Bush hires a Fox news commentator. No, seriously
WASHINGTON, April 26 ??? President Bush today named Tony Snow, the Fox News radio and television commentator, as the new White House press secretary, despite Mr. Snow's past criticisms of his policies.Mr. Bush, while praising Mr. Snow's long experience in print, radio and television, noted that "he's not afraid of expressing his own opinions" and that "he sometimes disagreed with me." He said when he asked Mr. Snow about those critical remarks, he replied, "You should have heard what I said about the other guy."But he made it clear that Mr. Snow is no longer an independent agent. "My job is to make decisions," the president said. "And his job is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people."Mr. Bush tried to strike a light note, saying Mr. Snow already knew most of the people in the White House press corps. "He's agreed to take the job anyway," Mr. Bush said.Mr. Snow spoke briefly, saying, "One of the I reasons took this job is not only because I believe in the president, because, believe it or not, I want to work with you."Unlike the soft-spoken current press secretary, Scott McClellan, who announced his resignation last week, Mr. Snow is something of a showman, having earned his living in a world in which success hinges upon being provocative.Mr. Snow has written recent columns critical of Mr. Bush, arguing that his White House had lost its verve and direction in his second term.A senior administration official said the president chose Mr. Snow, 50, to become one of the most visible faces of the administration because he understood newspapers, radio, television and government, having worked in all four areas.This official, who was granted anonymity to speak about a major personnel move before it was announced by Mr. Bush, added that the White House was hoping that Mr. Snow would use his television skills to take better advantage of the daily briefings so often televised live on cable news, giving the administration unfiltered time to push its points of the day.Mr. Snow is also a star in the conservative movement, some of whose members, including him, have been openly critical of the White House in recent months.His appointment comes as the new White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, is shuffling the president's top staff as part of an effort to salvage Mr. Bush's second-term agenda. One area on which Mr. Bolten has already focused is Mr. Bush's press operation, which he is trying to make more effective at presenting the president's message, Republicans with ties to the White House have said.Mr. Snow has been the host of "The Tony Snow Show" on radio and "Weekend Live with Tony Snow" on the Fox News Channel; he also had been the host of "Fox News Sunday," one of the five major Sunday morning public affairs programs. Before that, he was a columnist at USA Today and the editorial page editor of The Washington Times.Mr. Snow took a break from journalism to work as a White House speechwriter for Mr. Bush's father.His appointment as press secretary has been rumored for more than a week, even before Mr. McClellan's resigned. White House officials had expressed surprise at the rumors, however, and wondered whether the appointment would happen, given Mr. Snow's freewheeling style and some of his commentary.In a column titled "Thud!" on his radio show Web site, Mr. Snow called the president's domestic policy proposals in his State of the Union address "lackluster" and worried that the president had a dearth of people around him willing to tell him when his ideas were bad. Mr. Snow added, however, that Mr. Bush was "the only figure who counts in American politics."Late Tuesday, Democrats were already circulating, via e-mail messages, a link to a blog affiliated with the Center for American Progress, which features a list of Mr. Snow's critical comments about the president in his columns.In a November column, posted on Townhall.com, Mr. Snow wrote of Mr. Bush: "His 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. The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment."In a March column, Mr. Snow wrote, "A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding the public fisc." And he derided the new prescription drug benefit that Mr. Bush signed into law.As press secretary, Mr. Snow would probably have to defend just such a program.When asked about Mr. Snow's more critical comments, the administration official said, "What better way to pop the bubble that people think there is here."Senior administration officials consider Mr. Snow to be just the sort of outsider for whom some of their concerned Republican allies have been calling.Mr. Snow had surgery for colon cancer last year, and he was said to have been waiting for his doctors' approval before signing on as press secretary. He is healthy now, and his physicians carefully monitor his condition.In the past week, Mr. Snow has also made it clear that he was negotiating for as much access as possible before taking the job. He said in an interview on the Fox News Channel that he was interested in the position because he would be part of "an inner White House circle."Though White House officials have consistently said that Mr. McClellan has had all the access he wanted, the perception remained among members of both parties that he did not. Either way, the senior administration official who spoke for this article said Mr. Snow would have "walk-in privileges" and an important role in "strategic thinking."