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CAUGHT ON TAPE: Tom Friedman's Truly Shocking Admission

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New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is considered by the Washington, D.C. media and political establishment to be the leading authority on trade policy. Friedman has aggressively pushed corporate-written "free" trade deals, devoting column after column after column shilling for these deals - and spending almost no time actually exploring how these deals undermine wages, job security, environmental standards and workplace rights both in America and abroad. Now, in a little-noticed interview, Friedman actually went on record admitting he advocates for specific trade deals without knowing anything about what's in the trade deals he is writing about.

In a CNBC interview with Tim Russert this weekend, Friedman said:

"We got this free market, and I admit, I was speaking out in Minnesota--my hometown, in fact, and guy stood up in the audience, said, 'Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you'd oppose?' I said, 'No, absolutely not.' I said, 'You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade."

Not surprisingly, Russert didn't challenge Friedman, or even ask a follow-up question. He didn't ask Friedman why he didn't even bother to consider the widespread concerns about the pact's lack of labor, human rights, environmental provisions. Similarly, he didn't ask Friedman about the protectionist provisions in the deal that make sure the drug industry is allowed to artificially inflate drug prices in Central American countries. He didn't ask Friedman why, if the deal was so good for Central America, so many Central American countries and their citizens opposed the deal. He didn't ask Friedman what kind of nerve it takes to go to a state like Minnesota that has been devastated by "free" trade deals and tell people that he happily advocates for their economic destruction, even though he is uninterested in even glancing at the policies he is pushing.

But beyond Russert's negligence, what's truly astonishing is that Tom Friedman, the person who the media most relies on to interpret trade policy, now publicly runs around admitting he actually knows nothing at all about the trade pacts he pushes in his New York Times column. This is like Alan Greenspan casually telling an interviewer he never actually looks at economic data, or like a political "expert" admitting to not reading any political news. It is, in sum, an admission that Friedman is so out of touch and so arrogant that he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to pollute the political debate with propaganda based on facts he doesn't even bother to investigate.

David Sirota is a 'trusted author' at OpEdNews and recently published the book Hostile Takeover, released in May of 2006.
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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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