07/25/2006 01:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Summer Snow Job: The Strange Case of Stem Cell Murder

So, let's see, Tony Snow - spokesman for the President - said that Mr. Bush "strongly considers" stem cell research "murder." And repeatedly used the "murder" charge. But now, apparently, Mr. Snow says he was "overstating" the President's position.

Rumors are that for Snow's gross overstatement, he will receive the same punishment that do all members of the Administration for major errors, and will be given the Congressional Medal of Honor.

So, let's see, he was "overstating" the President's position, he says. To what degree? Is it that the President doesn't consider stem cell research to be murder? Or that he doesn't "strongly" consider it murder. Only somewhat murder.

Something is really screwy here. It's one thing to "overstate" someone's position. But hearing the word "murder" is really hard to misinterpret. And to "strongly consider" something "murder" would seem to be near-impossible to get wrong.

Remember, this is "murder," we're talking about. How do you get confused by that???

"Oh, I'm sorry, you're honor, when we charged the defendant with murder, we overstated the case. What we meant was, shoplifting."

"And so, I, Hercule Poirot, the world's greatest detective, strongly tell you this is a case of the murder!! Well, perhaps I am overstating the case. He has sinus trouble. Just ask him."

"Here's $10,000. I want you to murder my business partner. Sorry, not murder him, I'm overstating. Please buy out his partnership."

No, Mr. Snow said the President "strongly" believed stem cell research was "murder." Repeatedly. But now claims the President "wouldn't use that term." Okay, I'll bite, what term did the President use that you overstated? Maybe the President strongly considered it manslaughter or just "assault with a deadly centrifuge," and Mr. Snow got flummoxed by that. Or perhaps the President said the Tour de France bike race looked like murder, and Tony Snow thought he was referring to stem cell research.

The problem gets more convoluted.

There was White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten on "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, squirming as he tried to explain that the President simply thinks that a frozen embryo is a human life that deserves protection. Not "murder," just sort of like protective custody. Maybe put all 400,000 frozen embryos in the witness protection program. Somehow, Tony Snow got "strongly believes it's murder" out of this.

(Side note: if the President does believe this, that a frozen embryo is a human life that deserves protection, does this mean he believes in cryogenics? A new question for Mr. Snow.)

Incidentally, Josh Bolten said that he hasn't spoken to the President "about the use of particular terminology." So, are we left to believe that the White House Chief of Staff hasn't asked why Mr. Bush is against stem cell research for which he just exercised his first veto...but Tony Snow has?? What's going on there?

It should also be noted that if Mr. Bolten hadn't appeared on "Meet the Press" and been asked this question, then Tony Snow's repeated depiction of the President's belief of "murder" would have been left to stand, inaccurate. So, you mean, the White House saw Tony Snow say the President strongly believes stem cell research is "murder," and no one corrected him??! Because the only other explanation is that nobody at the White House even watched the guy, or watched any news coverage afterwards.

It's unbelievable.


Of course, maybe it was intentional, and they just wanted to shamelessly and repeatedly sound like they were talking tough for their base and got caught at it.

In the end, keep in mind, that when Tony Snow "apologized" for his overstating "murder," he wasn't apologizing to the press - and country - for being wrong. Or being misleading. Or lying. No, this is what he said:

"I created a little trouble for Josh Bolten in the interview. And I feel bad about it."

He feels bad that he put his boss in an awkward position. That his boss had to explain away what was said and left on the record, uncorrected, perhaps because it was accurate.

That's what he's sorry for. Period.

If indeed Tony Snow was repeatedly wrong about his significant error - and make no mistake, in this highly volatile issue, "strongly" calling something "murder" is significant - then this means that Mr. Snow is a loose cannon, and grossly irresponsible with no regard for the truth.

Given his record thus far, that's shocking to hear, I know.

At least his predecessor Scott McClellan had the sense to say he could never talk about anything and therefore kept his mouth shut.