Ari Fleischer was press secretary to an American president, not to some commissar or caudillo, yet his reaction to Helen Thomas' latest anti-Israel outburst would have been more fit for a totalitarian than a free society. He demanded that Hearst fire its White House correspondent, who'd probably been there longer than most of the furniture.
The idea of punishing a columnist for her views, however vicious, might befit some tinpot dictatorship, but it has no place in this country, where extremists do a more than adequate job of exposing themselves, thank you. Which is what Miss Thomas has just done. Followed by her apology and resignation, voluntary or otherwise.
Rather than demand Helen Thomas' dismissal, Mr. Fleischer -- and all those others outraged by her hissy fit -- ought to send her a thank-you note. Consider this mine. For years her animus toward the Jewish state could be read quite clearly between the lines of her columns, or even smelled. Now she's admitted it by using the old Go Back Where You Came From ploy against Israel's Jews. She said they "should get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home."
And where would that be? Miss Thomas answered: "Poland. Germany." The problem for the Helen Thomases of the world is that Israel is where the Jews came from -- a minor detail Miss Thomas seems to have overlooked.
Now at least there could be no excuse for reading Miss Thomas' prose as if it were untainted by her pet hatred. Not that her virulent views have ever been a secret from those who've followed her tantrums over the years, whether in her columns or during presidential press conferences. After one of her little tirades, another White House press secretary -- Tony Snow, a man of pointed understatement who is still much missed -- said only, "Well, thank you for the Hezbollah view."
What may be most impressive about Miss Helen's latest outburst is how little this hateful line has changed since it was being enunciated by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, aka Der Grossmufti von Jerusalem when he was enjoying Herr Hitler's hospitality in Berlin during the Second World War. After its outbreak, the official leader of Palestine's Arabs, having opposed any compromise with the hated Jews before the war, took refuge in Berlin, whence he attempted to raise an Arab army to fight alongside the Nazis.