Tony Snow Resigns as White House Spokesman
Saturday, September 1, 2007
White House press secretary Tony Snow announced his resignation yesterday, the latest in a series of departures that have reshaped the upper echelons of the administration with the addition of more low-profile replacements well versed in the ways of Washington.
Snow, who has been battling cancer, will be replaced by his deputy, Dana Perino, 35, a veteran press aide in the administration who is well liked by many of the reporters covering the president but has little of her predecessor's star power or on-camera experience.
The move comes as the White House is making a transition into a more defensive posture in which the focus will be on protecting key parts of the president's legacy, such as his Iraq policy and his signature education law, instead of launching grand initiatives.
The past few weeks have brought several other high-profile departures, including those of senior adviser Karl Rove and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Meanwhile, many of the new faces around the White House, such as counsel Fred F. Fielding and several lesser-known names, are seasoned veterans of Washington -- not the loyalists President Bush initially brought from Texas.
Bush made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room for the regular midday briefing, standing with Snow and Perino by his side. Of Snow, Bush said: "It's been a joy to watch him spar with you. He's smart; he's capable; he's witty."
Then he turned to Perino and described his new press secretary as "a smart, capable person who is able to spell out the issues of the day in a way that people listening on TV can understand." He added: "She can handle you."
"He leaves very big shoes to fill," the petite Perino quipped of Snow, "and I only wear a size 6."
Snow's departure has been widely anticipated, in large measure because he has been suffering from a recurrence of colon cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments that have left him looking gaunt and with thinning hair. But he insisted yesterday that he is leaving not for health reasons but to recoup the income he lost when he left his job as a radio and television host to take the $168,000-a-year job as press secretary.
"I ran out of money," he said.
As for his health, he said he is "doing fine." Snow said that he finished his last chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago and that his tumor has not grown. He said he will be facing "a maintenance dose of chemotherapy just to keep whacking this thing."
Snow was vague about his plans after his Sept. 14 departure, saying he expects to give speeches, stay involved in politics and step up his involvement in raising consciousness about cancer. He said he expects to write as many as two books, one about politics and his experience at the White House, another focused on his battle with cancer.
Snow was one of the most prominent press secretaries in recent memory, the star of what was widely known around the administration as "The Tony Snow Show," in which he bantered with reporters and zealously defended the administration's policies. He was considered less effective at the more mundane, yet important, aspects of the job -- tracking down facts for reporters and making sure they have what they need for stories and television spots.