Howard Kurtz Jousts With Tony Snow on Press Coverage of President

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By: E&P Staff

On his Sunday morning CNN show “Reliable Sources,” host Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post conducted a lengthy interview with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. It covered everything from Snow’s recent battles with NBC’s David Gregory to the record of the president’s overall relations with the press.

Here is the final segment.
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KURTZ: Listen to this quote: “President Bush hates responding to the press, hates responding to political enemies. He thinks it’s beneath him. He’s got a stubborn streak.”

Who said that?

SNOW: I don’t know.

KURTZ: You did, last March on FOX News.

SNOW: Did I? Yes, OK.

KURTZ: Does he hate responding to the press? SNOW: No, actually, you know what’s been interesting? And I think people have seen this in the last couple of months with press conferences, especially. They’re more regular, we have them more often, they end up going longer.

And he actually likes it. I think, you know, presidents may say, “Oh do I have to go out in front of the press?” And then when he does it he wants to do it longer.

We saw this in Amman, Jordan where Prime Minister Maliki and he were doing — it was supposed to be what we call a three and three — three question aside — and the president said, “What do you want to do more?”

You know, and so, what I think is, about the press, he actually doesn’t hate the press and he likes reporters. He keeps saying, “No, I like reporters.” And I also think…

KURTZ: But did you have to urge him, when you took this job six months ago, to do more news conferences? He’s doing a lot more now then he did in the first term.

SNOW: Yes. I know, but I think that just ended up being a confluence of interest within the administration. It’s certainly something that I thought was wise, but on the other hand, so did a lot of other people.

KURTZ: So, are you now officially retracting your previous view that he has a stubborn streak?

SNOW: Oh, no. I mean, he does have a stubborn streak.

I mean, look, this is a president — I didn’t — I’m not retracting — what I like about the president is — let me put it this way, if you’ve got a guy who says, “I’m going to stick to my principles,” if you call that stubborn, yes.

KURTZ: “Newsweek’s” Richard Wolffe describes your performance at the daily briefings, given your radio and TV background, as the “Tony Snow Show.”

SNOW: Yes.

KURTZ: Is there an element of theater involved?

SNOW: I think there’s probably necessarily an element of theater, just like there is here. I mean, we’re sitting in the press room, we’ve got cameras going. But on the other hand…

KURTZ: Are you very mindful of playing to the audience at home?

SNOW: No. No, you can’t be.

I mean, if you’re sitting around thinking, how’s this going to play at home, you’re going to trip over yourself. Because it’s a substantive job, and when I’m at the podium, my primary objective — and I know you’ve got a couple of these things where I’ve gone back and forth with reporters, but also, what you try to do is convey information.

And there have been a lot of times I’ve come up to the podium doing readouts, very specific readouts of breaking news developments, because ultimately — look, the press corps can’t do its job of covering the White House without my help, because the press office has the obligation to help members of the press. And it’s our obligation to get facts into the hands of reporters, to be accessible, to get them in touch with reporters — I mean, with figures within the administration that can help them.

KURTZ: Right.

During your years as an editorial writer, radio host, television…

SNOW: Yes.

KURTZ: … you could say whatever you want, all about your opinions. Now you’re obviously much more constrained.

SNOW: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Big adjustment for Tony Snow?

SNOW: Well, I think you only have to mess up once, because you realize that you’re speaking for the president of the United States.

It’s not that big an adjustment, for this reason. When you step into this job, you very quickly

KURTZ: All right. Well, Tony Snow, thanks very much for sitting it out with us in the briefing room.

SNOW: That was it? It’s over?

KURTZ: Do you want to do more?

SNOW: That was quick.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Maybe we should have gone twice as long.

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