Sentimental Tony Snow Defends Bush Policies

May 17, 2006 — -- Tony Snow made his debut as the president's press secretary Tuesday amid some of the lowest presidential ratings in history.

Snow, 50, is the former host of the "Tony Snow Show" on FOX News Radio and "Weekend Live With Tony Snow" on the FOX News Channel. He has been in his new post for a week and became emotional when asked about the yellow cancer awareness bracelet he wears.

"I had cancer last year," Snow said at the briefing before pausing and choking up. "Just having gone through this last year was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"It's my Ed Muskie moment," Snow said, referring to the presidential candidate who once shed tears outside a newspaper's office in New Hampshire.

Snow said he had lost his mother to the same disease, colon cancer, when he was 17.

"I had colitis for 28 years. I always felt cancer was stalking me and, lo and behold, it got me last year," Snow said on "Good Morning America." "But love, support, faith, prayers, and incredible medical care have enabled me to be where I am today."

Snow seems grateful for the experience.

"A lot of people who have had cancer will tell you the same thing. In a lot of ways, it really is the best thing that ever happens to you," he said. "You realize every day is a blessing and imparts a kind of joy to your life you wouldn't get otherwise."

Snow, who served as the speechwriting director and assistant for media affairs in former President Bush's administration, has to grapple with a White House that is currently in disarray.

According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, President Bush's approval rating is 33 percent -- a record low for this poll, and 66 percent disapprove of his handling of the situation in Iraq, another record. But Snow said that he thought there was "good news this president can take benefit from. For instance, take a look at the economy. That's going well. We're talking about a formation of a government in Iraq. "

Many experts say, however, that the war in Iraq is preventing Bush from making any political gains elsewhere. Snow said that the American people were just not getting the message about the positive things happening in Iraq.

"Whether people like it or not, we are engaged in a war on terror. Iraq is a very important part of it," he said. "People tend to see IED explosions and hear bad news. What they're not hearing is much of the nation is secure and the troops who come back say they're committed to it, and they think they're involved in something important and grand."

"What they're not hearing is that there is a government on the verge of being formed. When people realize that what has happened in Iraq is a military engagement that is now producing the beginnings of a democracy, that may give people pause to reflect and say we were doing the right thing."

Even still, analysts say the president risks losing control of Congress and his agenda.

"Then the next two years are going to be oversight investigations and the end of any legislation program," said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. "He's toast then."

"Take a look at what's going on in the Senate, and it looks like a number of senators on both sides of the aisle are responding to the president's message," Snow said, referring to the president's speech on immigration on Monday in which he outlined a plan to use National Guard troops to temporarily help with border control.

"You have to keep in mind, this is an ambitious plan. I think a lot of members of the House are looking at the fine details. Don't draw any preliminary conclusions about what Republicans may or may not say. Republicans, I think, understand that if they try to run away from the president, they probably do so at their own peril."

The president continues to deal with the new developments regarding the controversial NSA surveillance program. Today, two phone companies -- Verizon and BellSouth -- denied the USA Today report that they were sharing Americans' phone records with the government. The paper stands by its reporting.

Meanwhile, after months of pressure, the White House has agreed to brief both intelligence committees about the spying program -- a program the president continues to defend.

"I have told the American people we'll protect them against an al Qaeda attack and we'll do so within the law," he said.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, Bush's nominee to head the CIA, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday for a confirmation hearing. The White House has already said he has no obligation to discuss confidential government programs.

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