Published July 14, 2008
**An NRO Symposium: Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow died on Saturday after a long battle with cancer. National Review Online asked a group of colleagues and friends how they will remember Tony Snow. **
The best contribution I made to the Bush White House was my (inadvertent) role in bringing Tony Snow on board.
Tony and I spoke by phone in the aftermath of an e-mail I had sent out in my capacity of director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned to him my admiration and friendship with Josh Bolten, then the director of the OMB. Tony told me he knew Josh well from his time working for President George H. W. Bush and had a similarly high regard for him. I suggested a lunch among us.
Between the time I set up the lunch and the actual get together, Josh was named chief of staff. We went ahead with the meal, which was typically informative, interesting, and delightful. Tony was bubbling with ideas, and we were eager to hear them. Before the lunch began, though, Josh pulled me aside and said that he'd like to meet with Tony alone afterwards, in order to have a candid discussion with Tony about the state of our press operation.
I left, Josh and Tony met, and, though I don't know this for sure, I suspect this is where the seed for hiring Tony as press secretary was planted. Several weeks after the meeting, Tony was announced as the new press secretary. Those of us working in the White House drew two immediate conclusions from this: First, Josh was willing to make important changes and do so in an intelligent and wise way; and second, after years have having gone without one, we were at last going to have a press secretary who would use a rhetorical sword and shield on our behalf. We finally had in place a person who could articulate the president's agenda in a way that was informed, principled, and accessible.
Tony became a key member of the team and brought to this job, as he did to all his jobs, energy, enthusiasm, a set of core beliefs, and a radiating joy. No press secretary before Tony was invited to attend our monthly “strategery” meetings, which was a gathering of top White House officials; when Tony joined the administration, we were thrilled to give him a seat at the table.
As best as I can tell, Tony was liked and admired by everyone who knew him. But where respect turned into something even deeper was in how Tony dealt with his battle against cancer. He handled it as well as anyone possibly could — with openness, courage, and grace. And when he said that cancer was the best thing that happened to him, it was both believable and even made sense. He meant by it, I think, that cancer deepened his love for his family and friends and made him view each day, and all his important human relations and endeavors, as gifts and blessings.
The strongest impression I take away from my friendship with Tony is not professional but personal. Tony was a committed Christian whose life was a vivid testimony to his faith. His faith was deep and authentic. He spoke about it easily and in a way that was inviting instead of off-putting. It was obvious that it was central to who he was, which is why it was an attractive quality to the rest of the world.
Tony Snow fell in love with the Lord, who has now called him home. One got the sense that for Tony, his hope lay in his understanding that his true home was the City of God, even as it is for many of us who served with him and grew in our affections for him. But that hope is now mixed with grief, for we have lost a wonderful public servant, a man of character, and a life-affirming individual. His wife Jill and his three children have lost a husband and father who loved them deeply and faithfully. They will see him again one day, and on that day they and the heavens will rejoice. But between then and now, there will be tears and broken hearts as well as poignant, joyful memories. That is the price of knowing and losing a great human being. And Tony Snow was a great human being.
— Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.