On his last day on the job, at his very last session with reporters, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow voiced strong regret that the comprehensive immigration bill that so divided the Republican Party before dying in the Senate was never enacted.
At a breakfast here hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, I reminded the 52-year-old Snow how he was the first professional journalist to become the top spokesman to the President since 1974 and whether he would urge other journalists to follow in his footsteps. Noting that he was probably the first press secretary with a background in radio, television, print journalism, and blogging, Snow said that he had had disagreements with President Bush before joining his team in ’06 but he agreed with him on many things as well. One thing he definitely agreed with Bush on, Snow told the assembled reporters, was the comprehensive immigration bill that included border security as well as a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
“We should have gotten it through the last time,” said Snow, referring to the 392-page bill backed by the President and Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) that died in the Senate earlier this year, “We came very close.”
He went on to say that the comprehensive immigration package — stopped in part because of the opposition generated by conservative radio talk show hosts and publications — would “require much more debate” to secure enactment in the future.
“I understand the skepticism,” Snow said of the conservative opposition to the measure. He then proceeded to launch into a rehash of the spirited defense of the immigration measure that I had heard him deliver so often in the White House briefing room: that if the borders were secure and those already in the U.S. were not receiving government benefits while here, then the American public would not object to achieving legal status.
When veteran Dallas Evening News reporter Carl Luebsdorf weighed in with a query as to whether the opposition of the immigration package by all but one of the ’08 GOP presidential hopefuls was “sacrificing the future of the Republican Party,” Snow shot back: “Ask me in a week or even tomorrow [when he was out of the White House and a private citizen]. I’m not going to step into that one.”
The veteran newsman went on to decry what he considered a “troubling” trend taking place in White House press coverage and journalism in general: namely, that with 24-hour news coverage such as on line or on cable channels, people were always wanting more “scoops” and “some new piece of information.” Pointing out that there has been a “change in the [attitude] of many reporters,” Snow explainted that “instead of analysis, it’s now process, process, process. . .and the process is poorer [because] there are no more resources to set people free to do those investigative pieces they used to do.”