Tony Snow Battles CNN; Rips Network For Showing Sniper Video

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow appeared on Thursday’s "American Morning" in a feisty mood, ready to battle CNN’s liberal agenda. Co-anchor Miles O’Brien offered Snow a loaded question about Republican opposition to Donald Rumsfeld. The press secretary fired back by mentioning the cable network’s infamous "sniper video:"

Miles O’Brien: "The President with a show of support for Defense secretary saying he's doing a fantastic job. Let's go through this a little bit. Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, say they have no confidence in the Defense secretary. A couple of Republicans running right now, Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey, Chris Shays in Connecticut, saying Rummy should go. And the public, in general, has a fairly low opinion of him, about 35 percent right now. How does that all add up to a fantastic job?"

Tony Snow: "Well, I'll tell you, when was the last time, Miles, you guys reported on real support for Don Rumsfeld, or talking about the successes of the American forces in the battlefield? I know CNN has shown people getting shot. The question is --"

O’Brien: "Well, actually, no, no, no. We didn't actually show them. We did a report, which showed snipers, a propaganda film from insurgents showing sniper activity. We didn't show them being shot."

Snow "All right. I'm sorry, you blurred them out while the picture was showing them getting shot. Here's the key, there are a lot of American forces that are doing some pretty amazing things in Iraq right now. One of the things they've been doing is training up Iraqi forces to assume responsibility. I noted yesterday a lot of people were holding up a chaos chart that was taken at the peak of violence last month in Iraq. Guess what's happened? Last week, violence throughout Iraq was down 23 percent. Deadly violence in Iraq was down 41 -- I mean, in Baghdad was down 41 percent. Nobody did the other story, which was needle would have jumped toward peace yesterday, didn't want to report that."

This isn’t the first time Snow battled with Miles O’Brien on "American Morning." In September, he tangled with the host on whether the Republicans are responsible for disunity in Washington.

O’Brien, who began the interview at 7:16 a.m. on November 2, clearly didn’t want to talk about John Kerry’s recent verbal gaffe. He only asked one question on the subject and then implored, "Let’s move on here." Snow also had a snappy retort as to whether the story is "over:"

O’Brien: "Let's talk about Kerry's apology? Story over in your mind?"

Snow: "Well, I suppose. The question is whether it's over in your mind. You're the one asking about it."

O’Brien: "Do you accept the apology?"

Snow: "I don't have to accept the apology. He didn't say anything that was offensive directly to me. The people that have to accept the apology are the people in the U.S. military. They're the ones who thought the former presidential candidate had insulted them. Look, like I said yesterday, when you say something like this, even if it's not what you intended, you have to say you're sorry. He put out a piece of paper saying he's sorry. I think that's the right thing to do and at some point, probably, folks will feel better if he come out and says it on camera. Look, it's the right thing to do to say you're sorry, whether you intended or not, you insult people, especially so many people who are serving this country with valor."

O’Brien: "All right, let's move on here."

After rebuffing O’Brien’s attack on Rumsfeld, Mr. Snow proceeded to cite positive news in Iraq that the media hasn’t reported. This led to another intense exchange that saw the White House Press Secretary tell Mr. O’Brien that he had things "completely backwards:"

O’Brien: "Let me ask you this, though, 103 U.S. troops died last month. Another one -- we just told you about another one in November. I can only imagine what it's like to be a family member -- a loved one, a friend who lost somebody this past month. To hear you rattle off statistics like that, it has to leave them with a pretty hollow feeling."

Snow: "You know, Miles, you might want to talk to them. Because what you're insinuating is that they died for nothing.

And the people who have been fighting in Iraq -- the President, you also might want to ask the President. He hand signs every condolence letter, he knows the names. He hears about it every day.The insinuation that you talk about battlefield progress is an insult to the people who made that progress possible, gets it completely backwards. Do you not understand that the people in today's military volunteered for this? Many of them believing it's a noble mission to create democracy in that region, so that you can replace the threat of terror with hope and democracy. Do you not understand that they feel pride in it? And yes, the parents, it's got to tear your heart out. If you're a wife, a brother, a sister, of course, it's going to tear your heart out. But the one thing you need to understand is that a lot of those people are proud of the service that their sons and daughters have done in battlefields. That needs to be respected as well."

A few seconds later, O’Brien reiterated his liberal talking points and allowed Tony Snow one more opportunity to fire back at negative coverage:

O’Brien: "Is the U.S. winning?"

Snow: "Yeah. Miles, let me put it this way. You think if somebody dies, we're losing. What you forget is something that General Casey said last week. We have not lost a single battlefield engagement. Let me give you a sense of some things that have gone on in the last couple of weeks. The Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been asserting -- he wants greater control over the military. We want him to have it. There were reports today that the Iraqis intercepted a bunch of missiles coming over the Iranian border. I just told you about violence going down in Baghdad, and throughout Iraq, significantly in the last couple of weeks, in part because of adjustments made on the ground. The other thing that probably isn't reported a lot, they're pumping more oil than ever before. The economy's perking up. The Iraqi people feel confidence in what's going on. The war's more popular in Iraq than it is here. Why? Because the Iraqi people are seeing what they're forces are doing and what we're doing."

One can only hope that the quick witted Snow will appear on more CNN shows and offer similar tongue lashings.

A transcript follows:

7:16a.m. EST 11/2/06

Miles O’Brien: "President Bush says his defense secretary is doing a fantastic job. But with the war not going well, many Republicans worried about losing their jobs in Congress or hoping to land one are putting daylight between themselves and the White House. Meanwhile, many Republicans are preferring to focus on the John Kerry comment hoping to leverage that into some votes a little less than a week from now. The president press secretary, Tony Snow, joining us from the White House. Tony, good to have you back on the program."

Tony Snow: "Good to be back. Thanks, Miles."

O’Brien: "Let's talk about Kerry's apology? Story over in your mind?"

Snow: "Well, I suppose. The question is whether it's over in your mind. You're the one asking about it."

O’Brien: "Do you accept the apology?"

Snow: "I don't have to accept the apology. He didn't say anything that was offensive directly to me. The people that have to accept the apology are the people in the U.S. military. They're the ones who thought the former presidential candidate had insulted them. Look, like I said yesterday, when you say something like this, even if it's not what you intended, you have to say you're sorry. He put out a piece of paper saying he's sorry. I think that's the right thing to do and at some point, probably, folks will feel better if he come out and says it on camera.

Look, it's the right thing to do to say you're sorry, whether you intended or not, you insult people, especially so many people who are serving this country with valor."

O’Brien: "All right, let's move on here. The President with a show of support for Defense secretary saying he's doing a fantastic job. Let's go through this a little bit. Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, say they have no confidence in the Defense secretary. A couple of Republicans running right now, Tom Kean, Jr. in New Jersey, Chris Shays in Connecticut, saying Rummy should go. And the public, in general, has a fairly low opinion of him, about 35 percent right now. How does that all add up to a fantastic job?"

Snow: "Well, I'll tell you, when was the last time, Miles, you guys reported on real support for Don Rumsfeld, or talking about the successes of the American forces in the battlefield. I know CNN has shown people getting shot. The question is --"

O’Brien: "Well, actually, no, no, no. We didn't actually show them. We did a report, which showed snipers, a propaganda film from insurgents showing sniper activity. We didn't show them being shot."

Snow: "All right. I'm sorry, you blurred them out while the picture was showing them getting shot.

Here's the key, there are a lot of American forces that are doing some pretty amazing things in Iraq right now. One of the things they've been doing is training up Iraqi forces to assume responsibility. I noted yesterday a lot of people were holding up a chaos chart that was taken at the peak of violence last month in Iraq. Guess what's happened? Last week, violence throughout Iraq was down 23 percent. Deadly violence in Iraq was down 41 -- I mean, in Baghdad was down 41 percent. Nobody did the other story, which was needle would have jumped toward peace yesterday, didn't want to report that.

Don Rumsfeld's doing a good job because he has been leading an effort to try to retool the American military, to meet changing challenges in the world, during a time of war. And he's doing it with courage and foresight.

You know what's happened, Miles? Wars are unpopular. And the people who have to lead those wars become unpopular as well. Don Rumsfeld is a visionary leader. And he's competent. And, yes, a lot of people may second-guess things that he's done. That also happens anytime during warfare. The President knows the people he's got working for him. Don Rumsfeld is Secretary of Defense, and also the generals in the field. He's got confidence in them."

O’Brien: "All right. Let me ask you this, though, 103 U.S. troops died last month. Another one -- we just told you about another one in November. I can only imagine what it's like to be a family member -- a loved one, a friend who lost somebody this past month. To hear you rattle off statistics like that, it has to leave them with a pretty hollow feeling."

Snow: "You know, Miles, you might want to talk to them. Because what you're insinuating is that they're died for nothing. And the people who have been fighting in Iraq -- the President, you also might want to ask the President. He hand signs every condolence letter, he knows the names. He hears about it every day.

The insinuation that you talk about battlefield progress is an insult to the people who made that progress possible, gets it completely backwards. Do you not understand that the people in today's military volunteered for this? Many of them believing it's a noble mission to create democracy in that region, so that you can replace the threat of terror with hope and democracy. Do you not understand that they feel pride in it? And yes, the parents, it's got to tear your heart out. If you're a wife, a brother, a sister, of course, it's going to tear your heart out. But the one thing you need to understand is that a lot of those people are proud of the service that their sons and daughters have done in battlefields. That needs to be respected as well."

O’Brien: "Is the U.S. winning?"

Snow: "Yeah. Miles, let me put it this way. You think if somebody dies, we're losing. What you forget is something that General Casey said last week. We have not lost a single battlefield engagement. Let me give you a sense of some things that have gone on in the last couple of weeks. The Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as been asserting -- he wants greater control over the military. We want him to have it. There were reports today that the Iraqis intercepted a bunch of missiles coming over the Iranian border. I just told you about violence going down in Baghdad, and throughout Iraq, significantly in the last couple of weeks, in part because of adjustments made on the ground.

The other thing that probably isn't reported a lot, they're pumping more oil than ever before. The economy's perking up. The Iraqi people feel confidence in what's going on. The war's more popular in Iraq than it is here. Why? Because the Iraqi people are seeing what they're forces are doing and what we're doing."

O’Brien: "When you say the war is more popular in Iraq, what do you have to back that up?"

Snow: "Their public opinion surveys. Look at the surveys that came out a couple of weeks ago, talking about whether they support the ongoing efforts to win the war. And you're going to find out that, in Iraq, those efforts are more popular. You also saw a al Talibani, today, the president of Iraq, a Kurd, saying that, yes, we want the Americans to stay to help us get to the position where we have a democracy that's freestanding."

O’Brien: "All right. I want to finish up here with something that came out in 'USA Today.' A member of the editorial board there, Ralph Peters, who is on the board of contributors, 21 books to his credit, retired U.S. Army officers -- you saw it."

Snow: "Yeah."

O’Brien: "He says this, as he closes out his piece. It was a very compelling piece. 'Iraq could have turned out differently. It didn't. And we must be honest about it. We owe that much to our troops. They don't face the mere forfeiture of a few congressional seats, but the loss of their lives, our military is now being employed for political purposes. It is unworthy of our nation.'

Snow: "Yeah, I know, Ralph, and I know he's been there. And I respect him. And I disagree with him. It's important, though, look, these are the kinds of debates you need to have. You need to have a debate about what's going on.

The other question you need to ask yourself, and this is not a political question, this is a strategic question. Do you want to leave before you have achieved democracy in Iraq? Or are you willing to explain to future generations why you walked out, and you allowed terror to take root in a nation with the second largest oil reserves on the face of the earth, giving it access to untold wealth, the ability to wage economic warfare on the United States, Europe and Asia, and the ability to destabilize the region by mounting operations against Israel, the Saudi Peninsula and others. Those are some of the stakes involved. That's not a mere political question, that's a question of life and death for us, and for future generations. Serious business."

O’Brien: "White House Spokesman Tony Snow. And White House press Secretary, too."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org