Thursday, August 02, 2007

I [heart] Helen Thomas

She is one of the coolest journalists around, male or female and one of my all time favorites. She has been a White House correspondent since the Kennedy administration and has covered every president since. She worked for United Press International as a correspondent and chief for 57 years. She is practically an institution in the White House press room and is the only journalist who has her name printed on the plaque for her chair. Everyone else has the name of the news organization they work for.

Helen broke through many barriers as a female journalist in a very male dominated profession. She was the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and the first woman member of the Gridiron Club. Yeah, I had to look that last one up too. The Gridiron club is an old, prestigious group consisting of 65 active members from major news organizations and membership is by invitation only. (So, la-dee-da.)

She was named one of the "Most influential Women in America" by The World Almanac back in 1976. In 1998, she received the International Women's Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. And on May 20th of this year, Thomas received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Siena College in Loudonville, NY for her contributions to breaking the gender barrier in journalism.

She has always been an outspoken, bold reporter and has never shirked from asking the tough questions. Up until today I think my favorite Helen Thomas moment was from March of 2006, when she asked President Bush point blank why he really got us into the war in Iraq.

"I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounded Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war?"

I have a new favorite Helen Thomas quote today. Let me set this up for you a bit. Context is everything, people. - Helen was at the White House for a press conference with Tony Snow last Friday July 27th. Mr. Snow was attempting to answer questions about the Gonzales hearings and government wire tapping programs. So, he's doing his damnedest to cover his lies upon lies with linguistic double-back-flips. Helen is having none of it and finally brings him to a screeching halt with this: "You're not speaking English, really."

Here's part of the transcript:

Q: Is the administration giving any consideration to declassifying any of this material to try to clear up this controversy and clear Gonzales's name?

MR. SNOW: Not if it involves compromising national security.

Q: But are you considering declassifying --

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into conversations that we may or may not be having. We understand how frustrating it is, but again, what we're talking about -- this is what happens when one turns into a political football highly classified programs, knowing that you have free rein to say whatever you want, knowing that the other side can't respond. Cannot respond without violating the law.

Q: Are you saying it was not about the wiretapping that had already been acknowledged?

MR. SNOW: I'm saying that that acknowledged program -- the program that the President disclosed to the American people was not something that was legally controversial.

Q: Wait a minute, Tony you said one thing --
Q: Why are you saying then that nothing --
Q: -- you said there was no controversy, and you also said that whatever controversy there was was resolved. Can you say which it is?

MR. SNOW: Because -- what I'm saying is that there was the discussion of a controversy; the controversy did not hinge upon this program that I've discussed --

Q: Controversy over what?

MR. SNOW: Okay --

Q: Controversy over what?

MR. SNOW: I thought I was pretty clear, but maybe I'm just being too --

Q: No, you're not speaking English, really. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Okay, let me try again. The terrorist surveillance program, as it has been labeled -- it was not so labeled at the time -- was a program of doing surveillance on communications of al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda members internationally -- internationally into the United States. The legal basis of that was accepted by the Department of Justice" ...blah, blah, blah ad-infinitum...

The Huffington Post has a video of the news conference here. You really should take a look. It's priceless.

For some good reading, check out her columns at King Features. I particularly enjoyed reading "What Planet is Cheney Living On?" in which she discusses our Vice President's concept of reality, his political history and points out how his opinions about Iraq have done a complete 180 in the last few years. I also have to recommend "The U.S. Supreme Court Sets The Country Back" but only if you have a strong stomach and are not prone to beating your computer to death when angry.


bazu said...

Oh this cracked me up. I <3 Helen Thomas!

KleoPatra said...

Gotta love the serious and seriously awesome lady journalists!

Peter Matthes said...

She has always been given a front row seat and a position of honor in the White House press room ... until the Bush administration.

I am a big fan of Helen.

bazu said...

I finally took your advice and set up a page! It was so easy, I don't know why I didn't do it last year!

I hope you're well, and school is going excellent for you, Meesh.

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

Awesome comeback. I always feel more educated after reading a post of yours. :)

Dusty said...

I heart that woman too. Great post!

Marz said...

Adonde vas Meesh? or in other words, where you be, bumble?