- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tony Snow cried while talking about surviving colon cancer, apologized for overpredicting the U.S. Senate’s ability to act, ignored some questions and bickered with other questioners, and seemed to dominate the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room yesterday in a way President Bush’s former press secretaries never did.

Mr. Snow’s first on-camera briefing after taking over from Scott McClellan went off with a few hitches and a brand new attitude about handling the White House press.

“I feel so loved,” Mr. Snow said as he took the podium for the first time, facing a standing-room-only crowd drawn by the surfeit of news and the novelty of a new spokesman for an administration that hasn’t seemed to value the daily give-and-take with reporters.

He handled questions on wiretapping, immigration, Iran, tax cuts and himself, and ignored a question about Mr. Bush’s views on contraception.

The most striking moment arose when a reporter asked him why he was wearing a yellow Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” bracelet.

Mr. Snow began to choke back tears on live television as he explained that his mother died of cancer when he was 17, that he had surgery for colon cancer last year, and he marveled that cancer research has advanced so far that a doctor was able to give him a clean bill of health to take his new job.

The press secretary did call Mr. Armstrong, the cyclist and cancer survivor, “Lance Anderson,” though he corrected himself later.

Among other acknowledged gaffes, he said he “overstepped” himself in guaranteeing that the Senate would pass an immigration bill this year. When a reporter asked about the assurance, Mr. Snow said he had goofed.

“OK, you know what, I was being presumptuous here,” he said.

His experience as a conservative commentator showed, as he told reporters the polls on National Security Agency monitoring probably have been affected more by “the way [the story] is being spun” than the facts about the program.

The former Fox News host, who at one time was a presidential speechwriter and editorial page editor at The Washington Times, said he still gets chills from having been asked to work for the president.

“I go out at the end of that lawn, I look back at the [White House] pillars, and think, ‘Man, I’m working here,’ ” he said, challenging reporters to do the same. “Whatever the cynicism you may feel about your particular state in life, this is a very special place to work.”

As for substantive changes, he said he still has not decided whether to stop allowing the usual afternoon briefing to be televised.

He showed he is not afraid to be blunt and short.

When a USA Today reporter asked why Mr. Snow wouldn’t comment on the paper’s story about the NSA compilation of phone-call lists, Mr. Snow was succinct.

“Because it’s inappropriate,” he said.

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