Tony Snow, Happy Warrior


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.

Barbara Comstock
“Let’s make our case plainly, happily, and confidently – after all, we do have truth on our side.”

That was Tony Snow passionately making his case the last time I saw him, speaking at the April 10 Media Research Center gala this year. He looked and sounded joyful and wonderful. That night he received, appropriately enough, the William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence. Tony always was the same happy warrior that he was when I met him 17 years earlier in 1991 at some Heritage Foundation wonkfest. It was an honor to call him a friend and to fight with him for many a conservative cause.

Tony was that rare individual who remained unchanged by fame, fortune, mistreatment, or illness. He loved the roller coaster of a life in two volatile fields — journalism and politics — and he even gracefully jumped the tracks between them. He could genuinely enjoy the ups and downs of those worlds because he understood that the most important part of life happened elsewhere. There, in the bosom of family and faith, he was planted in all that is good, sappy, corny, and all-American. He was great at talking the talk — and boy, what a gift he had for putting a great-looking face on cheerful conservatism! But it was in walking the walk — and walking it boldly and bravely that he excelled.

We are blessed that he chronicled his passions and joy about his family, his country, his faith, and even his cancer in print, radio, and TV. His celebration of life was infectious. In an interview last year, he spoke of what he expected in the next life: “It’s different, it’s better, it’s bigger.” And he provided a beautiful picture of what he will be doing until we next see him: ”You’re waiting on the other side rooting them [his family] on.”

 – Barbara Comstock is a partner at Corallo Comstock.

Holiday Dmitri

When I first moved to D.C., I came to town hungry to sink my teeth into Beltway politics, but green as to how Washington worked. My first job was for Tony Snow, who hired me as research director of his new start-up talk radio show on Fox. I was part of a small team — five including Tony — and in such an intimate setting, I got to know the man. What struck me most impressive about him was his humanity in a town replete with ego-topping buffoonery. He reached out with open heart to those around him, from his listeners to his coworkers. (When my father became ill, Tony called to send his prayers.) I was there the day he was diagnosed with cancer. It was heartbreaking news and I got angry thinking how such an affliction could fall on one of the most decent men I knew. But Tony remained as steadfast and optimistic during those first hours as he was his remaining years on earth. Tony set the highest standards for himself and made those around him strive to do the same. During my last conversation with him, I couldn’t make myself say good-bye to him. Instead, I left it at “thank you.”

– Holiday Dmitri, former research director for The Tony Snow Show.

Ed Gillespie
Tony often got a laugh in public comments by noting that “Washington is a town where nobody takes friendship too personally.”

It was especially funny coming from him, because he was the exception to the rule. I know. He was my friend. And it was personal.

When Tony was a brilliant young editorial writer at the Detroit News and then the Washington Times, I was press secretary to a brilliant junior congressman from Texas, Dick Armey. Tony loved ideas, Armey had a lot, and we talked frequently. When he became former President Bush’s speechwriter, we stayed in touch, and I would share thoughts about messaging with him.

After the 1996 elections, he and I were guest speakers on that fall’s National Review Cruise. Cathy and I had fun hanging out with Tony and Jill because they got such a kick out of each other. Over time, he became a cornerstone of the FOX News Network and I became chairman of the Republican National Committee. But throughout that time we each became something much more important to us — fathers.

In the Fort Hunt area of northern Virginia, our kids played in the same sports leagues. I’d see him at the soccer field on cold November mornings, more interested in the outcome of Kendall’s game than the election that Tuesday. He taught one of my best friend’s daughters how to hit a softball, and he would be spotted poolside many Saturday mornings with timer in hand. One Sunday morning I ran into him in the Safeway check-out line, still in the suit and tie I’d seen him wearing only an hour earlier as host of Fox News Sunday. The esteemed Sunday morning talk-show host had a gallon of milk in one hand and a big package of diapers in the other.

I was a guest on his television and radio shows often. On the air, he’d grill me about legislation, campaigns, polls, and politics. Off the air, we talked about kids, boats, and dogs.

A little over a year ago, in addition to being Tony’s friend and neighbor I became his colleague when I joined the White House staff as President Bush’s counselor. Tony had been press secretary for nearly a year, and he was incredibly gracious in helping me learn the ropes. His daily briefings were so much fun to watch they could have aired on pay-per-view as easily as C-SPAN. I’m sure the broken mold from his time as press secretary is lying around the West Wing somewhere.

Our time together was limited, however, as Tony’s duties as a husband and father came to outweigh his duties for the president. I missed seeing him every day, but still saw him in our area. When we hosted an event at our home to raise money for research dollars for a rare disease that had stricken a mutual friend’s grandson, Tony didn’t even check his calendar before agreeing to be the honored guest.

And now an unfortunately too-common disease has taken my friend, neighbor, and coworker — and Jill’s wonderful husband and Kendall, Robbie, and Kristi’s devoted father. Tony’s unique voice will be missed in the world of politics and commentary, but I will miss him personally.

– Ed Gillespie serves as counselor to the president.

Lucianne Goldberg
“Important hair.” That’s how I was told I would recognize Tony at our first meeting. It was a lunch appointment on the old Duke Ziebert’s in the early 90s. “Tall . . . with important hair,” a friend had advised. They didn’t warn me about the smile. When Tony Snow smiled you caught your breath. In back of that smile was the happiest, sweetest, most self-assured and comfortable man I have ever known.