Democracy Now: Helen Thomas On The Bush Presidency

[media id=7111] You Tube Amy Goodman talks to Helen Thomas about the Bush Presidency and also gets some of her thoughts on the incoming Obama admini

You Tube

Amy Goodman talks to Helen Thomas about the Bush Presidency and also gets some of her thoughts on the incoming Obama administration. I truly hope after Bush snubbing her one last time during his last press conference that Barack Obama makes up for it and gives her the first question when he goes before the White House press corps after being sworn in.

While our sorry excuse for a "mainstream media" is making some changes with who will be representing them, Barack Obama will be the tenth President that Helen Thomas will have the opportunity to ask questions of. I'm sure the changes in personnel with the other media companies will be their excuse for them suddenly getting tough with the incoming administration after acting as Bush's lapdogs for the last eight years. After watching this interview we're sure to get a few fireworks from Helen with the incoming administration as well.

Sadly, Helen was really showing her age during this segment, but she apparently has no regrets and some advice for others who might want to follow in her shoes:

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what advice do you have for young journalists?

HELEN THOMAS: Go for it. It’s the greatest profession in the world. You’re making a real contribution to democracy by keeping people informed. And have some courage to tell the truth. I think it’s difficult at times. There are many barriers, but go for it. It’s a great, great profession.

The full segment and transcript can be found on Democracy Now's site here and transcript of the above portion of that interview to follow.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Helen Thomas, about Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who became a vocal critic after stepping down, a critic of the Bush administration. I interviewed him last June. He spoke about your role in the White House press corps.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think we need more Helen Thomases in the press corps, both the national press corps, even in the White House press corps, as well. She is someone who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and hold people accountable for the decisions that are made. So I think that’s important to state right up front.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott McClellan after he stepped down as press secretary. Helen Thomas, are you surprised by his praise?

HELEN THOMAS: Somewhat, having been called Hezbollah and everything else probably. Well, I mean, I suppose it’s the position that you’re trying—if you—how can you speak for the President of the United States? I mean, you cannot go off the curve. And so, everything is forgivable. And you always have to understand what position a spokesperson is in. I think it’s the toughest job in the White House being a spokesperson for the President and for American policy, which is sometimes very unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of the White House press corps? Has it changed over the decades? And what did you think of the White House press corps that covered—all of the press covering President Bush?

HELEN THOMAS: I think they lost their guts after 9/11. No one wanted to ask penetrating questions for fear of being called un-American, unpatriotic. And I think their publishers, wherever they are, maybe Wall Street and so forth, were saying, “Lay off. You know, we’re all Americans, and we have to stick together no matter what.” So I don’t think reporters should—I mean, obviously, the ideal is to seek the truth, no matter where the chips fall.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a late White House press secretary. That was Tony Snow. In 2006, you questioned him about the US response to the Israeli attack on Lebanon. This is the exchange.

HELEN THOMAS: The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.

TONY SNOW: I don’t think so, Helen.

HELEN THOMAS: We have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.

TONY SNOW: No, what’s interesting, Helen—

HELEN THOMAS: And this is what’s happening, and that’s the perception of the United States.

TONY SNOW: Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view, but I would encourage you—

HELEN THOMAS: Nobody is accepting your explanation. What is restraint? You call for restraint.

TONY SNOW: Well, I’ll tell you, what’s interesting, Helen, is people have. The G8 was completely united on this. And as you know, when it comes to issues of—

HELEN THOMAS: And we stopped a ceasefire. Why?

TONY SNOW: We didn’t stop a ceasefire. Let me just tell you—I’ll tell you what.

HELEN THOMAS: We vetoed—

TONY SNOW: We didn’t even veto. Please get your facts right.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Tony Snow. Your response, Helen Thomas?

HELEN THOMAS: My response is I was right to press him. I think that, you know, any world leader, no matter who’s right and who’s wrong, you stop the killing of innocent people. And all the people really are basically innocent, on all sides.

AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, you were born in Kentucky, your parents, Lebanese Christians. Your Arab American background, do you think that informs—or how does it inform your reporting?

HELEN THOMAS: Of course. I have a background and an understanding of what’s happened in the Middle East that a lot of people don’t have, because there’s been no interest. But why shouldn’t I project some of my feelings and so forth? I mean, I have that right, as an opinion column. But also, I hope I seek justice. And I don’t think that I go off the highway.

AMY GOODMAN: You have covered, well, starting Tuesday, ten presidents. You were the only woman on Nixon’s flight to China. What was it like to cover Richard Nixon?

HELEN THOMAS: I wasn’t the only woman. I was the only woman—

AMY GOODMAN: Only woman reporter.

HELEN THOMAS: Yes, in the print department. There was one woman in radio and Barbara Walters for TV. So, there were other women in that respect. What was—pardon me, I—what was your question?

AMY GOODMAN: What was it like to cover Richard Nixon going to China and also his demise?

HELEN THOMAS: Well, it was thrilling, because every reporter in Washington wanted to be on that trip, maybe in the whole country, because we knew it was a tremendous historical event, that it was a breakthrough, twenty-year hiatus in relations with China. Everything—nobody knew anything about what was happening, except CIA and India, and so forth, surrounding countries. So we knew that we would be really writing history. And it was really like landing on the moon. Everything was a story—what the people ate, what they looked like, what they wore, and so forth. Well, I can assure you, we had a field day for eight days.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, will you be covering the inauguration of the forty-forth president, of Barack Obama?

HELEN THOMAS: I’ll be writing a column about it and his speech and so forth, but I won’t be doing the minute-to-minute. I will be seeing what everybody else is seeing, I hope, mostly on TV.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what advice do you have for young journalists?

HELEN THOMAS: Go for it. It’s the greatest profession in the world. You’re making a real contribution to democracy by keeping people informed. And have some courage to tell the truth. I think it’s difficult at times. There are many barriers, but go for it. It’s a great, great profession.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, do you have your first question planned for President Barack Obama?

HELEN THOMAS: Sure. I have a thousand of them. I say, you know, what are you going to do to fulfill your ideals that so expressed on the campaign trail? Or are you going to submit, like most presidents, just follow through, make—try to carry out your promises that don’t—that have no meaning except for how many people gave you money?

AMY GOODMAN: Today, Hillary Clinton goes before the Senate, before her colleagues, to be questioned before her confirmation hearing as Secretary of State. Your thoughts on the First Lady, who you covered for many years, now becoming the Secretary of State? And the question you would ask her?

HELEN THOMAS: Question I would ask here is, what’s she going to do about the Middle East? She’s been all on all sides of the question. She first proposed a Palestinian state when she ran in New York. Understandably, she pulled back on that. I don’t know where she stands, and I don’t think it matters where she stands. It’s probably where does Obama stand?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Helen Thomas, I want to thank you for being with us. You’re famous for saying at the end of every news conference, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

HELEN THOMAS: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: I say to you, thank you, Helen Thomas.

HELEN THOMAS: Thank you, Amy.

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