Dana Milbank’s decent and reasonable column about Helen Thomas still admits a hell of a lot:
She brought a ferocity to her questioning that has eluded too many in subsequent generations. At a time when others were getting cozy with sources, her crabby, unrelenting hostility was refreshing.
Translation: nobody else will ask hard questions like Helen, and she did it mainly out of personal animosity.
Milbank’s take on Thomas is consistent with the way she’s been treated for years. She was barely tolerated at the White House, mainly because she had been around forever. She got the full-on crazy aunt treatment from colleagues. Hardly anyone read her column, and fewer still cared what she wrote.
Like a lot of old people in DC, her institution was all she had, so her parting is bittersweet. But, overall, I’m glad to see her go. In the past few years, she functioned as the White House press corps’ token journalist. The supersoakers and tire swingers used Helen’s tough questions as evidence that their institution wasn’t composed entirely of fawning idolaters. Her parting removes one of the last tiny fig leaves covering their gross incompetence.