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The Spokesman Made for Cable

In my Feb. 8 column, (see the section "Snow Makes More Stuff Up") I related Snow's eye-popping claim, in his Feb. 7 briefing, that nuclear development is now championed by Greenpeace -- the environmental organization that, as its Web site makes clear, "has always fought - and will continue to fight - vigorously against nuclear power because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity. The only solution is to halt the expansion of all nuclear power, and for the shutdown of existing plants."

Like most of Snow's flights of fancy, those two passed almost without a trace. No further coverage, certainly no retraction -- until last week, at least, when Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle called attention to that Greenpeace line: "As whoppers go, that was a good one," she wrote.

Then she put it all in context: "White House reporters don't expect much from Snow, which goes part of the way toward explaining why his claim about Greenpeace went largely unremarked.

"It's been less than a year since Snow started the job amid a clamor of hype -- including claims by Snow and others at the White House that he would be in the room for the heavy policy stuff, with a voice and a role to play.

"The former Fox News personality quickly established himself as a glib and energetic adversary for the media, sometimes short on information but strong with a comeback. He learned everyone's name and all their peccadillos.

"These days, whatever honeymoon he had has largely worn off. . . .

"Reporters complain that Snow is frequently unprepared and that he personalizes encounters -- Snow recently told CNN's Ed Henry to 'calm down' during an exchange over White House claims the Iranian government was behind explosives seized in Iraq.

"Most damning, by Washington standards, many reporters covering the White House don't believe Snow has the inner-circle role and the access he was promised."

Snow enjoyed a long period during which the press gave him positive remarks.

As William Powers noted critically in the National Journal in October (subscription required), Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times both wrote puff pieces about how Snow had tamed the media within one week alone.

But one of the first signs that Snow's honeymoon might be coming to an end came in December, when Dana Milbank wrote a column for The Washington Post emphasizing another galling habit of Snow's. It's the rhetorical flip side of his penchant for making stuff up: He denies he knows anything at all.

"When Snow took over as White House press secretary earlier this year, reporters found it refreshing that he was willing to admit when he didn't know something," Milbank wrote.


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