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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Snow advisory

On Sunday, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wrote a stirring defense of Tony Snow (free registration required), decisively routing the “liberal critics” who “flooded the Internet with evidence that Snow is, of all things, a conservative!”

Take it away, Mr. Page:

Snow is no refugee from the goofy wing of conservatism. In the 15 years I have known him professionally, he has impressed me repeatedly as a man of conscience who genuinely cares about solving the tough problems of poverty, bad schools and sour race relations.

Solving the tough problems of poverty, bad schools, and sour race relations.  Sounds like a Compassionate Conservative®!  But there’s more:

When he’s not trying to adopt the Rush Limbaugh/ Bill O’Reilly demagogue pose, he’s a guy who sheds more light than heat. His critics do themselves a disservice when they blur that distinction.

OK, it would’ve helped if Mr. Page had explained how many hours per day Tony Snow spends in not trying to adopt the Rush Limbaugh/ Bill O’Reilly demagogue pose, so that we could tell precisely when he’s shedding more light than heat.  But there’s no question that liberal critics blur that distinction.  Why, just the other day, the “weblogger” named “Digby” referred to heat as a form of “electromagnetic radiation,” while Jane Hamsher of “Firedoglake” insisted that light was a measure of the energy in a system.  Let’s get physical, liberal critics!  For once and for all, light and heat are not the same thing.

And now for the nut grafs:

I was particularly disappointed to find one of the controversial quotes that have come back to haunt Snow, since it was unfairly ripped out of context from one of my columns.

A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press release, for example, recounted the quote like this:

“In 1991, then-White House speechwriter Tony Snow defended former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, saying, `Duke is talking about things people really care about: high taxes, crummy schools, crime-ridden streets, welfare dependency, equal opportunity. A lot of politicians aren’t talking about these things.’”

Snow’s quote appeared in my Nov. 20, 1991, column and it was not in defense of Duke. Rather, Snow was trying to explain why the former Klansman had just won an estimated 55 percent of the white vote in the Louisiana governor’s race. Snow wanted me to know that, just as those of us who attended Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March were not acting out of black supremacy or anti-Semitism, neither were all Duke voters moved by racism.

“You can’t write off Duke’s voters as racists,” he said. “Duke is talking about things people really care about: high taxes, crummy schools, crime-ridden streets, welfare dependency, equal opportunity. A lot of politicians aren’t talking about these things.”

If mainstream politicians don’t listen to the frustrations of ordinary people and address them in some constructive way, Snow was saying, the loony extremists inevitably will move in.

All right, liberal critics, now let’s shed some electromagnetic radiation here, shall we?  First of all, Tony Snow did not say, “Duke is talking about things people really care about: high taxes, crummy schools, crime-ridden streets, welfare dependency, equal opportunity. A lot of politicians aren’t talking about these things.” He said, “You can’t write off Duke’s voters as racists.  Duke is talking about things people really care about: high taxes, crummy schools, crime-ridden streets, welfare dependency, equal opportunity. A lot of politicians aren’t talking about these things.” A little context sheds a lot of light.  In the future, when you quote Snow, don’t omit the “You can’t write off Duke’s voters as racists”: it changes the entire meaning of the passage.

Second of all, you can see here that what Page said above is completely true: Tony Snow is a man of conscience who genuinely cares about solving the tough problems of poverty, bad schools and sour race relations.  Look again at that list: David Duke was talking about high taxes, crummy schools, crime-ridden streets, welfare dependency, equal opportunity.  A lot of you kids out there in Blog-o-land won’t remember this, but politicians in 1991 had never mentioned these things!  Yes, all five are code words for black people, who crummy up our schools and crime-ride our streets with their welfare dependency, thus causing high taxes and eroding equal opportunity with their government-handout “affirmative action” programs.  But until David Duke came along, no mainstream American politician had ever talked about crime or schools or affirmative action or welfare or taxes!

Which brings me to point number three.  As is clear from the context, Tony Snow was not endorsing or justifying David Duke.  He was simply explaining David Duke’s popular appeal.  A lot of Duke’s voters came to Duke for the good schools and the safe streets, and simply stuck around for the white supremacy.  It was important in 1991, after all, to explain the David Duke phenomenon to liberal elites who just “didn’t get it.” To understand the roots of Duke’s appeal to Southern voters, you have to look at the root causes of their grievances, which, as I noted in point two, had no other outlet.  And because Tony Snow beat the September 10, 2001 deadline for looking into the root causes behind the rise of extremist political figures (by almost ten full years!), his remarks about Duke’s supporters imply no sympathy with Duke himself.

And that brings me to my final point: Tony Snow is eminently qualified to serve as White House press secretary not only because he is a man of conscience who genuinely cares about solving the tough problems of poverty, bad schools and sour race relations, but also because he can see the future.  If you doubt it—or if you think, as an out-of-touch liberal elite critic who doesn’t understand physics, that this sensible blog has suddenly degenerated into trippy Fafblogisms—look again at Clarence Page’s “contextualization” of Snow’s remarks:

Snow was trying to explain why the former Klansman had just won an estimated 55 percent of the white vote in the Louisiana governor’s race. Snow wanted me to know that, just as those of us who attended Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March were not acting out of black supremacy or anti-Semitism, neither were all Duke voters moved by racism.

That’s right: back in the fall of 1991, when David Duke had just won 55 percent of the white vote in the Louisiana governor’s race, Tony Snow was able to compare David Duke’s white voters to black participants in a Farrakhan-led march that would not happen for another four years.  That’s the kind of foresight and sagacity the White House needs now!  Oh, how I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Tony Snow turned and said to Clarence Page, “You can’t write off Duke’s voters as racists, Clarence.  After all, four years from now, many of your people will take part in a march organized by a nutcase anti-Semite.  And don’t even get me started on O. J. Simpson!  It may be hard for you to see it now, but I have the very strong sense that something bad is going to happen with that man, and many white Americans are going to get extremely upset.  David Duke is just proleptically channeling that future racial tension into a right-now campaign, and if mainstream politicians don’t listen to the frustrations of ordinary people and address them in some constructive way, the loony extremists inevitably will move in.”

Besides, you know what? Snow was right. The loony extremists did move in.  That’s just what you get for not listening the first time, liberal critics.

Posted by Michael on 05/02 at 12:06 PM
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