Tony Snow passes away
Former White House press secretary Tony Snow died early on Saturday morning, after a long battle with cancer. He was first diagnosed with the disease in 2005, and underwent chemotherapy treatment that put the tumors into remission. He began his White House stint in May 2006, earning praise (and some mild scorn) for the zestful, combative way he conducted his press briefings. He put the best face on the Bush administration, and the fact that he had occasionally criticized Bush in the past gave him a vital degree of credibility, a very precious commodity.
Early last year he had a relapse of the malignancy, and this time it turned out to be terminal. He resigned in September, trying to make the most of the time he had left on Earth for the good of his family. For more on his splendid, inspirational life, see foxnews.com. It was through FOX that Tony gained national attention during the 1990s, after working for many years as a newspaper editorial writer and columnist.
Serving as the official voice of a president who is as unpopular as President Bush has got to be one of the most demanding jobs on earth. That's probably why Bush has gone through so many press secretaries: Ari Fleischer, Scott McLellan, Tony Snow, and Dana Perino. It is striking that both Bush (II) and the even more problematic Bill Clinton went through four press secretaries, whereas the five previous presidents averaged about one per four-year term.
Tony was always my favorite substitute host on the Rush Limbaugh show, and not just because of his earnest, charismatic style. He was very smart and could explain complex policy issues in a very clear way -- a rare gift. Like Rush, he was a "natural" in the electronic media, a true "man for his times." Although he had strong conservative convictions, he was not polemical and did not engage in rude put-downs of his adversaries, the way so many others in Washington do. (I won't name them, but you can probably figure out who.) He proved that you can be a nice guy and still be an effective advocate of conservative policies and principles. He was among the very best in his profession, and his loss will be hard to bear for all us political junkies and policy wonks.
It's a remarkable coincidence that his death came so soon after the passing of another TV journalistic superstar, Tim Russert -- just three weeks ago.