When 87-year old American correspondent Helen Thomas, who has served as a White House correspondent since 1960, writes about politics and diplomacy from a historical perspective, U.S. presidential candidates should take time to read her opinions, if they don't already. Mrs. Thomas, currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, "served for fifty-seven years as a correspondent and White House bureau chief for United Press International (UPI)." She gave U.S. Presidential Candidate Hilary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, USA, a valuable diplomatic history lesson in an informative column I read in the August 3, 2007, edition of The Seattle (Washington, USA) Post-Intelligencer. See "Obama has the right idea about diplomacy.
The commentary was prompted by Ms. Clinton's accusation that Democratic Presidential contender Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, USA, was being naive and irresponsible when he declared during a a July 24, 2007, Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina he would be willing to meet without preconditions the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela during his first year as president. See "Obama Debate Comments Set Off Firestorm."
After noting that, "During the Cold War, [U.S. Republican] President [Dwight David] Eisenhower often said he would go anywhere, any time, any place in pursuit of peace." Ms. Thomas, whose latest book is "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public, recalled:
Ike promoted co-existence with the former Soviet Union and invited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States.
Conservative Republicans were unhappy when President [Richard Milhous] Nixon made his surprise journey to hard-line communist China in 1972. But the move was mostly applauded as a diplomatic breakthrough, leading to better relations between the two nations.
The American people rejoiced at those peacemaking gestures and didn't think that Eisenhower, a World War II hero, was naïve to talk to the Soviets with the goal of easing tensions between the two superpowers, particularly as each had doomsday nuclear arsenals.
Ms. Thomas, who has interviewed or covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy
, said, "There were some hints and hopes -- among liberals at least -- that President [William Jefferson "Bill"] Clinton
would open a dialogue with Cuba
during his years in the White House. But he was not willing to take the risk and pay the political price -- especially in Florida, traditional hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment."
"So," Ms. Thomas told her readers, "it is disturbing for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.N Y, to ridicule Sen. Barack Obama, D. Ill -- her main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination -- for saying he would be willing to meet with the reviled leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and North Korea, if he's elected president.
"And why not?" Thomas asks. "What's wrong with diplomacy? "
Ms. Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, said, "It may shock Clinton, but we often deal with dictators and others who espouse policies that are distinctly at odds with U.S. goals."
"Clinton is wrong and Obama is right," Ms. Thomas contends, adding: "Both should be emphasizing the need for a more peaceful world and an end to the daily slaughter in Iraq that has shamed this country's world image. The first order of business for the new president in 2009 should be to repair the damage inflicted by President Bush's disastrous unilateralism."
Not many White House correspondents have the balls to say that. Unfortunately, in recent years, with the exception of a few, American reporters covering the White House, The Pentagon and the State Department, have acted more like stenographers currying favor with those they cover rather than curious spectators analyzing and reporting on what really goes on in the corridors of power. The serious reporting and analysis is usually done by outsiders.