Helen Thomas is a national treasure. I have long adored her spunk at dealing with Presidents, and her shrewd analysis of national politics. Now comes a documentary “Thank You Mr. President: Helen Thomas At The White House” that examines her views on the role of White House reporters, and a look at her life of grilling the people who occupied the Oval Office.
Helen Thomas gave her views about the men who served in the White House in the film.
On Lyndon B. Johnson: “Johnson was a man who certainly had to talk. He was very garrulous, in a sense, and he also very self-protective. He always would say, ‘Now, you know that’s off the record.’ At the same time, you also knew what he wanted you to write what you were seeing and hearing, but not attribute it to him. So we played the game.”
On Richard Nixon: “Once you lie, your credibility is shot. And, I really think if you lie too many times, then it’s all over. I believe the people have a right to know almost everything.”
On Gerald Ford: “Gerald Ford was gentle, very kind. His great aspiration was to be Speaker of the House. He never really aspired to be President, but lightening struck. He turned out to be a good president because he really restored confidence in the Oval Office and a sense of security in the country after the Watergate scandal.”
On Jimmy Carter: “Jimmy Carter is a very spiritual man. I think he almost missed his calling. He would have been a great minister. I think his greatest contribution to the country is that he made human rights a centerpiece of his foreign policy.”
On Ronald Reagan: “[His advisors] taught him to say, ‘This is not a press conference.’ And, they had him quite trained on that. And, one day, we asked him about what was happening, and he said to us, ‘I can’t answer that.’ We said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because they won’t let me.’ And, he pointed to Baker, Meese, and Deaver, standing behind, very grim. ‘They won’t let me.’ And I said, ‘But, you’re the president!’”
On George H.W. Bush: “I think at the tale end, both he and Mrs. Bush began to really think that we were the cause of all their troubles. So the press was not liked at all.”
On Bill Clinton: “President Clinton didn’t understand that he was being denied his legitimacy as President by the ultra-right in this country, who never gave him one second, one moment where he could prevail. They were after him constantly, investigating him constantly .. I don’t understand how he possibly could’ve taken what he took. He was asked so many personal questions that I’ve never – no president has ever been subjected to that kind of tyranny.”
On George W. Bush: “When George Bush first became president, I think I attended two or three news conferences with him, and then I did get another question in, and there’s a blackout now, I believe, until the end of his term.“