Donald Trump

Thomas Friedman, Admirer of Dictators, Slams Trump for Admiring Dictators

The New York Times columnist, who calls the Republican nominee's praise of autocratic strength "idiotic," is guilty of the same idiocy.


Wikimedia/World Economic Forum/Michael Wuertemberg

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman criticizes Donald Trump's "idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader" who gets stuff done, unlike Barack Obama. Friedman endorses former world chess champion Garry Kasparov's take on Trump's praise of Russia's president: "Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal KGB dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous."

Friedman and Kasparov are right. Trump's attraction to oppressive autocrats is more than a little disturbing, especially since it is precisely their dictatorial strength that he admires. But Friedman fails to acknowledge that he himself is guilty of the same idiocy.

"One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks," the foreign policy sage conceded in a 2009 column. "But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century." In particular, Friedman admired the Chinese government's commitment to "clean power and energy efficiency," which he contrasted with the Republican Party's benighted resistance to "energy/climate legislation and health care legislation." The Republicans' failure to agree with Democrats on those issues, Friedman said, makes the United States a "one-party democracy," which is "worse" that China's autocracy.

Friedman offers more praise for China's rulers in his 2008 book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, where he says their oppressive, cruel, and brutal limits on reproductive freedom "probably saved China from a population calamity" and hopes the current regime will show the same tyrannical fervor in pursuit of "net-zero buildings." In 2014 Mark Bittman, then a fellow Times columnist, took a cue from Friedman, hoping that China's dictators, unencumbered by democracy, the rule of law, or civil liberties, would show the rest of the world how to take on "the scourge of junk food." Bittman's reasoning echoed Friedman's: "Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good."

Trump also admires the power of China's leaders. In a 1990 interview with Playboy, he said they "almost blew it" in response to the Tiananmen Square protests the previous year but then realized they had to be "vicious" and "horrible" to maintain order. "They put it down with strength," he said, which "shows you the power of strength." By contrast, he said, "Our country is right now perceived as weak." Asked about those remarks during a Republican presidential debate last year, Trump provided this clarification: "I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it."

But it sorta does mean that, doesn't it? By describing the protests as a "riot" and admiring the strength shown by the government's "horrible" response, which according to Trump came after the regime "almost blew it" by taking a more restrained approach, he is saying the violent crackdown, which killed hundreds (possibly thousands) of people, was the right way to go, even while claiming he is "not endorsing it."

Friedman's admiration of the Chinese government's power, which allows it to accomplish policy goals (clean energy and population control) he views as desirable, is, if anything, less ambiguous than Trump's. Although "one-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks," the columnist says, it gets good things done, unlike our dysfunctional democracy, which is "worse." The implication is that we'd be better off, on balance, if our government were more like China's. At least Trump had the sense to say Russia has "a very different system" of government, and "I don't happen to like the system." By contrast, Friedman, who supposedly is much more sophisticated about the way the world works, openly yearns for the strong hand of a dictator.

NEXT: Brickbat: Separation of Church and State

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I always wondered about Trump’s supposed Christianity – can anybody seriously imagine Trump having any respect and admiration for some pathetic loser of a so-called “leader” who got his ass captured and nailed to a tree? I don’t think so. If God had been wise enough to make Donald Trump his son, you can bet Donald Christ wouldn’t have meekly surrendered and allowed himself to be crucified, hell, he wouldn’t even have been hanging around in some backwater hicksville like Judea to start with.

    1. Donald saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh into Murica, but by me.

      1. -12 million

        1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,.,.,.,


    2. “And look at the losers he chose to hang around with. Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Fishermen. Sad. Just sad. And you can bet if Donald Trump knocked down the Temple, he’d replace it with a big, beautiful Temple. And a wall.”

        1. *widens gaze upwards*

    3. Low Energy Jesus rides around on a donkey, can’t afford to buy food or wine for his events, blew a fundraiser at the temple, gets screwed over by one of his campaign staffers, and then gets nailed to a tree by the voters. Sad!

    4. And that bird’s nest hairdo would have made mince meat out of any pussy crown of thorns…

    5. Not so fast. One man dying to redeem all of mankind’s sins seems like a pretty good deal.

  2. Jesus, do I need to spell it out for you guys? Trump doesn’t admire the right kind of dictators.

    1. Gosh how things change 25 years agi the USSR was the right regime to admire.

    2. Correction Trump is the wrong person whom admires dictators. the left can admire the same dictators all the time

  3. But the mammal with the hair says mean things sooooo that settles that science

  4. And obligatory principals, not principles.

    And – Thomas Friedman yearning for the strong hand of a dictator? Thanks, asshole, now I’m gonna need a SugarFree Hillary story to get that image out of my head.

    1. What do you get when you cross a penis, a potato, and an ocean liner?


      1. a cock-eyed-princess?

      2. OK, I’ll just do this now, since I will be in meetings all day…

        *narrows gaze*

        Tonio is deputized to keep all of you under the gaze. (maybe I did something there).

        1. That’s a pretty convoluted masturbation euphemism.

          1. It is the means to an end that’s important.

            1. That is a less convoluted masturbation euphemism.

      3. My average Saturday night?

  5. “Tom, I know we have our talking points and orders from the Clinton campaign, but maybe you should sit this one out.”

    1. No! He has to power through it!

  6. democratically elected U.S. president

    I’m really tired of this notion that democracy or democratic elections are the end all be all of what is good and holy. An elected tyrant is still a tyrant. Just ask president Pen-and-Phone.

    1. The democracy fetish really needs to go away. Government should protect people’s rights and we should vote on who is best to do that. What is actually happening is people have decided you can do anything you want to anybody else as long as you voted to do it. Democracy is the shield and armor of 300 million petty tyrants and as practiced it is an evil not a good.

      1. The Founders viewed democracy as a dirty word. That is why they created a republic.

  7. Those Chinese dictators have good intentions. That is all that matters.

  8. “Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good.”

    Assholes like this are how you end up with tens of millions dead at the hands of their own gov’t.

    1. At least it’s an ethos.

    2. Wholesale changes: like getting rid of all the Gypsies and Jews?

    3. but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good.”


      tens of millions dead at the hands of their own gov’t.


  9. Openly venerating the totalitarian leadership of mankind’s bloodiest government was, I’m sure, considered objectionable at some point. Those among us to whom the beneficent experiments of communism are an utterly personal, inescapable part of our history tend to note and remember the degenerates in our midst insistent on exalting the makers of our misery. This is not the first time Friedman’s spouted such foul shit, and I’m certain it’s far from the last.

    Fuck you, you gutless, clueless motherfucker. May you one day yourself suffer the chains you so enthusiastically applaud.

  10. “Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to operate forced labour camps and target religious and ethnic minorities.”

    1. A fortnight in the glittering confines of a gulag would, I suspect, enlighten Friedman as to the tendencies of the despots he adores.

      1. I’m sure he celebrate gulags. They are for people he doesn’t like. The thought that he could be sent there would never occur to him. And even if he was sent there, he would view it as a mistake and continue to adore his rulers.

        1. People like Friedman are the ones who salute and praise their own executioners.

        2. “If only Comrade Stalin knew…”

  11. One party rule never ends well.

    Anyone who espouses it is at least a fool and at worst a villain.

    This is why the Democrats are so terrifying. They have been jonesing for one party rule since 2008.

    While saying people getting sent to camps is hyperbole. In a one party system, all kinds of wild hyperbole becomes possible…

    1. They have been jonesing for one party rule since 20081932.

      At least.

  12. Ah friedman living from the comforts of his wife’s money.

    Anyone catch that dumpster fire of the DNC yesterday in the leaks?

    1. Friedman is the archetype of the self-loathing, frustrated and bored Westerner. Eric Hoffer had his kind pegged 6 decades ago.

  13. Also what is Friedman’s hero hillary doing…..she has clearly taken a hit in the polls for her scandals, and health and then decides to tweet this: 776093629249191936

    Sorry i suck at linking but please put in AM links someone.

    1. Will you sever ties with your company linked to foreign leaders, questionable organizations, and criminals if you become president?

    12. How can we be sure you’d be willing to be tough on any nation if necessary, if it would put your interests and profits at risk?

    14. We know you engaged extensively in pay-to-play here at home. Have you bribed foreign officials or other parties abroad?

    15. To what extent are you and your family currently contractually tied to payments from foreign business partners, or governments?

    1. These were 20 questions posed to Donald Trump to answer NOW

      1. I’m sure Trump will get right on that.

        1. That isn’t even the glaring part….it is like she wants to bring up all the Clinton Foundation shady dealings again. These questions can be posed back at her and the comments to tweet are ripping her for it.

          Trump was never the secretary of state. All of the things he did, she is was likely way worse.

          the DNC leaks confirm pay to play is going on.

          It reminds me how she wanted to bury the emails, Trump says for Russians/Chinese to release, and then her campaign starts squawking about national security risks to doing so (thought those were just yoga and chelsea emails no biggie?!)

    2. Hillary Clinton was planted by Trump to destroy the Democratic party. Mark it, Dude.

      1. Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?

    3. Hillary Clinton was planted by Trump to destroy the Democratic party. Mark it, Dude.

      1. The server squirrels were planted by Jill Stein to destroy the commentariat.

        1. You sure it wasn’t Postrel?

          1. Postrel’s too classy to resort to sabotage, despite her well-documented hatred of every one of us. Dr. Stein, on the other hand

    4. I’m probably the least proficient around here where linking and html and all that weird tech stuff is concerned, but dude linking to an article is very easy. It’s twice I click on it and the link doesn’t work!

      Maybe Tonio can help you out by explaining the process.

      Lemme call him: To-to-to-to NIOOOOOOO!

      1. My problem is it is over 50 characters, it doesn’t let me then. And i don’t know how to do the where you change URL to your own words

        1. Change brackets to greater than / less than signs:

          [a href=”LINK”]Sentence containing words[/a]

        2. see this tutorial

          example #1 is the format I use

          If you use Firefox, the fascr extension also has a button to do this

    5. I can’t tell if it’s trolling, or projection, or completely innocent ignorance.

  14. You know who else admired dictators…

    1. Bernie Sanders?

    2. Charlie Chaplin?

    3. Mrs. Potato Head?

      1. That’s “tater dicks,” dyslexic fool!

        1. Hard until he gets hot, then soft and soggy?

    4. George W. Bush? (as long as he got to be the dictator)

    5. Courtroom reporters?

    6. Every secretary Don Draper ever had?

  15. Oh, and Jacob…? Beautiful photo selection!

  16. Friedman is the exact profile of a progressive of why I loath them.

    These are the same sort of people possessed with a mentality where one moment they’re bashing Jesus to make one point, and then using him to score cheap points to present a case for, say, welfare the next.

    They have zero consistency and when you try to keep them on track they generally lose their patience in disgust and resort to ad hominens or condescending retorts.

  17. Liberals are not liberals. They’re progressive-authoritarians masking as liberals. This is what makes them so dangerous.

    “There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime.” Justin Trudeau, 2013.

    Go look at what poets and artists wrote in praise of eugenics and communism. Go.

    Nothing has changed.

    1. He’ll memory-hole that observation when China goes into a full economic tailspin.

  18. The Chinese autocrats Friedman admires make Putin look like Ayn fucking Rand. How the hell is Friedman looked to by anyone as an authority on anything is beyond me.

    1. When you’re a mental midget, Friedman looks like a giant.

    2. Hey, a lot of these people still admire Noam Chomsky, a guy who denied the existence of Khmer Rouge death camps and the Rwandan genocide, then turned around and claimed, no joke, that the Hutus were the real victims, and that westerners were sympathizing with the Tutsi ‘oppressors.’ He makes your common holicaust denier look like a Boy Scout, and yet still holds standing in leftist circles.

      Having a conscience is more a liability than an asset in such circles.

  19. Friedman likes authoritarians because he imagines himself enjoying the benefits of being the media mouthpiece of great leaders making bold decisions. His fantasies probably stop short of the point where the leaders no longer have need of him and he ends up shoveling sulfur in a labor camp.

    1. He is the voice of the government ala in V for Vendetta

    2. So he’s gunning for Krugman’s job?

      1. He’s hoping to replace him at the NYT once Hillary names Krugman secretary of treasury in return for all his shilling.

  20. In particular, Friedman admired the Chinese government’s commitment to “clean power and energy efficiency,”

    Don’t fret. The moment the Chinese government eschews its ‘commitment’ to the ‘clean energy’ fetish, they become evil again in his eyes.

  21. Can anyone tell me how the hell it is Friedman got to be considered an expert on anything? The guy’s views, when he actually states something concrete, are simultaneously trite and absurd. Aside from that, his analyses are vague to the point of meaninglessness. Yet for some reason, people in certain circles treat him like he’s to be taken even marginally seriously.

    1. I attempted to read “The World is Flat” but found it rather silly – written by someone who has never been part of the real manufacturing world,

      1. I came away with the same conclusion when I watch ‘Religulous’. It was vapid and ridiculous. All it came to was a smug liberal basically saying ‘ I can’t believe you people believe this crap!” and proceeded from there.

      2. He’s a dolt.

        He reminds me of the endless line of manufacturing operations consultants that I used to encounter, full of catch phrases and useless information.

        1. And wallets full of cash. Unfortunately.

    2. It’s the mustache.

  22. I had no idea so many of you were Anti-Semites. It’s like a Roald Dahl fan club up in this piece.

    1. huh, I didn’t know that about Roald Dahl…..ever-said/

      1. H.P. Lovecraft would like a word.

  23. Of course he criticizes Trump for the very thing he’s done many times. It’s projection. That’s what the Left is all about: projection. If you stuck a bulb in his mouth and dangled him from the ceiling, Friedman would make a fortune facilitating business meetings.

    1. Thank you for this, this was great. “People don’t behave like muppets…” “If ethnic conflict is Uganda’s glass ceiling, then freedom is its faucet.” Tell it like it is Tom, tell it like it is.

  24. It’s different when he does it because he doesn’t say icky, mean things about immigrants. Or something…

  25. Friedman, who supposedly is much more sophisticated about the way the world works, openly yearns for the strong hand of a dictator.

    Only if it’s the right Top. Men. (i.e., people like him) in charge. Friedman is a moron. Why anyone considers him to an intellectual elite is beyond me.

  26. It’s not fascism when WE do it. Especially when you simply replace the word “jew” with “capitalist”, with each and every other word the same, it goes from that reprehensible Nazism to wholesome Democratic Progressivism. Cole Porter got all moonie eyed over Mussolini too. Simply shows just how easily the left gets away with being fascist shits every day of the week, but bust out a Donald Trump and it’s the end of the world. Of course, the sad part is the Republicans were supposed to be the ones to keep the hordes massing in the Democrat’s holding pen at bay, but instead they joined them.

  27. Does this mean that Reason magazine will no longer support Chinese dictators and advocate that trade with communist owned and controlled corporations is “free trade”?.

    1. The Chinese don’t have a dictatorship, they have an authoritarian oligarchy. The difference does not matter to the life of the average Chinese citizen, no doubt, but a dictatorship requires a dictator.

    2. And if you don’t want to trade with Chinese state-owned corporations, then don’t.

  28. WTF!

    We love Friedman! You should too.

    He’s outstanding! Check it out….

  29. Friedman is so mentally challenged that you could probably lock him up in a North Korean labor camp for a year where he would be beaten and tortured daily and he would write a book praising the experience and how N. Korea is a misunderstood and great nation.

  30. I’m actually surprised that Friedman was able to type that out through all the accumulated spooge on his face from all the authoritarian dicks he’s sucked.

    If China announced that they discovered the bodies of executed dissidents were a very efficient building material if you spackled them together with the remains of aborted fetuses Friedman would lament that our building codes were too strict and hope we’d appoint the right Top Men to correct the rules.

  31. it is ironic that the left has been praising dictators from Russia to Cuba and Venezuala Since the 60’s but when Trump does it, its an outrage

    1. “Admiration” and “praise” are two different things, too. “Putin is an okay guy” and “we need to run our country like Putin runs Russia” are not the same thing.

  32. Democratically elected dictators are still dictators. From what I understand of the definition of dictator, it’s basically a head of state who does what he wants without regard to laws put in place to restrain his power.

    In that case, in the age of “executive order,” judicial abdication, and unaccountable bureaucrats, its not too far off to say we live under a dictatorship.

    With Friedman, his issue is that he views Putin to be a dictator of the “right” (therefore bad) and China is a dictator of the “left” (therefore good). What he fails to realize or just chooses to ignore is that China and Russia are both awful when it comes to the individual liberty vs the state.

    1. Democratically elected dictators are still dictators. From what I understand of the definition of dictator, it’s basically a head of state who does what he wants without regard to laws put in place to restrain his power.

      Note that Hitler was democratically and popularly elected and given dictatorial powers by German parliament with the mandate to fix Germany.

  33. Thomas Friedman is an intelligent person in the same way that a dumb actor playing a genius is. Praising a dumb showoff, especially as preferable to a a real intellectual, whether you like Friedman or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.


  34. There is nothing ironic or out-of-character about a Progressive admiring some authoritarian or totalitarian regime, especially one like China. Progressivism is based around the idea that the state should use law and policy to shape society according to principles and values agreed upon by a smaller group of technocrats, who would also be the ones in charge. The rights of individuals are meaningless; the collective is what really matters. So whether you achieve your goals with popular support or secret police doesn’t matter.

  35. Trump said Putin was a good leader, not a good person or good governor. Hitler was a good leader in many ways since so many were inspired to follow him. (The others he coerced)

    Putin seems to have the people supporting him.

  36. The war mongers are getting desperate about their candidate Clinton.

  37. Seriously… Anybody who doesn’t get what Trump means about Putin is retarded. He MAY admire him in the “bad” way for his “bad” traits as the media portrays… Or he MAY admire him in the way he means to project to people, which is that is not a limp wristed pussy politician like the kind we have here. That he can actually sway people and get things accomplished. That he actually looks out for the best interests of his people.

    He may be a Russian autocrat, but I think he genuinely is looking out for the best interests of his people. Best interests as he sees it of course, but I don’t think he’s been too off of the mark on some fronts. He’s not above lining his own pockets along the way… But that’s still one better than our politicians, which generally look to line their own pockets while ignoring the best interests of the country! He’s an ardent nationalist, which I’m not opposed to in and of itself. He could surely do infinitely more to promote economic and personal freedom, WHILE still playing hardball in international affairs, but whatever. I ain’t Russian so I don’t really care much. They mostly love him as is, so if that’s what they’re into…

    1. Anyway, Trump says a lot of stupid shit, but the way the media stretches things to only accept the worst possible meaning, instead of the likely meaning, of what he actually says gets old. Trump is a dumbass, but almost all of the most incendiary stuff he has said, when taken in context, has pretty clear meanings to any sane human being… And usually not the worst ones that are implied by left leaners in the media.

      As far as dictators go, there is much to be admired in many of them. A lot of them are were real badasses. Do you honestly think some bitch like Obama or George Bush would have the brains or balls to take over a country during a civil war? AND HOLD IT? In many cases for decades. HELL NO. Hitler, Mussolini, Napoleon, and many of the more modern ones were all pretty badass dudes. Many started from scratch too. Evil in some cases, but badass and intelligent none the less.

      Once in awhile one even gets an enlightened despot like Frederick The Great. It’d be nice if history had had more of them, but then I guess democratic republics wouldn’t look like that much better of an option… So perhaps we’re lucky most of them were dicks.

    2. And as far as some of the more modern middle eastern dictators, looking at the mess the middle east is now, I would have to say many of them were perhaps being as kind and benevolent as they could get away with given the situation.

      Look at the order and prosperity Saddam and Gaddafi brought to their countries. Those places are natural powder kegs and it’s a wonder they didn’t have to execute MORE people than they did to hold shit down. I don’t think America should slide back into barbarism and have a dictator, but in some times and some places a strongman may in fact be what is called for, at least for awhile. That’s why the very term “dictator” was an official position in the Roman Republic. They acknowledged sometimes you need someone to be able to just roll in and clean up a mess. Like Sulla, who likely inspired Julius Caesar. Sulla did all kinds of crazy shit, executed a ton of people, and straightened shit out. Then he retired to the country side, as a dictator was supposed to do when done with getting shit handled.

  38. when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today,

    I want to see the Dalai Llama slap that jackass upside the head.


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.