Snow job, II

He's the White House spokesman, but they're not paying him to be a "fact witness" for the Justice Department.

Published March 22, 2007 2:47AM (EDT)

Tony Snow's press briefing today was so good, I have to write about it twice.

On first reading I saw Snow as the loyal soldier, disavowing his own writing on the dangers of executive privilege (when President Clinton claimed it) to defend his boss. That's still the bottom line. On second reading, though, what jumped out at me was this exchange, when he refused to stand by the Justice Department's explanation for the 18-day gap in emails on the U.S. attorney firings, and told reporters "Why don't you ask them?"

Pretty devastating, but understandable. He saw the administration lie to Scott McClellan about the Scooter Libby case. And he himself was apparently lied to about the role of supposed White House mastermind Harriet Miers, who Snow wrongly blamed for the whole plot last week before all those troublesome emails implicating Karl Rove and others were released. Here's the exchange (reporters in bold):

You keep saying the Justice Department -- their response, in these e-mails, the 3,000 pages, was unprecedented, was very responsive.

Why then is there this gap from mid-November to about December 4, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in e-mails?

I don't know. Why don't you ask them?

Well, you're the White House. The Justice Department serves under you.

I know, but I'm not going to be the fact witness on Justice.

But you're the one representing that this has been very responsive. Now that there's a gap, you say go to the...

And I've been let to believe that there's a good response for it, but I'm going to let you ask them because they're going to have the answer.

By Joan Walsh

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