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Helen Thomas Talks To Democratic Women

Journalism legend discusses politics, the war and the press.

As a reporter for UPI, Helen Thomas covered the presidency for 57 years. And addressing the Democratic Women of Clifton, Sunday afternoon in Little Rocky Run, it was evident that she's still as tough and feisty as ever.

"We need Democrats to stand up and say, 'Get out of Iraq!" said Thomas. "Why did we attack these people who did nothing to us? Where is the American conscience? Are the politicians' seats [in Congress] more important than saving lives?"

HOSTING THE event were Ellen and Tobin Beck and, while at their home, Thomas signed copies of her latest book, "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Failed the Public."

Guests included Sully District Democratic Committee chairman Mary Lee Cerillo, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) and co-chairs of the Democratic Women of Clifton (DWC), Jane Blechman and Jane Barker.

Tobin Beck and Thomas were colleagues at UPI. And in introducing her, Beck said that — "As the first lady of American journalism and the dean of the White House Press Corps — she was known for her tremendous professionalism, unwavering integrity and courage in asking the tough questions."

Greeting the nearly 100 guests, Barker said, "It's great to be with so many Democrats here in Little Rocky Run. When the DWC started last year and former Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley (D) was the speaker, we thought 10-15 women would attend. We were floored when 100 people showed up."

Noting that DWC is now 1 1/2 years old and has about 300 members, Barker said, "It's time to stand up, be proud and be a Democrat. We have social events, too, but our goal is to educate ourselves about the issues so we can speak about them. This next election will be based on turnout. If you vote, you win."

She urged the attendees to become part of the DWC and the Springfield District Democratic Committee, because Little Rocky Run and Clifton are in that district. They're also in the Newgate precinct, and Barker said Newgate still needs a representative on that committee. The DWC's next meeting is Sunday, Oct. 22, from 2-4 p.m., in the Clifton Town Meeting Hall. Topic is the upcoming election.

"We're in the middle of a war," said Connolly. "This election is very important. Who we put in the House and Senate will make a huge difference for us and for our children for years to come." So, he told the audience, "Keep up the wonderful work."

AS FOR THOMAS, he said she's "long been a hero of mine — and not well-treated by this president." To which Thomas replied: "President who?"

"I'm a raving liberal, against this war," she said. "The killing goes on. We struck a match against the whole Middle East, and we need to take responsibility for it. Thousands are dead, and this president seems to have no feeling about what he's caused. And the blood is on our hands. Who are we? What have we become?"

"We represented the best of mankind, and now we represent the worst and are despised around the world," continued Thomas. "This is beyond the pale. I never thought we'd reach these kind of depths. We've got to take a stand on this war; we've lost our soul."

When President Bush said the U.S. was going to war, said Thomas, "No one asked him why. The role of the press should always be skepticism. But I think there's a grand awakening now." And, replied several audience members, "There should be."