The appointment of Tony Snow as the new White House press spokesman is the shrewdest move, and also the best choice, the Bush administration has made in years.
The job of press spokesman has grown phenomenally in recent years. Back when the daily White House press briefings weren't televised, it didn't matter nearly so much who was sent out to make announcements and answer the press corps' tough questions. But during the Clinton administration portions of the daily briefings were televised and broadcast live, and, perhaps inevitably, they came to be covered in full by television cameras. Under George W. Bush, they have become an immensely important aspect of the face the administration has presented to the world. Scott McClellan, its most recent spokesman, has done a decent job, but nobody would call him inspired. With his replacement by Tony Snow, however, the situation is going to be dramatically transformed.
Snow, a veteran journalist and commentator on the Fox News Channel, is a tall, laid-back and courteous fellow whom it is almost impossible to dislike. His demeanor will present a formidable challenge to the members of the White House press corps, who are overwhelmingly liberal, despise the Bush administration, and have delighted in the chance live television coverage has given them to snarl nasty questions at Bush's beleagured spokesman. Some of them have obviously come to think of themselves as TV stars in their own right -- perhaps on the way to shows of their own.
It's going to be fun to watch these would-be stars trying to trap Snow in misstatements, or badger him for allegedly concealing the truth. Within a matter of months, they will realize that they simply cannot treat Snow as another case of roadkill. The Americans who watch these exchanges -- and there are millions of them -- will simply reject any attempt to cast this thoughtful, soft-spoken and eminently likeable man as some sort of professional liar, trying to launder the dirty linen of a venal administration.
Moreover, reports are that Snow has already bargained a more influential spot for himself than any previous spokesman has ever had. He will have "walk-in" access to the president, and a voice in how policies are formulated and presented. This will give him the ability to design, to some degree, the architecture of his encounters with the press.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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