Thursday, July 17, 2008

Balance of Opinion: Remembering Tony Snow


By: Nancy Kruh

Though eulogies to newsman-turned-presidential press secretary Tony Snow so far aren't as numerous as those to Meet the Press host Tim Russert, the affection and admiration that pundits are expressing is no less profuse.
When the former Fox News commentator, who died Saturday at age 53, became President Bush's chief spokesman, "it was a lucky day for Mr. Snow, but much more so for the White House," Byron York writes. "Mr. Snow brought obvious gifts as a communicator, plus an impossible-to-dislike personality, and – not to be underestimated – conservative cred."
The National Review columnist calls Mr. Snow's arrival "an immediate breath of fresh air for the White House communications operation. He set out to talk to reporters in front of the camera. That didn't cause them to stop criticizing the White House, and it didn't cause the war in Iraq to go better, but it did give George W. Bush an appealing and effective voice appearing daily on television. ...
"Mr. Snow became the best face the administration ever had."
Fred Barnes lauds his longtime friend for playing offense, rather than defense, in his White House post. "He not only could articulate and explain Mr. Bush's foreign and domestic policies, he could promote them," the Weekly Standard columnist writes. "At the pressroom podium, Tony was an ardent and effective polemicist. When reporters argued with him, they usually lost. Yet Tony was so nice and civil and informative that the press hounds generally liked him while loathing his boss."
Mr. Snow served in the White House from May 2006 to September 2007 – a time Mr. Barnes considers "the darkest days of the Bush presidency" because of Iraq war setbacks. "But Tony understood how critical Iraq was to winning the war on terror and transforming the Middle East," the columnist writes. "He defended the president's Iraq policy before and after the surge, never blinking or backing down. He was better at this than the president was."
In his reflections on Mr. Snow's life, William Kristol notes that pessimism is a "powerful, perhaps dominant" attitude "among many thoughtful people today – perhaps especially among conservatives, reacting against a facile liberal belief in progress."
But Mr. Snow "didn't have a prejudice in favor of melancholy," The New York Times columnist writes. "His deep Christian faith combined with his natural exuberance to give him an upbeat world view. Watching him ... I came to wonder: Could it be that a stance of faith-grounded optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?
"Tony was one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet – kind, helpful and cheerful. But underlying these seemingly natural qualities was a kind of choice: the choice of gratitude. Tony thought we should be grateful for what life has given us, not bitter or anxious about what it hasn't."
Susan Estrich offers a tender tribute to the man who was her political adversary both on the pages of USA Today and in AOL debates.
"He drove some of my liberal friends somewhat crazy, to say the least, as President Bush's press secretary, not because he was in any way more dishonest than his predecessors (hello, Scott McClellan) but because he was so much better at it, more appealing, so much more likable, that he could almost make die-hards sympathize with positions they didn't take," the Creators Syndicate columnist writes for Fox News. "He was great at the job, and he loved it. It was a gift, and he knew it."

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