About a month ago, following my regular Saturday stint on Fox, host Tony Snow asked me to step into his office because there was something he wanted to talk to me about.
What he wanted to talk to me about was, of course, the fact that the White House had contacted him about becoming its new spokesman.
Over the course of the next three weeks we chatted about it now and again ending with a call when I was on a shuttle bus from the Hertz lot to the terminal at the Sacramento airport.
He told me at that point that the deal was just about done; that his docs had signed off on it; that the access issues had been worked through, and only final approval was needed to pull the trigger.
The final approval Tony was waiting for, was from his wife.
There are a bewildering number of items which have to be checked off the list when you are going from being in the full flower of your professional career to becoming a day worker for the Federal government.
I have no idea how much Tony was making from his TV and radio contracts with Fox. He has also been on the speaking circuit. His radio program, in addition to being an over-the-air broadcast, also is on satellite radio so there was income from that source.
If you decide to work at a high level in the government you have to be prepared to bare your soul, your checkbook, and anything else you've got available to bare.
It is an axiom of most of us that we pretty much spend according to what we earn.
According to the Washington Post, the senior staff at the White House were knocking down $161,000 each in 2005. That might have been bumped a few percentage points at the beginning of the year, but we know that Executive Branch appointees (except for Cabinet Officers) cannot make more than Members of Congress.
And not talking about Alan Mollohan or Duke Cunningham money. I'm talking about the $165,200 base rate for non-leadership positions.
Being grownups, we had a frank discussion about the reduction in salary he would be taking and whether he thought this was important enough to put his family through all the stresses and strains.
I won't attempt to quote him, but the effect of his words were: It is important because the world needs a strong American President - whoever that President is. I think I can help rebuild George Bush's standing with the American people and that may well lead to similar improvement around the world.
"So," I said (I CAN quote myself), "you're doing this for the best possible reason: Because you're a patriot."
When his name first surfaced, the Left and their allies in the popular press snickered that Tony was being "repaid" for his unwavering support of the White House.
After someone bothered to actually read some of the things Tony has written, the Left and their allies in the popular press snickered that President Bush was hiring someone who had spoken critically about some of this policies.
In technical terms this is called - I'll go slowly for those who may have come in late - "Trying to have it both ways."
Tony Snow is the first Press Secretary to have been involved at the highest professional levels in all of the major media: Press, radio, television, and the Internet.
A reporter said to me the other day that Tony may well redefine the role and the style of a White House Press Secretary; and will probably restructure the office to more accurately reflect the needs of a 24-hour news cycle in a 24-hour world.
And I suspect Tony Snow will do it all with grace, charm, humor, and intelligence.
The White House press corps delights in its ability to spend a half hour hectoring the Press Secretary demanding to know why a semi-colon has been changed to a comma.
After a period of hazing by the White House press corps, don't be surprised if the atmosphere in the White House briefing room changes for the better.
If so, Tony Snow will be doing a great service for his country.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The link to the Injured Marine Semper Fi fund (which now stands at over $32,000); A link to the Washington Post's listing of White House staff salaries; NPR's Mara Liasson's take on Tony Snow; another in a new Mullfoto category: That'll Buff Right Out," and a Catchy Caption of the Day.
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