Posted on July 13, 2008
I saw my good buddy Rick Dibella talk about his friend Tony Snow on CNN yesterday. Dibella, who was a producer for Fox News Sunday when Tony anchored the show, observed that Snow wasn’t one to hit the Washington cocktail circuit. He always put his family first, because he had his priorities straight.
Snow wasn’t a natural newsman. Although he trained as a journalist, he clearly had his own opinions about what was right and what was wrong. And he didn’t play the game that both right and wrong should have an equal chance before the judge. Right was right and wrong was wrong, and that is how he called them.
You always had the sense that Snow was enjoying every moment he had on this earth, because he knew that he didn’t have time to waste. Perhaps that sense of fatalism came with the death of his mother, who died at a young age of the same cancer that later killed her son.
I didn’t know Tony that well, although he would call me every once in a while when I worked for the Speaker to get the scoop. Speaker Hastert enjoyed doing the Fox News Sunday show because he knew he would get more than a fair shake from Tony.
When Snow replaced Scott McClellan, you had the sense that a grown-up had finally arrived at the scene. McClellan was a punching bag for the press. With Snow, it was a fair fight. Tony knew their tricks, knew what questions they were going to ask, and he knew how to respond. Tony wasn’t necessarily a detail guy. He left a lot of the hard work to his able number two, Dana Perino, who has done a very good job as his replacement. But he was an adult and he brought some glamour and some pizzazz back to the job of Press Secretary following those dark days of the McClellan years.
What I most admired about Snow, though, was his sense of humanity. As Rick pointed out, Tony was just a good guy. He was a happy warrior. He was an optimist. He was positive about life and about how he wanted to live it. He was also a great example to others who fought cancer. He didn’t shy away from the fight. He rushed into battle as a warrior against the dreaded disease that ultimately beat him.
This has been a tough couple of weeks for those of us who love the game of politics. First, Tim Russert dies of a heart attack and now Tony dies of colon cancer. Tim and Tony had a lot in common. Both drank heartily of life, both loved politics, both were good Catholics who loved their faith. Both came from middle class families, and took those values with them to the top of the Washington pyramid. Both were solid, both loved their families and both loved living life.
Russert and Snow changed the relationship between journalism and politics. Russert started in politics and became a hard-nosed journalist. Snow started in journalism, migrated to politics, became a pundit and then an anchor of a news program and then migrated back to politics. They tore down the Chinese wall between politicians and journalists and I am not sure if that wall will ever be rebuilt as high or as sturdy.
In any case, the country lost another good one in Tony Snow. My deepest condolences go to his family and all of this friends.