Quick, somebody get Tony Snow a compassion cocktail -- with an empathy chaser!
For years now I've been praying for public officials to start speaking their minds and not hide behind a smokescreen of mindless, focus group-tested, politically correct pabulum.
But an interesting thing is happening with Tony Snow. Since becoming press secretary he has, indeed, been speaking his mind. But the kind of mind that's being revealed is very troubling.
His reaction to the U.S. death toll in Iraq hitting 2,500 was "It's a number."
His response to the kidnapping of Pfc. Kristian Manchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker was to grumble about the media "focusing on them" instead of the fact "that since Zarqawi was killed, hundreds of bad guys have been rounded up." [Update: Snow's problem with the media focus on the story is even more disturbing now that the kidnapped soldiers have been found barbarically slain.]
Snow seems to be missing the humanity chromosome.
The jury is still out on whether his regret gene is just as recessive. He did call himself "an idiot" for his they-all-look-alike confusion of black House members Sheila Jackson Lee and Cynthia McKinney. Will he publicly flagellate himself in the same way for his appearance on Imus last week in which he slammed former President Carter, saying that during the Carter years "you had the humiliation of hostages being taken in Iran"? Oops. Should President Carter be expecting a "my bad" card in the mail, Tony?
Then there were Snow's head-scratching comparison of the gay marriage ban to the civil rights struggle (compounded by his inability to define civil rights) and his unfortunate use of "tar baby" imagery to deflect questions on NSA surveillance programs.
It's becoming clearer by the day: you can take the man out of Fox News, but you can't take the Fox News out of the man.
Snow needs to quickly sign up for a remedial course in understanding the feelings of his fellow man. But just in case that Learning Annex "Taking a Sip from the Cup of Human Kindness" class taught by Oprah and Bono is overbooked, here are some steps Snow can take in the meantime:
First, to help him remember that 2,500 dead is not just a number, he should stop by the summer-long vigil Military Families Speak Out will be holding outside the Cannon House Office Building in D.C. Starting Thursday, the Families will be displaying pairs of boots for every U.S. soldier killed since last Thursday, when Congress voted to "stay the course" in Iraq (the Families will also display pairs of shoes to represent the Iraqis who have died since then).
Then to help him put the focus being given to the kidnapped American soldier in perspective, he can make two phone calls: one to Daniel Pearl's widow, Mariane, and one to Nick Berg's dad. In between, he can pick up John McCain's book, Faith of My Fathers, and read over the parts about McCain's tenure as a POW.
Finally, I'll do my part by giving Snow a special preview of some scenes from John Cusack's latest film, Grace Is Gone -- a deeply personal look at a family man whose soldier wife is killed in Iraq. I know Tony is busy, so maybe I'll just send him the scene where Cusack's character, Stanley, a former soldier, tells his daughters that their mother won't be coming home.
I've known Tony Snow for a long time -- and there's no question that he's a very bright and articulate guy.
But he's showing himself to be an honors graduate of the Shit Happens School of Politics. The new poster child for the Bush administration's brand of Callous Conservatism.
It's worth noting that Snow is arriving on the scene just as Michael Gerson, the conscience of the administration and the intellectual architect of the Bush White House's never-made-it-off-the-drawing-board compassionate conservatism, is heading out the door.
According to Josh Bolten, Gerson "reflected the president's heart." So if Karl Rove is Bush's Brain, and Gerson reflected his heart... what part of the president does Snow embody?
So far, I'd say it's located below the waist and to the rear.
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