Tony Snow was a kind man who enjoyed sparring with his former colleagues in the press.
As well deserved as most of the criticism of the Bush administration has been - on Iraq, on the economy, on the environment, on just about everything except Roberts and Alito -- that criticism also at times exceeds the boundaries of taste or fact. With an ever charitable smile and an offer of friendliness, if not friendship, always behind his eyes, Tony could convey, "I know you can't really mean that" without parallel in the journalistic craft.
Tony saved the Bush presidency from descending into negative approval numbers. [Read here Tony interjecting from eternity: "I know you can't really mean that."]. His two predecessors -- Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan and his successor - Dana Perino - each possess individual strengths (respectively: intelligence; awkwardness inviting sympathy; attractive unflappability), but all of them read the job description as including defending the Bush indefensible.
Tony didn't -- well, at least not entirely. As the colloquy between Katie Couric and the late Tim Russert (below) on the day of Tony's appointment records, Tony became press secretary to one of the most unpopular presidents in our history in essence "with tenure," by having been honest in past assessment of the administration. While Tony was not given to the negative in either personal or professional life - as manifest in his own cheerfully placed thumb in cancer's relentlessly cancerous pursuit of his vitality - he had the gift of knowing the truth and not being defeated by it. It was as if he was borrowing for his boss the forgiveness of the wrongly accused character in a Tolstoy folktale. Yes, Tony, "God (does) know the truth, but waits."
Tim Russert, welcome your friend Tony home today. You now have a pal to watch the conventions with. God always provides.
Requiescat in Pace.
From the NBC Today Show of April 27, 2006:
Couric: "Let's move on to Snow in April. Tony Snow named new White House Press Secretary. As Kelly mentioned he's been critical of the White House. He has said, called the President quote, 'Something of an embarrasment,' who has quote, 'lost control of the federal budget,' and is the architect of a quote, 'listless domestic policy.' Were you surprised at, at this choice?"
Russert: "Not at all Katie. They had been talking to Tony Snow for about a week or so. He is a polished, articulate, conservative commentator. He is someone that the President wants out front before the American people every morning, every night articulating and making the President's case. His personality is such that he's a pleasant man. They believe that Tony Snow can connect with the American people and help put a positive gloss on the Bush administration policies. That's why he was picked."