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Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford Offer Advice to President Obama


This is interesting Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford have written a book together in which they discuss Thomas’ recollections of all the Presidents she has covered, beginning with John F. Kennedy. It’s called Listen Up, Mr. President At CNN.com, the two reporters offer “five key insights” for the current President. There is also a great collection of photos of Helen Thomas over the years. Here are just a few brief excerpts from the article.

Insight #2: Forget your privacy: You are a public servant

You are not perfect, Mr. President. So don’t pretend that you are and hide the bad stuff. If you are still smoking, say so directly, and openly share your struggle with the public.

Protecting your privacy can come at a greater cost than simply revealing what you don’t want the public to know. If it is found out — and it probably will be — you not only have the fallout from the exposure to deal with, but you will also be accused of deceit.

Insight # 4: Have courage: Even if it hurts

The theme of your campaign was summed up by the title of one of your books, “The Audacity of Hope.” You’ve given us hope, Mr. President. Now show us the audacity.

In Afghanistan, Mr. President, you risk repeating Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War after listening too much to the generals. Again, the Pentagon wants more troops for a tricky war, vowing success in Afghanistan if you only agree. That’s what the British and the Russians thought before they utterly failed to subdue their foes in Afghanistan’s difficult terrain.

Have courage to resist such pleas if your instincts say otherwise, Mr. President. That is why the founders of our nation put a civil servant in charge of the military. You are the decision-maker, not the follower.

Insight # 5: Give us vision: It’s your legacy

A good president, wrote 19th century historian Henry Adams, “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”

The port you seek, Mr. President, is your vision. Those who take this lightly do so at their peril.

But even the most inspirational vision is just talk if not combined with action.

Now is the time to fill in the blanks, Mr. President. The excitement and newness of your presidency has worn off. Turn your vision into reality. Show us that you can deliver results.

It’s excellent advice, gently delivered. If only the President would listen.

This is an open thread.

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24 Responses

  1. What will we do when Helen is gone? She is irreplaceable.

    • Soldier on but her absence will make it harder.

      • She has more balls than anyone else in the press room. Well, except for Jake Tapper; his choice took great courage, given the way Obama’s thugs might have trashed him.

  2. Thanks, bb. This is startling in it’s rationality and simplicity.

  3. Sadly, he’s too arrogant to listen.

  4. I guess it boils down to leadership!

    Sadly, all the hopey dopey speechification is not the same thing as leadership and unfortunately leadership is not something you pick up by moving in the WH. Hence, scanning the CV of the candidate for tangible prove of leadership makes even more sense in retrospect.

  5. Funny they should mention “the vision thing”. As if he actually had one – beyond flying in AF-1 and other neat things. Bringing this from downstairs as it fits in the theme

  6. The Daily Telegraph having another go at the golden boy

    Perhaps we should not be surprised that the land of the permanent campaign has produced a president like Barack Obama.

    While campaigning could centre around soaring rhetoric, governing is altogether messier. It involves tough, unpopular choices and cutting deals with opponents. It requires doing things rather than talking about them, let alone just being. Mr Obama is showing little appetite for this. Instead of being the commander-in-chief, he is the campaigner-in-chief.


    • Hmmmm. OUCH, even if the Telegraph is a conservative paper. Much truth there.

      One other thing, just in passing: The Afghanistan war, and “listening too much to the generals.”

      McChrystal is Obama’s choice, and he implemented the plan last March on Obama’s orders, because Obama himself said it was a “necessary” war, while whining that Bush ran off and left Afghanistan under-manned and under-resourced (NATO was running Afghanistan).

      All that may be true, but if Obama wants to make a change now—no judgement in that—-he’s going to have man up and not blame McChrystal or anyone else.

      The choice to change from his own March strategy is his choice to make, given changes in the situation, but blaming others is a total cop-out.

  7. Why would anyone take advice from “a hag” like Helen Thomas? She’s old, wrinkly, probably has cankles, and is filled with all those scary ladyparts.

  8. I’m in the middle of The Clinton Tapes – the book underscores how complex the presidency really is and how important being decisive is to the country.

    Boy – O should have paid attention and taken some lessons from Bill before stepping up to be selected.

    • and he should have let the better WOMAN have the job

    • The Clinton Tapes are awesome. Bill was so knowledgeable and involved, mastering the many items on his plate. And the anguish he suffered over the constant onslaught of republican chicanery was distressing. It was relentless.

      The extemporaneous nature of Branch’s observations makes Big Dawg’s presidency even more inspiring. It was clear he wanted to do the right thing, that he loved and admired Hillary, and that Chelsea remained an important priority despite the incredible drain of his position.

      If it’s even possible, I think I adore him even more.

  9. Uh, huh! you’re right about that!

  10. If only this president could listen.

    • He’s a narcissist and assumes that the advice isn’t directed at him — since he is perfect.

      0zero isn’t a leader — he just doesn’t have the personality and experience to be a leader. I don’t think he listens very well.

      Plus he has this deep seated hatred of women — and the stupid “feminists” who supported him never realized that he hates them.

      Helen Thomas is female — so he will automatically reject anything she says.

      There are critical periods in a child’s socialization process — 0zero was in Indonesia when respect and empathy for others is either learned and encouraged by the adults — or other values are taught.

      • I think he subconsciously blames his mother for his father leaving.

        A whole book about his father’s dreams, but no book about his mother’s strength when deserted?

        It’s twisted.

        • And why is Michelle becoming a stepford wife. Politics aside, at least the old Michelle was real and not a PR cutout.

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