Helen Thomas retires

Helen Thomas

1962 March 1, Washington, DC, — Helen Thomas, UPI reporter in Washington, DC.
(© Bettmann/CORBIS)

White House Press Corps stalwart Helen Thomas has announced her retirement in the wake of the controversy around her recent comments about Israel. Thomas, 89, has been a part of the press corps since the early 1960s and traditionally ended all presidential press conferences by saying, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

The Special Relationship and Thirteen Days

I caught the beginning of The Special Relationship on HBO last night. It purports to document the relationship between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the 1990s (and the US and the UK in general). It stars Michael Sheen as Blair and Dennis Quaid as a passable Clinton. Blair is the protagonist, more or less, so the story focuses on him, often contrasting the pomp and luxury of the White House with the simplicity of Blair’s life, especially before he became PM.

I was very disappointed in the White House scenes. This is the first film I know of that has used the WHM as a resource—I was contacted during pre-production and exchanged several e-mails—but the interiors are not convincing. From what I saw of the first 30 minutes or so, there was a good North Portico, a passable Entrance Hall, and a good Oval Office. But the more private rooms were nothing like the real thing and often rather silly. The film depicts Clinton inviting Blair into a large, sofa-strewn sitting room just off the Oval Office in the space we know to be occupied by a little corridor, lavatory, a tiny study, and a private dining room. The Master Bedroom is depicted with a nod to the Reagans’ Chinese wallpaper, but not much else.

I imagine that the movie did not have a large budget and so they spent their pennies on the UK sets that were more central to the action and on the Oval Office.

By contrast, I happened to catch the end of Thirteen Days on TV earlier in the weekend and found its reproduction of the White House as faithful as one could hope, as Pete Sharkey’s write-up attested.

Roosevelt Room flags

I got a note today asking about the flags in the Roosevelt Room. The question focuses on the numerous streamers on the flags, wondering if they represent individual battles for each of the branches, if the Battle of Wounded Knee is included, and who decides which battles to include. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Anybody else?

New Flickr photos

The White House has released some more new photos over the last several days, but there aren’t many that show interesting details of the mansion or wings. One that show the Resolute desk could have been nice, but the depth of field is so short that the president is in focus but the front of the desk isn’t.

The summer time of the first year of an administration is a natural period of a lot of travel. I suspect the first family will settle down soon as the holidays approach, and we’ll see some more interesting photos come out.

More QE2

I happened upon Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work this afternoon on public television and found episode 1 to include the queen’s visit to the White House. Here are some tidbits:

  • WH staff is shown touching up the paint, using Duron Exterior Alkyd/Oil Gloss labeled “Whisper – 248”.
  • Miss Beazley got into the white paint the day of the queen’s state dinner.
  • The queen’s visit was the occasion of the first (and, I think, only) white tie event during the Bush 2 administration.
  • Buckingham Palace is waaaay fancier than the WH, but some of the corridors are very narrow.
  • Bush 2 met the queen when she visited the WH during the Bush 1 time, 16 years earlier.
  • Barney likes to steal the president’s ball when he is practicing on the putting green and is very good at pulling golf balls out of the hole.
  • The president had a good joke about how he was concerned at how Barney would behave toward the queen, given that he is Scottish.
  • The Bush 1s stay in the Queens’ Bedroom when they visit the Bush 2 WH, as the Bush 2s did when they visited the Bush 1 WH.
  • Some of the queen’s house staff are what Mrs. Slocombe would have called “dead common”.
  • The queen’s lunch was held in the Yellow Oval Room.

Site performance

I’ve upgraded my hosting plan with GoDaddy to allow for more concurrent users, which is what is causing the slow-down. Doubling the concurrent users should ease the traffic jam.

PS Can you tell I haven’t have a whole lot to do at work today?

Happy Anniversary ! (belated that is)

As a regular visitor and infrequent contributor, I would like to wish Derek all the best on the 2nd anniversary of the White House Museum website and to express my thanks for this refuge for we White House “fanatics” . Technically this blog, and perhaps ceremonially the White House Museum website officially got going on July 22, 2006. So this anniversary greeting is somewhat belated.

Derek has shown terrific leadership in attracting many White House enthusiasts and encouraging them to contribute in many ways, doing so with a tremendous amount of grace and willingness to hear constructive criticism.

The White House museum has been a wonderful place for me to view my favorite building/home. And I have also learned a significant amount of new information by what has been shared. And to top it off, the website itself is structured so well and just-plain looks terrific . . . a true compliment to the class and modest elegance that is The White House.

Derek, Thank You!