Tony Snow, Life and Legacy

I’m heartbroken to hear of Tony Snow’s death. Here was a man whose life could teach something to all of us, conservative and liberal alike. Now that he has passed after his fight with cancer, America has truly lost one of its classiest, most encouraging, and humble figureheads and role models. And as silly as it may sound, this man who Vice President Cheney now calls “the best” White House press secretary he’d seen in his 40 years in Washington has, in fact, made a real impact on my own view of politics and of life.

Unlike most people who have been surrounded by politics all their lives, Tony Snow never seemed to become disenchanted, bitter, or hardened (as I often find myself) by the often disappointing reality of this “game.” Instead, he lived his life with what he called “optimism based on deep faith,” and it exuded from his character so strongly that even his adversaries admitted to liking ad respecting him. As CNN Correspondent Ed Henry recalls with a certain fondness,

Rather than holding some silly grudge, he was ever the gentleman. Oh he would needle you and get his shot in alright, but he would do it in a humorous way that reinforced what will be his enduring legacy to me: Life is too short to get yourself all worked up about one tense exchange, one awkward moment or one misstep.

Snow showed his true colors a few months later when we had another battle in the briefing room and later in the day we ran into each other on the White House North Lawn. Snow’s loyal assistant, a great young staffer named Ed Buckley, came upon the scene and jokingly suggested we were about to come to blows. “I’m going to have to buy you two boxing gloves one of these days,” Buckley said.

“Nope,” Snow immediately interjected, saying we both were just doing our jobs. “It’s never personal.”

You want to know what Tony Snow was all about? You’ve got your answer right there. One of the few guys in this tough town who understood how to draw that line.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more political leaders out there who are like Tony Snow, and why more people did not emulate his integrity and positivism.

On television, he seemed to radiate with a sense of energy and enthusiasm; in person, this sense was even stronger. I’ll never forget the few times I saw him speak – I don’t believe I’ll ever see someone else in his line of work with such an aura of joy as Snow as he spoke about conservatism and America. One such account from this year’s CPAC can be found here.

I remember sitting in the media room at the end of CPAC last February as Snow walked by after making the event’s closing speech, one that had left the audience buzzing with awe and excitement. Naturally, he was swarmed by fans fighting for his attention as he tried to leave the building. I watched curiously to see how he responded, interested to see if he was truly the friendly gentleman he was so reputed to be. Of course, I wasn’t disappointed. Snow, only a few hundred feet from the door, stopped multiple times on his way to listen to admirers and shake their hands. I was touched by the amount of time he took and how kindly he treated each one, as if he were genuinely interested in what each of them had to say. As if he were one to actually practice what he preached.

And now Snow’s death has caused America to reflect on all the great things he embodied in his life. One thing is for sure: Snow’s life was not one lived in vain. Perhaps if we’re wise, we might try to follow his example of maintaining integrity in the political realm, something that we don’t see often anymore. Politicians on both sides of the aisle would do well to take his lead.

Cross-posted at Conservatives with Attitude!

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