Thomas Friedman is a bad columnist, Churchill edition

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

Published July 17, 2013 3:35PM (EDT)

Today'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.

Thomas Friedman is a bad newspaper columnist.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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History Immigration Racism The New York Times Thomas Friedman Winston Churchill