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Hoo boy.  Crooks and Liars has the video of Helen Thomas’ appearance on yesterday’s Situation Room and, I swear, I can almost smell Wolf’s singed beard from here.

Helen hit Wolfie hard on the fact that he was willing to ask the tough questions of President Clinton during the Lewinsky mess — and invited Wolf to come back to the Tough Journalists Ask Tough Questions Club.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers what you are up to nowadays. How you feel and what your goals are right now?

THOMAS: My goals are to seek the truth wherever it leads me. And I do think that’s the goal of journalists. And I think we fell down on the job.

BLITZER: The news media in general? That we weren’t — what?

THOMAS: Come back. All is forgiven.

BLITZER: You are going to forgive us? You are part of the news media too.

THOMAS: Right.

BLITZER: We sat in those briefings for a long time together.

THOMAS: You ask very tough questions.

BLITZER: I’m trying to did the best I can, like you.

THOMAS: You asked President Clinton why he wouldn’t resign.

BLITZER: I asked him some tough questions. But that’s another time and this is another story.

What I don’t understand is why this is so difficult:  the President of the United States is a citizen that we elect to higher office for a discrete period of time.  Once that time has passed, he or she goes back to just being a citizen (albeit with a big security detail trailing along behind and some hefty speaker fees in the offing, but still…).

All of our elected officials work for us.  Not the other way around.  

And the media is one of the biggest sources for information and sunshine on just exactly what our government is doing — or not doing — in the public’s interest.  Which means that tough questions have to be asked and, in the event that the tough questions are dodged, they must be asked again and again…because we in the public deserve and expect real answers to the problems in this nation.

The press has always — ALWAYS — asked the tough questions and tried to speak truth to power in doing so.  You think Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon had some happy happy, joy joy relationship with the press?  Please!  They hated the press.

Remember Sam Donaldson’s constant badgering of Ronald Reagan over the Iran/Contra mess?  Or the whole laugh at George H.W. Bush’s expense when he had no idea that grocery stores used scanners in the check-out line?  (Okay, that wasn’t exactly a tough question moment, but I thought that was hilarious.) 

Bill Clinton?  Good heavens, didn’t it seem like there was a new scandal a week manufactured by Dan Burton’s little House cabal that found its way into media questions in the briefing room?  (And the ethics challenged group in which Babs Comstock cut her teeth was only one of many in wingnuttia.  Remember the whole "Hillary had Vince Foster killed." malarky?) 

That George Bush is too weak to answer the tough questions — or to have his authority questioned at all without getting testy — is his problem.  He ought to stop hiding behind his staff, his hand-picked audiences, and his wife and mother who have been ever-present the last few months as his character foils on the road.  And the press ought to be holding his feet to the fire until he does so.

Good on Helen Thomas for pointing out Wolf’s hypocrisy.  Would that every member of the press — and the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress, for that matter — stopped kowtowing to the White House and started asking the tough questions before we make disastrous policy decisions.  Wouldn’t we all be better off?

And I don’t mean some sort of "for show" one day hearing.  I mean real, honest accountability.  The sort that works in the nation’s interest — and not just in maintaining party power or crony interests in the public not really knowing what is being done in their name. 

Accountability — try some for a change.

For more from Helen, take a peek at this interview as well (you have to click thru their complete interview link to get the video).  Hilarious.

And for confused journalists who are out of practice, here, I’ll give you a hint as to what you can ask about today:  Why does the IRS think it is okay to allow tax preparers to make a profit selling OUR private financial data from OUR tax returns to the Republican KStreet investment cronies?  The last thing I need is more spam mail — and I sure as hell don’t want people picking through my private financial data.  If this doesn’t raise the hackles of "small government" libertarians and those-formerly-known-as-conservatives, well…then, cut off the life support because they are DOA.

(Graphics love to reader NeoJoe — classic!)