Pull out your old Merriam-Webster and look up the word “spine”
By Debra Kozikowski
Just yesterday afternoon, according to this exchange reported by Dana Milbank, journalist Helen Thomas seemed to be in top form as she dogged White House spokesman Robert Gibbs for an answer about the president standing up for the public option in health care reform.
“Is he going to fight for it or not?” Thomas snapped.
“We’re going to work to get choice and competition into health-care reform” was Gibbs’s vague response.
Thomas took that as a no. “You’re not going to get it,” she advised.
“Then why do you keep asking me?” Gibbs inquired.
“Because I want your conscience to bother you,” Thomas replied.
Milbank then goes on to describe Gibbs’ red face as the room erupted.
Helen Thomas is not alone in her thinking. Many progressives who support the president’s positions wonder why he is seemingly unwilling to truly draw that line in the sand when it comes to some pretty big issues – the public option, Afghanistan and Iran among them. After President Obama’s nationally televised speech on the subject of health care reform last month, his waning approval numbers rebounded. People felt he was ready to make good on his promise for meaningful reform.
There are signs that the left is coming around to the idea of encouraging President Obama in loud clear voices that he needs to step up and speak out in support of the public option. Online petitions are making the rounds and it’s not just liberals grousing at the lack of fortitude being shown from the White House when it comes to the fight for a health care system that works for everyone. Helen Thomas simply stated the obvious.
It was on June 4, 2005 at the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor, Baltimore that I sat spellbound, listening to Helen Thomas. She was two months shy of her 85th birthday as she talked about all of the president’s men she’d poked and prodded over her legendary career. She was the keynote speaker that year at the National Writers Union awards dinner and every one of us in that room marveled at her energy, wit and sass.
Obviously, she’s still at it, as feisty as ever and at the ready to voice what many of us are thinking. She has the guts and the audacity to speak her mind while getting to the heart of the story. My awe of Helen Thomas has only grown over the years. Meeting her was a privilege. In retrospect, I regret not having asked her to pose for a picture with me. I doubt I’ll get another chance but if I do, you can bet I’ll have my camera phone at the ready.
The Merriam-Webster folks should consider adding a picture of Helen Thomas to the definition of the word spine.