NYT's Tom Friedman calls Trump an 'amoral chump' – and gets his posterior handed to him

If you are looking for a vigorous takedown of an arrogant critic of President Trump to help you overcome a lingering turkey coma as the L-Tryptophan works its way through your system, this editorial from the New York Sun might fit the bill.

The ever arrogant Thomas Friedman used the term "amoral chump" to describe the president of the United States because in dealing with the Saudi assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, he is forgiving Mohammed bin Salman while supposedly getting nothing in return:

I really wrestle with this question: What is the worst thing about President Trump's approach to foreign policy?  Is it that he is utterly amoral or that he is such a chump?  Because the combination is terrible – a president who is an amoral chump is the worst thing of all.  He sells out American values – awful enough – but then gets nothing of value in return.

Trump presents himself as a tough, savvy deal maker, and then he lets all these leaders play him for a sucker.  The word is out on the street: "Hey, guys, get in line! Trump is giving away free stuff!  Just tell him you're fighting Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or that you're a friend of Sheldon Adelson's, and you get free stuff!"

Last May, Hanukkah came early for Israel when Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a dream of every Israeli prime minister – for free!  Trump could have gone to Bibi Netanyahu and said: "Bibi, here is the deal.  I am going to make your dream come true and move the embassy.  But in return you're going to freeze all Israeli settlements in the heart of the West Bank."  Then Trump could have told the Palestinians: "You're not going to like this.  I'm moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  But I am getting you something no American president ever got you – a freeze on Israeli settlements beyond the settlement blocks."


Photo credit: JD Lasica.

But, as this New York Sun editorial (almost certainly written by Seth Lipsky, though uncredited) points out, that term "chump" is more appropriately applied to Friedman:

[I]t was only last year that Mr. Friedman swung behind the "reform process," as he called it, of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.  Since the "bottom up" process of the Arab Spring failed, Mr. Friedman reasoned, the "top down" method of MBS might just work.  "Only a fool would predict its success," the columnist calculated, "but only a fool would not root for it."

At the time, we demurred.  "Call us a fool," we wrote, "but the Sun is going to hold out for an unconditional recognition of the Jewish State."  We acknowledged Mr. Friedman's reporting chops, but noted that as far back as 2002 he started retailing a Saudi plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs.  The idea was that, in return for mounting the Second Intifada, the Palestinian Arabs would get half of Jerusalem.

As things turned out, the Second Intifada failed and Israel is still in possession of all of Jerusalem.  Not only that, but an American president – Mr. Trump in the event – bowed to the American Congress, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, and moved our embassy there.  Turns out that relations between America and Saudi Arabia improved dramatically.

So who's the amoral chump?  There is no doubt that the murder of Khashoggi has rocked Saudi Arabia's standing.  Understandably so, to say the least.  Mr. Friedman's recommendation, though, is that America force "an immediate, unilateral ceasefire in Yemen" and "let the Iranians and Houthis have it."  That kind of strategy led in Syria to a bloodletting with few parallels.

Mr. Friedman figures that we can side with the Saudis should they be attacked from Yemen.  The Saudis, though, have been attacked from Yemen.  So skip that detail.  It may be that, at the end of the day, Mr. Friedman, who backed the articles of appeasement with Iran against the wishes of our own Congress (and the Israelis), just prefers the Iranians to the Saudis.  He didn't explain that in 2002.

As for the Sun, in the war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Sun is on the side of the Israelis.  We don't mean that America lacks for her own interests, but in this fight, America's interests align with those of the Jewish state.  And so, we would argue, do those of the Arab and Persian people.  At the moment, the Times has a less clear grasp of this than the President.  Then again, as we say, Times change.

Hat tip: CT