Politics/Law/Government

A special White House press secretary Quotabull

We want fresh thinking, to charge the batteries, and passionate participation. There is a lot of value added in Tony coming on board and helping us internally with his own views and ideas. It fits into the mold.

— Dan Bartlett, an adviser to President Bush, April 27, 2006, on the appointment of former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow as White House press secretary.

The president’s message and vision are firmly in place and are not going to change. But it still helps to have a new messenger. It helps to wipe the slate clean.

— Mark McKinnon, a political adviser to President Bush, April 27, 2006, on the appointment of former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow as White House press secretary.

Tony Snow should provide a smooth presence at the podium. But the problems that presidents have are political problems and policy problems, not press problems. But it is often the press problems that get addressed.

— Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University professor who studies presidential communication, April 27, 2006, on the appointment of former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow as White House press secretary.

I feel so loved.

— The first words uttered by White House press secretary Tony Snow at his first press briefing, May 16, 2006.

Q: Tony, I’m curious, why won’t you comment at all on the USA Today story, or at least talk in a limited way about how average Americans’ phone records are handled by the National Security Agency?
MR. SNOW: Because it’s inappropriate.

— Excerpt from White House press secretary Tony Snow’s first press briefing, May 16, 2006.

This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.

— Ron Ziegler, press secretary to President Richard Nixon, during April 17, 1973, press briefing at the height of the Watergate scandal.

This strategy represents our policy for all time. Until it’s changed.

— Marlin Fitzwater, assistant to President Reagan for press relations and press secretary to President George H.W. Bush, quoted in Newsweek, April 2, 1990.

Those who talk don’t know what is going on and those who know what is going on won’t talk.

— Larry Speakes, White House press secretary, on the news blackout at the Nov. 21, 1985, Geneva summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

He’ll outline his policy — it will not be — I think it’s the beginning rather than the — I don’t want to overcharacterize, but I would say that it — it’s not — it will not be — it will not answer every single question. It is not intended to answer every single question about conduct and behavior. There needs to be additional consultation, and I think it will take more time for all the questions to be worked out.

— Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers’ response at her first press briefing to a question about President Clinton’s intent to end the ban on the gays in the military.

Q: Do you think you got a fair chance [as the first woman to hold the job of White House press secretary]?
MS. MYERS: I think I did get a fair chance. I don’t think those two things are incompatible. I think there can be sort of unusual challenges or can be additional barriers or hurdles that you have to clear. But I think certainly — I think I’ve gotten a fair chance. And I think I’ve been — I think, by and large, most of you — all of you actually — have treated me fairly. I think you’ve — I think you are professionals who work hard every day to do a job that you think is important — that is important. I think you’re here to keep government accountable. And I think that this nation owes you a debt of gratitude for doing that. I don’t always like it; the President and people who work and serve in this building don’t always like it; but it is important.

— Excerpt from final press briefing by Dee Dee Myers, Dec. 22, 1994.

I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.

— Bill Moyers, press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, quoted in The New York Times, April 3, 1966.

Nobody believes the official spokesman … but everybody trusts an unidentified source.

— Ron Nessen, press secretary to President Gerald Ford.

Of course, the reporters aren’t the only ones who behave differently before the cameras. I acted differently, too. At the televised briefing I would sometimes lean into the podium, raise my hand and do my best to deliver a sound bite for the evening news. I liked mixing it up with reporters. I enjoyed a good intellectual televised argument. But the briefing always had an air of theater to it — on both sides of the podium.

— Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s press secretary from January 2001 to July 2003.

QUESTION: Mike, at the beginning of all of this, and since, White House aides and Clinton allies had a lot to say about Ms. Lewinsky and her credibility and her character. Do you expect that the President has some message for her today or does the White House have something to say to her?
McCURRY: To?
QUESTION: To Ms. Lewinsky. I mean, there was a time when White House aides and his allies were doing a lot to try to undercut her credibility.
McCURRY: I don’t believe that that’s true. I know I don’t believe I’ve ever done that, and I don’t believe that that’s true.

— Exchange between reporter and Mike McCurry, press secretary to President Clinton, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Aug. 17, 1998.

Q: What do you think about — some Democrats have started talking about impeaching Alberto Gonzales. You’ve had strong comments before about Democrats launching investigations. What about impeachment?
MR. SNOW: Well, permit me to be strong again. This is another — what you have in American politics today — and it’s something that I think people are increasingly getting fed up with — is kind of a race to be most toxic. How can you try to elevate the stakes in what ought to be common, reasoned debate, and do it also in an atmosphere in which Congress, itself, has had a very difficult time getting its own work done? In this particular case, the Attorney General has testified truthfully, and this is the kind of thing that is designed to turn up the temperature rather than to turn on the light.

— Exchange between reporter and White House spokesman Tony Snow during July 31 press briefing.

So it is with great regret, after long soul-searching, that I must inform you that I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime. As your spokesman, I do not know how I could credibly defend that action in the absence of a like decision to grant absolute pardon to the young men who evaded Vietnam military service as a matter of conscience and the absence of pardons for former aides and associates of Mr. Nixon who have been charged with crimes — and imprisoned — stemming from the same Watergate situation. Try as I can, it is impossible to conclude that the former President is more deserving of mercy than persons of lesser station in life whose offenses have had far less effect on our national well-being.

— Excerpt from Sept. 8, 1974, letter of resignation from White House press secretary Jerald terHorst, who served only a month, to President Gerald Ford.

xpost: 5th Estate

7 replies »

  1. I’d love to say something, but I’m not at liberty to comment. A statement on it may be issued at a later date. If my remarks sound confusing, I think they are confusing because the quotes are confusing and the situation is confusing. 🙂

  2. I’ve worked in corp PR and been in the uncomfortable position of having to put out and defend messages that I had issues with. It’s not fun. At the same time, I never had to work for anything quite as corrupt as some of these asshats. So it’s always kind of fun to watch when they get to twist in the wind – especially those who ought to know better. Tony Snow is a man I don’t agree with about much, but I’ve seen him in venues where his job wasn’t to defend the indefensible, and he is actually a pretty smart man. Misguided, but his brain is quite capable.

    As I’ve noted before, proximity to Bush lowers your IQ….

  3. It’s time to give Dave Chappelle a crack at that job. . .

    “‘Or maybe I’ll take Tony Snow’s job,’ Chappelle smiled. ‘I think that’s a cool job.'”

    Thanks for the Jerald terHorst resignation letter. Forgot or didn’t know that.

  4. Russ,

    The scuttlebutt behind terHorst’s resignation (I was in the news biz then) was this: He’d spent his first (and only) month telling the press that Ford did not intend to pardon Nixon. Although he did not say so in his letter to Ford, word was he felt betrayed because he had not been told of Ford’s impending pardon. He felt blindsided; the press felt he had lied.

    He was an honorable man in that short month.

  5. Thanks to Dr. Denny. Here’s to terHorst!

    During the Bush administration many have resigned in protest from less visible jobs. Did you see this about one who resigned in disgust?

    “Condi Rice Couldn’t Get Op-Ed Published”

    By Editors & Publishers Staff

    Published: July 22, 2007 8:30 PM ET

    NEW YORK If you’ve ever had trouble getting an Op-Ed submission published — and who among print journalists has not? — this might make you feel a little better: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had the same problem.

    Writing a — what else? an Op-Ed — in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, former New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley (who now teaches journalism at Stanford) reveals Rice’s problem in discussing her wider loss of influence.

    Here is an excerpt.
    *

    A few months ago, she decided to write an opinion piece about Lebanon. She enlisted John Chambers, chief executive officer of Cisco Systems as a co-author, and they wrote about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer’s war. No one would publish it.

    Think about that. Every one of the major newspapers approached refused to publish an essay by the secretary of state. Price Floyd, who was the State Department’s director of media affairs until recently, recalls that it was sent to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and perhaps other papers before the department finally tried a foreign publication, the Financial Times of London, which also turned it down.

    As a last-ditch strategy, the State Department briefly considered translating the article into Arabic and trying a Lebanese paper. But finally they just gave up. “I kept hearing the same thing: ‘There’s no news in this.’ ” Floyd said. The piece, he said, was littered with glowing references to President Bush’s wise leadership. “It read like a campaign document.”

    Floyd left the State Department on April 1, after 17 years. He said he was fed up with the relentless partisanship and the unwillingness to consider other points of view. His supervisor, a political appointee, kept “telling me to shut up,” he said. Nothing like that had occurred under Presidents Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush. “They just wanted us to be Bush automatons.”

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