Tony Snow, former speechwriter for President H.W. Bush and Press Secretary to President G.W. Bush, passed away today after his long bout with colon cancer.
Tony was the most articulate and effective press secretary I’ve seen, and by all accounts, one of the most decent men inside the Beltway. He not only was the founding host of Fox News Sunday and a syndicated columnist, but the winner of the inaugural “Crawlin’ Kingsnake Trophy” (for which he beat out Bob Schieffer).
One of the things I always respected and admired most about Tony was his ability and willingness to take on the Whitehouse press corps and expose the liberal bent of their questions. He was very good at it:
GREGORY: It’s kind of a totality question, though. How you can hear these things and not conclude that it’s rejection of the President’s policy?
SNOW: Well, number one, “stay the course” is not the policy.
But you need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the Group, itself, says it wanted to do. And so you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection, that’s not the way they view it.
GREGORY: I just want to be clear. Are you suggesting that I’m trying to frame this in a partisan way?
And this podiumslapping of Jim Axlerod of CBS News was a classic as well. Axlerod asked Snow if the White House was “isolated and out of touch” in what they say about Iraq and the politics of the war on Capitol Hill, to which Snow dryly replied:
No, no more than I think people look at you and think you are focused on defeat.
He was articulate and quick on his feet–much more so than his pathetic predecessor–and enjoyed as much friendly banter with the press corps as he did heated exchanges. A great example of the latter was when he chided CBS’s Harry Smith that he couldn’t “have his own facts,” and an amusing example of the former was with Bill Plante of CBS News:
Plante: Are you going to say you’ve met those benchmarks? You’ve met almost none of them.
Snow: You’re going to find out exactly what people have said when the report becomes available — within the next week.
Plante: If it’s about the benchmarks that you’ve laid out, there are very few that have been met, or they have been met in the most vaporous way. We’ve seen progress in the alliance between most of the sheikhs opposed to Al Qaeda. Oh good.
Snow: Again I’m not going to rise to the bait —
Plante: It’s vaporware.
Snow: Vaporware? What is vaporware?
Plante: Vaporware is software that has been promised but hasn’t yet been delivered.
Snow: I see. I was afraid it had to do with bodily functions and —
Plante: Oh no.
Snow: I was a little worried about it.
We only wish that Tony–as he told Helen Thomas when he left the Whitehouse last September–had lived to make “life a living hell” for another Whitehouse Press Secretary when he was her age.
Thx to Tony Snow for his service to our country