Monday, August 16, 2004

An American heroine

The Progressive interviews veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas:

Q: This President has not had many press conferences. Do you think the Bush Administration values the opportunity to talk with the press?

Thomas: Hell, no. He's forced to. It's absolutely necessary because we are there in their face. But he doesn't hold enough news conferences. It's far short of anybody else. And when he appears with a head of state and they try to act like it's a news conference, it's not. He says, "I'll take two questions here and two questions on that side," and there's no follow-up. He gets mad if it is a two-part question. I mean, c'mon. The President of the United States should be able to answer any question, or at least dance around one. At some time--early and often--he should submit to questioning and be held accountable, because if you don't have that then you only have one side of the story. The Presidential news conference is the only forum in our society, the only institution, where a President can be questioned. If a leader is not questioned, he can rule by edict or executive order. He can be a king or a dictator. Who's to challenge him? We're there to pull his chain and to ask the questions that should be asked every day, for every move.

Q: Has President Bush given you a nickname?

Thomas: I'm sure it's profane, but I don't know what it is. I don't blame him for not liking me; I ask very tough questions. He doesn't have to like me. I would prefer that he respect me. We don't have to be liked. We didn't go into this business to be liked or loved. If we did, we're making a big mistake. It's not the point. You cannot have a democracy without an informed people.

I only wish more of Helen's colleagues felt the way she does -- and asked the tough questions she asks.


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