WASHINGTON, D,C.— Tony Snow, the Fox News radio and television commentator who worked as a speechwriter in the administration of the first President Bush, has been named White House press secretary, taking over from Scott McClellan, who resigned last week. He arrives at a challenging time, with President Bush’s approval rating at just 32 percent in recent polls.
Snow is the first Washington pundit to become White House press secretary and the first journalist to move directly from a media job to the top spokesman’s role since Ron Nessen was named press secretary to Gerald Ford in the 1970s.
A White House official told Reuters that the administration hoped Snow could use his television skills to take better advantage of the daily briefings—now often televised live on cable news—to help the administration use unfiltered time to push its points of the day.
Snow, a conservative commentator and host of The Tony Snow Show on radio and Weekend Live with Tony Snow on the Fox News Channel, has been critical of the president in recent months. In November of last year, he wrote that “George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” He also called the president’s domestic policy proposals in his State of the Union address “lackluster”
“He’s not afraid to express his own opinions,” Bush told reporters. “He sometimes has disagreed with me, I asked him about those comments and he said, ‘You should have heard what I said about the other guy.”
Commentators suggested that Snow’s past challenges of the president and his policies would help undermine the claim that the administration had insulated itself from criticism.
“They want people to express their opinions,” Snow said during an interview. “You’re not coming here to drink the Kool-Aid. You’re coming here to serve the president. And at this particular juncture I think what you want is as much honest counsel as you can get.”
In another interview with former Fox colleague Brit Hume, he explained his philosophical approach to the job: “You never lie. You never try to shave the truth. But on the other hand, you’ve got to keep in mind the guy I’m working for is the president.”
Snow also made it clear that he had negotiated for as much access as possible before taking the job. He said in an interview on the Fox News Channel that he was interested in the position because he would be part of “an inner White House circle. He will reportedly have “walk-in privileges” and an important role in “strategic thinking.”
While most of the early coverage of Snow’s appointment was favorable, conservative commentator George Will expressed some skepticism, saying that while the selection of Snow was “just what conservatives really want, is government by Fox News,” the change of spokesman would not make “a particle of difference… Because it’s not a communication problem. It’s a substance problem. Politics is about something. Now, this is an aesthetic improvement in that room in the White House, period.”