Those who had Tom Friedman down on their bingo cards for Wednesday’s Leading Voice of Reason, collect your winnings at the window … all two of you. “Has the NYT’s Tom Friedman gone MAGA?” asks Twitchy’s Greg P. Not really, but at least the scales have come off for the man who calls himself “radically pro-immigration.” The only way to ensure that policy can succeed, Friedman tells Wolf Blitzer, is to solve the crisis at the border. And the only way to do that, Friedman says, is to build “a high wall and a big gate”:
"I'm as radically pro-immigration as they come," says NYT columnist Thomas Friedman. "But it is pretty clear to me that unless we can assure a significant number of Americans that we can control our border, we're never going to have the proper immigration flow I think we need." pic.twitter.com/sVvfTRj3bb
— CNN (@CNN) April 25, 2019
Blitzer had Friedman on to discuss his column in Tuesday’s New York Times, in which Friedman makes his case for going all-in on border security. Friedman did what many critics of Donald Trump’s border wall have not — actually traveled to the border and get a sense of the situation. “It’s a very troubling scene,” Friedman wrote, and concluded that Trump’s correct about the emergency unfolding on the southern border:
The whole day left me more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate — but a smart gate.
Without a high wall, too many Americans will lack confidence that we can control our borders, and they therefore will oppose the steady immigration we need. But for this wall to have a big gate, it has to be a smart and compassionate one, one that says, “Besides legitimate asylum seekers, we’ll accept immigrants at a rate at which they can be properly absorbed into our society and work force, and we’ll favor visa seekers with energies and talents that enrich and advance our society.” That’s the opposite of the unstrategic, far-too random, chaotic immigration “system” we have now. …
Indeed, if you are pro-immigration as I am, you have to acknowledge that this haphazard “system” has overwhelmed the Border Patrol and our immigration courts and contributed to Trump’s election. A May 2016 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found that 48 percent of white working-class Americans agree that “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
And in an era when more and more countries will fracture under environmental, population, criminal and technological stresses, we simply cannot take everyone who shows up at our border.
The description of Friedman as a leading voice of reason isn’t intended to be flip — well, not entirely, anyway. Friedman espouses the obvious solution, which is to combine the border wall Trump wants with the programs to deal with the immigrants already here that Democrats want. Friedman muddies up the waters a bit by claiming that Democrats support “more border security” when they have adamantly opposed building any more barriers on the border, but that doesn’t mean Friedman’s solution is wrong.
If this argument isn’t new — and it’s not, as many of us have been making it for years — its venue is at least notable. The New York Times has not exactly been a border-wall-friendly platform for the last few years. Its coverage of immigration and Trump’s agenda has been almost entirely hostile to the idea of a high wall, even with a big smart gate. Friedman’s not talking to the border-wall, MAGA choir with his missive from the crisis. He’s talking to a readership that mainly resists the idea that any such crisis actually exists, and one that is inclined to be part of La Résistance than attend a Trump rally.
Unfortunately, the solution that Friedman seeks has long been obvious, although his recognition of that is a welcome development. It requires two items in short supply these days inside the Beltway: trust between the two parties and a willingness to part with a demagogic bonanza for both Republicans and Democrats to fundraise and turn out voters. Trump’s hardly the only person passing up opportunities on immigration, as this winter’s government shutdown made clear.