Tony Snow to Be Named White House Spokesman

It’s all but official.

Tony Snow photo Conservative pundit Tony Snow will be named White House press secretary, Republican officials said Tuesday night, in the latest move in President Bush’s effort to remake his troubled White House.

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Snow, a Fox News commentator and speech-writer in the White House under Bush’s father, has written and spoken frequently about the current president — not always in a complimentary way. While Snow is an experienced Washington hand, he is an outsider when it comes to Bush’s tight core of advisers.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, circulated unflattering observations by Snow about Bush. “His (Bush’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,” Snow wrote last November after Republicans failed to win the governor’s race in Virginia. “The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” Last month, Snow wrote that Bush and the Republican Congress had “lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding the public fisc. (treasury)”

Snow, in an Associated Press interview on Tuesday, said: “It’s public record. I’ve written some critical stuff. When you’re a columnist, you’re going to criticize and you’re going to praise.” Unofficially, the White House tried to put the best face on Snow’s criticism, suggesting it showed that the administration listens to different voices and noting that Snow’s job called for him to be opinionated.

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One factor in Snow’s decision was that he had his colon removed last year and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer. He had a CAT scan last week and delayed a decision while he consulted with his doctors.

Being a pundit is definitely a different animal from being a spokesman for someone else. It would be difficult to find a strong candidate for the job who had not criticized the president’s policies. Maybe Hugh Hewitt? One’s partisans are never completely satisfied with the actions of a president, who can never be ideological enough to satisfy the base.

Howie Kurtz has an interesting roundup of reactions to the impending announcment. This one helps answer the question I’ve had from the beginning:

Brit Hume, Fox’s Washington managing editor, said he was “a little surprised” that Snow would give up his new radio show to take one of the capital’s most demanding jobs. “I think he’s excited by the idea of being on the inside,” Hume said. “He believes he will be at the table when decisions are made. For someone of his bent, that’s too good to pass up.”

And, for once, I completely agree with Dee Dee Myers:

Dee Dee Myers, a press secretary in the Clinton White House, said that if Bush wants smoother relations with journalists, “Tony has stature. He understands how the press works from both sides. He has a big personality, and that can be helpful.” But she noted that Snow has “a long paper trail” and would have to defend policies he has criticized.

And this is encouraging as well:

Snow, 50, is particularly interested in economic and immigration issues. He intends to insist on greater access for White House reporters, said sources familiar with his plans. He has described the press corps as a beast that must be constantly fed. In a December 2000 column in the Washington Times, he referred to “Democrats and journalists (but I repeat myself).” He has told associates he plans to function as an advocate for reporters, an approach that would run counter to the administration’s previous philosophy about the position

While it’s dangerous to trust the press too much, the opposite has caused the White House substantial problems. Everything looks like a scandal when the reflex is to go into bunker mode.

Tony Snow PhotoShop Michelle Malkin has an advanced look at Snow in his new gig.

If nothing else, judging from the reactions I’ve seen in the blogosphere, this appointment will help excite the Faithful. That’s something the president desperately needs at the moment.

Update: Hugh Hewitt makes an interesting observation:

[T]he daily work of preparing for and hosting a three hour talk show on radio as well as the television work will make Snow supremely confident on many issues that others have never covered. One of the joys of doing what we do is that it allows us read widely and constantly, to interview experts and opposities, and, crucially, to practice the hardest words for anyone in Washington to say: “I don’t know.”

We confront churlish folks and gentle but ill-informed folks, and passion and bigotry and patriotism and honor and every other sort of American virtue and emotion every day. There isn’t much the WH press can throw at Snow that he hasn’t aleady fielded afew hundred times.

Good point.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.