The independent news organization of Duke University

Thomas recalls yore, rips Bush

More than half a century in Washington, D.C., has not quelled the fire in Helen Thomas.

The pathbreaking White House correspondent, who has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, offered her opinions on the current state of affairs in Reynolds Theater Tuesday.

It was only fitting that as candidates battled for their parties' nominations on Super Tuesday Thomas said hard work lays ahead for the next president.

"It's wrong for us to be in Iraq, killing and being killed," Thomas said to a receptive audience of approximately 100 Durham residents and students. Her appearance was sponsored by the Baldwin Scholars Program.

"Who are we and what have we become?" she asked early on, underscoring a major theme of her address.

For most of her career, Thomas wrote for the UPI wire service and kept her opinions silent, but now she is a nationally-syndicated columnist-and she did not seem to hold back.

Thomas came alive when she railed against the George W. Bush administration as "one of the most secretive in history."

"This man has forgotten the poor and the sick," Thomas said. "We are hated around the world."

Her frank manner is not a recent development. She famously tussled with former White House spokesperson Tony Snow in 2006 over the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, assailing the United States for not having done more to prevent the attacks.

"Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view," Snow responded at the time, referring to the Lebanese terrorist organization.

But yesterday, there was some honey in Thomas' vinegar-laced speech.

Before the Internet age, reporters got to know presidents on an intimate level, Thomas said. She added that she was fortunate to work most of her career in a time when our leaders were not under constant threat.

That didn't mean, however, that she was any less aggressive in her reporting.

"I once scooped [President Lyndon Johnson] on his daughter's engagement and he never forgave me," Thomas recalled.

Asked who she supports among the current crop of presidential candidates, the self-described liberal hedged her bets.

"Not McCain," she quipped to laughter and applause. In all seriousness, she added, the press should be vigilant in covering the Bush administration, which has "made end-runs around the Constitution."

As the audience sat in silence toward the end of the speech, Thomas called for action.

"I want you in the streets," she said. "I have aroused you all to revolution and yet you're still sitting there."

Comments