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I was very sad to learn this afternoon that Tony Snow — journalist, commentator, news anchor, radio host, musician, intellectual, public servant, and family man — died of cancer early this morning at 2 a.m.

He was one of a kind in politics. Friends and colleagues have labeled him something of a renaissance man, which he certainly was; just look at all the roles he fulfilled and how expertly he discharged them. He’s credited (however begrudgingly by some) with changing the culture of the White House press corps during his short tenure as press secretary.


I first heard Tony Snow on talk radio, and I was impressed with the breadth of his knowledge, as well as his eloquence and erudition on the fly. I always found him very stimulating to listen to. But his unique way with contentious callers was even more impressive. It didn’t matter how stridently they disagreed or how vehemently (or insultingly) they argued, Tony had a cool head that just didn’t get rattled. Even when he was hard-hitting in his rejoinder to an interlocutor, there was an undeniable kindheartedness that came through — so much so that my wife, who doesn’t really like political theater or commentary, would say, “Tony’s a good guy,” and gladly listen to him. I suspect that his ideological polar opposites found themselves doing much the same thing in spite of themselves.

“Civility in political discourse” is reverently and longingly bandied about a great deal these days, usually in association with a call to “bipartisanship” — a political cuss word that, in today’s climate, means ideological compromise for one side of the aisle and not the other. Tony Snow embodied civility in political discourse, and he proved that it can be done without sacrificing core principles.

Others have spoken of him as a man of deep faith, which was doubtless the reservoir of his gentility. I remember a mailbag segment on FoxNews Sunday featuring a viewer’s scathing attack on Tony’s belief in the resurrection of Christ, likening it to belief in Xenu and the Easter Bunny. Tony’s response was rendered in unabashed fashion, but with a kindly smile: “Atheistic jabs notwithstanding, yes, I believe!”

It seems fitting, therefore, to close with some of Tony Snow’s own words from a Christianity Today article about reconciling the faith that so guided and informed his life and the disease he finally succumbed to this morning:

Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. “It’s cancer,” the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. “Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.” But another voice whispers: “You have been called.” Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our “normal time.”

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There’s nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue — for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Farewell, Tony. Your heart, intellect, and aplomb endeared you to so many; among public figures on the scene today, you really were one of my heroes. Thanks for giving the most you ever could offer to God and man. You will be sorely missed.


aka The MonT-SteR