Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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The Tony Snow test

I will ask my readers to correct me, but I believe that Tony Snow will have had the highest pre-appointment profile of any press secretary to date. Certainly, Snow's relations with his former fellow members of the press will be better than anyone else currently working in the West Wing. Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that George Stephanopolous (??!!) is blogging about Snow:

The fact that Tony has criticized the President in print helps Bush much more than it hurts him. Proves he's reached beyond the Austin circle for some independent advice. Snow doesn't just tolerate his former colleagues in the press corps; he likes them. He's smart but not overbearing and speaks with style and a smile. All that should help Bush in the briefing room. Perhaps even better for Bush, Snow is a movement conservative with a real following in the country. The GOP and the President need to pump up enthusiasm at the grassroots before November. Having Snow at the podium and on the airwaves every day should help at the margins.
The social scientist in me would phrase it differently -- this is an ideal test of whether the messenger can triumph over the message. I've seen Tony Snow peform, as it were, on the air and off -- he's sharp and well-spoken. Bush's current poll numbers are pretty friggin' low. What does it mean if Snow, the second most visible face of the White House, can't provide at least a mild bump for Bush in the polls? It means that the press secretary really is the political equivalent of an offensive lineman -- the only time (s)he'll be noticed is when (s)he screws up.

Readers -- will Snow provide any bump for Bush at the polls?

posted by Dan on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM


I would call this rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but at least deck chairs were useful prior to the capsizing.

posted by: norbizness on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

No, big NO.

posted by: Umesh Patil on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Not likely. Picking someone so high profile and so obviously partisan will just re-inforce the idea that Snow is only there to sell already failed policy ideas.

I think he goes down hard and fast. I expect the honeymoon with the press corp to last exactly one or two questions. As soon as he starts in with the admiin line on some topic he'll just be a thinner and more polishied Scott McClellan.

posted by: SF Bay on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I saw Snow on the Daily Show. He was very funny and smart. Hope this new gig works out for him.

posted by: Jacob on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I don't think I've ever seen a female offensive lineman.

posted by: r rainey on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I don't see how appointing a new press secretary gets you a bump in the polls. The average american is not going to figure that the spokesman actually makes policy. Any result would be more long-term, as Snow is unlikely to have that deer in headlights look when the Washington press gets in an uproar about something.

About the only thing that would get Bush a bump is replacing Rumsfeld with either a complaining ex-general or John McCain. That would suggest that Bush realizes that the problem has not been the communication of the policies, but the execution of the policies. (It's too much to expect that Bush would ever come around to thinking the policies themselves are the problem).

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

The problems transcend the message or the messenger. The public has tuned out the message and are now paying attention to the consequences of policies. Is Iraq moving in the right direction? What is happening with gas prices? Is drug benefit working? Doesn't matter any longer what they say or who says it.

posted by: dmh on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Without doubt Tony Snow is the highest profile press secretary. The only ones close are J. F. Ter Horst and George Reedy.

posted by: Richard Heddleson on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Not a snow ball's chance in hell.

In short: snow way.

It will only snow this administration's incompetence.

posted by: snowfest on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

It is a great more for the administration. With numbers like the president has, he is losing his base. That is awful for Bush jr. because he governed from that base.
With an eye on resecuring that base the only better choice would have been Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coutler himself/herself.

Keep in mind at this point especially, the pres. could really care less what the 50% of the public that have "strongly neg" views of him think. He is trying to secure the 40-45% that will secure the Republican majority in the highly gerrymandered House.

posted by: centrist on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I don't see how appointing a new press secretary gets you a bump in the polls. The average american is not going to figure that the spokesman actually makes policy.

I doubt the "average american" can identify the press secretary. I think the logic, rather, is that the White House press corps likes him better, so they come away from press conferences thinking more positively about the administration, and they write more positive stories.

posted by: David Nieporent on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Well, I guess I'll play the part of the contrarian. The extensive coverage has made this appointment seem like a big deal. The majority of people don't pay attention to the goings on of the administration, rather they have a sense of activities only in the periphery (sort of a headline level awareness). Because this has been treated like biggest news since Britney dropped the baby, I think it only helps Bush. Plus, let's not lose sight of the fact that Fox News has enjoyed the highest ratings of all cable news channels for a long time - I don't watch the network but I can just imagine how they are positioning this development. With poll numbers as low as W's, I think it will result in slight (defined as a couple of percentage points) positive upswing for the prez.

posted by: Shea Caruthers on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Well, you may call me a fundementalist, but I think that President Bush's falling poll numbers reflect a discontent with the effects of his policies, and not a discontent with the messenger of those policies. Perhaps a better messenger will help sugar coat the news, but as long as the news remains (in a non-paritisan sense) Osama at large, anemic economy, endless war with no victory in sight, government incompetance, government corruption, there is no hope for Bush. When Bush can point to concrete successes in any of those fronts, his poll numbers would rise if he had the most inept and shopworn messenger in creation.

posted by: etc. on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

We're all pretty well trained by this time, aren't we? President Bush appoints a new press secretary, makes a speech wearing a green tie, takes up tai chi -- it doesn't matter what he does, the first question everyone will ask is what it will do to his poll numbers. It's the same with any politician.

Maybe the media really is the all-powerful influence some people think it is. Media commentators go straight to the question about polls because everyone else does it, and because they don't know what else to ask. It's true that some politicians seem mostly interested in their poll numbers most of the time, but what are we interested in?

Let me suggest that though no press secretary has ever changed the public's opinion of his boss, a good press secretary is still better than a bad one. Scott McClellan was a really, galactically bad press secretary, hopelessly out of his depth to the point that he was becoming a punchline on late night television. Tony Snow can handle this job, and having made a big deal of hiring him as more than just a spokesman Bush cannot leave him in the dark the way McClellan was left so often.

posted by: Zathras on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I don't have a strong opinion either way, but what is this anemic economy stuff? Didn't the New York Times just report that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 4.8% last quarter? Where do you get this idea from?

posted by: J-man on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

NO, because the MSM is out to destroy Bush.

I mean those yokels from Kansas elected him, they just have be wrong, so he must be destroyed. so that the angel Hillary can take over.

posted by: Alain on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

Applying lipstick to a pig does little more than draw more attention to the pig - I.e. the lipstick isn't the focus of attention.

My guess is that all the hype is doing far more damage than good. After all, isn't it the president the issue here?

Snow is just high priced lipstick. At the end of the day Bush is still a pig.

posted by: Hal on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I think it will help. Obviously not with libs or dems. But it will give some sense of assurance to the base and help to make base-abandonment a touch less likely. And it will help with that great swath of the electorate that doesn't think all that much about issues, but just watches headlines. Seeing a bumbling, unattractive mediocraty (Scottie) as the face of the administration leaves people less inclined to give 'em the benefit of the doubt. Seeing an articulate, confident voice helps in that regard.

Remeber, that a large chunk of the voting public doesn't think all that deeply about issues. Style and general impressions really do matter when it comes to general levels of public support.

posted by: Tano on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

I hope not

posted by: Robert M on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

What is URL ?

posted by: Jerry O'Neal on 04.26.06 at 09:33 PM [permalink]

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