Wednesday, March 22, 2006

America's last living journalist

There is one woman, one sole reporter, who commands my respect and eternal gratitude: Helen Thomas. Would that she could live forever, and remain as thorny to the sides of President Bush as she's been since the first.

Wise as a sage, soulful as my own grandmother and tougher than nails, Thomas is the last living journalist we have left in America. The Bush War Machine is so fearful of her they pushed her from Press Conference Front Row (a spot she's held through several administrations) and Bush stopped taking her questions three years ago.

Until yesterday. And now, probably not for three more years!

Yesterday he sputtered and gasped through her question, as expected. But it was this exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that proved Thomas Yoda-like in her Zen Journalist artistry. She completely sets him up, contrasting his ability to be a journalist during the Clinton administration with his slobbering fealty to the Bush administration:

BLITZER: All right. So he called on you today...

THOMAS: And very nice of him to call on me.

BLITZER: And you asked him a tough question. Did you accept his answer? Namely, that he didn't come into the presidency believing he was going to go to war against Saddam Hussein, but after 9/11 his world view changed?

THOMAS: It doesn't -- it doesn't parse. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, it certainly had -- was secular, it was not tied to al Qaeda.

I think he wanted to go into Iraq because he had all the neo- conservatives advising at the top of their agenda for Project for a New American Century. First Iraq, then Iran -- then Syria, then Iran, and so forth.

BLITZER: So you believe even before 9/11, he was about -- he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein?

THOMAS: Oh, I think this is very clear. You couldn't sit in that press room day after day. Every time -- every time it was mentioned by Ari Fleischer or Scott, they would say in one breath, 9/11, Saddam Hussein, 9/11, Saddam Hussein.

I don't -- I don't blame the American public for thinking there was a tie.

BLITZER: So you don't accept his answer today? You think, what, he was still spinning? Is that what you're suggesting?

THOMAS: It wasn't that. I think maybe in his own mind he didn't, but I think that everybody knows, everybody who was in the know, knows that Iraq was on target, it was on the radar screen from the moment he came into office. The Treasury secretary says it, people in CIA say it, and so forth .

Nothing would deter him. It was a very big goal.

BLITZER: You're thinking of Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary.


BLITZER: Richard Clarke, who was one of the counterterrorist advisers...

THOMAS: Right.

BLITZER: ... who have made those kinds of suggestions.

Let's go back to this issue, being the worst president ever. And you've covered a lot of presidents, going back to President Kennedy.

Worse than Richard Nixon?

THOMAS: Well, I think what this president has done is really strike a match to the tinderbox that we all know is the Middle East. And I think that Nixon's crime, so-called, was the abuse of government power.

In the case, in the case of the president and his cohorts, I think they have really spread war throughout the Middle East. They have really encouraged all of the horror that is going on.

We have killed so many innocent people. I mean...

BLITZER: But you can't forget 9/11. Three thousand people were killed.

THOMAS: But the Iraqis didn't do it. I mean, how can you -- why don't you go bomb some other country? I mean, if you have no reason -- this is -- I don't believe in preemptive war, and it certainly is against international law. It's against the U.N. charter, it's against Geneva, and it's against Nuremberg.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers, who, as I said earlier, have grown up with you, Helen, what you're up to nowadays, how you feel, what your goals are right now.

THOMAS: My goals are to seek the truth, wherever it leads me. And I do think that's the goal of journalists, and I think we fell down on the job.

BLITZER: The news media in general? That we weren't watching?

THOMAS: Come back. All is forgiven.

BLITZER: You're going to forgive us?

THOMAS: To the White House.

BLITZER: You're part of -- they're part of the news media, too.

THOMAS: Right.

BLITZER: We sat in those briefings for a long time together.

Helen, I hope you're around...

THOMAS: You ask very tough questions.

BLITZER: Well, I'm trying to do the best I can, like you.

THOMAS: You asked President Clinton why he wouldn't resign.

Wolf immediately ends the segment. Played like a fiddle, and he knows it. How great would it be if her peers believed in the nature of their jobs and performed them fully, instead of carrying water for the Administration?

Come back from the dark side, Wolfie. All is forgiven, just like Helen said. For my part, I'd like to send Miss Thomas a big bouquet of flowers and wish her long, long life.
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