You’ve heard of a “Full Ginsburg” (that is, when one guest appears back-to-back on a single day on each of the Sunday morning chat shows — a la Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, William Ginsburg).
Wednesday morning, President Bush’s new press secretary, Tony Snow, did one better (A “Full Iceberg”? A “Full Snowstorm”? “Snowverkill”?) by appearing — or appearing to appear — on all three network morning news shows at the same time, somehow simultaneously answering questions from ABC’s Charles Gibson, NBC’s Katie Couric, and CBS’s Julie Chen. For TV viewers restively clicking between networks Wednesday morning, there was no avoiding Snow who, at 7:10AM, could be found — to quote each network’s on-screen caption — concurrently “Facing the Nation” on CBS, “Speak[ing] Out” on NBC and causing a “Snow Day in May” with his “First Interview” on ABC. (And anyone seeking refuge from so much Snow by turning to the Fox News Channel was spared only until 7:25, when the press secretary appeared “Live” on Fox & Friends).
Did any of the morning anchors manage to get past Snow’s talking points and “make news”? Or were the interviews themselves as interchangeable — and frothy — as your typical morning news show summer barbeque segment?
Let’s go to the tape.
Here are the first five (of six total) questions that Julie Chen posed to Snow on CBS’ The Early Show: “Did you develop heartburn [yesterday at your first televised press briefing]?”; “How do you think you did?”; “Was it as nerve-wracking as you thought it was going to be?”; “What did you mean [when you referred to your ‘Ed Muskie’ moment?]; and, “Why do you think you were selected for the job?” Get this woman a seat in the White House briefing room — front row — stat!
On Fox & Friends, Snow’s former friends Steve Doocy, E.D. Hill and Brian Kilmeade teamed up to hit the press secretary with such stumpers as: “Does it scare you at all that the New York Times and the Washington Post both agree you had an outstanding debut as press secretary?”; “So why did you call on [David] Gregory first, a guy who is notorious for sort of giving people a hard time?”; and, “What about Helen Thomas, are you going to be answering her questions any time soon?” (They must have been disappointed by Snow’s curt, spokesman-like replies.) Additional questions: Did Snow wish to take credit for “the president coming out a little feistier than he has in the past?” (Snow did not. “The president as you know is somebody who’s got a bias toward action … It’s no reflection of little old me.”) What are the “biggest misperceptions” that “outsiders” have of this administration? Said Snow: “On foreign policy and domestic policy [Bush] is a lot more engaged in this than he gets credit for being. He’s very interested. He loves to sit around and talk about this stuff. He’s a bit of a policy wonk…” Well, that’s probably news to some people.
NBC’s Katie Couric and ABC’s Charlie Gibson posed a similar set of questions — generally tough and timely questions, to their credit, about such topics as the president’s poll numbers and his immigration plan —and received a similar set of talking points in return. When Gibson asked whether “this presidency [is] … largely captive now to events in Iraq” Snow played the “blame the bad news press” card and replied: “People tend to see I.E.D. explosions and hear bad news. What they’re not hearing is much of the nation is secure and the troops who come back say they’re committed to it and they think they’re involved in something important and grand. What they’re not hearing is that there is a government on the verge of being formed …”
Both Couric and Gibson concluded their interviews by asking about the “emotional” moment during Tuesday’s press briefing when Snow talked about his bout with colon cancer. Snow shared with Gibson his approach to battling cancer: “Be aggressive, be positive, tackle it, and rely on the kindness of friends” — which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad approach to battling the White House press corps.
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
Especially that “kindness of friends” part.