Behind the Scenes
Where to begin today? We had a blizzard of guests:
Don King, bellowing out his support for “President George Walker Bush” and for the humble host of "The Tony Snow Show." There is no such thing as an unplugged Don King. The guy is pure energy — and as always, managed to cite everything from Moses to the president. He even did something he hasn’t yet done on air: He talked about a lawsuit against ESPN. He was smart enough not to get into legal issues — that stuff is best left to the lawyers.
Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader, showed his kinder, gentler side — one that his detractors say does not exist. DeLay is a wondrously complex guy. His faith has become an increasingly important part of his life, and he talked about it on today’s show
DeLay isn’t the Hammer of old, although he still has profound political passions. Instead, he has begun diversifying his interests. He has thrown himself into protecting children around the world from the scourge of slavery and abuse, and is worried that predators are doing that to tsunami orphans now. He and Hillary Rodham Clinton went to bat in the last Congress for foster children. These days, even though partisan tempers run high, he is trying to obey the injunction to love his enemies. I knew all this stuff going in, but had fun getting him to talk about it on a national show. My only disappointment: He wasn’t tough enough to drink my coffee. He chose instead to drink the milder, machine-made swill served up in the FOX break room.
Larry Wayne Gatlin, lead singer of the Gatlin Brothers, was fun as always — at one point reminding me of the interview: “Remember, this is about me!” That was stagecraft, of course. Larry is one of the funniest and smartest people I have ever met. At lunch after the show, he actually rattled off the first 24 lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (in Old English). The subject arose because my daughter has to do the same thing for her seventh-grade English Class. And what other country singer do you know who has read Leo Strauss and F.A. Hayek, or who debates fellow airline travelers about the literary merits of George F. Will? The guy is a wonder and every visit provides plenty of surprises.
Speaking of surprises, you probably didn’t know that Sen. Trent Lott, he of the seamless coiffure, not only is a highly accomplished politician and a skilled behind the scenes tactician. He’s also a musician and a terrific singer. The revelation of the day: He will serenade his wife tonight, with the help of outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, Sen. Larry Craig and Lott’s son. Who knows? He could branch out into weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Ed Gillespie, the outgoing Republican National Chairman, is an old buddy of mine. We’ve had kids in the same schools, have coached in the same youth sports leagues, and have even played in some old-guy basketball leagues ourselves. He gets to leave the RNC at the top, having helped engineer a series of important election victories, while broadening Republican strength among minority voters and in sections of the country that previously seemed untouchable Democratic redoubts. Ed is writing a book, which he begged to promote on-air upon publication. When I asked him who would play him in the movie, he graced me and listeners with one of his greatest gifts — a big, happy laugh.
Steve Doocy meanwhile dropped by and recounted how he flirted with my wife during the White House Christmas Party. His explanation: “She’s a lonely woman. You work all the time. She has needs!” Doocy says he’ll forward his digital photos from that night. He’s also going to serve as The Tony Snow Show’s official inaugural-party photographer. We’ll post some of his photos later in the week.
Here are today’s letters:
First, Celeste Lawrence didn’t like my take on Martin Luther King Jr. In particular, my assertion that George W. Bush better embodies the King legacy than John Kerry:
Yesterday I heard you talking about how the Republican party is in keeping with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. I firmly believe that if Dr. King were alive today, we would loudly oppose the methods the United States is using. Above all, he taught NONVIOLENCE. True freedom cannot be won for any one when the victor is left with blood on his hands. — Celeste Lawrence
"Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." — Martin Luther King Jr.
Thanks for the note. Your argument raises an interesting question: Is pacifism an acceptable response to butchery. Suppose you see a person stabbing someone on the street. Do you practice violence and try to ward off the attacker, or do you lay on the pavement in silent protest?
That’s the challenge posed by Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Even counting the human toll from the war, the death rate in Iraq is lower now than it was during Saddam’s tenure, when it was not unusual to have 10,000 people a month executed and shoveled into mass graves. King taught nonviolence in response not to war, but to domestic lawlessness. His courage inspired a nation, but his methods would neither impress nor deter a terrorist.
On the larger issue of legacy, I think George W. Bush wins the competition hands-down. Democrats generally have encouraged tin-cup dependency on the part of the poor, and have resisted efforts to enable the poor to acquire the capital and skills they need to pursue their dreams and ambitions with dignity and joy. Note the difference between John Kerry’s King Day address and the president’s: Kerry whined about the Ohio recount and nattered about living with disappointments. The president invoked the soaring rhetoric of the “I Have a Dream” speech to remind people that high ideals unite us and help us rise as a nation to new levels of decency, liberty and idealism.
This one from Virginia McKibben needs no reply:
I was pleased to hear you say this morning that Sen. Boxer's behavior was childish. After much disgust, I realized that her behavior reminded me of my experiences with my second most difficult year as a fifth grade teacher
I had four girls that spent their recess time seeing whom they could make cry every day - especially shy new little girls. Today that kind of behavior is considered a type of "BULLYING."
By the way, my first most difficult year was one in which I had two boys who finally were placed in our school's new emotionally disturbed room. At least there was hope for them.
And finally, a wonderful update from our friend Rachel Suits, whose husband, Bryan, is serving nobly in Iraq, and will return home sometime in the next few months:
Just thought I would pass on some news I got from Bryan: After being slammed with horrible news and events lately, I finally got something to smile about. His plans originally entailed driving Hummvees and Bradley fighting vehicles to Kuwait before flying back to the United States… Because his particular unit was so incredibly proactive, and they sustained more serious injuries and KIA's than any other unit, it would follow that they lost more vehicles as well. So, they are short vehicles that need to be delivered to Kuwait. Because of the injuries and sacrifices that Bryan's men sustained, he was told that he and a few of the other men get to fly out of Baghdad Int’l Airport, and directly home to me… I have no idea how he is going to get me peeled off of him…
This is the time to get Bryan actively on the air. When I am at work or elsewhere, I get a lot of questions prefaced by "is it true that in Iraq…?" Ninety percent of the time, I can answer by saying, "you watch too much tv." Bryan is so incredibly upbeat about the elections and the people of Iraq. How often do you hear that? I talk to his translator on the phone quite often, and he is such a wonderful human being. It has not gotten past him that there are a lot of Iraqis who would have him killed in a second for the work he has done with the Americans, but he wouldn't take it back for the world. The thought of the government working for the people, instead of the other way around is just amazing and exciting to him.
Tony, this is not a "quagmire." This is not "Bush's Vietnam." This is a military operation that the person I love more than anybody on earth is risking his life every day to take part in. And he believes in it with his entire heart and soul.
Please pray for Bryan and his men… Thank you for everything. I see hearts and minds changing all the time, and it is because of people like you and my beloved. I hope you had a wonderful New Year's Celebration, and the year proves to be one of joy and safety for you and your family. Sincerely — Rachel Suits
Share your thoughts with Tony. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.