Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 12/9/2005 [Archive]

Talking with Tony Snow

Talking to Tony Snow

Pundit and commentator Tony Snow hasn't been the host of "Fox News Sunday" since 2003. But the former director of speechwriting for the first President Bush is keeping busy hosting "The Tony Snow Show," his 9 a.m.-to-noon morning talk show on Fox News Radio, and "Weekend Live With Tony Snow" on the Fox News Channel.

Snow, who is back to writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column again and can be heard on satellite via Sirius or XM Radio, has spent most of the year fighting colon cancer. I talked to him by telephone on Thursday:

Q: First, how is your health?

A: My health is doing great. I had surgery in February to remove the colon. I had chemotherapy from April through September. I had a follow-up operation to finish everything off. The good news for me is that I'm done with surgery. I'm done with chemotherapy. The CAT-scans have come back completely clean. The blood tests are encouraging. But as anybody who's had cancer knows, what you do is you keep doing your CAT scans. I'll do that every three months just to make sure we're still on track.

Q: A few years ago when I talked to you, you called yourself more libertarian than Republican. Is that still true?

A: Yeah, I think so. I learned a long time ago that if you sit around and pledge your fealty to politicians, you're going to get burnt. So what I like to do is maintain my independence. I'm clearly conservative. But this week I've been bashing conservatives on various forms of corruption, including spending money on stuff that's completely idiotic, like, oh, the fact that they are now going to have subsidies for people to have digital signals on their TVs. It's unbelievable. They are actually setting up a subsidy for people who still have analog televisions as of 2009 or something. They'll give them $40 or $60 per TV to digitize them. Give me a break!

Q: You recently wrote that Republicans are cowards because they have forsaken their core beliefs and betrayed the Republican Revolution of 1994. How so?

A: What happened is when Republicans came in in 1994, what did they say? They said we're going to make government smaller and we're going to make it more responsive. Instead, what has happened -- and it's typical, it's natural, it's something that happens all the time -- is that they decided, "You know what, I'd rather just stay in office." So they decided to worship incumbency rather than principle. Well, what happens over time is that you end up with a government that spends like crazy on stuff that is not of vital national importance. You find members of Congress suddenly fudging on things that they had promised to do. And over time, what happens is that they lose their credibility with voters. It's exactly the same thing that happened to Democrats in the run-up to the 1994 congressional elections.

Q: Is there anything that President Bush has done that you are completely jazzed about -- happy about?

A: Completely jazzed about? I get jazzed when my son brings home a report card full of A's. I don't get jazzed when presidents do their jobs, so the answer would be "no."

Q: What's the worst or most egregious mistake the president has made?

A: The lack of spending discipline on the part of Republicans has been disappointing and frankly so has George W. Bush's inability to understand the importance of using a veto. Washington is like a dog pound. You have to have an alpha male. You've got a scent, mark your territory -- and the way you do that is using the veto. I know the war is important, but being the lead dog in Washington is also important and I don't think the president has quite figured that out yet and I don't think the people closest to him have either.

Q: What gives you the slightest hope that conservatives will return to their core principles -- and is there anyone you think might make that happen?

A: Oh yeah. Actually, I think voters are making it happen. If you take a look at what's going on on Capitol Hill, I think Republicans were stunned when voters started calling them and really going crazy when they were going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska. In that transportation bill they had more than 6,000 local pork-barrel projects. Mark Pence of Indiana, a former radio talk show host himself, has been one of the guys who has really been out there raising hell about the abandonment of principles. I think you're seeing clustering around Mark and some other young Republicans -- something that reminds me a great deal of Newt Gingrich and something they called the Conservative Opportunity Society in the late '70s and early '80s, where they were getting together and talking about big ideas and core principles. I think the Republicans are realizing that to be principled and visionary in the long run is good politics. Doing the pork-barrel stuff might get you re-elected once or twice -- you do that. But you do that at the expense of the soul of a party. In the long run, it's the ideas, it's the great figures, it's the inspirational figures who define a political party and shape in people's mind an image of what that party is and what it stands for. If any political party is the party of payoffs, it's going to lose.

Q: What about the Democrats?

A: The Democrats have a problem right now, because they seem to be a "cut-and-run" party that is also being run by a handful of billionaires who are supplying all the money for them. That's not a winning proposition in the long run. Similarly, if Republicans are a bunch of deal-makers who are simply trying to hold on to political office, sooner or later somebody's going to say, "You know what? We can do better than that." Both political parties are on notice that they are really not doing very well with this visionary business, and whoever gets there first is going to win.

Q: Who'd you like to see win the Republican nomination in 2008?

A: I really don't know. I'm old school. I like to see how these people do when they have to go to horrid places like northern New Hampshire or when they have to brave the winters in Iowa to go around, hat in hand, begging for votes. There's something good about a primary process that makes you work hard and become humble. Those who have the stamina and desire and organizational ability -- those are the ones who make the cut as potential presidential timber. I really don't know. There are a lot of people who are thinking about running. We'll just have to wait to see who does well.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at bsteigerwald@tribweb.com. © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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