Has Tony Snow Jumped The Shark As Administration Press Spokesman?
Has Tony Snow moved perilously close to the day when he becomes Tony Schmo — someone who starts to appear less a smooth advocate and persuader for his administration’s policies and more a standard for-partisans-of-one-party-only talk show host transplanted to do his schtick at the White House?
The White House belittled former President Clinton’s policy of direct engagement with North Korea on Monday, saying efforts to shower North Korean leader Kim Jong Il “with flowers and chocolates” failed.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that Bill Richardson, who served as United Nations ambassador and Energy Secretary under Clinton, “went with flowers and chocolates, and he went with light-water nuclear reactors … and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan and many other inducements for the ‘dear leader’ to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons, and it failed.”
Snow added, “We’ve learned from that mistake.”
Jay Carson, a spokesman for the former president, responded, “This is a serious issue for global security, and it’s unfortunate that the Bush administration’s TV spinmaster is manufacturing excuses for North Korea’s transgressions instead of looking at the last six years of inaction and the abandonment of diplomacy.”
If Snow continues in this vein he will blow his credibility:
–He has a golden opportunity since George Bush’s poll numbers have moved slightly up from the basement to make the administration’s case in a serious manner in a way that could benefit his boss.
–On an issue such as Korea literally the whole world is watching and listening to Snow when he speaks. And if he speaks seriously, he could score some points; at the worst, people who don’t agree with him will just disagree and not tune him out.
–He could have detailed specifics about the Clinton policy that he and the White House considered weak and/or flawed. He didn’t.
–Just as blogs (including this one) at times slip into “blogspeak,” Snow has slipped back into talk show speak. It won’t help him in his job: he will only appeal to those who already support the President and he will alienate those who might think he has a point on some aspects of Clinton administration policy…if he presented them differently.
–If Snow is pressed and if an enterprising mainstream reporter takes the time to pursue it, it would probably become clear that the Clinton policy was more than just flowers and chocolates.
Warning to Tony Snow: not everyone likes the talk show culture. If you think you were put in your job only to appeal to and to convince people who listened to your show and Rush’s and Sean’s then you will utterly fail at your job and you will become a thinner, less sweaty version of Scott McClellan with better hair. In fact, flippant statements like you made today will be quoted and used to your and your boss’ disadvantage.
The key problem: Snow seems to think these words put the White House on the offensive.
In fact, they sound most assuredly defensive and decidedly weak.
Perhaps Condoleeza Rice can give a more thoughtful explanation of administration policy, what problems this administration sees in the Clinton approach, and how the Bush approach is better and more effective in the long run.
Snow certainly didn’t.