Snow's Job


We're not sorry to see Scott McClellan step down as White House press secretary. Presidential press secretaries, at best, obfuscate, but McClellan was too far out of the loop to know enough about what was going on to give even plausible answers.

Nothing much has gone right for President Bush lately, and yet this is a president who finds it difficult to say he has made even the slightest of mistakes. It was up to McClellan to stay true to that untenable theme.

If nothing else, McClellan's replacement, Fox commentator Tony Snow, has that network's tell-it-like-we-see-it attitude. (The Daily Show last Thursday said his appointment was the last piece in the official merger of Fox News and the Bush White House.) Snow is intelligent, glib, clever, conservative and smart enough to know that, if he's going to be able to help turn around the image of the president, he will have to have access to decision makers and treat correspondents without contempt.

Snow has his work cut out for him. A majority of the country now disapproves of the job the president is doing. So it would be in the best interest of the republic (and probably the Republican Party) for Snow to do something brilliant and bold and tell a truth that everyone but the administration seems to know: America is stuck with some thorny problems for which there aren't many easy answers. Actually, some in the White House must know that inflexibility is not a synonym for strength and, when dissent is equated with disloyalty, truth is the first casualty.

Snow might be able to remind the press corps that Bush is presiding over historically horrible times. Never before has a president had to deal with something like 9/11 or an international terrorist organization committed to obliterating the world in the name of its god. Rarely before has such a large portion of the country been devastated by a natural disaster the likes of Hurricane Katrina.

Americans can and do argue over how the Bush administration has handled those and other events, but an articulate—and helpful and respectful—press secretary might improve the impression that this president is in far over his head.

Snow's past as a commentator gave him the gift of being able to say honest, and not always kind, things about people he otherwise admires, including the president. Snow has been a loyal Republican who nonetheless has criticized Bush, usually for not being conservative enough.

He is also a journalist, and perhaps he can teach President Bush that the free flow of information is not a necessary evil but a fundamental feature of a democracy. We wish Snow luck. We hope he has legitimate good news to report before the Bush administration folds its tent.