Two things. First, I am reading a book. For those political media junkies, it’s “The Boys on the Bus,” by Rolling Stone journalist, Timothy Crouse. Crouse, at the time, who was barely old enough to drink, got the assignment of a lifetime to cover the 1972 Nixon | McGovern campaign.
As I look at the shape of our news media – the ecosystem if you will – I always consider lessons of the past to find a new way forward. And what Crouse writes in Boys, gives us a glance into the relationship between journalists, the news agenda, and the White House.
Second, Helen Thomas makes several cameos in the book as the UPI correspondent along for the ride. My favorite line so far is when she lost her restraint and said to Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s Press Secretary: “Lies. We get nothing but lies. And someday those lies are going to catch up with this Administration.”
Ziegler responds back with a jab. She gives him a “hard look.”
“I’ll say one thing for you, Ron. You’re never lied to us directly. But I don’t know how you stomach your job.”
So why do I bring this up? Well, like I said, the keys to the future are in treasures of the past. And two of those treasures – Boys on the Bus, and Helen Thomas, are telling us where to go from here.
Deviating from the Script to Understand Motives
On January 9, Salon.com writer, Glenn Greenwald, wrote a post about last week’s White House Briefing, where Robert Gibbs, Janet Napolitano and John Brennan addressed the White House Press Corps, about the Flight 253 bombing attempt. In his post, Greenwald focused on the question from Helen Thomas, who once again, parted from the restraint her colleagues share… and said point blank to John Brennan, “What is the motivation of the terrorists – where does it come from?”
In other words, how do American policies fuel terrorism?
Right away I went back to my video archives and pulled out an interview I did with Helen Thomas in July 2009. I had wanted to do something with it earlier – but the timing wasn’t right – and as you will see, the quality – of the video, unfortunately blew. (My fault for needing to use my back up Flip Cam). But regardless, I think this is an important interview – one that will help folks like Glenn Greenwald consider what it means when a Press Corps is intimidated, what questions don’t get asked, what questions get shut down- and what we can all do to get the process back up to the standard.