A Press Secretary's Farewell

Snow Relishes Final Joust With Reporters

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2007

About 51 minutes into his final televised briefing, White House press secretary Tony Snow tried to calm down a rowdy room. "Let's not extend this so it becomes farce," he pleaded.

Umm, too late.

His last day at the lectern yesterday indeed featured moments of farce, moments of tension, moments of spin and moments of sentiment. The Tony Snow Show closed after 136 televised performances over 16 months, a relatively short tenure that nonetheless redefined the nature of the job.

Never before in modern times has the White House press secretary been such a celebrity figure, stopped for autographs on the street and recruited onto the political fundraising circuit. Short of perhaps Karl Rove, no other White House aide has been such a household name. And beyond that, Snow transformed the daily briefings into made-for-television jousting sessions sometimes resembling a cable television talk show.

That was as clear as ever as he parried questions from reporters on camera one last time. He dismissed one question as "a verbal game," brushed off another because he was not "going to respond to campaign documents," asked a third reporter whether she was being "self-serving" and lectured a fourth by saying, "Let me explain the facts in a democracy." He got into a long colloquy with Bill Plante of CBS News on whether President Bush's policy is an "open-ended commitment" and whether the troop buildup has worked.

"Why isn't it an open-ended commitment if we're going to stay until the job is done?" Plante asked.

"Because the job will get done," Snow answered.

"Let's hope," Plante retorted.

"Wait," Snow replied, "will you concede that there has been an improvement on the ground as a result of the surge?"

"Sure," Plante said.

"Thank you," Snow said.

"But that's not the point," Plante said.

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