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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tony Snow gets 'tarred' and feathered

By the time I got home from work today I had two e-mails from friends and acquaintances informing me that "Tony Snow used a racial slut in the first full press conference today!" By the time I'd fixed dinner and sat back down at the computer, I'd received three more e-mail variations on the same "Tony Snow is a racist" theme.

While all the e-mails differed slightly, on two points they all seemed to agree. First, Tony Snow, the former FOX News (or as I prefer "Faux News") anchor and newly appointed White House press secretary used the term "tar baby" today. Second, there was a preponderance of exclamation points in the e-mails to drive home the point of outrage over the use of a racially charged word!!!!!!!!!!!!

A couple of the e-mails even attached copies of White House transcripts of the press conference. These transcripts did, indeed, show that Snow did use the phrase "tar baby." Here's what he said:

Q: You might repeat the same thing, but why not declassify this? I mean, the President did talk about the surveillance program a day after The New York Times broke that story. This would seem to affect far more people, and it did sound like the President was confirming that story today. He was answering Terry's question --

MR. SNOW: Well, if you go back -- if you go back and you look through what he said, there was a reference to foreign-to-domestic calls. I am not going to stand up here and presume to declassify any kind of program. That is a decision the President has to make. I can't confirm or deny it. The President was not confirming or denying.

Again, I would take you back to the USA Today story, simply to give you a little context. Look at the poll that appeared the following day. While there was -- part of it said 51 percent of the American people opposed, if you look at when people said, if there is a roster of phone numbers, do you feel comfortable that -- I'm paraphrasing and I apologize -- but something like 64 percent of the polling was not troubled by it. Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program -- the alleged program -- the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.

Later in the press conference, a reporter asked Snow to clarify his "hug a tar baby" remarks and this was the explaination he gave: "Well, I believe hug the tarbaby, we could trace that back to American lore."

The Left was ecstatic! In his first press briefing, Snow, the smarmy, smirking epitome of all thing FOX (which means "all things Republican") had been publicly unmasked as a (GASP!) racist! The exclamation points began to fly!!!!!!!!!!!! And so did the explanations that "tar baby" was a racist term for African-American babies ... sort of a younger version of "pick-a-ninnies" which was a racist term for black children after they passed toddlerhood ... and so on and so forth up until "the N-word" apparently kicked in at adulthood.

The somewhat more moderate Left pointed out that "tar baby" was from the Uncle Remus tales in which Br'er Fox makes a baby out of sticky tar and uses it to catch Br'er Rabbit. Aforesaid rabbit encounters the tar baby and, infuriated that the baby doesn't speak when addressed, slugs it and gets stuck to the tar. That's a slightly more benign explanation of the term, but the Uncle Remus tales (along with such children's "classics" as Little Black Sambo) have fallen into disfavor for being racially insensitive.

So take your pick. Tony Snow is either:

A) A racist; or

B) Racially insensitive.

Internet savvy bloggers quickly discovered that today's press briefing wasn't the frist time Snow has used the objectionable term. Back in 1999, Snow offered this piece of commentary about Kosovo: "Most congressional Republicans are guilty of appalling cynicism and silence. They figure Clinton has hugged the tar baby in the Balkans and they want to watch him writhe."

But while Googling "tar baby" you can also find some other columnist and pundits who have made reference to tar babies. And not all of them are FOX News commentators ... or even conservatives.

Here's this from U.S. Reppresentative Diane Watson of California: "The Bush administration now faces the danger of adopting by default a so-called “tar baby” option, where the more the U.S. tries to disengage itself from Iraq, the more bogged down it becomes."

And this from former CBS News anchor Dan Rather interviewing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "Mr. Secretary, just this week there have been quotes in the paper, rank and file Americans, saying are we into a tar baby situation?"

Or this from liberal author Jim Kunstler's blog, Clusterfuck Nation: " This whole spectacle -- both the inept war itself and our debate about it here at home -- is particularly shameful for the official opposition, my party, the Democrats, because we could be talking about the so-called elephant-in-the-room, namely how we live in America and the tragic choices we've made, and the things we might do to change that -- but the party leadership is too brain-dead or craven to do that. As long as we don't, we're going to be wrassling a tarbaby in the Middle East."

Or even former Republican diva-turned-liberal Arianna Huffington who wrote: "According to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 57 percent of Americans are opposed to investing the time and money needed to rebuild Iraq. But the Democrats sit idly by, their thumbs otherwise engaged, while the administration's Iraqi tar baby grows stickier by the day."

Let's face it, we on the Left can't lob sticks and stones at Tony Snow unless we are willing to toss some friendly fire at our own compatriots.

As a spokesman for the Bush Administration, Snow showed incredibly poor judgement in his choice of words.

Is Tony Snow a racist? I doubt it. Did he make a stupid choice of words? Yes ... and so did Huffington, Rather and the rest. They all should have been called on it.

Despite my loathing for Tony Snow and the administration he represents, I'm not ready to call for him to be tarred and feathered over his tar baby remark. But I do hope he do better next time.

Tony's a smart guy. I'm sure he knows lots of big words. Lots of words would convey the point he was trying to make better than "tar baby." Like the word "quagmire," for instance.

Oh, wait. He wouldn't dare use that word for fear the press would believe he was making reference to the Iraq war.