Imagine you are Tony Snow. You, Huffington Post reader and political junkie, probably have dreamed of a job as White House Press Secretary under President Clinton, Biden, Obama, or Edwards. Imagine you have that job today as the PR man, the glorified Elliott Mintz, for a President whose popularity is at 26 percent.
You have the worst job on the planet.
You think snake wrangling is the worst job? Try wrangling a press corps that was too soft on you five years ago, and now froths at the mouth, ready to tear you up and spit you out.
The press asks perilously difficult questions, and tries to find ways to make you give them the answer that you don't want to give and that they want to hear. They want you to slip up. No, they actually want you to slip up and then suffer in horrible pain, and they want to watch, like the tourists who pay to watch people get tortured in the movie Hostel.
They think you deserve to suffer for the Administration's sins.
Imagine you are Tony Snow and someone yells in your face, "You're not telling me the truth!" And you are live, on national TV. How would you react? I'd probably punch the person in the face, hurt my hand and then sob on CNN.
But Tony Snow is proud and he won't stoop to that level. The press can poke and prod. He will not show his feelings. He's disciplined in a way that none of us can ever hope to be.
And he doesn't lie. If the press asks him a question that he doesn't want to answer, he'll simply say, "I understand your question." If they ask him a question that probes the President's veracity and competence, he doesn't get overly agitated. He finds common ground and says, "Look, the President wants to win in Iraq." Yes, he does.
Imagine you are Tony Snow. 4,500 Americans have died (troops and contractors) and another 30,000 Americans have been injured in Iraq, and the group that attacked us on 9/11 is as strong now as it was on that fateful day.
By nine a.m., you've had a cup of coffee and you walk into a morning briefing with your boss. The President says to you, "Tony, when you meet with the press, tell them that I am sticking with the current plan in Iraq -- matter of fact, tell them I think it's working very well." Then the President pushes you to the door. You know what awaits you on the other side of that door -- the media sharks hungry for the chum. But you are loyal to your boss, and you will follow his orders.
You, the loyal blog reader, have imagined that you are Tony Snow as often as you've imagined that you're a member of the press, asking the Press Secretary the one question that finally trips him up. You've ranted and raved at the TV and vowed that if you were the Press Secretary, you'd give honest answers.
You've dreamed of standing in as White House Press Secretary and making that one cathartic statement that would unite this country again. You would stand before the assembled media hordes and reveal, "Going to Iraq was a huge mistake. It had nothing to do with 9/11, and now Al-Qaeda is as strong as it was on that day. Wow, did we screw up, and man, I enabled it to happen. I am so sorry."
But Tony Snow will never give us that satisfaction. He is proud, smart, disciplined and loyal. The public's feelings do not play a role in his daily life. What matters to him is that he does his job to the best of his ability.
And one day soon, Tony Snow's job will end. Then, he will be in his home in Virginia, and he'll walk over to the fridge and crack open a can of beer. He will then find his way to his den, where he'll plop down on the couch and flip on the TV. He'll stop channel surfing when he sees the new White House Press Secretary field questions and he'll say to himself, "I remember when that was me." Then he'll smile, shut off the TV, grab the paper and open up the sports section.
A few minutes later, Tony Snow will walk to the bathroom to wash the newsprint off his hands, grab a hand towel and look up. Tony Snow will have to answer to someone. He'll have to answer to the person looking back at him in the mirror. The PR man who enabled this President to send thousands of people off to war, never to return, for a cause that was lost long ago.
And then you won't want to imagine you're Tony Snow.