April 28th, 2008
03:50 PM ET

360° Q&A: Tony Snow

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Editor's Note: Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is the newest member of the Best Political Team on Television. Snow joined CNN last week and – after making headlines with a brief hospital stay – spoke with 360’s Jack Gray about the presidential race and life after the White House.

How is your health?

Health is fine. I had a little condition, not directly related to cancer, that I went through early in the week, but I’m doing fine.

You were a Fox guy before you went to the White House. Have you gotten any grief from your friends over there for having now joined the competition?

I still have got lots of friends at Fox and it’s a place I dearly loved working for and I’m grateful for every minute I worked there, but actually, no, people at Fox have been pretty supportive. They wish I was there, but on the other hand they’ve been very nice.

The conventional wisdom is that the longer this Democratic primary goes on, the better it is for John McCain. Do you agree with that?

I don’t know. My sense is that if Barack Obama were to go ahead and prevail, ultimately there would be such a buzz about that it’d be like he was getting shot out of a cannon, there would be instant and enormous momentum. I think that the time right now is good for McCain. It gives him time to shape his message, build his forces, raise some money and those kinds of things. But I think anybody who tries to do straight-line projections in this election year is committing an act of absolute folly. We don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s one of the really intriguing things this year. All the old molds have sort of been broken.

What’s Hillary Clinton’s best case scenario for getting the nomination?

Her best case scenario is to continue trying to drive home the point that Obama isn’t ready for primetime: a great speaker but maybe not fully conversant with the issues in a way that one would expect from a President of the United States and Leader of the Free World. They know that their shot has to be through superdelegates. Neither candidate is going to be able to win this through the primaries, they’re going to have to go through the superdelegates. And so the Clintons will make a tough pitch there. And they’ll also try to get as many votes as they can from Michigan and Florida.

How realistic is it that she can convince the superdelegates?

A lot of it depends on how Obama performs. He stumbled badly in Pennsylvania with the “Bittergate” comments and also with his performance in the debate. If he tries to run away and hide, to not do debates, to limit free access to reporters, it’s going to hurt him. He’s going to have to step up to the challenge of answering the question that everyone wants answered which is, “who is this guy?”

Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina says there’s talk that Hillary Clinton knows she can’t win this and is trying to damage Obama badly enough so that he can’t win in the general election, leaving the door open for her in 2012. Do you put any stock in that?

No, I’ve heard the theory many times. I think it’s just too cute by half. There are just too many bumper shots there. Hillary Clinton does not want to give a concession speech. She wants to give an acceptance speech. I think what she is doing is what you would expect of a candidate. If you really think about this race it is incredibly close. Everybody tries to parse pledge delegates and popular vote. There are lots of ways of cutting this but it is as close to dead even as you can possibly get in a presidential primary and nominating process. So, no, I don’t think that the Clintons are trying to wreck Obama so Hillary can run four years from now. People who lost in primaries have a very lousy record of getting nominated by their parties in subsequent years, ask John Edwards. Furthermore, you’ve also seen a lot of Democratic officeholders coming up in opposition to the Clintons in recent months. It’s not clear they’d have a gigantic constituency within the party four years from now.

Does the president enjoy monitoring the horse race?

He’s got a full time job so he’s usually busy but he’s very interested. He understands how losing in campaigns can forge your character. He often cites what happened to him in New Hampshire in 2000 as being a key juncture in shaping him as a candidate and ultimately a chief executive. So he looks at in a different way. He looks at it as somebody who’s been there, who understands the rigors of the campaign trail, who knows the ebbs and flows of campaigns, who knows the up moments and the down moments, and also knows just how incredibly difficult, how demanding it is physically, emotionally and mentally it is to run for president. So I think he looks at it with a much keener and more appreciative eye than most of us.

What do you miss most about The White House?

Really everything, I loved it. I loved doing the briefings, I loved the regular access with the president. He is an outstandingly good boss and a wonderful guy to work for. I miss the colleagues at the White House, it’s a very collegial place. The White House, anybody who’s worked there will tell you, is an absolutely unique workplace. It’s one that it’s an honor to work at and you know that, unless you’re an usher, you’re part-time help. So you take advantage of every moment and enjoy every moment and count it as one of your great life experiences.

Did you have any intense jousting with any particular members of the press corps?

It was interesting, if you go back and look at the press conferences, we had plenty of jousting but it was all pretty collegial. You didn’t have Dan Rather versus Richard Nixon or Sam Donaldson shouting at President Reagan. But you did have people who ask tough, probing questions. One time I told Ed Henry to “zip it” and Ed thought that was so out of character he went out and made t-shirts.

I would think the most depressing thing about not working in The White House anymore is going from flying on Air Force One to flying commercial. How are you coping?

It’s dreadful. Air Force One – think of it this way – somebody gives you a call and says Marine One is ready. You walk over to the president’s office which is ten seconds away. He leads the way, you troop out to Marine One, hop on a helicopter. In ten minutes you’re at Andrews Air Force Base. You walk on the plane, you sit down and the plane takes off. When you arrive someone delivers your bags to your room. There is nothing like traveling on Air Force One as part of the presidential entourage. Now I’m schlepping my baggage. I just returned from a trip where my baggage stayed at its original destination so I’m still waiting for it to come home.

Filed under: 360° Q & A • Behind The Scenes • Jack Gray • Tony Snow
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. luggar

    CNN`s addition of Tony Snow shows they may be getting the message.Those old tired comentators have become dinosaurs who
    are out of touch with the honesty of Snow,hopefully this will bring a higher level back to CNN.We only check out CNN when we are bored.

    April 29, 2008 at 9:41 am |
  2. A.M.

    Welcome to 'CNN' Tony; do not be surpised here for anything as this channel is full of surprises, perhaps it is interesting this watch this channel as supposed to 'FOX'.

    On 'Obama' most of the people forget and they do not have ability to just remember their own history. Can you tell me how elequent' Goerge Bush' was in his speeches; what was in him that looked presidential except him being the Governor of Texas. What elected him as the presdient was "He was in his both terms the best choice of what we had.

    Same thing with 'Obama' and a lot better, PERIOD.


    April 29, 2008 at 7:35 am |
  3. Eric Asamoah.

    i dont know why America thinks nothing negative should be said about the country's atrocities in the past and now.Rev.Jeremiah wright is right about America's terrorism overseas.indeed ,America's chickens have come home to roost.im from Ghana and we all know how the CIA help in the first coup to overthrow kwame Nkrumah and that opened the gate for other coups that led to blood shed in the country,we all know how America has helped dis-stabilize some parts of africa by supporting and equipping rebels to overthrow other governments in power just as they doing in Iraq now.HE WHO LIVE BY THE SWORD WILL DIE BY THE SWORD..Its time AMerica accepted its faults and pray for forgiveness rather than standing tall as if its done nothing.Its time America swallowed its pride because as the bible says,pride cometh before a fall and the lord says he will halt the haugtiness of the proud.How long are you going to be blinded,America.You are not bigger than the whole world but part of it.
    You are not bigger than any other country neither are you the super power of this world as you claim.Be humble and God will lift you up again.God bless Ghana,Africa and God bless America.

    April 29, 2008 at 4:03 am |
  4. Tate,Nc

    Tony Snow couldn't take the lying for Bush. The guilt was to much. He use the excuse of money and his family problems to jump ship. Well welcome aboard. We like are with no spin please.

    April 29, 2008 at 1:47 am |
  5. Linda

    Tony Snow is no plum, in my opinion. I have seen him speak in person and he is as boring as they come. He belongs on FOX with all the other haters. He will never work well with Anderson Cooper. Anderson Cooper does try to get out of the way and let the story reveal itself. Tony Snow comes from a tradition of trying to be the story. And for him to suggest any inadequacy in Obama after working for George Bush takes a lot of truthless tendencies.

    April 29, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  6. Dan

    I just wanted to applaud Joey's comment. Both the left, the right, and those who fall in between need to quit demenizing eachother. I cannot stand name-calling. The only reason to stoop to name-calling is when you really have nothing of substance to say. It serves no purpose, except to inflame the other side. People needs to focus on the message instead of the past affiliation of the messenger.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  7. Dave

    Glad to see tony leave Fox. Fox is a lot of things but not fair and balanced. Seems Fox is losing folks right and left. This country has big problems to address. We need true leadership, dem or rep. Americans need to hold our public officials accountable. If they don't serve the people, vote them out.

    April 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  8. Dan

    Tony Snow now a part of the CNN news team...can you say slanted republican perspective and journalism in one sentence?

    April 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  9. carol sullivan

    oh how happy i am to hear you are out of there dogging and lying to the public for our government i'm happy that at least you have a job now and don;t have to lie i hope you didn't forget to register to vote for obama

    April 28, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  10. Sue,Texas

    CNN is beginning to look like FOX with Tony & G.Beck. I used to switch between CNN & MSNBC now it looks like it'll just stay on MSNBC

    April 28, 2008 at 10:53 pm |
  11. CNN Fan

    Good to see that CNN is going to have a second "token conservative" in addition to Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck is always presented as "controversial" and "different" for a reason.

    Conservative opinion is often presented as "faux news" by the mainstream media and internet users. I guess there's room for only one set of opinions.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  12. Patsy

    No, Tony Snow should have gone back to Fox. There has to be a reason why CNN hired him, but unless they are trying to be another Fox, I can't imagine why they would want him.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  13. john r

    People please lay off of the who I am voting for rhetoric. Honestly, no one cares and to be honest, my vote is private. Mr. Snow, Godspeed.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  14. ughtoCNN

    who really cares about what Snow thinks? he was never as intelligent as anyone thought,. and now he's just another old has-been.

    CNN, stop with the recycling and old-time posture. 2008 folks!

    April 28, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  15. JP

    I see that none of you people that are out here in this Media, and everywhere else there is gossiping going on, and persecuting Senator Obama know anything about the Bible. There's a great day coming, it's called, "THE JUDGMENT DAY", are we ready? We are going to have to answer for the good and the bad that we have done. This world is going to pass away, and we better get our eyes fixed on Jesus and follow his commandments, this is our whole duty. Even though we have to live in this world, we must be reminded that Jesus is not going to ask us about who was the President, the Moderator, your degrees....but the greatest commandment is, "to love thy neighbor as thyself". There's a lot of hate for one another, at least Senator Obama is trying to help us see our destruction. The writing is on the wall.!!!!

    April 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
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