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Remembering Tony Snow — 10 Years On

Image: Remembering Tony Snow — 10 Years On
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow greets staffers on his last day, Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in Washington. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:34 AM Current | Bio | Archive

For me, July 12, 2008 is a date that will be etched forever in memory: It was on that day Tony Snow — reporter, commentator, and George W. Bush press secretary from 2006-07 — died.

I was preparing to leave a Philadelphia hotel for the National Governors Association and interview Alaska’s then-obscure Republican Gov. Sarah Palin.

Then the phone rang. “Tony died,” my wife said. Nothing more needed to be said. For more than a year, Tony Snow had been battling cancer. As good as he looked when I last saw him shortly after Easter, Snow was increasingly forced to return to the hospital for more chemotherapy treatment.

Barely six weeks after his 55th birthday, was he gone.

A decade later, Robert Anthony Snow remains as vivid and vibrant a figure as he was the day Bush tapped him to speak for his administration from beneath the emblem so familiar to viewers of the daily White House briefings.

Those viewers, like the correspondents in the press room, quickly realized they had a different kind of press secretary on their hands.

After nearly three decades of campaign operatives in the position of press secretary, Tony Snow — formerly an editor of the Washington Times and Fox-TV News commentator — was the first professional journalist to hold the job since Ron Nessen left NBC News to become Gerald Ford’s press secretary in 1974.

With Central Casting good looks and a pundit’s rapid delivery, the man the president nicknamed “Snowbird” demonstrated he could thrust and parry with the best of them — including Helen Thomas, David Gregory of NBC, and Ann Compton of ABC.

But Snow was nobody’s fool. He did not waste the time of serious reporters or viewers and could swiftly shut down questioners he felt were using the briefing time to preen for the camera.

Along with first lady Laura Bush and Chief Justice John Roberts, Snow was by far one of the best-liked faces of the Bush administration in its second term.

“"I remember Tony with a smile on his face,” said Linda Feldmann, Washington bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor. “Even when under intense questioning from reporters, he kept an even keel and a civil tone. At a Monitor breakfast with reporters on his last day as press secretary, he talked about his plans for life after the White House. One goal, he said, was to help lower the temperature of the nation's political dialogue. Sadly, he's not around today to play that role."

As the Bush administration came grinding to an end, its chief spokesman had some rough times explaining situations ranging from the controversy surrounding the vice president’s top aide Scooter Libby to why the Bush White House had demanded the resignations of every U.S. attorney following the president’s 2004 re-election. But Snow usually emerged from spirited sessions with the increasingly pugilistic press and did so without too much rancor.

If the man behind the podium held grudges toward anyone in the James Brady Briefing Room, he never showed it. At one point after a Bush address to Congress, Snow walked past a group of us and said: “Let me talk to you guys later. Right now, I’ve got to let David Gregory [NBC] know I still love him.”

Past press secretaries bolted from the briefing room as soon as the morning or afternoon sessions with the correspondents were over. Not so Tony Snow. He would sip his signature tall cup of coffee, and answer their questions privately. He would even whisper an occasional favor (“Why don’t you hold off on that for a few days?” he once asked about a subject I had pressed him on, when we took a walk after one briefing. “They have a meeting on this today. .. We haven’t had good answers so far.” The subject was the fired U.S. attorneys.)

Following a Friday early morning session, I was half-way down the street when I realized I had left my recorder in the briefing room. Bounding back into the room to retrieve it, I found — to my surprise — Tony all alone with Trude Feldman, whose outlets for columns were always a mystery to most in the press corps. But Tony Snow was in no hurry and gave her the attention he would a network bureau chief.

He was gracious to both of my parents when I introduced them at White House Christmas parties. He loved to remind me “I knew your wife before you did” — a reminder that in 1986, he was on the editorial board of the Detroit News that interviewed a young state legislator who was seeking the Michigan Republican gubernatorial nomination. She was my future wife.

A convert to the Roman Catholic faith and father of four, Snow played several musicial instruments. Like many adopted Washingtonians, he swiftly became a fan of the Nats baseball team and was often sought out by autograph-seekers as he was cheering on his team.

When I brought friends from out of town or interns from my office to a briefing, they would inevitably want a picture with the press secretary and Snow never failed to comply.

Those friends, those interns were just a handful of the thousands who prayed for Tony Snow in 2007 after his deputy press secretary Dana Perino tearfully announced to the press in 2007 he was being treated for cancer.

“I know that you love him, too,” sobbed Perino.

We did. And 10 years later, Tony Snow is not forgotten.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

 

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John-Gizzi
For me, July 12, 2008 is a date that will be etched forever in memory: It was on that day Tony Snow — reporter, commentator, and George W. Bush press secretary from 2006-07 — died.
tony, snow, george w. bush, fox news
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2018-34-12
Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:34 AM
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