White House correspondent Helen Thomas remained a perceptive and outspoken commentator to the end of her life.
I saw this first-hand on several recent occasions at the National Press Club, where she was the first female officer after the club accepted women as members at the late date of 1971.
Profiles of her career following her death July 20 rightfully focused on her pioneering efforts to help female journalists overcome blatant discrimination. Largely overlooked or oversimplified was her fighting spirit on other social issues even at an advanced age and after being forced into retirement.
At age 92 last December, Thomas delivered a passionate, incisive lecture to the press club's Sarah McClendon Group, a speaker society named in honor of another pioneering White House correspondent.
Thomas said the country is endangered by what she called government leaders' greed, fear, and subservience to war-mongers.
“I came here in 1943,” she told a dinner audience of 30, “and I don’t think I’ve ever seen our country so bereft of ideals and ideas. I don’t see anything on the horizon that can pull us out. I hope I’m wrong.” Shown at left in a 2009 photo courtesy of Wikipedia, she described current leaders as weak and selfish.
The self-described liberal doled out criticism to all sides.
“Republicans,” she said, “have one goal: To get Obama. But when they see the country falling apart, that’s all they can do?”
“As for Obama,” she continued, “I think he’s weak. He has no courage.” She said the country urgently needs “a stand-up guy who’ll do the right thing.”
What are some examples?
“The first priority should be jobs.” Also, “Make people pay their taxes, and stop the wars.” She estimated at least 700 U.S. military bases around the world. “We’re killing all of these people [in undeclared wars]. Why? Is it any surprise that people will fight back for their country? There’s no doubt we want to eliminate Iran. Why wouldn’t they want to defend themselves?”