Tony Snow Meets Jamil Hussein, Hits Media Coverage of Iraq

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By: Greg Mitchell

Tony Snow is a smooth operator, no doubt. When Chris Matthews on “Hardball” yesterday called him the best White House press secretary since Eisenhower’s guy, James C. Hagerty, he probably meant that he was photogenic, cool under pressure, and spun a good line — in contrast to his predecessor, Scott McClellan.

But Snow, after all, is a former radio talk show and Fox News host who once freely expressed very conservative positions. He holds back now, except when he is interviewed by friendly radio hosts, so it’s always interesting to follow what he says in those settings (the same was true for Donald Rumsfeld).

Yesterday, Snow was making the rounds of TV and radio shows, promoting his boss’s big Iraq speech from the night before — to little effect so far, if you believe the polls. Even our soldiers in Baghdad seem skeptical of the idea, based on their experience with our local Iraqi allies. I recommend you read the front page report in The Washington Post today (now online) which holds these quotes by several U.S. soldiers in our famous Stryker Brigade:

— “They’re kicking a dead horse here. The Iraqi army can’t stand up on their own.”

— “It’s a joke.”

— “Pretty soon the Shiites will be tired of our presence, just like the Sunnis.”

— “The general feeling among us is we’re not really doing anything here. We clear one neighborhood, then another one fires up. It’s an ongoing battle. It never ends.”

— “We’re constantly being told that it’s not our fight. It is their fight. But that’s not the case. Whenever we go and ask them for guys, they almost always say no, and we have to do the job ourselves.”

— “You do have corruption problems among the ranks. I don’t know what they can do about that. They have militias inside them. They are pretty much everywhere.”

Seeking a sympathic audience yesterday, Snow visited conservative radio talker Hugh Hewitt, referring to him as a “friend.” He felt so relaxed in that setting that he went after media coverage of the war far harder than he would in the White House briefing room, and suggested that perhaps Michelle Malkin, now in Baghdad, might help save the day.

The theory is that the mainstream media is still not covering all the good news over there. Now: go back and re-read those quotes from U.S. warriors above.

Snow even took note of the battle between rightwing bloggers and The Associated Press over the existence of Iraqi AP source Jamil Hussein, wrongly asserting that his existence is once again seriously challenged.

Here is a partial transcript of the chat from the Hugh Hewett site at

HH: All right, yesterday, the President also mentioned that there will be lots of carnage on television screens. Is the administration, and especially the Pentagon, prepared to fight the new media war when that starts to happen, Tony Snow?

TS: We?ve been fighting it. I mean, it?s not that it has started to happen, it?s been going on for some time. What is interesting, Hugh, and you know this as well as anybody else, you?re also starting to see little glimmers of guys like Michael Yon and others who get over there and they basically embed themselves in Iraq, and Michelle Malkin?s over there now.

HH: Bill Roggio, you bet. They go over and do first hand reporting.

TS: And what ends up?I think what?s likely to happen over time is that people there, and you and I have both seen forces come back completely disheartened and disgusted by the kind of reporting that goes on here, I would not be surprised to see some of those people not going out in the field, but maybe back at barracks, turning on the video camera, shooting a picture, and saying you know what? Let me tell you what?s really going on here, and why, and how I see it. That sort of stuff gets on a Youtube, or a Livelink, or any of these other things. It?s going to get out.

I mean, there are many different ways now for people to get a glimpse of what?s actually happening. And the new media war can take many different fronts, and while Al Jazeera or Al Arabia, or even Al Houra, which is financed by the U.S. Government, they all have cable presence there. But you know, in this day and age, it?s exploding more rapidly, and more people are just pulling their news and pulling their video off the internet.

HH: As we saw during the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, Tony Snow, Hezbollah went to such lengths as to stage atrocities, buildings blown up, and victims left in there.

TS: Yeah.

HH: Are you, as the head of the White House communications operation, prepared to immediately get out there and quarrel with that and stop those sorts of stories from metastasizing?

TS: Yeah, I am looking forward to meeting Captain Jamil Hussein, but other than that, yes. You?ve seen the latest on that, right?

HH: No, I haven?t. I haven?t read today. Is he back and not existing again?

TS: He?s back to non-existence.

HH: (laughing) But that?s the new media war?

TS: Yeah.

HH: And they scored big against Israel. Are we nimble enough? Does the Pentagon believe it matters?

TS: I think so. The more important thing is, do we believe it matters? And obviously, it?s very difficult, because it?s a decentralized conflict, to continue this Marshall metaphor. So there are going to be times when stuff gets out into circulation that we don?t see, and one of the things I?ve been saying, especially to some of our diplomats abroad, you guys see something, you hear something about it, bring it to our attention, because we?re not all-seeing and all-knowing. And in this age of diffused media, a lot of times, somebody can sort of light a fire far away, and you don?t see it until there?s smoke.

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