Rush's Wedding, Helen Thomas, and What We've Lost:
To so many reporters and pundits, it's just a fucking game. You learn this from things like Karl Rove's autobiography, where he talks about how chummy he got with news people on the campaign trail (or, even better, from Matt Taibbi's book, Spanking the Donkey). You see it at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, when the gathered press bathe and put on airs and pretend to be one with the powerful, laughing at jokes about missing WMDs or Predator drone attacks, cackling at Rove rapping and dancing.
One thing that has stuck in the Rude Pundit's craw since this weekend is the guest list at Rush Limbaugh's wedding. No, not that Elton John sang, which is whoredom of an almost envious level. It's that Democratic adviser and talking bald head James Carville went. Now, you could argue that, well, of course, Carville went, considering that his wife, Mary Matalin, is a prominent Republican consultant and pundit, and he ought to accompany his wife. Except that Carville and Limbaugh have, on the air, viciously attacked each other. Except that Limbaugh's mission for the 1990s was to destroy Carville's one-time friend and boss, Bill Clinton. Except that Carville and Limbaugh have presented themselves as having diametrically opposed views on shit that really matters, like who is responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf that pushed Carville to go off like a rabid weasel. Except that the other guests were ones who Carville routinely, disgustedly dismisses, like the aforementioned Rove or Clarence Thomas or Sean Hannity.
It's not that it's surprising. The insider circle jerk is expected. But, goddamnit, you don't get to sit there on CNN and rage about the right wing media's destructive influence on the nation and then go out drinking with them and bringing them wedding gifts. (Note: Fucking and marrying them? The ways of the cock and cunt are a whole other conversation.) Because then you are a fraud, a carnival clown, a con man. Because to believe you is to confuse the fictional role with the performer, even if the words you say are about reality.
Which gets us, in a not-so-roundabout way, to Helen Thomas.
Look, Helen Thomas had to lose her job (or retire) as a White House correspondent after saying that Jews in Israel should "go home" to Poland or Germany. If she had merely been a columnist or Pat Buchanan, it would have been part of the territory to say such things. This doesn't excuse the racism and hatred of Beck, Limbaugh, ad infinitum; it's to say that one has to have principles that one believes in. And if you'd want Fox "news" reporter Major Garrett to lose his place in the White House press corps if he said, on camera, that Barack Obama should go back to Kenya, then you have to believe that Thomas deserves the same fate.
It's sad, though. It's really, genuinely pathetic, and not just in an "oh-fuck-that-old-lady-broke-her-hip" kind of way. And not just because, for many people, Thomas will be remembered for this, that she fucked the goat.
It's sad because Helen Thomas wasn't playing a fucking game. She wasn't merely acting like she was challenging the presidents she covered. She didn't give a fuck who she was going at:
Nixon, in 1970: "Mr. President, a question about Vietnam. Our recent air strikes have raised speculation that our policy of not bombing North Vietnam may be undergoing a subtle change. What is our policy?"
Ford, in 1974: "Throughout your Vice Presidency, you said that you didn't believe that former President Nixon had ever committed an impeachable offense. Is that still your belief, or do you believe that his acceptance of a pardon implies his guilt or is an admission of guilt?
Reagan, in 1986: "Mr. President, your decision to tear up the SALT treaty by the end of the year has caused great consternation among the allies, among members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, among others who fear that you are creating a more dangerous world. My question is, is this decision irreversible?"
Clinton, in 1994: "President Clinton, do you agree that there should be a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Golan Heights and Lebanon -- Syrian troops from Lebanon to make a real peace in the Middle East?" (At least she was consistent.)
Of course, this is not to mention her brutal questioning of George W. Bush and his press secretaries, or, indeed, of President Obama and Robert Gibbs, but, of course, the right had already turned her into Grandpa Simpson, easily ignored as that crazy lady we're nice enough to let sit there, a role she never allowed to take her over.
Precious few reporters these days are willing to go after our leaders, face to face, for fear of losing access to them. Helen Thomas never gave a shit about that. She paved the way for many female journalists. And, sure, she could play the DC game (Clinton would regularly joke about her at the correspondents' dinner), but she never lost sight that her job was as a reporter and to make presidents understand that the media is supposed to be an unacknowledged check on the government, no matter who is in office.