Even as he struggled with cancer, former White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters: “I’m a very lucky guy.”
In fact, George Bush was lucky to have had Snow as his spokesman during the period when it became clear that, while Bush could not renew his failed presidency, he could be less of an embarrassment to himself and his country.
Snow was a true-believer Republican who, to a far greater extent than many of the people around the president, took seriously the work of communicating the ideas and ideals of the Bush-Cheney presidency to the American people.
Before he joined the administration, Snow had bluntly argued in a column that the president’s “wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back against the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Wilson.”
“The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment,” concluded Snow.
To his credit, Bush’s reaction to the criticism was to invite Snow to help him do a better job of explaining his views.
To Snow’s credit, he accepted the offer.
The dynamic put Snow in a position to be more than just a mouthpiece. In an administration that has suffered from a surplus of “yes men” and “yes women,” the veteran Detroit News writer and Fox News commentator joined Bush’s inner circle as someone with self-respect — and the president’s respect.
That made the brief period when Snow served as White House press secretary in 2006 and 2007 a time that saw the administration display a measure of dignity. It was also a time when Bush began to put more distance between himself at the noxious influence of Vice President Cheney — a process that continues to this day.
No, Snow was not a perfect player. He tangled with my friend Helen Thomas, and he was not above spinning — as I had to point out more than once.
But Tony Snow was the best spokesman a president like George Bush could ask for — and a far cry better than Bush could have hoped for at the point when the commentator made the leap from punditry to the podium.
Unlike his predecessor, Scott McClellan, who has acknowledged that he was duped by the sleazier elements (Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney) in the White House, and his successor, Dana Perino, who might charitably be described as “ridiculous,” Snow was a mature adult who was not going to be duped and who cared enough about his reputation to offer up a rare commodity from this administration: honesty.
Snow’s death, at age 53, after a long struggle with cancer, robbed the party to which he was resolutely loyal and the movement to which he was sincerely committed of one of its most serious and effective communicators.
George Herbert Walker Bush, with whom Snow worked almost two decades ago, may have said it best when he recalled that, “(Tony Snow) won the respect of even those who violently disagree with the president’s proposals and policies. For that I think he’ll be remembered. He brought a certain civility to this very contentious job.”
One does not need to have agreed with Tony Snow’s political views to agree with the former president’s assessment.