Happy To Have Snow In April

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
There was a bigger turnout of reporters than usual for this morning's first press briefing of the day at the White House.

It's called "the gaggle," and while it is always on-the-record, it is off-camera.

But not today. In response to press requests, cameras and microphones were allowed to record the first five minutes of the event for broadcast.

Five weeks after undergoing surgery that found a recurrence of cancer, spokesman Tony Snow was back at the White House lectern.

He got a round of applause as he entered the briefing room for the first time since March 26th.

Now I know some of you may try to portray the ovation as more evidence of the press as compliant cheerleaders for the President. Not so. It was a personal expression of support and well-wishes for a man we know and like facing difficult health problems.

Some news consumers may doubt it, but reporters can show signs of humanity on rare occasions. Every now and then, for matters having nothing to do with politics or policies, the adversary relationship can be briefly suspended.

"It's great to be back," Snow told us and then quickly launched into a rundown of the President's schedule.

But then he paused to reflect on the ordeal of the past five weeks – and the one he still faces.

He choked back tears as he thanked members of the press for expressions of support.

"It really meant the world to me, he said. "And anybody who does not believe that thoughts and prayers made a difference, they're just wrong."

The surgery is behind him, but on Friday he begins a four month regimen of chemotherapy.

He said the goal is to knock the cancer into remission for good – and that may require follow-up "chemo" for sometime thereafter.

"If cancer is merely a nuisance for a long period of time, that's fine with me," Snow told us.

He knows cancer is a frightening word to most people. But this morning on the CBS Early Show, he told anchor Harry Smith that "we live in an age of medical miracles."

"I've got some of the best medical treatment on the face of the Earth. We think we're gonna be fine through all this." (You can see the whole interview in the monitor on the left.)

There's no deying that his kind of cancer can prove fatal, but he said he's heard from many people who have far worse cancer cases and have survived many years with the kind of treatment he'll be receiving.

"I won't tell you how it's going to work out because I dont know," he said. "But we obviously feel optimistic and faith, hope and love are a big part of it."

"Not everybody will survive cancer," said Snow, "but on the other hand, you've got to realize you've got the gift of life, so make the most of it. And that is my view, and I'm going to make the most of my time with you."

And with that, the briefing room returned to its usual jousting session. The respite in the adversary relationship was over.

Snow faced questions about the prospects for victory in Iraq, wrangling with Congress over the war funding bill and the damaging charges by former CIA Director George Tenet that he was being scapegoated by the Administration and that his "slam dunk" assurance about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was mistinterpreted by the President.

Welcome back, Tony.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.