Saturday, July 12, 2008

RIP - Tony Snow

This is a tough one for me.

Tony Snow died today. He was 53. For those of you who don't know why he's front-and-center on the NY Times obituary page, read about him here. When Jesse Helms left us on July 4, I knew a bad man was gone and I had no qualms about feeling glad that he could no longer pimp his flaming bigotry. But this one is different.

I knew Tony. He was a mentor and a friend when I was a young journalist at the Washington Times. We sparred about politics and life and religion and sports and he was a good, sweet-hearted man who I came to admire and respect. That doesn't mean knowing him is all that takes for me to be okay with the part he played in the Bush revolution.

I mean when he left to be Bush 1's speechwriter, I wasn't surprised -- he was a Republican, after all. But when he eventually ended up at Fox News, it was a weirder, because when we were debating over lunch in the Times' cafeteria, he seemed closer to the center than the other Conservatives I knew.

I never was able to comfortably reconcile the Tony Snow I knew with the man who was a Fox commentator or later, the mouthpiece for an administration whose policies led to the death and injury of so many young Americans and countless more Iraqis.

And it's even more complicated than that. I was working for the Times when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I think Tony had left by that time but he somehow found out and contacted me. Believe me, when you're young and you have Cancer, it's not easy for some people and I had many friends who couldn't reach out to me, for whatever reason. I've come to believe it's hard for some people to be forced to consider their own mortality. But Tony knew about Cancer and his words that day were backed up by the authenticity of having gone through the darkness and come out of it. We were connected by it and he knew this long before I did.

So, I can't say Tony was a bad guy. And yes, his support of Bush at a time when it was pretty damn apparent to even the True Believers that the war and everything that came out of it was a royal fuck up, a cost measured in blood and human lives, is going to be part of his legacy. So I can't say he was a great man, either.

That he was there for me, and others, that he loved his family and was good to them, that he was a good and decent friend to folks on both sides of the political aisle, is also part of what he leaves behind, and it's that part I'll choose to remember about him.

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