Phil Bronstein (left) interviews veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas at The Commonwealth Club. (Photo by John Zipperer.)
Tough talk to presidents: Veteran journalist Helen Thomas drew gasps from the Commonwealth Club audience this afternoon when she said President Barack Obama "lacks courage to do the right thing." She added that "he needs to be bolder and stick to his guns, especially on health care."
Thomas was in conversation with Phil Bronstein, himself a legendary Bay Area journalist and currently editor-at-large of the San Francisco Chronicle. They discussed many presidents, including Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Her comments above about the current president shouldn't be read too negatively; she was basically calling for him to develop a backbone and stop trying to be bipartisan in a hyper-partisan political environment.
Thomas has been freed somewhat to be more overtly partisan in her own writings since she became a columnist and not just a straight news reporter. She said people have always known she was liberal, but now she can put it in print.
Nonetheless, she had kind words for one Republican president: Gerald Ford. Calling him "a wonderful man" who helped restore the dignity of the presidency, she refused to name other presidents whom she would hold in similar respect.
You can see more in the video below. (My apologies for the low quality of the video; I was at the back of the room and was doing this on the fly. Still, it captures her spirit and her words.)