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Yesterday, the world lost the voice of one of it's greatest journalists.  Lost to the exigencies of political correctness. Hoisted on her own petard.  

Gone is the legacy of over 60 years of aggressive truth seeking journalism. Fearlessness in the face of power. A voice that had garnered the respect and fear of 12 or more Presidents of the United States.  So undaunted by power that she would even ask a hard question immediately after being praised by such Presidents.  Gone is the patient heroine that endured the blatant humiliation of the just previous President who banished her to the back of the room and not once called on her during his term.  

What saddens me particularly was the reaction of this White House and in particular President Obama's comments to Matt Lauer this morning when asked about the situation.  He said simply "her comments speak for themselves".  It is true what she said was destructive, and could be viewed as reprehensible.  But did anyone heed her apology?  Her heart felt apology?  How ironic still that the very next subject that Matt Lauer asked of the President was the foiled "Perfect Game".  The President's response was to praise the pitcher who was denied this honor and to also praise and acknowledge the umpire for acknowledging his mistake.

Ms. Thomas's mistake has been seized upon but her apology has not.  Her legacy of speaking truth to power, of shining the light on corruption, and the propensity of Man's inhumanity to Man is snuffed out.  

I dare anyone here to compare the treatment of Helen Thomas to that of Trent Lott who found himself the object of the same political correctness for voicing what was actually in his heart.   The difference I find is that Trent Lott's legacy supports his downfall where as Ms. Thomas's does not.  Ask yourself, if what Ms. Thomas had said in the heat of absolute frustration at the spectre of human misery, why are others who actually hold despicable and anti-Semitic sentiments not held similarly accountable? Why is Pat Buchanan still employed?  Why is Glenn Beck given a platform? Why is Ann Coulter still speaking?

I also recognize that this is a very old game.  A game of destruction as old as politics itself.  A game that seizes on any hint of scandal, or any mistake or truthiness to utterly destroy that person.  It is a Victorian game where an Oscar Wilde is sent down to prison for daring to challenge the aristocracy. It is the stuff novels like "Dangerous Liaisons" where rich bored aristocrats play high stakes games to destroy each others virtue and honor.  A game where a private indiscretion by a sitting President is seized upon by the opposing party with such blood lust and churning waters of sharks enthralled by the smell of weakness.  

What I had hoped for in the election of Barack Hussein Obama was that integrity and authenticity would rule the day.  What I wanted to hear from the President was that Helen screwed up and perhaps seriously.  But to remind the American people that this person should be remembered for her long enduring accomplishments in defense of freedom. Instead, what we got was him either playing the same game or being played by that game.

So White House press corps, in the era of false equivalency passing for journalism, who among you can ever presume to rise to Ms. Thomas's mantle?  Who will speak truth to this and future Presidents?  Who will be the gadfly when others are sycophants?

Originally posted to chipoliwog on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 08:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

    by chipoliwog on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 08:52:42 AM PDT

  •  I learned from a minister friend, (6+ / 0-)

    long ago, to try not to judge a person by a singular characteristic, but to remember the better sides of them too. No one is perfect (especially me). So I won't cast the first stone. Especially at an 89-year-old who you might think has damn well earned the right to be cranky and spout off intemperately once in a while.

  •  I'm not one for apologies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doc2, greatdarkspot

    She had been a journalist for 60 some years, she knew all the rules, all the plays.  She also knew what she represented and the credibility she had and how that would affect other journalists.  But she still said something that was (deservedly) career ending.
     I was crushed she said those things, but I was also mortified at how this would be used against liberal and progressive journalists now.  Her dead on targeting of Bush was now going to be forgotten only for this.

    As for apologies for these sort of gaffes,  the history of politics is full of them.  They are carefully considered and spelled out, and reflect what you expect the listener wants.  They mean nothing at all.

    •  her liberal journalist friends are (0+ / 0-)

      joining in, it seems. The only difference seems to be that she was right about Iraq at a time when her Liberal colleagues were all favor of going to war. However, such shortcomings in the heat of incipient war seems to be very forgivable while statements made some time before without the benefit of context seems to be an especially egregious offense

    •  Helen Thomas expressed an opinion that is held (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by probably better than 50%  of the world and 90% of the middle east  which is that Israel was created Illegitimately.

      My opinion is that because of simple demographics Israel,as a Jewish State,with be a rather short blip in history.Should I be crucified because I dare to have that opinion?

      by ctkeith on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:21:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What is done is done (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The solution is not for Israel to cease to exist but for co-existence.  The people of Palestine are not going away short of an unspeakable solution.  The people of Israel are similarly not going away.

        Therefore some solution that gives the Palestinians their homeland and autonomy side by side with Israel has to occur.  But as long as each side has and acts on the aspiration of reclamation of this territory then peace will not be possible.  

        The greater and greater acts of brutality by the Israelis and the incitement taunted by the Palestinians is a greater escalation of this conflict.  There is no grading these parties as to who is more aggrieved. That is pointless in solving this crisis. But what is clear that enabling brutality and tolerating incitement is no longer productive behavior on the part of the rest of the world and the United States in particular.

        --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

        by chipoliwog on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:33:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That would be nice (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but I think if you study history, even a little,the odds are against it.

          The point is Helen Thomas had every right to express here opinion.Last I looked the Constitution didn't demand one be a Zionist to be a reporter or an American.

          by ctkeith on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:42:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh come on. She did good work for many (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GN1927, weasel, marina, capelza, Cat Whisperer

    years and would have retired soon anyway. she happened to say somethng hateful, which I think most people - though not all, to be sure - would agree was out of character right near the end of her career. Bad timing, I guess. But it doesn't kill the legacy.

    There are still problems with Israel and the region, both Jewish and Arab (and American) that need to be solved.

    •  Exactly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, Little

      The hatchetmen of the right have been after her scalp for 30 years, and frankly the comfortable interest on the left were always hopeful they would succeed.  No one last forever, and it was inevitable that they would get her one day.  She was struck down by her own hand (or in this case, mouth), but that is almost necessary for the story to work, and for the tragedy to truly unfold.

      She outlasted 10 president's and fought until the end.  She had an amazing legacy, I'd like to think that I will do half as well before it's over for me.

  •  political correctness is terrible (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but those who live by the sword die by the sword.

    "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

    by gregjennings85 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:06:49 AM PDT

  •  I will always love Helen Thomas (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miriam, tiponeill, prfb, Cat Whisperer

    AIPAC and the "establishment" FINALLY got rid of a thorn in their side because an old woman made a mistake and said some things out of school that I don't agree with.  However, her advocacy for the plight of the imprisoned and abused Palestinians I wholeheartedly agree with.  She will be missed.  

    Who will take her place to challenge our inane policy of the UNQUESTIONED and constant support for a now (not in the past) terrorist and rogue and dangerous state of Israel and that fuckstick Israeli Cheney, Net a yahoo???

    Proud gay as a goose Kossak. Btw, PLEASE give to Barbara Boxer, she's in trouble and we NEED her!!! And I love her!

    by BoyBlue on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:06:52 AM PDT

  •  There are few real "third rails" in politics ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miriam, prfb, chipoliwog

    ... but Helen Thomas touched one of them. Just as you are never supposed to propose something as fiscally prudent as means-testing for Social Security benefits, it is equally forbidden to express more than the slightest criticism of Israel, lest the charges of anti-Semitism doom you to exile.

    Although I don't support Ms. Thomas's more controversial statements, I must agree with the diarist that it is both unfortunate and unfair for her career to be reduced to this sad ending. She hadn't done much in the way of real reporting for some time, but at least she still asked hard questions of the president, which is something almost no other so-called journalist in the White House Press Corps(e) does anymore.

    •  It is only a third rail because anti-semites (0+ / 0-)

      make it a rail at all. If she had said that people of European descent need to get out of the Americas and go back to where they came from, people would have been just as pissed. But nobody says that.

      I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

      by doc2 on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:13:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, they'd probably have laughed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miriam, marina

        real hard and gone back to their partying.

        --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

        by chipoliwog on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:18:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not defending what she said ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... only trying to point out that we seem to have an especially low tolerance for any criticism of Israel at all, possibly because of the very real problem of anti-Semitism that does still exist.

        FWIW, I do hope that Ms. Thomas's entire career won't be remembered by this lapse in judgment and poor choice of words.

  •  in case anyone cares, a more complete transcript (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tiponeill, marina, capelza

    xcript from Balloon Juice:

    Q: Any advice for these young people over here for starting out in the press corps?
    Thomas: Go for it. You’ll never be unhappy. You’ll always keep people informed, you’ll always keep learning. The greatest thing of the profession is you’ll never stop learning.

    Q: Today they are covering the Jewish Heritage Month.

    Thomas: ... and meet the President.

    A: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everyone today, any comments on..

    Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.

    Q: Oooh. Any better comments?

    Thomas: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not German and it’s not Poland.

    Q: So where should they go, what should they do?

    Thomas: They can go home.

    Q: Where is home?

    Thomas: Poland. Germany.

    Q: So you are saying Jews should go back to Poland?

    Thomas: And America and everywhere else. Why push people out who have lived their for centuries? See?

    Q: Now, are you familiar with the history of that region and what took place?

    Thomas: Very much. I’m of Arab background.

    {It goes on for a little while with friendly banter about languages they both speak with words I can not even begin to spell.}

    Q: Thank you.

    Thomas: All the best to you (directed at the Jewish students). Go for it- go for journalism, you’ll never regret it.

    If I were to design a trojan horse to bring down the Republican party, it would bear an uncanny resemblance to Rand Paul. - #104758

    by mydailydrunk on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:18:27 AM PDT

  •  I saw the video of her interview and to me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prfb, marina, powderblue

    she looked drunk. So let's review. She's 89, she may have been drunk, and she was probably angry over Israel's recent activities. Isn't it possible she didn't really mean what she said and just took her anger too far? Does she have any prior incidents of anti-Semitic remarks?  She apologized, she's almost 90, and she retired over it. This is one people should let go.

    And please, I'm not saying what she said was OK or that being old and/or drunk is an excuse to say something as boneheaded and insensitive as what she did. I'm just saying, let her be. This was bad, but it hardly equates to a Mel Gibson moment.

    Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves, but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. Carl Sagan

    by RALM on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:21:18 AM PDT

    •  There are many very elderly people whose (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greatdarkspot, RALM

      brains and judgment are unimpacted by age.

      This incident leads me to suspect Helen Thomas might not entirely be one of them.  

      •  Everyones brain is impacted by age, I know (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        mine is. Some are simply fortunate enough less impact than others with time or to have had a higher starting point. But I agree, she made not have been drunk, but she didn't seem with it at the time.

        Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves, but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. Carl Sagan

        by RALM on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:37:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Au contraire, mon frere. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There are many elderly people whose judgment and cognitive function at first glance appear to be unimpaired. But careful cognitive testing will reveal progressive impairment of short-term memory function in all of us as we reach our middle years, with an accelerating decline after age 65 - 70 or so. There is some compensatory gain in pattern recognition and integration with experience, such that many scientists (for example) have continued to work very productively right through their 70s. Folks starting with better cognitive function and education cope much better as things start to decline. But regardless of how successfully someone ages, there is an unavoidable loss of raw processing capacity and short term memory with aging. Yes, there are lots of very smart folks who are still very sharp at age 80. But they're not as sharp as they were at 70, or 50.

        Note that I'm not talking about Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or any of the pathological forms of cognitive decline that can greatly accelerate the decline in capacity.

  •  "political correctness" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GN1927, LiberalCanuck

    usually refers to people suffering the rightful consequences of what they say.

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:25:04 AM PDT

  •  So Helen Thomas' troubles are Obama's fault too? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greatdarkspot, itzik shpitzik

    Is there NOTHING this man isn't responsible for?

    All evils are equal when they are extreme. - Pierre Corneille

    by LiberalCanuck on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:31:50 AM PDT

  •  It's not her criticism of Israel that did her in. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's her proposal for where Jews should go. It was more than just a mistake. Poland? Land that my parents fled and where much of my family perished in ghettos and camps?

    (Not to mention that a large percentage of Israeli Jews are not even of European descent anyway.....)

    Oh I'll miss her too, but was unbelievably over the line.

    (For the record, I think Israel has been on a self-destruct mission, and that they are occupiers.)

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 09:39:15 AM PDT

  •  Daily Kos Mourns Anti-Semite Helen Thomas (0+ / 0-)

    NewsBusters: Daily Kos Mourns 'Such a Good-Natured Woman,' That Helen Thomas

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