I saw Tony Snow for the last time a couple of months ago. I had boarded a plane from San Francisco to Dulles and had my head buried in a book, when I felt someone hit me on the head with a rolled up newspaper. I looked up, ready to pick a fight, and there was Tony grinning in the aisle. He talked my seatmate into switching seats and we rode back to Washington, catching up on old times. He looked good, much better than he had appeared last time I’d seen him on TV, but he admitted he was dead tired. He’d been on an extended speaking tour, was going to be back home for only one day, and ready to head out again for what he said was his last commitment.
We talked about his health, and I gave him motherly advice about how he had to slow down. He smiled and promised he was going to take it easy after the next trip. But it was clear to me that what he was really saying was that he had to do as much paid speaking as he could right then in order to provide for his family when he was gone. He wasn’t morbid about it–in fact, Tony had one of the most optimistic personalities of anyone I’ve ever known. He was just congenitally cheerful.
I first met Tony when I was staff director of the US Civil Rights Commission in the Reagan administration and he was a young writer for the Detroit News. Over the years, Tony was generous in ways few people in his profession are. When USA Today decided to add a stable of four regular opinion writers to its editorial page, Tony recommended me as the other conservative. We wrote for the paper once a week for a couple of years, and then the paper decided to change format. Tony picked up on the gossip long before I did and called to warn me to start looking elsewhere to place my column and recommended Creators Syndicate, where I ended up. Tony was very good at promoting himself, but that never translated into stabbing the other guy in the back to get ahead. Truly, there aren’t many like him in the world of ambition that is Washington.
He was just an all-around nice guy who loved his work, loved his family, and seemed to enjoy each day he was given. Those days were all too short, and we will all miss him