Much of the early commentary about Tony Snow's appointment as White House press secretary (including my own) focused on what Snow was giving up for the job -- money, family time, independence -- rather than what he was getting from the job -- power, prominence and a rare chance to be in the White House inner circle. When Snow worked for Bush 41, he could probably count on two hands the number of times he had private meetings with the President or policy meetings in the Oval Office. Now, he'll have walk-in privileges. A lure almost impossible to resist.
The deal works for Bush too. The fact that Tony has criticized the President in print helps Bush much more than it hurts him. Proves he's reached beyond the Austin circle for some independent advice. Snow doesn't just tolerate his former colleagues in the press corps; he likes them. He's smart but not overbearing and speaks with style and a smile. All that should help Bush in the briefing room. Perhaps even better for Bush, Snow is a movement conservative with a real following in the country. The GOP and the President need to pump up enthusiasm at the grassroots before November. Having Snow at the podium and on the airwaves every day should help at the margins.
For Snow, the biggest adjustment is psychological. He's been out of the White House on his own for more than 15 years, voicing his own opinions, building his own audience. Now he'll have to learn to squelch his private views and deliver the party line with conviction. I went through precisely the opposite process when I left the White House to join ABC. Not sure which move is more difficult, but I do know that neither one is easy or automatic.
The White House will have to make an adjustment too. President Bush said all the right things at today's announcement, and Tony has the chops of a successful press secretary. But after Snow's honeymoon, will he really have the promised access? And can he make good on the openness promised today? Only if the whole White House wants him to. He'll also need some good luck. Good news and rising poll numbers create good press, not the other way around.