We no longer have a significant and progressive ally on the media front at a time when a second-term Obama administration shows signs of fatigue and what is worse, an unwillingness to defy Israeli demands.
Progressives worldwide are mourning the death of longtime journalist Helen Thomas, who died July 20 at age 92, in Washington. She threw hard questions at every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.
The Washington Post reporting on her death, wrote:
Thomas routinely questioned White House officials over U.S. policies toward Israel and the Middle East, which led some to complain she was too sympathetic to Palestinian and Arab viewpoints. Bush spokesman Tony Snow once famously answered one of her questions with, "Thank you for the Hezbollah view".
She was a pioneer in breaking barriers for women. The Guardian reported:
"At a time when US news media confined most female journalists to writing about cookery, fashion and 'women's interests,' Helen Thomas was one of the doughtiest warriors to storm the absurd barricade. Thomas, who has died aged 92, became a national icon as the senior correspondent at the White House for United Press International (UPI), with the privilege of saying to US leaders from John F Kennedy onwards, 'Thank you, Mr President,' signaling that the press (and the television audience) had heard quite enough."
She was so hard on George W. Bush that he shut her out of his press conferences, refusing for three years to call on her for a question. When Barack Obama became president, he called on her during his first White House press conference, acknowledging that it was a risk. He was not disappointed.
After three years of enforced silence, Thomas asked the new president about Israel's nuclear arsenal, a topic which by tacit agreement is off limits to media and politicians. The policy of "deliberate ambiguity" is followed, allowing Israel to keep its nukes a company secret. Meanwhile, Israel continues to make demands on other Middle East countries to reveal all regarding their efforts to build their own nuclear arsenal.
Obama dodged the nuke question.
The Post headline was descriptive: "Helen Thomas, feisty scourge of presidents, dies at 92."
She died just as the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are launched with little chance of success. We need more "feisty scourges" like Helen Thomas in the White House press room.