Snow Weighing White House Spokesman Job

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Fox News host Tony Snow is set to become President Bush's third press secretary

Tony Snow, the conservative commentator and Fox News host, is awaiting a follow-up report from his oncologist before deciding whether to accept an offer to become President Bush’s third White House Press Secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan, an official close to Snow told TIME Tuesday morning.

Snow, 50, had his colon removed when he was diagnosed with cancer last year. One of his doctors initially approved him to take the grueling job, joking that the post wouldn’t give him cancer, although it might give him heartburn, according to the official. But now Snow is awaiting "a clean bill of health," the official said.

When a caller to Snow’s daily radio show asked about the job last week, Snow said: "I’m being deliberately coy. If nothing else, it’s good practice."

Snow was speechwriting director and deputy director of media affairs under President George H.W. Bush. After being diagnosed with cancer last year, Snow underwent chemotherapy and returned to work at Fox, a few pounds lighter. Co-workers marveled that his bushy hair grew back even thicker.

If Snow does not take the job, a backup possibility is Dan Senor, former chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority and senior adviser to L. Paul Bremer III, who was the senior civilian administrator in Iraq. Whether or not Snow becomes Press Secretary, Senor is being considered for other senior posts, including ones involving national security.

The offer to Snow is a departure for Bush, who has rarely elevated outsiders to top jobs, let alone an outsider who brings his own celebrity and authority. But with his polls at historic lows for an historic length of time, the President has decided to make a few fundamental changes while sticking to his guns in other areas, notably retaining Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The overture to Snow, a sax player who once taught physics in Kenya, was one of the first decisions by White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten after he was named to the job last month. He took Counselor Dan Bartlett into his confidence, and Bartlett reached out to Snow. White House officials said Bolten has made communications a priority and has calculated that it is in the President’s interest to engage reporters.

The appointment could be expected to buy the White House at least temporary good will with the White House press corps. White House aides have generally been excited by the idea and view it as a breath of fresh air under Bolten, although some wonder whether a fiery, strong personality like Snow would stick to scrupulously scripted talking points on delicate subjects like Iran.

Snow was a guest on "The O’Reilly Factor" on Fox News last week and said: "You got to realize the press secretary not only has to answer questions, but you got to be an advocate for the people asking them when it comes to, you know, getting seats on the plane and doing that. It's a very interesting hybrid job. So you can make enemies for life. What you have to do is you have to figure out to work with them. And you've also got to make sure that you got enough information at hand."

Saying he was concerned about the loss of family time and the "massive cut in pay," he added: "The upside is that for somebody like me who's been a pundit for many years, you sit around and you think about the way the world should be," Snow continued. "You become part of something that's very rare, which is an inner White House circle, where you've got to make decisions. So there is something that has a sort of perverse attraction, which is it's a meaty, substantive job with real responsibilities."

The question for Snow, and his doctors, is whether the excitement is worth the hassle.