Helen Thomas presented her views on war, rights and the legacy of the eight presidents she has covered during her career as White House Correspondent to the Hobart and William Smith community on Thursday night in Albright Auditorium.
At length, Thomas criticized President Bush and his Cabinet for “creating a climate for a preempitve war, which is an act of aggression” and noted that it is a war that none of them would directly fight. She questioned the reasoning behind not looking for diplomatic methods, and said of war “I'm afraid the die is cast.”
Thomas also criticized the Bush Administration for chipping away at civil rights and pointed to the President's too-few press conferences (only seven thus far in his term of office) and said “democracy cannot exist behind closed doors.”
Thomas then turned to lighter topics: her memories of national leaders from John F. Kennedy to the present. She made no apologies for choosing JFK as her 'favorite' among them and stated, “He had a spirit about him and made us reach for the stars. Our country has never gotten over losing him.”
She spoke of Lyndon Johnson's long stories; Nixon's inability to take the 'right path'; Ford's efforts to heal the country after the Nixon resignation; Carter's focus on human rights; Reagan's push to conservatism; Bush's victory in the Gulf War, but economic inability which cost him the election; Clinton's indescretions; and now George W. Bush's march to war.
Following her talk, Thomas autographed books. Of note in her book “Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President,” on pages 162 and 163, Thomas tells two stories in which Colleges President Mark Gearan was mentioned, one about a press conference, the other about a Halloween party at the White House.
Background on Helen Thomas
Covering every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, veteran journalist Helen Thomas has had unprecedented access to some of the most powerful men in American history, as well as a ringside seat to decades worth of landmark events worldwide.
Thomas was the only print journalist to travel with Richard Nixon on his historic trip to China in 1972, and has traveled extensively with presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. She also has covered every presidential economic summit. Perhaps best known for asking the first question at presidential press conferences and closing every one with “Thank you, Mr. President,” Thomas also is the author of two books, “Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President” and “Front Row at the White House.”