July 12, 2008
Rest in Peace, Tony SnowBy John B. Dwyer
Tall, telegenic, affable Tony Snow first took the podium in the James S. Brady briefing room on May 16, 2006. Looking out upon the foregathered carnivorous White House press corps he opened the proceedings with this bit of wry humor, "I feel so loved."
It was that sense of humor and much more that marked his tenure as White House press secretary. President Bush announced the new appointment on April 26, 2006 with his own bit of wit:
As for their respective duties:
The president then summarized Tony's decades of experience in print, radio and television journalism that began in 1979 when he was an editorial writer for the Greensboro (NC) Record. He had already served in the White House as Bush senior's director of speechwriting. Prior to the new assignment Tony hosted his own show on FOX News Radio and Weekend Live on the FOX News Channel.
Closing out his introductory remarks President Bush said:
In his first briefing, Tony Snow exhibited the qualities that would stand him in good stead during the ensuing weeks and months. The AP's Terence Hunt, perhaps wanting to test the new guy's mettle, tried that classic reportorial gambit, the non-question containing a false premise. He confronted Tony about the president's "back-handed confirmation" of a USA Today story about National Security Agency terrorist surveillance techniques, specifically, allegations that the NSA was compiling lists of private phone numbers.
Hunt was getting up a head of steam when Tony jumped right in and told Terry "No, he (the president) wasn't giving any kind of confirmation," and that if "you go back to the answer he gave you (at a previous presser), he was talking about foreign-to-domestic calls..."
And so the verbal fencing match continued on that topic and many others: thrust, parry, riposte. Tony Snow proved himself to be a very adroit swordsman possessing a sharp wit, keen intelligence and well-honed knowledge on a broad array of topics.
But most of all, he was armored with abundant patience as he tried again and again at every press briefing to explain policy issues and his boss's words to an obstreperous, some might say arrogant, often hostile press corps. He was unfailingly honest and forthright and being a true gentleman, even apologized when such an act was not necessary -- as in the aftermath of his encounter with NBC's David Gregory during a December 6, 2006 briefing. The petulant Gregory launched into a Democrat talking point characterization of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report on Iraq, which quickly developed into a heated exchange with Tony Snow. At one point, Gregory asked "Are you suggesting that I'm trying to frame this in a partisan way?" Tony gave the obvious answer, "Yes."
But in the December 14 briefing, the honorable Mr. Snow, following the dictates of his strict code of conduct, apologized to Gregory "because it is the right thing to do," saying,
At least Tony held up his end of the bargain.
In that first encounter with the White House press corps Tony spoke freely about his bout with colon cancer, the same type that killed his dear mother when he was 17, how it made him appreciate the doctors, the health care system, the technology that allowed him to be at the podium. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me," he explained, adding; "I feel every day is a blessing."
A reporter asked him about his new job and Tony replied;
At the end of it came this question: "What are your final thoughts on your first day?" to which Tony replied, "I love it. This is great. Thank you."
Allow me here to interject some words of wisdom offered by Tony Snow to the Catholic University of America graduating class on May 12, 2007, because I believe they are relevant and tell us about the character of this man. He told the seniors that, to "live boldly, to live a whole life," they need to
Tony Snow loved being press secretary and we loved and appreciated him doing that job as a man of honor and integrity, wit and intelligence, enthusiasm andempathy, modesty and personal heroism, anchored in his faith and love of family.
Which makes not just a great spokesman for a president, but a great spokesman for what we hold dear.
[Editor's note: This article was originally pubslihed September 17, 2007, and adapted for use as a eulogy today on the sad news of Tony Snow's passing/]
John B. Dwyer is a military historian and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.