In a natural follow-up to her national bestseller Front Row at the White House, the dean of the White House press corps presents a vivid and personal presidential chronicle. Currently a columnist for Hearst and a former White House bureau chief for UPI, Helen Thomas has covered an unprecedented nine presidential administrations, endearing herself with her trademark "Thank you, Mr. President," at the conclusion of White House press conferences. Thomas has amassed many wonderful tales about her personal interactions with and observations of the presidents and their families that can all be found in Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President.
In nine riveting chapters -- one for each administration -- Thomas delights, informs, spins yarns, and offers opinions on the commanders in chief, from Kennedy through George W. Bush. In these accounts, Thomas reveals Kennedy's love of sparring with the press, the unique invitation LBJ extended to Hubert Humphrey to become his running mate, and Reagan's down-home ways of avoiding the press's tougher questions. This book is as entertaining and compelling as Helen Thomas herself.
Just as it ain't over till the fat lady sings, a presidential press conference isn't finished until Helen Thomas delivers her ubiquitous "Thank you, Mr. President." The phrase has saved presidents struggling with difficult questions from reporters, frustrated viewers who would have liked a longer appearance by the president and has even inspired jokes from presidents. Having served as UPI's White House bureau chief for an unprecedented nine administrations (she was long known as dean of the White House press corps), Thomas is certainly qualified to write a book compiling presidential anecdotes. Introducing each president's chapter with a summary of what she found that particular man to be like, Thomas seems to find something nice to say about everyone. LBJ was an expert raconteur, Nixon was best in small groups, Ford had a great laugh, Reagan was master of the one-liner and Bush Sr. was "quick on his feet" (though, she admits, a champion of "disjointed communication"). Thomas's memories (which range from 50 to 500 words) of these men are indeed telling. She acknowledges that no president has ever liked the press, yet does offer a few glimpses into the camaraderie between leader and reporter, especially present with Kennedy. Readers will laugh at Clinton's self-deprecating remarks (stricken with laryngitis, he announced, "My doctor ordered me to shut up, which will make everyone in America happy") and sigh at George W.'s "Bushisms" ("Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"). Thomas's "all in good fun" attitude and breadth of experience make this a light but entertaining follow-up to her recent memoir, Front Row at the White House.