Published on Sunday, April 30, 2006 by the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (New York)
White House Reporters Are Snow-Bound
by David Rossie
The White House press secretary change has given new meaning to the term "snow job." And it may be more than a matter of going from lower case to upper case.
By pulling the hapless Scott McClellan who was being pounded by a suddenly aggressive White House press corps, and sending Tony Snow in as a long relief man, administration strategists may have concluded that a good offense is the best defense of their crumbling castle of lies and deception.
For months, Cheney and Bush were content to send poor McClellan out to repeat their lies or simply refuse comment, and it worked on a passive press corps. They even got away for a while with planting a male prostitute disguised as a reporter in the audience to lob softball questions at McClellan.
But eventually, public discontent with the way that pack of incompetents was running the country and a misbegotten war became so palpable that the watchdogs turned lap dogs could no longer ignore the mood that was abroad in the land.
As Bush's poll numbers dropped, their courage gradually grew and they actually began to talk back to McClellan. The Republican propagandist who coined the term media jackals knew whereof he spoke.
The jackals did the same thing to Poppy Bush in 1992 when his poll numbers plummeted. After nearly four years of kowtowing, they suddenly discovered that he was indecisive and he talked funny, and they promptly set about putting the boots to him.
Cheney is not about to let that happen to Junior. Not with Iran yet to be conquered and so many no-bid Halliburton contracts waiting to be awarded. So whom do you turn to for damage control? Who else but the Republican Party's propaganda arm: The Fox Network.
And the logical choice out of that bullpen would be Snow. He may be a showman in his present incarnation, but he was a newsman once and was also a speech writer for Poppy himself.
More to the point, Snow is on record as having on a couple of occasions questioned whether Dubya is God's earthly spokesman. Which, incidentally, is more than can be said for Tim Russert.
The White House strategists may feel that Snow's past and his occasional brushes with apostasy will enable him to bond with his erstwhile colleagues on the other side of the microphones.
During the tenure of Ari Fleischer the spirit of collegiality between the press secretary and the press slowly diminished and during McClellan's tour of duty, it vanished altogether. That was hardly McClellan's fault. As front man for the most secretive and duplicitous political organization this side of the Kremlin, he had no recourse. Just as General Myers was required to swear to all of Rumsfeld's lies, it was McClellan's lot to bear false witness to Cheney's and Bush's fabrications.
It will be interesting to see how Snow goes about closing the breech of confidence which is more like a chasm between press and press secretary, or if he will even try.
If Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity should suddenly appear amid the press corps disguised as reporters, we'll have some indication as to whether it's a new game or business as usual.
For my part, I'm a bit disappointed that Jim Lehrer didn't get the nod to replace McClellan. It would have been a great fit for him. He would have been able to go to bed at night without having to be afraid he might have inadvertently said something, or allowed a guest to say something, that day that would upset the administration.David Rossie is associate editor; his column is published on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
© 2006 Press & Sun-Bulletin