Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow dead at 53

One can only run so far, so fast, from cancer. At 2 a.m. Saturday, conservative commentator and former Press Secretary Tony Snow had simply run out. The longtime Fox News anchor died from the disease; he was 53.

Former Bush press secretary dies

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Tony Snow, a conservative writer and commentator who cheerfully sparred with reporters in the White House briefing room during a stint as President Bush's press secretary, died Saturday of colon cancer. He was 53.
"America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character," President Bush said in a statement from Camp David, where he was spending the weekend. "It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work."
Snow died at 2 a.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, according to former employer Fox News.
Snow, who served as the first host of the television news program "Fox News Sunday" from 1996 to 2003, would later say that in the Bush administration he was enjoying "the most exciting, intellectually aerobic job I'm ever going to have."
Snow was working for Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio when he replaced Scott McClellan as press secretary in May 2006 during a White House shake-up. Unlike McClellan, who came to define caution and bland delivery from the White House podium, Snow was never shy about playing to the cameras.
With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster's good looks and a relentlessly bright outlook — if not always a command of the facts — he became a popular figure around the country to the delight of his White House bosses.
He served just 17 months as press secretary, a tenure interrupted by his second bout with cancer. In 2005 doctors had removed his colon and he began six months of chemotherapy. In March 2007 a cancerous growth was removed from his abdominal area and he spent five weeks recuperating before returning to the White House.
"All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against cancer," Bush said.
Snow resigned as Bush's chief spokesman last September, citing not his health but a need to earn more than the $168,000 a year he was paid in the government post. In April, he joined CNN as a commentator.
As press secretary, Snow brought partisan zeal and the skills of a seasoned performer to the task of explaining and defending the president's policies. During daily briefings, he challenged reporters, scolded them and questioned their motives as if he were starring in a TV show broadcast live from the West Wing.
Critics suggested that Snow was turning the traditionally informational daily briefing into a personality-driven media event short on facts and long on confrontation. He was the first press secretary, by his own accounting, to travel the country raising money for Republican candidates.
Although a star in conservative politics, as a commentator he had not always been on the president's side. He once called Bush "something of an embarrassment" in conservative circles and criticized what he called Bush's "lackluster" domestic policy.
Most of Snow's career in journalism involved expressing his conservative views. After earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1977 and studying economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, he wrote editorials for The Greensboro (N.C.) Record, and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
He was the editorial page editor of The Newport News (Va.) Daily Press and deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News before moving to Washington in 1987 to become editorial page editor of The Washington Times.
Snow left journalism in 1991 to join the administration of the first President Bush as director of speechwriting and deputy assistant to the president for media affairs. He then rejoined the news media to write nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit News and USA Today during much of the Clinton administration.
Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, called Snow a "renaissance man."
Robert Anthony Snow was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Ky., and spent his childhood in the Cincinnati area. Survivors include his wife, Jill Ellen Walker, whom he married in 1987, and three children.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jesse Helms dead at 86

An interesting POV from Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe regarding the July 4 death of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC).
Interesting that liberals don't seem to want to forgive Helms' segregationist past (while he was a Democrat), yet have no problem glossing over that of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Dancing on the grave of Jesse Helms
By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / July 9, 2008
LIBERALS DIDN'T think much of Jesse Helms when he was alive, and their feelings didn't soften with his death.

"Jesse Helms, you rat bastard, burn in hell," announced a headline at Daily Kos, the hugely popular left-wing blog; "Please excuse me while I dance upon his grave," gloated another.

In The Nation, the former North Carolina senator was memorialized as "Jesse Helms, American Bigot." For its online audience, The Washington Post resurrected a column David Broder produced when Helms announced his retirement: "Jesse Helms, White Racist."

The invective streamed in from across the pond as well. "There seemingly wasn't a right-wing, retrograde social issue Helms met that he didn't like," wrote Melissa McEwan in a savage essay on the Guardian's website. "It was . . . his unmitigated intolerance toward people of color that will define his legacy.

Well, hating Helms is nothing new. More than 16 years ago, the scholar Charles Horner observed in Commentary that for many people Helms had become a "symbol of the evil against which all enlightened people are automatically ranged." As with the poisonous rhetoric of today's pathological George W. Bush-haters, the point of the virulence expressed toward Helms was typically character-assassination, not contention - it was aimed at demonizing the man rather than debating or disproving his ideas.

For some liberals, Helms's death had long been a fantasy. "I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the Good Lord's mind," NPR's Nina Totenberg said in 1995, "because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion. Or one of his grandchildren will get it."

What the left despised most about Helms varied with the seasons. There was his unyielding anticommunism. His visceral opposition to homosexuality. His war on government funding of obscene art. His blackball of William Weld's nomination as ambassador to Mexico. His staunch support of the tobacco industry. And, of course, his segregationist past.

In the one-dimensional demonology of the left, Helms comes across as an unreconstructed racist who dreamed of Jim Crow every night and whose first words each morning were "Segregation forever!" The truth was considerably different - and more admirable.

Helms came to prominence as a foe of desegregation. "He battled as hard as any of them," editorialized the conservative National Review in 2001, "a shameful legacy, of which he was never ashamed." In those days Helms was a Democrat, as were most Southern segregationists. But by the time he entered Congress in 1973, he had changed both his party and his mind. Far from using his office to roll back civil rights, argued Walter Russell Mead, a noted scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, Helms "deserves to be remembered as one of a handful of men who brought white Southern conservatives into a new era of race relations."

Mead, who grew up in the South, recalled listening as a boy to Helms's "anti-integration, anti-Martin Luther King commentaries on WRAL-TV." But once the battle was over and the civil rights laws were passed, Mead wrote years later, Helms did something "very revolutionary for Southern white populists: He accepted the laws and obeyed them." He shunned violence, hired black aides, and provided constituent services without regard to race. Instead of leading his followers into resistance, Helms "disciplined and tamed the segregationist South," prodding it "into grudging acceptance of the new racial order."

Yet rather than hail his statesmanship and acknowledge his contribution to the civil rights revolution, liberals marked his death by reaching for pejoratives. Helms's sin was not racism; it was his tenacious political incorrectness. Had he been willing to tack left on other issues, his racial wrongs would have been forgiven.

Consider, for example, the treatment meted out to Helms's senior colleague, Sam Ervin. He was beloved by the left notwithstanding his defense of segregation and his vote against elevating Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. When Ervin died, The Washington Post's front-page obituary began by saluting him as a "hero to many" for his role in the Watergate hearings. His opposition to nearly every civil-rights bill of his career wasn't mentioned until the 24th paragraph - of a 25-paragraph obituary.

The real Jesse Helms was never the cartoon villain his enemies so loved to hate. But then, he didn't much care what they thought while he was alive. He certainly doesn't care now.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at

Friday, July 04, 2008

Patriotism and Obama

If other countries around the world do hate America, I figured out today why; competitive-eating contests. The fact that there even IS an International Federation of Competitive Eating tells me the outcry over rising food prices should be ignored just awhile longer. Granted, other countries are obviously involved in this international body, but scarf-and-barf contests have been part of county fairs across America for decades.
Oh well, at least an American won the Nathan's hot dog eating contest this year.

The way our presidential race is going, I'm surprised Barack Obama and John McCain didn't show up at the event. Hell, maybe that would be a better way to settle the event than the way they're going.

While no one is seriously questioning McCain's patriotism, that seems to be one of the tacts being taken by some conservative voices. Obama has opened himself to a laundry list of allegations:

* I used to think his alleged refusal to hold his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance was largely derived from this photo taken during a campaign stop in Iowa last year. But then I found this video, where he stands for the duration of (a truly awful rendition of) the National Anthem, and I realize he made a conscious decision to not place his hand over his heart. I usually just fold my hands, but Obama is the only one on the stage who didn't get the memo.

* Michelle Obama said repeatedly that for the first time in her adult life, she was proud of her country for voting for her husband. ... I'm willing to cut her some slack if only because she's not the public speaker, Barack is. She's just a hospital administrator. A six-figure income earner who ... has actually complained about America's private sector for much of her adult life, all the while enjoying the advantages it's afforded her. Hmm.

* Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor of 20 years and his self-described "spiritual mentor", and Michael Pfleger, still serve on the Obama campaign's spirital advisory committee. If one's character can be judged by the company he keeps, then the hateful speech spewed forth by these two clowns should be enough to keep Obama out of the White House.

* Obama's refusal to wear a flag lapel pin has been a biggie with the conservative talkers. To me, it was easily dismissable had he simply said he'd forgotten to wear it that day and "to me, the real issue is how can we put forth patriotic legislation rather than worry about whether someone is just wearing the right uniform."
But no. He went into this pseudo-intellectual justification for how he felt the lapel pin had become a substitute for true patriotism, an explanation that did little to assuage the elitist persona he's been cultivating. It's an image that's been fertilized by his San Francisco speech in which he asserted that only bitter small-town Midwesterners would "cling" to guns and religion and antipathy toward people who aren't like them.
I'm even willing to cut him slack about that, in assuming he meant that when people have lost hope, they "cling" to their core beliefs. (Even though he happened to pick red-state red meat that often is cocktail party fodder among the liberal intelligentsia.)
I have two problems with what Obama's talking about here; one political and one personal.

One, I think Obama might be too smart for his own good here. Much like in 2004, when John Kerry gave some head-scratching answers involving "blind double-regressive studies" of something-or-other, I don't think most people have the time or patience to sit through some long-winded explanation of the finer points of Obama's thought processes.

Secondly, symbolism means a lot, which is something every campaigner knows. Obama apparently has figured that out too since Lapel Gate broke, as he not only wears a lapel pin from time to time, but he always appears in front of a row of American flags standing sentry at his campaign events. And isn't it even why he drew up his own pseudo-presidential seal?
So much for his principled stand.
Sometimes all Americans need is reassurance that you have their best interests at heart. Smile and a wave at the cameras? Check. Pressed suit and a power tie? Check. Carefully orchestrated campaign stops and speeches with the right mix of people in the background to assure as many demographics as possible that you're looking out for them too? Check. Wear a tiny symbol proudly on your chest to assure us that you too remember 9/11, even if it's to criticize the policies that may have led to that terrible September day? ... We'll get back to you on that one.