Snow Day: The Press Secretary Steps Down

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Insisting that his cancer has nothing to do with it, Press Secretary Tony Snow announced he'll be leaving the post on September 14th.

President Bush named Snow's principal deputy, Dana Perino, to take over in the high-pressure, often-thankless job.

Snow said his reasons for leaving are entirely financial. His government salary of $168,000 a year just isn't enough to provide for his wife and three kids.

He acknowledged that many Americans who earn far less might find that hard to believe, but before coming to the White House, he spent years as a highly-paid anchor on the Fox News Channel, and later hosted a syndicated radio talk show as well.

He loves his job at the White House. He called it "a dream" and "a blast." But he said he was running out of money and needs to return to the private sector. He said he wished he had the financial resources to stay till the end of the Bush presidency.

He's not entirely sure what he'll do next – though he'll hit the lecture circuit – where hefty fees are paid for each appearance. He said he won't be shy about speaking out on behalf of the president's policies. And he plans to be an advocate for cancer patients like himself.

He told reporters he finished chemotherapy two weeks ago. He still has tumors on his liver, but no new ones have been detected.

He said he hopes his doctors have turned a fatal disease into a chronic one he can live with.

"Right now, I'm feeling great," he told the White House press room. He said he's gaining weight and expects his hair to grow back.

And though he admitted Pres. Bush ribbed him earlier in the day about the loss of his once enviable head of hair, Snow made clear his admiration and affection for the President is profound.

He offered the view that some in the media, presumably pundits, offer a public caricature of President Bush – writing him off in "cartoonish terms." He said they've wrong about him.

As for the president's low approval ratings, Snow said people trust and admire Mr. Bush, but they don't like the war in Iraq.

"He's a great guy to work for," Snow said of the President. "My admiration for him has grown by leaps and bounds."

Snow also had words of praise for his successor, calling Perino an "enormously capable woman."

She said her appointment as the next White House Press Secretary is a bittersweet moment, because Snow is leaving.

One of the most emotional moments ever played out at the briefing room lectern was the day Perino burst into tears upon telling reporters that doctors had found that Snow's colon cancer had spread to his liver.

"He leaves very big shoes to fill, and I only wear a size 6," said Perino.

At age 35, she becomes only the second woman to hold the post of White House Press Secretary. Dee Dee Myers served in that job during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

The President called Perino smart and capable.

"(She) can spell out the issues of the day in a way that people listening on TV can understand," he said.

Perino let reporters know she's ready for the verbal combat that goes on in the press room. And she sounded like she intends to stay to the end of the Administration.

"We are a nation at war," she said, and her press office will help the President "to sprint to the finish."

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.