “Suck. On. This.”… Well, it disgusted me, but it didn’t surprise me. He strikes me as a casual, passive sociopath.

  21. 21
    Mandalay says:

    Tommy Friedman should suck on that.

    Here are the sources of the information cited in the article you posted:

    One current Times staffer…

    Another Times reporter…

    Another former Times writer…

    See a pattern there?

    Gutless gossiping jackasses. I can’t stand Friedman either, but these spineless cowards are even worse. I had suggested in an old thread on Friedman that he concocted the wisdom of his taxi drivers in his hotel room. The author of this drivel may have done the same thing.

    From the link:

    Only two people interviewed for this story agreed to be identified, given the fears of retaliation by someone they criticize as petty and vindictive.

    Then you don’t have any “story”, asshole – you have an anonymous smear campaign.

  22. 22
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): And that’s one of his older books; lucky you didn’t have to read The World Is Flat or Green: The New Red, White and Blue.

  23. 23
    Eric U. says:

    wth? I fear for anyone that thinks the NYT editorial page is liberal. As in, they probably need their mommy to tell them to wipe their ass. In 2000, I hoped that we would see the end of the editorial page since the internet provides an infinitely better product for free. But no, they have been cutting back on the news that the internet can’t do that well, and instead are paying their idiot editorial writers more. Even the most sane editorial writers seem to steal most of their columns from blogs without attribution. Krugman being the obvious exception.

  24. 24
    different-church-lady says:

    “Embarrassing” is an insulting word.

  25. 25
    raven says:

    @different-church-lady: God, I had that argument with a good friend this morning who was crushed by the Denver loss.

  26. 26
    jonas says:

    The NYT needs to pick up a crappy little op-ed columnist and slam him or her against the wall, you know, just to say “suck on this” and show everyone how serious they are about good punditry.

  27. 27
    Baud says:


    I teared up a little.

    Sherman also praised Manning during an interview Monday morning on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike.”

    “When I was limping up to my press conference and trying to make it up the stairs, somebody taps me on the shoulder and extends their hand and asks if I’m all right,” Sherman said during the interview. “My eyes try to make it up to see who it is, and it’s Peyton … fully dressed in a suit and obviously very concerned about my well-being.

    “You know, after a game like that, biggest stage ever — to ask how you’re doing and really be generally concerned about an opponent, that shows an incredibly different amount of humility and class.”

  28. 28
    currants says:

    Worse than Brooks….really? Don’t read either so I honestly don’t know, but based on commentary about both, Friedman may be dumb and embarrassing, but Brooks is…I don’t know, Brooks seems more dangerous (societally).

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Tim F. says:

    @currants: Brooks is smarter and more interesting than Tom Friedman (so is my dog), and he says some genuinely original things. He just uses these qualities mostly for evil.

  31. 31
    currants says:

    @Tim F.: Yah, thought so….I guess my problem is with evil.

  32. 32
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @currants: I think Friedman convinced a whole lot of tote-baggers to support the Iraq invasion, right down to an appearance on Oprah. Not that I think he could have stopped it, but he sure greased the skids for evil to happen.

  33. 33
    gogol's wife says:


    I’m with you on this one.

  34. 34
    JMG says:

    If I owned a newspaper, which God forbid since I quite like money, my first move would be to get rid of the editorials and op-ed columnists. It is on balance the dullest part of every paper, and it’s also always the one that pisses off the most readers. But most newspaper owners love them because it’s where they get to lay their worldviews on people. It’d be cheaper for ’em if they just hung out at the corner stool of the corner bar.

  35. 35
    the Conster says:

    In B4 Villago Delenda Est.

  36. 36
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Mandalay: the two people who were quoted praised Andrew Rosenthal. Lol. They are shameless careerists.

    Btw. It doesn’t appear that anyone is upset by the lack of ideas at a very imortant newspaper. It’s that the paper is less fun than it ought to be. And that editorials are expensive. They could be better, but it isn’t very clear why having better editorials matters.

  37. 37
    Violet says:

    For some reason my comment is being marked as s p a m. I don’t have any unapproved words that I know of. It’s not going to moderation–just disappearing.


  38. 38
    Suffern ACE says:

    The article does note that the influence of the times over local politics is waning. None of their candidates won. If I remember right, they were big pushers of Harold Ford’s go nowhere thoughts of replacing Gillanbrand . In fact they were the only ones pushing that.

    But really so what? What does the public get from having an editorial department with clout? I guess what it gets is politicians interested in playing for the NyT, but that doesn’t seem important to me.

  39. 39
    Jamie says:

    I remain grateful for the guy. Bob Ford will probably flame out soon and we will get another bumbling dumbfuck, but Friedman keeps on giving.

  40. 40
    Anoniminous says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    It doesn’t appear that anyone is upset by the lack of ideas at a very important newspaper.

    I’m not sure any newspaper is all that important anymore. Circulation figures seem to bear that out.

  41. 41

    @Tim F.: Brooks is probably smarter than Friedman (the subtle bigotry of low expectations?) but I really think you’re reaching when you ascribe originality to him. There’s often a nicely unexpected frame to his columns, but they always end up exactly where you knew he was going from the moment you parse the lede. That leaves him a couple bricks shy of an original undertaking — or so ISTM.

    Right with you on the evil, though.

  42. 42
    Violet says:

    @Tom Levenson: I think Friedman believes his own stuff while Brooks knows his job is to repackage Republican thievery in a soothing, reassuring manner to make people nod along sagely as they feel vaguely smarter and better informed.

  43. 43
    danielx says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    All true, although…

    Jonah Goldberg, Ledeen’s colleague at National Review, coined the term “Ledeen Doctrine” in a 2002 column. This tongue-in-cheek “doctrine” is usually summarized as “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” which Goldberg remembered Ledeen saying in an early 1990s speech.[23]

    Given that the quote is based on the steel trap-like memory and ace research skills of Jabba the Hack, who the hell knows?

    Friedman is noteworthy for his…profound lack of concern not only for those getting run over by globalization, but those who happen to get in the way of US foreign policy as well. But he’s a dangerous buffoon – anybody responsible for the Friedman Unit as a measure of time is a buffoon by definition, and dangerous in the sense that there may actually be people out there who take the Moustache of Understanding seriously. But there’s almost a sense of innocence about Friedman, kind of like a baby rattlesnake. He knows not the evil that he carries, but believes that he means well, and believes that he writes the truth.

    David Brooks on the other hand is more…malevolent, in my opinion. What he writes is complete horseshit and whether he contradicts himself over time is of no concern to him – what matters is that he defends the interests of the Village and poor trod-upon millionaires everywhere. His only problem is that accomplishing these ends (winning elections) meant cheering on the paranoid/racist/ignorant/christopathic/yahoo wing of the Republican Party – okay, let’s just say the Republican Party. It finally has dawned on him that – gasp! – the inmates have taken over the asylum. This would be the same inmates whose chief talent appears to be shit-flinging – not very meaningful, but it creates interesting patterns. Worse, they don’t give a rusty goddamn about what David Brooks writes in the New York Times.

  44. 44
    Petorado says:

    @danielx: That’s pretty much my take.

    Friedman is a guy who likes to surf the wave of every trend that has been spotted and tries to make it look like he’s the one who saw it first. It’s like his marriage into wealth: Friedman tries to use his wiles to capitalize on the easy money.

    Brooks is the chief apologist and defender of really malicious ideas. He uses polite words to support truly malevolent actions and people. He’s the chef who serves shit covered in an appealing enough sauce that the right crowd will actually take a bite.

    Friedman’s just a money-grubbing charlatan, while Brooks is the venality of evil.

  45. 45
    Joel says:

    @Baud: If Sherman becomes a Manning fan, I may just have to start rooting against him.

  46. 46
    RaflW says:

    Between Dowd, Friedman, Brooks, well, really just about all of them are horrible. I like Gail Collins, but she can’t carry the page her self.

    And Chunky Bobo? Worse than Brooks + Friedman.

  47. 47
    Mike G says:

    I’m so glad we live in a meritocracy.

  48. 48
    Mandalay says:

    @Mike G: O/T…Thanks for that Hussman link the other day. He is a smart cookie.

  49. 49
    barry says:

    The New York Times has been a national embarrassment for decades. William Safire spent decades attacking Presidents Carter and Clinton because of his public shame at having carried water for the criminal, anti-Semitic Richard Nixon. Safire made up charges against everyone from Bert Lance to Hillary Clinton. The New York Times published his columns without any regard to truth or decency.

    While missing out on real scandals — privately grovelling before Iran for the release of hostages while publicly projecting an image of toughness, the bailout of the Vice President’s son to the tune of over $1 billion, the ‘slap on the wrist’ penalty handed to the Vice President’s brother-in-law for serious federal offenses — the New York Times focused on faux scandals such as Whitewater and Wen Ho Lee.

    Let us not even discuss Judy Miller, Mo Dowd, and Jayson Blair.

  50. 50
    PIGL says:

    @Mandalay: I don’t understand. Has someone got an advocate for this moustache guy?

  51. 51
    Glocksman says:

    IMHO, the last great columnist was Mike Royko.

    My local paper used to syndicate his columns while I was growing up and they were one of my two ‘must reads’.

    The other of course, was Bloom County

  52. 52
    oldster says:

    Personally, I have treated it as Krugman’s blog-host for the last few years. I can read all of the K-thug blog-posts I want to, for free. Then sometimes I click over to the front page and see what the headlines are. But I always get there from his page.

    Right now their front page features something which certainly strikes me as illiterate:

    “Russia Blocks Several Activists From Games, Even as Spectators. Officials in Russia made clear long ago that they would broker no political protests at the Olympics.”

    Don’t they mean “brook” instead of “broker”? “Brook” as in “tolerate, permit, put up with”?

    Also, I can’t stand Gail Collins or MoDo any more than the rest of Tommy, Bobo, or Chunky. Horrible people, even though they are supposed to be my people (i.e. in the simple minds of wing-nuts we would all be lumped together as liberals).

  53. 53
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    “In a nation with a population of 314 million it’s difficult for me to believe that that there’s no one who could do a better job than Friedman, MoDo, Jennifer Rubin, etc.”

    This statement also applies to a very large chunk of the executive management of numerous large corporations. And those clowns are paid ten times [at least] what those shills that you named are getting.

  54. 54
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    @currants: That’s what I was going to say. Everyone seems to be letting Brooks off easy in this thread. He’s certainly mailing it in these days. Every Brooks column these days is setting up strawmen that have no basis in reality, and then knocking them down. Rinse and repeat.

  55. 55
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    @currants: That’s what I was going to say. Everyone seems to be letting Brooks off easy in this thread. He’s certainly mailing it in these days. Every Brooks column these days is setting up strawmen that have no basis in reality, and then knocking them down. Rinse and repeat.

  56. 56
    Jamey says:

    @Baud: Did he give Sherman a Coke and his game-worn jersey?

  57. 57
    Cervantes says:

    Yes, it’s nice to know that (zero or more) real people at the Times are embarrassed enough to complain off the record.

    Yes, it’s nice to see some recognition that

    [mediocrity can] persist and persist and persist on the editorial page with nobody having the guts to retire some of the people or things that are not only not working but have become caricatures of themselves is just a huge bummer.

    The last time I spoke to Maureen Dowd I asked about her previous day’s column and inquired gently how it might have been improved. Her response was to say that no one was forcing me to read her — which, while missing the point entirely, was also true. Haven’t read her since.

    The Rosenthals père et fils were and are pretty awful (with dear old dad also being more than a little insane on the subject of Israel).

    Tom Friedman gives buffoons a bad name.

    In short: dog bites man.

  58. 58
    Cervantes says:

    @oldster: I agree completely.

  59. 59
    David in NY says:

    Read the first couple of graphs of MoDo’s latest today — about Chris Christie and high school and thought, “I thought the Junior High School scene was her angle.” Didn’t finish.

  60. 60
    David in NY says:

    Hire Katha Pollitt! I’ve been saying it for years. Also one of her poems was on the Writer’s Almanac yesterday.

    ETA: Maybe others should offer their suggestions for better fare. Though it might be the kiss of death. How about a thoughtful conservative or (gag!) libertarian. Ponnoru (not a total idiot!)? Others?

  61. 61
    Cervantes says:

    @David in NY: You know those “Times writers” Ken Kurson interviewed (above)? I’m trying to imagine their reaction if the paper were to hire Katha!

    But yes, unlike the clowns — nay, thought leaders — they publish every day, she deserves the opportunity.

    PS: Ramesh Ponnuru? I don’t get the attraction.

  62. 62
    Keith G says:

    This is a test.

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