WASHINGTON - President Bush on Wednesday named conservative commentator Tony Snow as White House press secretary, putting a new face on a troubled administration.
Snow, a Fox news pundit and former speechwriter in the White House under Bush's father, replaced Scott McClellan who resigned in a personnel shuffle intended to re-energize the White House and lift the president's record-low approval ratings.
"My job is to make decisions and his job is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people," Bush said, with Snow and McClellan at his side in the White House briefing room.
Snow's appointment is notable in a White House that has a reputation for not suffering criticism. He has had some harsh things to say about Bush.
As a columnist, Snow has called the president "something of an embarrassment," a leader who has "lost control of the federal budget," the architect of a "listless domestic policy" and a man who has "a habit of singing from the political correctness hymnal."
Bush shrugged off the criticism. "He's not afraid to express his own opinions," he said of his new spokesman. "For those of you who've read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me. I asked him about those comments, and he said, `You should have heard what I said about the other guy.'"
Snow thanked Bush for the job and told reporters, "Believe it or not, I want to work with you."
Bush also addressed reporters directly. "Tony already knows most of you and he's agreed to take the job anyway," he said with a laugh. Bush and Snow did not stay on the podium to answer questions..
Snow, in an Associated Press interview Tuesday, didn't dispute that he's been a tough critic of Bush. "It's public record," he said. "I've written some critical stuff. When you're a columnist, you're going to criticize and you're going to praise."
Snow's Fox Web site published cropped versions of the 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September. Publication in that paper prompted angry mobs to attack Western embassies in Muslim countries, including Lebanon, Iran and Indonesia. One of the drawings depicted Muhammad's turban as a bomb. Islam is interpreted as barrring even respectful images of Muhammad for fear of prompting idolatry.
A liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, circulated a sampling of Snow's opinions, restricting the observations to those critical of the president. For example, it quoted Snow in September as writing, "No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential powers and prerogatives."
Snow is a smooth-talking Washington insider in a White House led by Texans proud of their outsider status. He is a familiar face to White House reporters and is known as a conservative partisan.
"He will bring a lot of outside perspective to this White House and that will be helpful," said McClellan, who has served as Bush's chief spokesman - the most prominent public figure in the White House after Bush - for nearly three years.
McClellan said Snow planned to start the week of May 8 but would not begin conducting the daily press briefings for several days. McClellan said he had not decided on departure date yet, but would have some overlap with Snow.
One factor in Snow's decision to take the job was that he had his colon removed last year and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with cancer. He had a CAT scan last week and delayed a decision while he consulted with his doctors.
Snow has been the host of the "Tony Snow Show" on Fox News Radio and "Weekend Live with Tony Snow" on the Fox News Channel. He served in the first Bush administration as speechwriting director and later as a deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.