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Veteran journalist Helen Thomas brought the grit and whir of a White House press conference to Bartos Theater on Monday evening, speaking with passion about the media's role in a democracy whose leaders seem eager for war.
Actually, the 82-year-old former United Press International reporter didn't just speak: she surged into her topic, giving everyone present an immediate sense of the grumpy wit and fierce precision that gave her reporting on American presidents Kennedy through Bush II such a competitive and lasting edge.
"I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter," said Thomas, who is now a columnist for Hearst News Service. "Now I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?'" Her short list of answers seems not to vary from war, President Bush, timid office-holders, a muffled press and cowed citizens, pretty much in that order.
Angered by what she views as the Bush administration's "bullying drumbeat," Thomas referred early and often to her own hatred of war, quoting from poets and politicians to bear down on President Bush and his colleagues.