In what was an otherwise tedious prime time Presidential press conference, the venerable and irrepressible Helen Thomas asked a question that suggested another question, not asked often enough: Who is that woman and why was she there?
“Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan and — are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And, also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?” Helen Thomas inquired.
First, the reader will note the term “so-called terrorists” that Helen Thomas used. Calling Al Qaeda and the Taliban “so-called terrorists” is sort of like calling Nolan Ryan a “so-called baseball player” or Laurence Olivier a “so-called actor.” It was not like calling Helen Thomas a “so-called reporter,” though. One would have liked to explore the exact meaning behind the modifier “so-called” that Helen Thomas used.
Second, the reader will note the second part of the question about a country in the Middle East having nuclear weapons. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the Middle East, and Helen Thomas seems to have a modicum of knowledge, knows that Israel right now has a nuclear arsenal, though Israel has never publicly acknowledged that fact. The implication of the question is that if it is right that a freedom loving democracy like Israel can have nukes, then surely a genocidal, fanatical theocracy like Iran should have them as well.
President Barack Obama, to his everlasting credit, did not take the bait.
“Well, I think that Pakistan — there is no doubt that, in the FATA region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating.
“And one of the goals of Ambassador Holbrooke, as he is traveling throughout the region, is to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations and that we’ve got to work in a regional fashion to root out those safe havens.
“It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children. And, you know, I — I believe that the new government of Pakistan and — and Mr. [President Asif Ali] Zardari cares deeply about getting control of the situation. We want to be effective partners with them on that issue.
“Well, Mr. Holbrooke is there, and that’s exactly why he’s being sent there, because I think that we have to make sure that Pakistan is a stalwart ally with us in battling this terrorist threat.”
On the subject of the Middle East and nuclear weapons:
“With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger.
“And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally. I think that it’s important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this.
“And, you know, I’ve mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. [Dmitry] Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the — the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way so that so that we then have the standing to go to other countries and start stitching back together the nonproliferation treaties that, frankly, have been weakened over the last several years. OK.”
So who exactly is Helen Thomas and why was she in the White House East Room Monday night?
Helen Thomas has been covering Presidents as a member of the White House Press Corps since the Kennedy Administration. Helen Thomas worked for UPI until 2000, when she resigned and became a columnist for the Hearst newspapers. Helen Thomas was moved to the back row from her accustomed seat on the front row of White House press briefings and conferences. This did not prevent her from being a bane to the Bush administration, as witness this exchange with the late Tony Snow. During the first Obama prime time press conference, Helen Thomas was moved back to the front row.
At the age of eighty eight, when most people are either dead or retired, Helen Thomas is still attending White House press conferences because she has always done so. One does not ask an institution to go when she has no inclination to go.
Allahpundit was a little less kind. “She’s always been a grandstanding hack. That’s why liberals adore her, and why even The One feels obliged to pay her a little extra homage at the beginning here.” One is not sure about always, but certainly Helen Thomas’s loaded question about “so-called terrorists” and nukes in the Middle East was certainly off putting, even to Barack Obama,
Nevertheless, Helen Thomas is likely to leave journalism in only one manner-feet first. No other power will be able to move her from her front row perch, hard won by Helen Thomas being there forever and so hotly desired by her fellow reporters.
Sources: Transcript: Obama takes questions on economy, CNN, February 9th, 2009
Helen Thomas, Wikipedia T
ony Snow Quips to Helen Thomas: ‘Thank You for the Hezbollah View’, Gregg Sheffield, Newsbusters, July 18th, 2006
Helen Thomas to Obama: Do you know of any country in the Middle East with nukes?, Allahpundit, Hotair.Com, February 9th, 2009