New White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's first regular briefing Tuesday was a cordial and crowded affair.
It was the day after the President's televised address, which accounts for some of the volume of journalists--every seat filled and 40 or 50 in the aisles and along the wall.
Snow said he had not decided whether or not to continue TV coverage of the briefing, a practice reportedly begun under President Clinton, but he joked that: "I'm sure TV people would have absolutely no problem going dark."
When asked about the personal sacrifice of taking the job, he said it was not a sacrifice by an honor, and recommended that the reporters, if they didn't already, occasionally look up at the columned mansion and marvel that they were there.
Snow had to explain to one reporter that the phrase "hugging a tar baby," which he had used referring to a question on phone tapping that he did not want to touch, was from American lore, but elaborated no further. It actually dates back to African lore, according to Random House, and was imported to this country by Joel Chandler Harris for his "Uncle Remus," as told by a former slave.
Snow got a little choked up--he called it his "Muskie moment"--when asked about the yellow bracelet he was wearing, which he said symbolized his battle last year with colon cancer. Snow said his doctor told him he didn't have to worry about the cancer any longer, just the heartburn from facing the press.
Snow actually took over as White House press secretary May 8, but presidential travel, for one, kept him from his first press room briefing until Tuesday. Snow worked as a speechwriter for the first President Bush following a career in print journalism and preceding one as a Fox anchor and commentator..
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