Tag Archives: journalists

thomasabdulaziz

Good-bye to a legend

Helen Thomas will always be a hero to me. None of that “shero” stuff. You’re either a hero or you’re not, no special designation if you’re a woman. Helen was a reporter, not a reportrix or a reportress. A reporter, a journalist. A real journalist.

Helen Thomas covered 10 — count ‘em — 10 presidents. She questioned John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all with the same sharp, penetrating style that made presidents and press secretaries alike uncomfortable because an honest answer might seem very impolitic.

You always ask tough questions, tough questions not in the sense of being unfair, but hard to generalize the answers.

– Nixon to Thomas

She was an unabashed liberal, on more than one occasion saying that she didn’t understand how a reporter could not be, seeing what they see first hand.

What’s a liberal? I care about the poor, the sick, and the maimed. I care whether we go to war for unjust causes. I care whether we shoot people who are innocent.

– Helen Thomas

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Liberal, but not a partisan. If you think Helen Thomas only tossed hardball questions at Republican presidents, go check out a few news conferences with Bill Clinton or Lyndon Johnson, and Jackie Kennedy called her a harpy. She did think GWB was the worst president ever. Dunno if she was justified in saying that because she was only a reporter for 70 years, not the full 200+ we’ve had presidents. She kept asking the questions the rest of the press failed to ask about the Iraq war, and it cost her that seat on the front row of the briefing room. Colleagues ridiculed her about those questions, called her rude, I’m guessing more because she was asking them and they weren’t than anything else.

I don’t think there are any rude questions.

– Helen Thomas

But  her career certainly crashed and burned when she told a rabbi with a video camera that Jews in Israel ought to “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to where they came from, like Poland, Germany and the United States. I’m not justifying that. I don’t know what made her say it, what might have been going on right before the encounter with the rabbi. Of Lebanese descent, Helen was uncompromisingly pro-Palestinian, and she rightfully complained that in the US government, it is just not allowed to criticize Israel. But those statements … ouch. Pretty low, really shocking.

Helen’s last job was a weekly column for the Falls Church (Virginia) News-Press, a humble ending to an illustrious career. She had been among the handful of female reporters who forced the National Press Club to let them attend their newsmakers luncheons in 1956 (albeit in a balcony, barred from asking questions) and kept at it until the club finally, in 1971, allowed women as members. She broke gender barriers at the White House Correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club, too, and was the only print reporter to accompany Richard Nixon to China.

With her death goes the last link to a White House Press Corps with integrity and audacity. Yeah, it’s not audacious for a conservative blog to send a high school junior  to a White House press briefing to ask if the president was leaving George Zimmerman and his family “on their own” against death threats. That’s, in the words of press secretary Jay Carney, “ridiculous.” If you need it spelled out — which apparently Gabe Finger, whose twitter handle is “@GabeemtheFinger,” needed — that would be local law enforcement’s responsibility.

Just angered Obama’s press secretary. Word.

— Gabe Finger (@GabeemtheFinger) July 17, 2013

Helen Thomas never would have asked such a question, and certainly wouldn’t have sent out such a tweet. She didn’t even have a Twitter account, and if she had, I’m pretty damn sure her handle wouldn’t have been something akin to @HelenAHandBasket or @HelenWheels. But that’s what inside the Beltway “journalism” has become, I’m afraid — stuck in those high school moments, although most of them, at least, have the sense not to get sophomorically cute with their Twitter names.

Helen probably wouldn’t have been asking about Zimmerman at all, and she certainly wouldn’t have flogged Benghazi and the IRS long after those “scandals” were shown to be nothing more than right wing talking points. But she would have asked the questions that needed asking, over and over again until she got an answer, until she got the truth.

The truth, rather than an agenda, should be the goal of a free press.

– Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas, Kentucky-born to Lebanese immigrants and Detroit-raised, died Saturday at her home in Washington. She was 92. We may never see the likes of her again, and I’m sure there are plenty who hope that’s true. I’m not one of them. We need more Helen Thomases, and soon.

sorry

Sorry, everybody

Remember when we elected George W. Bush for the second time and somebody started the Sorry Everybody web site so the half of us who didn’t vote for him could apologize to the world? I put one on there, apologizing on behalf of both my colleagues and my Colleagues, some of whom, I was sorry to say, were awfully damn clueless.

I’m even sorrier to say that they still are.

It pains me to say it. It pains me to even think it. But alas, it is, sadly, so very, very true.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/jayrosen_nyu/status/308323562631081984"]

Last week, I watched my colleagues from inside the Beltway go all a-Twitter (quite literally) over a once-respected journalist who has given that up to write pretty little prose about the people he’s supposed to be critically covering. I don’t pretend to know what happened to him, but a lot happened to journalists after Watergate and since this guy was at Ground Zero for that, I suppose it’s not surprising that he is at the head of the decline that happened to my chosen profession since then.

On the other hand, Carl Bernstein.

But I digress. My colleagues were all a-Twitter (quite literally) over this journo because he whined. He said a White House aide made a veiled threat because he had questioned the White House version of the “sequester”. OK, he didn’t actually say that. He goaded Politico into saying it, based on his hyperbolic rendition of what was actually said. Then Politico got the emails that showed it really wasn’t all that serious, but it was too late. The Inside-The-Beltway journos were off and running.

It only stopped when the president said he wasn’t a dictator and couldn’t perform a Jedi mind meld to make Congress to right. That set them all off because, as we all know, it’s a Vulcan mind meld and a Jedi mind trick, which is so much more important than noting that we’re having this sequester thing — which is a really stupid word for automatic spending cuts — because Republicans absolutely refuse to compromise.

Apparently, telling the truth about Washington is a far left position.

See, these automatic spending cuts came about because Republicans refused to pass a budget that included one iota of tax hikes on the rich. It’s a complex story, how it all came about, but Obama for some godforsaken reason thought that they would come to their senses and pass a budget once the committee that was supposed to forge a compromise failed. I think he actually thought the committee would come to a compromise. Didn’t happen, and isn’t gonna.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/jdickerson/status/307955589814841345"]

But my colleagues just keep reporting that Congress and the White House can’t reach a compromise, which is true, but it’s missing a few pieces. It’s kinda like how during the 2008 election when the crazy conservatives were putting out Liberal Hunting Licenses and pictures of Obama as a witch doctor or growing watermelons on the White House lawn — and the journos searched high and low to find the one crazy liberal who hung Sarah Palin in effigy so they could say both sides do it.

Right.

Here’s the bottom line: Republicans will not vote for anything that will make rich people pay more taxes because It’s Our Money! And they’re scared. They think they need to hoard all their wealth because Scary People!

It is pretty scary for them. Support for same-sex marriage is growing. Americans put the black guy in the Oval Office again. Hillary Clinton still gets high poll numbers. The only thing they have left really is to, as Grover Norquist said back in 2005, “cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

So they stand their ground, refusing to acknowledge that the only compromise they’ll accept is if Obama drops all his demands and does just what they want.

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Meanwhile, though, in Commentary, GWB White House veterans Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner set up a five-point plan to save the Republican Party, truthfully noting that the 2012 election wasn’t even close and pointing out that staking the GOP’s future on economic issues might not be really smart. While complaining that Obama has put America on a horribly “progressive” path to the future, Gerson and Wehner said that the Republicans can regain the upper hand by changing the perception that they’re in it for the rich guys, get behind good immigration reform, “demonstrate a commitment to the common good,” quit blaming gays for the decline of the American family (“It is heterosexuals, not homosexuals, who have made a hash out of marriage”) and last but certainly not least, “harness their policy views to the findings of science.”

I’m not holding my breath on any of those. As far as I can tell, all they need to do to stop the bleeding is to become progressive.

But my colleagues aren’t going to tell you any of that. Oh, you could find it for yourself. Ezra Klein writes for the Washington Post. I found the Gerson/Wehner article linked from the New York Times. But who reads those? You know where you’re not gonna hear any of that. On television, cable or otherwise. It’s bad TV, too smart.

And besides, it’s more fun to focus on Bob Woodward and Jedi mind melds. It’s almost like we haven’t had the election yet, and Obama hasn’t won.

So, on behalf of my colleagues, I am so very, very sorry. Nostra culpa.