White House press secretaries don't usually get a round of applause in the briefing room, but Tony Snow's return today was different. He's back after learning five weeks ago that his colon cancer returned and that cancer cells are now attached to his liver. Five weeks ago, the outlook was grim from the White House and his friends. Today, after we sat for an interview that will air tonight on Nightly News, he said the day he made his condition public, he initially got it wrong, telling his own press office staff the cancer was inside his liver. As I said, the cancer is attached, which doctors have told him is an important difference. It's rare, I joked with him today, that a press secretary inadvertently makes something sound worse than it is!
Nevertheless, this is a serious time for Tony, his wife and three kids. He begins chemotherapy this Friday and faces an uncertain future. He's forced, he said, to look at life in small chunks of time rather than gazing out at a seemingly endless horizon.
A lot of people focus on the sometimes contentious relationship between the press and the press secretary, but today, it's useful to take a step back. The debates in Washington -- particularly over the war -- are vitally important. But so too is Tony's individual fight for survival, and that requires no skepticism or follow up from reporters.
Tony will now balance the difficult job of leveling with his kids about what he's going through and how it's affecting THEM with his desire to kick off a national conversation about living with cancer. He's got a survivor's story to tell and hopes to God he can keep on telling it.