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Even if Thomas L. Friedman is not the most important opinion journalist in America, as many have argued, he probably makes the shortlist. The New York Times columnist has appeared on Meet the Press and has won three Pulitzers, and his column is thought to be so influential internationally that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia used it as a forum to share his Arab-Israeli peace plan with the world. For a guy who is such a respected voice in foreign affairs, however, Friedman is surprisingly cheesy. The Kraft factor goes unnoticed in small, 740-word doses, but when all of his columns are compiled into one big book, things get gooey. Longitudes & Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11 kicks off with a requisite I-told-you-so collection of columns penned before 9-11. Friedman also includes a phony e-mail to al Qaeda field operatives from Osama bin Laden sent from his account with JOL—Jihad Online. In a piece that discusses the changes in day-to-day activity following the attacks, he resorts to Dr. Phil parlance—describing his being forced to abandon his tweezers at National Airport as a “Eureka! moment.” The best material comes when Friedman cuts the corny jokes and World War III proselytizing and lets us peek into his diary—a compilation of his observations as an American abroad during this tumultuous period. There are still far too many “hey”s and “yo”s mixed in, but Friedman does manage to make a lot of history and dense political information palatable with his liberal sprinkling of Parmesan. Friedman discusses his book at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 5, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free (standing room only). (202) 364-1919. (Sarah Godfrey)