WashPost: Tony Snow Takes on 'Angry Callers,' Chris Wallace a Democrat

Howard Kurtz profiled White House press secretary Tony Snow for Thursday's Washington Post. He emphasized his talk-radio style of combat with reporters, and his availablity for GOP fundraisers: "It's Gloves Off (and Pass the Hat) for Bush Spokesman." That sounds a little like he's taking a collection for his personal use. White House reporters asked for comment in the piece come across as, surprise, hard-bitten and cynical:

"He definitely likes the combat," says Martha Raddatz, ABC's White House correspondent. "One of his devices is he stops and smiles at you. The megawatt smile is supposed to punctuate his sentences, but it hasn't worked as well for him lately. It's a pretty tight-lipped administration, and that hasn't changed."

CBS's Jim Axelrod recalls how Snow once issued a press release assailing a story Axelrod had done on Medicare eligibility. "He basically sent out this report calling me a liar, and then showed up at the booth smiling, with a handshake, and we had a half-hour chat. . . . He plays the affability card."

This kind of everything's-a-game journo lingo makes you wonder if Axelrod goes home to his wife and says "Would you like it if I played the sexuality card?" Kurtz continued:

After the president's televised speech on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Axelrod pressed Snow on why what was billed as a nonpolitical speech had become a vigorous defense of the Iraq war. Snow shot back that if Bush hadn't discussed Iraq, "it would have been seen as dereliction, and you guys would have been out here just clubbing me like a baby seal." Some viewers called Axelrod to say that he had been disrespectful.

Snow, says Axelrod, "has got a talk show host's knack of taking whatever question is asked and steering it into a two- or three-minute response that is a fairly strong defense of the administration's policies. He's probably dealt with angry callers before, and maybe we're nothing more than angry callers to him."

Now that is an appropriate analogy, liberal TV reporters as angry talk-radio callers. But you can't hang up on them in the briefing room. (Axelrod later notes favorably that Snow is quick to respond to queries, even on the weekends.)

While we're talking about current or former Fox News personalities, we should note that WashPost gossip writers Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts noted yesterday that Chris Wallace is a registered Democrat:

In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, reporter Deborah Solomon asked "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace what political party he belonged to. His answer: "None of your business."

Oh, please. Ever heard of a little thing called public records? After five minutes of exhaustive research, we found that Wallace is a registered Democrat and has been for more than two decades

Wallace's political leanings were called into question by a red-faced Bill Clinton, who accused him of a "nice conservative little hit job" after Wallace asked a probing question about his administration's pursuit of Osama bin Laden . Clinton exploded in -- depending on your politics -- (a) a fit of righteous anger or (b) a premeditated display of Democratic mau-mauing.

The District resident says his party affiliation is driven by simple pragmatism: "The reason I'm a registered Democrat is that in Washington, D.C., there is really only one party," Wallace told us yesterday. "If you want a say in who's going to be the next mayor or councilman, you have to vote in the Democratic primary." (No offense intended, we're sure, to GOP D.C. Council rep Carol Schwartz or independent David Catania , who was first elected as a Republican.)

Wallace is a regular at his local polling place, and says he's voted for members of both parties. "Look, some people think [journalists] shouldn't vote at all -- I think that's a little silly. . . . However I vote personally, I think I'm professional enough that it doesn't have anything to do with the way I cover the news."

If you want to see how Wallace answered questions from Solomon, including the opener about Bill Clinton's meltdown ("Do you think it was fair for you to mention that his administration had failed to capture Osama bin Laden?"), the interview is here.

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