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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow Dies

Tony Snow, the conservative commentator, lost his valiant battle with cancer early this morning.

Press Secretary Relished Job

Tony Snow, the former television and radio talk show host who became President Bush's chief spokesman and redefined the role of White House press secretary with his lively banter with reporters, died yesterday at Georgetown University Hospital after losing a high-profile battle with cancer. He was 53.

Snow had colon cancer diagnosed and treated in 2005, a year before joining the White House staff. He found out it had returned after an operation in March 2007 to remove what doctors thought was a benign growth in his lower abdomen. The cancer had spread to his liver, forcing him off the podium for treatment. Snow vowed to fight the disease and return to the briefing room but announced six months later that he was leaving his $168,000-a-year job because he needed to recoup the income he lost when he left his job as a radio and television host. He later joined CNN as a commentator.

In a statement issued by the White House, Bush said: "Tony was one of our Nation's finest writers and commentators. . . . 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."

In his brief tenure as Bush's public advocate, Snow became perhaps the best-known face of the administration after the president, vice president and secretary of state. Parlaying skills honed during years at Fox News, he offered a daily televised defense of the embattled president that was robust and at times even combative while repairing strained relations with a press corps frustrated by years of rote talking points.

He was lively and entertaining, he could be disarmingly candid when ducking a question, and he did not hesitate to retreat when it became clear he had gone too far. He could tell reporters to "zip it" one minute and defuse tension the next by admitting that he knew so little about a topic that he was "not going to fake it." He enjoyed the give-and-take of a tough briefing, but his smile, upbeat energy and glib repartee seemed to take the edge off sometimes rough rhetoric on behalf of an unpopular leader and unpopular policies.

Rest in peace, Tony. You are not only a journalist and a conservative one in a world of liberals, but you were a decent human being who loved life even as cancer was taking your own.

May he rest in peace.

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