A Final Flurry Of Snow

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Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
For the l36th and final time, spokesman Tony Snow presided at his daily on-camera White House briefing – though it certainly won't be the last snow job to which reporters here are subjected.

His 16-month tenure as presidential press secretary ends Friday. And though it was his choice to leave, he's sorry to go.

"This job has been the most fun I've ever had," said Snow.

Fun? Really?

Is it fun to be a rhetorical punching bag for reporters hurling verbal haymakers in the form of pointed, rude or trivial questions?

Is it fun to be a human piñata for a whiny, demanding, self-important and self-aggrandizing group of journalists?

"Everybody talks about what a horrible job it is to brief the press," Snow declared. "I love these briefings and I'm really gonna miss 'em."

But he's leaving of his own accord. It's not the cancer he's battling that prompted him to resign. It's the government paycheck. He says it's just not big enough for him to support his family.

Unquestionably, the former Fox News pundit and radio talk show host earned much more than the $168,000 that is the annual salary of a top White House aide.

He said he stayed as long as he can, but he's running out of money. He'll soon hit the lucrative lecture circuit and plans to write some books.

Reporters know better than to grade presidential press secretaries, but Snow had a style all his own and gave good sound bites.

Consider his description of some presidential get-togethers with members of congress – including a few critics of his policies.

"These meetings may not be happy-face kumbayah but they have been very constructive," Snow said back in January

A couple days later, a cell phone belonging to ABC's Martha Raddatz interrupted Snow's briefing with a loud, hip-hop ringtone.

"Play that funky music, white girl!" he said to a burst of laughter.

And back in July, Snow was asked to respond to Bill and Hillary Clinton's criticism of the President's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison term.

"I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," he replied.

When it comes to coining a phrase, Snow was one of the wittiest. But like all of his predecessors, he he could not fully satisfy reporters' demands for answers.

Sometimes we in the press think the president's spokesman works for us. He doesn't. So reporters get frustrated and sometimes vent it at the spokesman.

But in fairness, sometimes government spokespeople forget they really work for the American people. It's a tough line to walk.

But as press secretary, Snow was accessible. He returned phone calls and replied to e-mails. And he had a first-hand understanding of the news business which served him well.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.