THE White House press secretary Tony Snow has announced that he will be leaving his job before the end of President George W Bush’s term in office “for financial reasons”.
Snow, 52, has three children and is suffering from colon cancer. He earns $168,000 (about £84,000) a year and took a large pay cut from his position as a talk show host to become Bush’s most articulate defender.
“I’m going to stay as long as I can,” he said. News of his impending departure surprised White House colleagues and will further the impression of a lame duck president, who is limping to the end of his term in 2008.
Karl Rove, hailed as the “architect” of George W Bush’s two election victories, announced his resignation as a White House aide last week. One senior Republican strategist said: “Republicans in Congress were ready to mutiny if he hadn’t left. They have had enough of the politics of division.”
But Snow’s departure will add to gloom surrounding the Republicans, who feel Bush is inadequately defending his policies. Even Snow said the president’s domestic policy was “listless” before he went to work for him in April 2006.
“I will not be able to make it to the end of this administration, just financially,” Snow said. “This job has been such a pleasant surprise in how much I like it. I love it.” He had his last scheduled chemotherapy treatment on Friday and will have a CT scan on Monday.
Despite Snow’s best efforts at presentation, a Gallup poll on Friday revealed that only 29% of voters currently identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 37% as independents and 33% as Democrats. A majority, 56%, said they had an unfavourable view of the Republican party, its worst rating for 15 years.
It was a shattering verdict on Rove’s attempt to build a lasting Republican majority. The master electoral tactician, known as “Bush’s brain”, was lionised by conservatives until the Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.
Rove’s role will be partly filled by Ed Gillespie, a former lobbyist and chairman of the Republican national committee, who is already serving as counsellor to Bush in the White House.
Rove’s gifts for probing his enemy’s weaknesses were in evidence last week when gave a farewell interview to Rush Limbaugh, the arch-conservative radio talk show host, and laid into Hillary Clinton as a “fatally flawed” candidate.
Limbaugh told him he had a bunch of e-mails from listeners “who wanted me to pass on to you that they love you”.