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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. Nole

    From working in the White House to working at CNN. Now is this just a transfer to a different branch or is it more like a new assignment? Funny how easily one can jump from big business to the white house and back to big business again. Really funny. It's a shame the obvious biases toward Clinton or Obama in almost every article from CNN and most other news factories.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  2. Stewart Gardner

    I love this; Tony Snow on CNN, part of 'the best political team on television.' Am I missing something? This man was a mouth piece for the worst administration in this nation's history, and I am not even beginning to talk about its politics. Tony Snow worked for an administration defined by the immensity of its incompetence, sheer utter incompetence. And he refers to Bush as a man whose executive skills were honed in his defeat in NH? No wonder the country has been run so badly. Did Snow not dare to remember that his fantastic boss was an unmitigated failure as a private sector CEO? What is Snow smoking? What are all of these journalists come advisors come consultants thinking when they try to talk in glowing or even favorable terms about the 'work' being done at the White House? What work. If what they call work and what they imply is an accomplishment, they had better not work for me or any self-respecting businessman, because what has come out of the White House for eight continuous years is failure after failure. Even the tax cuts were failures, because the way they were instated guaranteed they would either be overturned or deplete at 'sunset.' That is not a success; that is a poor example of shenanigans. Just about everything the administration touched it failed to make better, to solve, or make lasting except the harm it has caused. Tony Snow, a member of the best television team. Hah. Has CNN no shame? Has, more importantly, Tony Snow no shame? We know his boss has none.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  3. Frank

    Wow – lots of vitriol here. Free speech doesn't have to be worthless speech. Whatever happened to politely differing in opinion and intelligently arguing your case?

    April 28, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  4. Liz

    Tony Snow may well be a "nice guy" and I do wish him well with his health battles.... BUT, I could never listen to him and take anything he said as unbiased after having watched & listened to him blindly defend the corrupt Bush/Cheney administration. And that fact that he used to work for Fox, well, that's just another nail in the coffin. Fox has to be the most "unfair" and "unbalanced" news reporting in the history of television.
    The one thing he did say that is spot on was, "Neither candidate is going to be able to win this through the primaries." People who are calling for either candidate, Obama OR Clinton, to step down are just crazy. If you were in a race that was as close as this one, would YOU step down? This nomination can easily go either way... and once again, Florida may play a pivotal role.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  5. Chris L., TX.

    Here’s the deal: CNN, quit deleting my comments! You’re trying to stifle the truth. Here’s the real deal: Hillary Clinton has major integrity problems. And Generals are company men, so they carry no weight with me. They’re political. I know. I served 24 years in the U.S. Air Force. Why do you think congress has to vote them in (the Generals)? I can’t vote for someone who comes up with total fabrications, and who will do anything to win. Anything means anything. I don’t want anything. I want the right thing. Her husband screwed us with all of these bad trade deals, knowing fully that the payoff would be short lived. All he cared about was that the economy would get a short boost during his presidency. He knew that we would have to pay later, and he knew that we are so slow, that we would think that he did us good, only thinking about the good economy when he was President, and not the after effects. But he’s the reason for this mess. And by the way, I’m a Democrat. McCain? He’s a candidate for dementia. He’s too old to take us forward. Old and stuck in the past. Can’t see the future. Our future can be promising, if we change how we do business. Clinton and McCain = status quo. If we’re honest, we’ll realize that Obama is intelligent, has integrity, and his potential is unlimited. Hillary and McCain have already reached their potential, and their potential is status quo. It’s time to take our country to the next level!

    April 28, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  6. xtina, chicago IL

    Look forward to your take on the political scene, Tony; and glad to see your health taking a turn for the better. You had lots of people praying for you.

    April 28, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  7. Susan

    It's nice to hear someone with a clue say that the primary is essentially a dead heat. Hillary Clinton is a very viable candidate and Obama's star is fading. She really could win and that would be terrific. I'm so pleased to hear a former Fox guy say something that is actually "fair and balanced!"

    April 28, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  8. Joey

    Wow, this far left victim speech is getting old. Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make them "un-American". Isn't that what those of us who question the invasion strategy or the invasion of Iraq itself have been saying for 5 years? Democrats like myself have been putting as much distance as I can from these statements, Im tired of those who paint themselves as victims in the left being the most outspoken. I support our troops yet dislike Bush, I understand the need for higher taxes but dont think the wealthy should foot the bill alone. Progressive thinking is what democrats rely on, and i dont think calling respected members of any administration unpatriotic serves us well. Then to call those who disagree with you "pathetic", seriously just give McCain the election, thats what your tired victim speech does in the minds of centrists, aka the majority of this country.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  9. Lee

    Please send Tony Snow back to FOX. It would be much easier for me to ignore him over there.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Max

    It's a shame that CNN no longer wants to be the center of truth in reporting. At one time, I used to look upon CNN as the model that other networks would emulate, but CNN has taken itself down to the level of Faux News. Why would a diamond network hire the likes of Tony Snow, Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck? Could it be that CNN aspires to be another Faux News?

    April 28, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  11. EJ

    "I like Cafferty and Cooper. But I would request CNN again to stifle Lou Dobbs. I’m beginning to have the same visceral reaction to his voice as I do to Clinton and W."

    Now that I can agree with.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  12. EJ

    Is Tony Snow all that bad? I guess I haven't watched too much of Fox News. I never found him to be rude and I recall his apology to a reporter once when he did get a bit rude. Maybe I am missing something...

    April 28, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  13. Axey Thomas

    I might just watch CNN again, now that Tony is part of the team. But only when Tony is on.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  14. Tking

    JohnA

    First, you sound like a very hostile person

    Second, Sam Donalson was often an obnoxious knucklehead

    Third, Tony Snow is a genuinely nice guy

    April 28, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  15. David

    Hey Tony, do you get paid everytime you say the word "Look,..."?

    Cause you must be a gazillionaire.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  16. Annie Kate

    Welcome aboard Tony! I look forward to hearing your analysis of issues as we get further into the race; the nice thing about 360 is that it tries to take a look at all the angles of a story no matter whose it is. Tony gives us more to consider from his experience and viewpoint – even if you don't agree with him that's a plus for a full discussion of an issue.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 28, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  17. Bill

    It is always nice to see the other side see the light and move to CNN.
    However I feel that he is the former liar for the Bush White House and anything he says from this point forward will be suspect to me.
    Sorry Tony but you lost my trust when you signed up with the enemy to spin the liars web.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  18. JR

    I love hearing what a republican shill has to say. BOO CNN.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  19. Joseph

    Great. More fair and balanced "informationganda" from a Bush PR flack. This is pathetic.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  20. Alex Franks

    Glad to hear Tony is feeling better!!

    We were disappointed at not being able to hear him speak at E. Washington University last week, but we are very glad to hear he's doing better.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:11 pm |
  21. jim pittman

    Hey " Tony" hang in there, I am cancer surviver for past 20 years. I don't agree with you on alot of the issues, but no one can deny your obvious affection for this country and what it stands for....freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of faith.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  22. pat

    CNN hires a Fox News ideologue who was Press Secretary for a failed administration for 15 minutes and we are supposed to respect the credibility of CNN?

    Tony, go home so you can spend more time lying to your family.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  23. Chris

    Do any of you who accuse Snow of being a puppet for the Bush administration remember that his appointment was something of a surprise because he had previously been so critical od the Bush administration on a number of issues?

    Unfortunately, it just goes to show that some people are so paranoid about the influence of the "white house of evil" that they are willing and eager to see it whether it actually exists or not.

    April 28, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  24. Kyle

    Tony Snow, Karl Rove... no difference. I literally get sick to my stomach when people like this actually have influence on the pathetic Americans that believe them. How do these people sleep at night. They all have blood on their hands. They are not patriots.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  25. Melanie, TX

    I'm sure Tony Snow is a nice enough guy ("as far as I know"), but after watching him spew lie after cover-up after lie for the current administration, there is no way I can take him seriously. And I am proud to say I am no longer a "Clinton democrat." I regret ever sticking up for Bill Clinton and am ashamed of the person he has turned out to be. I am soooo looking forward to the day when Hillary realizes it's over. Please let that be soon. As for the " best political team on television," I like Cafferty and Cooper. But I would request CNN again to stifle Lou Dobbs. I'm beginning to have the same visceral reaction to his voice as I do to Clinton and W.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  26. Rob

    I live in canada and have no bias but I really think obama should have a debate on tv with rev. wright to show he really thinks differentely than the reverend. I think obama has too many relations with racists and deep down has quite a bit of racism in himself.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
  27. Hank

    I think it's obvious the game has changed when you blame the major league shortstop for the local softball team's errors simply because they know each other.

    That's what's happening to Obama and it's wrong. Hillary tells a bald face lie and gets a pass. Obama's minster says some awful things and he gets crucified for it.

    Can America and its media get any dumber? I don't think that's possible.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  28. michael trout

    I wonder why you are so thrilled to have this shill on board. It doesn't have anything to dowith journalism – we all have seen Tony at work – so what is up with this?

    April 28, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  29. GregW

    Tony Snow? I wish the guy the best of health and recovery, but don't want him tainting our news as we know it. If CNN continues to put on these idealogue apologists for the Bush Administration, we might end up being more "fair and balanced" than the F-word network.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  30. Robert

    Ever since you went on TV to support the failed immigration bill, and took issue with those in opposition, I lost all respect for you. It is now quite evident that you are and always have been, the ultimate traitor to this country.

    April 28, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  31. S. Colbert, America

    I'll only know him as "Snow Job."

    April 28, 2008 at 8:10 pm |
  32. Al Walters

    After spinning the Bush/Cheney lies and pushing the right winged hype at FOX why do you have to now "poison the well" at CNN? There is not much trust out in the real world re: your ability to provide objective analysis of "any news event" without your being influenced by whoever you work for at that moment.

    April 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  33. Susan

    Tony:

    I am glad to hear that you are feeling so well. You are going to be a great addition to the CNN cast of commentators. You play fair and tell the truth. I wish you continued good health and look forward to listening to you on a regular basis.

    Susan
    Phoenixville,PA

    April 28, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  34. Janie

    It is nice to see Tony Snow looking so good. I do not agree with his politics...but then, I don't agree with Obama's either. I am a Clinton Democrat...all the way

    April 28, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  35. xtina, chicago IL

    Actually , "Taj" , we have three Democrats running for Pres. – McCain is too liberal in some areas for most Republicans. Why don't people just pick one and get on with their own lives?

    April 28, 2008 at 7:06 pm |
  36. E.J.

    I also wish you good health Tony Snow

    April 28, 2008 at 7:05 pm |
  37. Belle

    Why is it, in terms of experience, everyone forgets that CLINTON was in the US Senate during 9/11. She showed up at ground zero the very next day...she is on the Senate Arms Committee...has traveled to over 80 countries...has written two books (as has Obama) HOWEVER ALL proceeds from "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" goes to charity.

    Senator Clinton promised New Yorkers she would NOT run for President during her first term. She didn't. Instead she worked with BOTH Republicans and Democrats.

    34 Retired Generals and TWO former Chiefs of Staff support her. She is tough...she knows the issues...she doesn't back down from a fight. Yet at the same time, she wants to help people. That is her driving force.

    Obama...he needed to work in the Senate...not think he can change things without knowing the approach. The one time he tried to work with McCain was VERY bitter after one week. Why? If Obama thinks he knows everything...he knows nothing.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:59 pm |
  38. JohnA

    Tont Snow now on CNN?

    I guess ever since Robert Novak stomped out of the building after his temper tantrum, CNN has been actively looking for a 'fair and balanced' talking head who will tell us 'the truth' and what we should think. Tony Snow is nothing more than a dull, self-righteous tool of the Bush administration who is going to attempt to convince us all through a bombastic assault of rhetoric nightly that "all is well'.

    April 28, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  39. M. Davey

    I disagree that Hillary has had on-hand experience because she was living in the white house. She didn't seem to be up on very many things, i.e., Monica. If she didn't know what was going on there, she couldn't have been his right-hand woman when things were happening!

    April 28, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  40. Bud Curtis

    Even though I am on the opposite side of politics from Mr. Snow, I like him a lot and I think he is pretty fair in his thinking. He makes a good addition to CNN and I am sure that FOX wishes he had returned to them.
    I hope I am still watching Tony Snow twenty years from now.
    Bud Curtis
    Miami, OK

    April 28, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  41. Rob

    another talking head to promote the Clinton's when they no longer have a chance – just what CNN needs.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  42. George Vance

    I wish Tony Snow the best of health, and a full and long life. That said, why would CNN hire such an obvious shill for the right?

    April 28, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  43. Tammy

    Congrats on the job. It'll be nice to have a different perspective to balance out AC360 more fully, especially as this election year progresses. Kudos to management at 360 for finally realizing your viewership isn't strictly made up of liberal Democrats who fawn over Hillary and Obama.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  44. Max, Dallas, TX

    Denied. McCain is the same burnt cookie out of those "old molds."
    Neat that Tony loved all the to-do about the White House, though. Takes all kinds, I guess.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  45. Liz Marquez

    Actually, Hillary was in the White House when things were happening. She had a first hand look. That is like saying people do not learn from first hand observation. I think any of us can do that. I have learned many things by watching others perform what is necessary. So, yes in that regard Hillary would have more experience and first hand knowledge than Obama. Come on let's get real. That's like saying watch and listen but you will not learn.

    April 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  46. Denise

    I totally disagree. There is nothing in Hillary Clinton's resume that makes her more experienced when you drill down to the actual experience, and for that matter John McCain should have done a lot more that what he has done for all the years he has spent in the Senate. Regarding experience, we hired George Bush and you see where that got us! He was one of the most unintelligent individuals ever to hit the political scene, yet used as a puppet as the president to promote the goals of the republican party. If you don't see that, then you frankly don't see.

    April 28, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  47. JohnA

    "...Sam Donaldson shouting at President Reagan..."

    Actually Tony, Donaldson wasn't 'shouting': he was standing his ground and doing what a good journalist should do. I as I recall , Reagan was the one the one getting very angry because he couldn't find a creative way of avoiding the question.

    "...I told Ed Henry to 'zip it'"...

    Tony, did you forget that our nation is a democracy? Ever hear of the first Amendment? Your job was to answer, or at least attempt to appear to be answering questions.

    April 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  48. Bill Oh Really

    Glad you're back Tony.

    April 28, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  49. Judi

    Great! I simply love Tony Snow. A very intelligent vocal addition to the CNN family, good choice CNN! I’ll miss him at among the White House team though.

    (Anderson step aside…here comes Tony 🙂 Just kidding, you’re one in a million Anderson; we still love ya, keep up the good work).

    April 28, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  50. Taj

    No, do not agree. We have 2 very talented Democrats & either one of them will win the presidency. Don't you know that people are sick & tired of the last 7 years of Republican administration. It is time to move on to better times.
    Tony: Take care of yourself. We pray for you. Get well.

    April 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
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