Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Brush with the Tar Baby

Prior to the “who is going to replace McClellan” chatter I had never heard of Tony Snow. Well, as much as I’m a news junkie I am fairly selective on the sources.

Having been involved at various times, as a journalist and a mouthpiece, I think I have a reasonable understanding of the dynamics of his situation.

Mind you, I don’t see Snow so much a journalist and an entertainer, which is probably what Bolton/Bush wanted out in front. That makes the job for Snow, lacking in essential ‘gravitas’, all the more problematic.

So, to be as fair as possible, we went and found the video and transcript of Tony’s big day out. Suzanne Malveaux, of CNN described him thusly: obviously a sense of humility, a sense of humor and a really kind of a bluntness, a sense of honesty that is refreshing to many people in the room.

That summary seems, to my perception at least, as ‘gilding the lily’. An open and freewheeling, ‘look, I’m one of you’ approach is fraught with dangers.

The most obvious are the verbal asides one might use among trusted friends, and he is trying to convey the ‘trusted friend’ approach; but ‘tar babies’? Or raising issues, like poll driven policies, then backtracking when questioners make the obvious connections.

The bottom line is that Snow is required to say absolutely nothing in the most entertaining, diverting and credible way.

The media, on the other hand, have a duty to their audience to get under the issues and winkle out facts. Perhaps White House briefings aren’t the place to do that, but they must be more than captive PR sessions for the President.

Snow has obviously found some ready sycophants among the press core. The aforementioned Malveaux has been quick to brand properly inquiring reporters as ‘class bullies’.

Fox’s Wendell Goler attacked the tenacious Helen Thomas; a foolish move on his part. She has freely subjected herself to satire, raising her status enormously in the process. Even Americans can appreciate someone who is willing to laugh at their own expense.

Faced with the tony Snow Show, in place of informative briefings, the White House press corps will need to develop a healthy cynicism. Snow’s use of the yellow wrist band has shown he’s not afraid of a bit of cynicism.

Let’s face it; he’s the mouthpiece, not the subject of these briefings. Seeking some respite through personal misfortune is a sham. If he only got one testicle it is his problem. If the lack of a testicle gets in the way of doing his job, then he shouldn’t do it. Bugger the tears for Tony, even if he has got balls he’ll never be allowed to demonstrate the fact from that podium.

For everyone else’s sake, let us hope the majority of the press core has the metaphorical balls to demand more than pure entertainment. Let Tony really ‘meet the press’ and find out what being a tar baby really means.

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