Tony Snow

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Just wanted allow my belated condolences for Tony Snow’s passing. I didn’t know him well, but — as the numerous testimonials that have been posted attest — even the briefest contact with him revealed his enormous charm. He also was genuinely interested in intellectual sparring, and relished in forcing White House reporters to expand their vocabularies beyond “denied,” “rejected,” “terrorist threat” and “freedom,” perhaps the most striking thing about his briefings was not how contentious they were but, rather, how that contention existed side by side with both irony and deliciously geeky trivia:

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Can you recall any other case in American history where the United States Senate unanimously voted to approve a general to top command in a war zone and then passed a resolution opposing what that general has stated that he has been ordered to be there to do?

MR. SNOW: Les, I’m unaware of that, but I don’t want that to be definitive because I don’t have full knowledge.

Q You don’t know any other generals?

MR. SNOW: No, unless George Washington, I don’t know.

Q George Washington was —

MR. SNOW: He ended up paying expenses out of pocket, as you recall. The Continental Congress, lacking the funds for fulfilling, I believe George Washington, if you go back and look, was paying for clothing and supplies for his own men out of his own pocket.

Q But he was reimbursed.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, he took a dollar a year, I believe.

Q No, no, I think you’re wrong. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I am wrong. He took no pay. That’s correct.

Q As a former leader of baseball, what was the President’s reaction to the death on February 9th of the greatest pitcher who ever lived?

MR. SNOW: And that would be?

Q Eddie Feigner, the King and his Court.

MR. SNOW: He actually may have been, Eddie Feigner having thrown, what, 280 perfect games? Having struck out more than 12,000 people? Having had a fastball in excess of 104 m.p.h.?

Q (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: — from time to time? Did you ever watch the King and his Court? (Laughter.) I don’t know, but I think he’s under-rated. I will speak completely independently.

Q Did you brief —

MR. SNOW: No, I’m a sports nut. Eddie Feigner —

The briefing room is not supposed to be fun, I know, but what was striking about Tony was the pleasure he took in all aspects of the job. He saw it as a privilege and an honor to serve not just this president — and we can disagree about just how honored one should be by that — but to serve a role in great machinery democracy, which, I confess, seems pretty cool.