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He often writes his columns between 5:30 and 8 a.m., and his wife, Ann, an elementary-school reading teacher, reads and edits virtually all of them. "If she says it doesn't work, I have to rip it up and start over. If she says it works, I don't care what anyone else says."
His house in Bethesda, Md., is situated, not by accident, 30 seconds from a golf course. If he gets to the course by 7:30 a.m., he can fit in nine holes before work--18 if he carries his own bags. He says caddying for Chi Chi Rodriguez at the U.S. Open in 1970 was one of the high points of his life.
Another place where Friedman definitely carries his own bags is in his columns, which often draw fire from liberals (too much globalization cheerleading) and conservatives (too liberal, too anti-Bush) alike. He was an early supporter of the Iraq war but not of how the Bush administration is handling it. Friedman was among the first to question the rationale for going to war on "the wings of a lie." "It wasn't because I knew there were no WMD s," he says. "What threatened us were the people coming out of this part of the world, and the pathology that produced them, and the context that produced them. If there was a right war, it was to change the context."
Early on, Friedman warned about the dangers of not having a plan for getting out.
The best advice he ever got, he says, was from former New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, who told him, "Don't be afraid to be wrong; otherwise you'll never be right." His role models include Walter Lippmann, "who was both a reporter and a thinker," William Safire, and David Halberstam.
His basic worldview is that Islamic fundamentalism is the greatest totalitarian challenge the United States has faced in the past 100 years, bigger than the threat posed by Soviet communism and Nazi fascism. Why? Because it's impossible to deter terrorists who are willing to blow themselves up. And, because these terrorists "take ordinary objects from our daily lives, shoes and backpacks and airplanes, and turn them into weapons of mass destruction, they try to destroy the trust that is the very fabric of our open society."
Friedman's patriotism shines through much of his work. He waxes poetic about the open society he calls "the essence of our way of life." That's the message he conveys to his readers and to his family. "I tell my girls, 'You can bring home anyone you want--they can be black, white, or pink; tall, short, or fat, I don't care. But you can never, ever bring anyone into this house that does not love the United States of America."
Although his conversation is dotted with celebrity names, the criticism that that he spends an awful lot of time hobnobbing with CEO s rankles him. "If you had a chance to get Michael Dell to explain supply chains, the guy who basically invented the world's greatest supply chain, wouldn't you take advantage of it?" he asks.
But the conversation often comes back to golf, to him a metaphor for just about everything. "Golf is like life. It's played on an uneven field. It gives you crazy, unpredictable bounces. You can learn everything about someone's character from playing golf for four hours."
Lots of practice and some lucky breaks have given the man from St. Louis Park, Minn., the career he dreamed of as a teenager. "I have the most fun you can have legally," he says. "I don't know any other way to do this job than going out and reporting. This is about as good as it gets."
BORN: July 20, 1953 EDUCATION: B.A., Brandeis University; M.A., Oxford University FAMILY: Married, two children HONORS: Won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1983 and 1988 and the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction. His 2000 nonfiction book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, has been published in 27 languages.
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