Outgoing White House Press Secretary on Iraq; Job’s Demands

This is a rush transcript from "The O'REILLY Factor," September 12, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL O’REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, a conversation with White House spokesman Tony Snow, who will be leaving that job on Friday. Mr. Snow joins us now from Washington. You know, I'm glad you're leaving the job on Friday, because I don't have to call you Mr. Snow anymore. I can call you Snow the way I used to. And I was much happier with that.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: There you go. Well, you got to be polite for two days now.

O'REILLY: All right, where am I going wrong in “the Memo?”

SNOW: You know, I think you're generally right. Look, what the American people need is an honest debate about what's going on in Iraq. I think you're trying to reach out and slap the right. I think you overreached in the following sense.

Number one, nobody is arguing that the Iraqi government is peachy keen. As a matter of fact, the president has said over and over you need more political progress and you need to have real efforts towards sectarian reconciliation. I've been in the room where the president has talked to the prime minister, the Shia leader, the Kurd leader, the Sunni leader. So point of fact...

O'REILLY: OK, but you need to read the right-wing blogs then, because on the right, there is a strain -- we had Ann Coulter on here. To be fair to Ms. Coulter, it was about 18 months ago.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: And I said, look, this Iraqi thing - and she goes it's going magnificently. And it was worse then than it is now. And I'm going, what? There is a strain on the right who simply say, look, we're going to do it and that's it. And we don't want to hear any negatives. You know that.

SNOW: Yes, well, not much anymore. Like it's pretty clear that they've had some rough patches. Listen, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were pretty honest about this. And this is one of the things that I think has been important. They gave Americans a sense of what's actually going on on the ground.

The second point is, if you take a look at democracy, I'll dispute your characterization that it's all simply about money and blood and power. In point of fact, the Iraqis have -- number one, you have millions of Iraqis that voted for a democracy. And number two...

O'REILLY: But they were told to do so by the mullahs.

SNOW: What you started to see...

O'REILLY: The mullahs told them to vote...

SNOW: No...

O'REILLY: ...for the Shia and vote for this and vote...

SNOW: Come on.

O'REILLY: Look, here, Snow, I'm dropping the Mr. 48 hours early. Snow, the guy in charge of corruption in the Maliki government quit yesterday, saying that he couldn't do his job because the government's too corrupt. This is the guy in charge.

SNOW: OK, you're jumping topics on me, Bill. I've already said that there are problems within the government. Let's talk about the Democratic impulses and the Iraqi people.

You look at Anbar Province. And what has happened there is that the people said you know what, we're tired of getting killed by Al Qaeda. What we're going to do is we're going to stand up. We're going to stand up for our rights.

Then you see in some of the Shia areas, they say...

O'REILLY: I got it. All that is true.

SNOW: ...we're getting tired of being attacked by militias. We're going to after them. So Shia are going after Shia violent elements. Sunnis are going after Sunni violent elements.

O'REILLY: You're right.

SNOW: And there is a sense of...

O'REILLY: You're right. Your brilliant analysis is absolutely correct. I have no beef with it.


O'REILLY: The beef I have, and this is on behalf of the military by the way, it's not behind any ideology...

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: The beef I have is that you have a government in place in Baghdad that has proven over time it is corrupt and cowardly. And a lot of Americans who sympathize with President Bush, and sympathize with the effort knowing the danger that lurks behind the curtain if we cut and run, say it isn't worth the blood and treasure to prop up this corrupt government. That's the theme.

SNOW: Well, look, what you've done is you've done a wholesale account of everybody in the government. I don't want to get too much into the weeds here. But in fact, this is a government that's been pretty good at going out and rooting out corruption. There have been a couple of cases where they go into the Department of the Interior. People have been committing acts of violence against the Iraqis, they're out of there.

Actually, it is important to root out corruption in any government, including ours. I think what you need to take a look at again are some real good faith efforts to try to do reconciliation.

But look, they're under the magnifying glass. They understand that the American public is not going to stand for an Iraqi government...

O'REILLY: We've had enough.

SNOW: ...that itself does not embrace reconciliation.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: So people want to see results. And that includes the president.

O'REILLY: All right. And I'm praying, and I've said this before, that it turns around. And I agree with you that it has turned around in a large part of the country.

But how can you tell me that this is going to be a success when MoveOn tells me that Petraeus is a liar, and it's over, we lost, and how can you go against MoveOn here?

SNOW: Yes. No, you know, I can go against MoveOn because those guys have committed one of the great blunders of PR history. By going ahead and being explicit about one thing, which is the embrace of failure and furthermore trying to target David Petraeus, why? Because he had good news to tell, because he was the author of a plan that succeeded? That's absolutely right, Bill.

They didn't like the fact that he'd succeeded because what David Petraeus understood is that if you demonstrate American constancy and strength, people then feel that they're empowered to go out and make the moves.

The other thing that I think some of the opponents of the war have forgotten is that deep in every American heart is a belief that this is a special country, that we are a special country that fights for the underdog, that defends liberty. It doesn't do it just...

O'REILLY: But MoveOn.org doesn't believe that. They want - why -- this is a tough question. I need you to answer this question.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: But why does MoveOn and the people they represent, very powerful people like George Soros, why do they want the United States to lose in Iraq? Why?

SNOW: I have no earthly idea.

O'REILLY: Really, you've never thought about it?

SNOW: I mean, of course, I've thought about it, but I can't get into their heads. There is something about that way of thinking that is sufficiently foreign to me, that I'm not just -- I'm not going to try to play shrink for them.

Instead what I'll do is I will play analyst about American public opinion. Here's the key, Bill. Americans love to succeed and they love to know that our people are embarked on a noble enterprise. We got young men and women who are doing amazing things. We ought to be celebrating, rather than denying and trying to smear up the guy who's (INAUDIBLE).

O'REILLY: All right, no, Petraeus is beyond reproach in my eyes. But we -- good Americans dissent from the war, and I respect that dissent, because they don't want Americans dying for a cause that's not going to happen.

But again, I'm with you. I just have real, real reservations about this Iraqi government.

Now I'm going to hold over Mr. Snow. I'm back to that now. And we're going to talk about his future, OK, in a moment.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with White House Spokesperson Tony Snow, who's leaving that job on Friday. As many people know, you've been fighting cancer, a very tough form of it. You're undergoing chemotherapy and all of that. So you had a lot of energy in the first segment. You know, you were right there with me. How are you feeling?

SNOW: I'm feeling great. I finished -- I did a four-month round of chemo. You know, it didn't knock me back. I lost some hair. I lost some energy. Now I'm in what they call a maintenance chemo, which is user friendly. I'm getting my hair back. I get my energy back. And I feel great.

I'm not leaving the White House for health reasons. As you know, it's for financial reasons. I'm going to be hitting the speech circuit in two weeks. I'm going to take next week off. And at that point, you know, I'll be thinking about a lot of options for the future, but I'll be giving some speeches, working on some book contracts, doing some charitable work. And then after that, I'll try to figure out where the other pieces fit in.

O'REILLY: All right. How much time do you think you're going to take off from a day-to-day job? Because you can make a pile of dough. They'll offer you a good book contract. And you will make a lot of money. Not as much as I do, but you will make a lot of money giving speeches.

And you and I...

SNOW: Yes...

O'REILLY: ...this is funny, you and I, when you were working for FOX gave speeches in Portland, Oregon.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: I guess it was, what, three or four years ago. And...

SNOW: Whatever, we filled up half of the Rose Garden.

O'REILLY: Yes, we were on that same bill, Snow and I. And I just blew him off the stage. I mean, do you remember that?

SNOW: In your dreams, in your dreams.



O'REILLY: ...but you'll make some good money doing that. But I think that our viewers particularly want to see you in a commentary role the way you were before.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: You're an important voice for the country. Do you see yourself coming back and doing that?

SNOW: Yes, I intend to be very active on the commentary front. Look, I'm going to get out. I'm going to talk about things I care about and that I'm passionate about. As far as media, you know, at this point, I can't talk to any media organizations as long as I work at the White House. Conflicts of interest and all that. So I'm sure I'll be talking to a lot of media organizations when I get out of the White House.


SNOW: And I don't know what my, you know, I don't know...

O'REILLY: Well, I heard NBC News wants you to replace Brian Williams. Did you know that?


O'REILLY: That could be happening. His ratings are going down. That would put you right in.

You can have this job. I want to go to Costa Rica and just lay on the beach for a few months. So -- and believe me, "Factor" viewers would celebrate that, many of them.

SNOW: Well, Bill, I'll tell you, you drive them so crazy.

O'REILLY: Let me get back, because you have a very nice wife and family and kids and all of that. This cancer thing, it's in your family.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: I don't want to, you know, talk about your private situation too much. But I'm a little worried about you with the cancer thing. Is it under control?

SNOW: Yes, right now, it is. But look, you've got to be realistic when you've got a stage four cancer. I've got little tumors that are inside my paraneo cavity. We took Cat scans right after I finished that chemo round. Nothing's growing. Nothing new is appearing.

I do chemo every day now still. I mean, I take pills five days a week. And once every three weeks, I get another injection of a chemo agent. And the whole idea is basically to put up a stop sign, so the cancer doesn't grow, doesn't spread, and get bigger.

We do Cat scans every nine weeks. There's nothing, Bill, that's going to grow fast enough that's going to be a surprise. So we're doing chemo. We're doing heavy maintenance.

And you know, of course, my wife and kids are concerned about this. I am, too. I'm going to be vigilant, but on the other hand, I've got some of the best medical care available. One of the things I'm going to try to do is to make sure that it's available to all Americans.

But I got great medical care available, great diagnostic treatment available. So that we're going to keep an eye on this. And if anything happens, we're going to whack get.

O'REILLY: OK. Now -- and I'm saying this very, very -- I shouldn't say this, but I will. You've handled this in public as well as I have ever seen anybody handle a life-threatening disease.

But psychologically, it must be devastating for you and your family. What advice do you give to millions of Americans who find themselves in your position, who have this sense of dread and they have it?

SNOW: Sure.

O'REILLY: What do you summon up to get yourself through this?

SNOW: Well, several things. Number one, and this happened immediately after I was first diagnosed with cancer the first time around. Don't be a hero. If people around you, they want to love you, they want to help you, let them do it.

You know, the one thing I've found out, Bill, is that we are surrounded by good folks, who want an opportunity to do good deeds for other people. Well, let them. You need their help. You can't fight cancer all alone.

And the other thing is don't feel that somehow because you got cancer, you're a freak. You're not. You're somebody who's got a disease. But we also live in an age where we have medicine that we never had before. We've got diagnostic tools as I said.

And also, research is progressing so rapidly that if you could fight it and you can use your attitude in your love and your strength, you've got a fighting chance to be around when a cure is found.

The thing I've done is I've drawn strength from the love and support of others. And frankly, you know and I know attitude is real important. Why sit around and bemoan your fate? Go ahead and get in there. And while you're at it, enjoy every moment that you're alive.

O'REILLY: Tony Snow, we're going to miss you Tony at the White House. You were excellent there for them. Boy, I hope they appreciate it.

And we'll be seeing more of you I bet.

SNOW: You sure will. Thanks, Bill.

O'REILLY: We're going to chase you around, Snow. Thanks for coming on. We appreciate it.

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