Bruce Bartlett
The appointment of Tony Snow as White House press secretary has generated more than the usual amount of media chatter. I don’t recall anything similar when current press secretary Scott McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer during George Bush’s first term or when Joe Lockhart took Mike McCurry’s place during the Clinton Administration.

Part of the reason is that the White House press corps thinks it forced Bush to shake-up his staff. Stories about how the White House staff was burned out and ineffective in promoting his achievements were a media staple in the months leading up to the resignations of McClellan and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. Thus the press is pleased that it not only got Bush to take notice of its agenda, but to act on it.

Another factor is that Snow comes from Fox News, where he has been a radio and television personality for many years. It confirms in the minds of many reporters that the relationship between Fox and the Republican Party goes over the line and makes a mockery of Fox’s journalistic integrity. But of course this is just hypocrisy. The rest of the major media leans so heavily toward the Democratic Party it is simply taken as the normal state of affairs.

Finally, there is the question of why Snow was offered the job and why he took it. After all, he has not been shy about making pointed criticisms of Bush from a conservative perspective. And it is rare for such a prominent media figure to take the job of White House press secretary. One has to go back to Pierre Salinger, who served John F. Kennedy, to find someone of equivalent prominence who came into that position.

In fact, it is uncommon for a White House press secretary to have national media experience. Most press secretaries got there by being the press secretary to congressmen, senators and such. I think that one has to go back to Ron Nessen, Gerald Ford’s press secretary, to find one who came directly out of the news business.

One reason for this is that members of the working press like to pretend that they are nonpartisan, however much they may tilt ideologically toward the Democrats. A corollary to this is that there are so few Republicans in the major media that Republican presidents would not have found many kindred souls there if they had looked.


Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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