So concluded Tony Snow’s first televised White House press briefing today.
Some thoughts after our trip to the James S. Brady Briefing Room….
We appreciated the welcome we received from Dana Milbank: “Patrick…from Fishbowl? Well, welcome to this fishbowl…”
Yes, yes: Snow looked caught in the headlights when he first came out.
Yes, yes: He had lots of make-up on. Very UN-McClellanian.
Yes, yes: His eyes seem to perfectly match the blue backdrop behind him.
Interesting that he didn’t bother beginning the briefing by playing chummy with reporters. He was strictly business.
Snow wasn’t with out the first day jitters, flip-flopping on several occasions about whether speculating about the issues was good or bad. Snow told NBC’s David Gregory not to “leap to conclusions, David, about what the House of Representatives is likely to do” but later told another reporter asking about immigration reform that “I guarantee you it’s going to go to conference.” Catching himself on his own double standard, Snow apologized and said, “You’re absolutely right. I overstepped and should not be making predictions about what the Senate will do.”
My overall impression is that Snow is starkly different than any White House press secretary we’ve seen in quite some time. The skills he honed as a radio talk show host were on display today, as Snow skipped the talking points for a more talk show-like format: Articulate and poised, but also loose and casual. Taking a more personal route seemed to put him in greater control of the proceedings than McClellan ever was. On several occasions, Snow tried turning the spotlight on reporters (“Are you suggesting that we have too much prosperity?”) and he even tried holding reporters’ hands as he walked them through the issues as he saw them (“Let me remind you: This is a war on terror.”).
Obviously the biggest “news” to come out of Snow’s briefing was how open–and emotional–he was when talking about his own struggle with colon cancer (and that of his mother, who died of the disease when Snow was 17). He choked up for a small eternity (calling it his “Ed Muskey moment”) and spoke not only of his relief to be alive (“I feel every day is a blessing.”) but how grateful he was to be press secretary (“I don’t see it as a personal sacrifice to answer a call from the President of the United States to come and serve, I consider it an honor. That still gives me chills. I go out at the end of that lawn, I look back the pillars, and think, man, I’m working here. I don’t know if you ever do this, but if you don’t, I suggest you do. It’s an astounding thing. And whatever the citizens and you may feel about your particular state in life, this is a very special place to work.”). Certainly, this endeared Snow to many in the room and made it clear that his relationship and tone with the West Wing reporters would be more personal and less plastic.
Great line: “…a doctor who said, you don’t have to worry about getting cancer, just heartburn, talking to these people — (laughter).”
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Some things, of course, never changed, as best witnessed by such Snow Soundbytes as “We will neither confirm nor deny” or “This administration has no comment.”
David Gregory is keeping his bite at bay for the time being, asking relatively softball questions to Snow (but the Wonkettes say that Gregory still “mastered the most condescending way of saying ‘Tony’ possible.”).
Great line: “Rather than having me fake it, I’ll get you the exact numbers,” Snow said in response to a question about how many Border Patrol agents would be moved to the U.S.-Mexico border under Bushâ€™s proposal.
And one more: “I have made no decisions about whether or not to televise. I am sure that the TV people here would have absolutely no problem with us going dark.”
Terence Hunt gave Snow his current “Live Strong” bracelet after his old one was cut while in the hospital. In related news, he goofed and called Lance Armstrong “Lance Anderson.”