She may not be able to speak her mind at presidential press conferences any more — since they hardly exist — but Helen Thomas is still raising the tough questions. Thomas, 82, who resigned from UPI in 2000 after a half-century there and now writes a column for Hearst News Service, blasted both President Bush and the press for setting the stage for an unwise war with Iraq.
Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge earlier this week, Thomas denounced Bush’s “bullying drumbeat,” adding, “I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war. Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war is immoral — such a policy would have legitimized Pearl Harbor.”
She also hit the president for holding “only six press conferences, the only forum in our society where a president can be questioned. I’m on the phone to Ari Fleischer every day, asking will he ever hold another one? The international world is wondering what happened to America’s great heart and soul.”
And Thomas warned the media: “Everybody learned the lessons of Vietnam, including the Pentagon. In Vietnam, correspondents could go anywhere. Now we don’t have that access. It’s total secrecy. The media overlords should be complaining about this. I do not absolve the press. We’ve rolled over and played dead.”
Asked to advise young journalists, Thomas said, “Remind the politicians you interview that you pay them, that they are public servants. Remember every question is legitimate. And don’t give up. There’s always a leak. There’s always someone’s who’s trying to save the country.”