PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Snow avoids the heat by leaving Augusta

WASHINGTON: For John Snow, the newly anointed nominee for the top Treasury post, the first order of business was not a new round of tax cuts, but a resignation of his own - one every bit as decisive as that of his hapless predecessor, Paul O'Neill, who had been forced to walk the plank earlier in the week.

WASHINGTON: For John Snow, the newly anointed nominee for the top Treasury post, the first order of business was not a new round of tax cuts, but a resignation of his own - one every bit as decisive as that of his hapless predecessor, Paul O'Neill, who had been forced to walk the plank earlier in the week.

Snow's nomination, announced even before the sharks had cleared away O'Neill, followed a stealthy vetting process emblematic of the Bush White House at its most airtight. And the CSX CEO wasted no time in proving himself more adept than O'Neill at the publicity game as, with one eye on what could be a bruising confirmation battle, he did what Tiger Woods and CBS couldn't and quit the controversial Augusta National Golf Club. It seemed, at first, a curious move for a Bush appointee, with conservative pundits fulminating over calls by feminists to integrate the all-male club, a rare bastion of good old-fashioned cigar-chomping, steak-and-martini-supping chauvinism. Augusta has become a rallying point for some of Bush's most enthusiastic backers, especially with New York Times chief Howell Raines, whom the right views as a field marshall of the Liberal Media, leading the charge against it. But after suffering through two years of off-message outbursts from the last Treasury Secretary, and with a reelection run looming on the horizon, Team Bush is clearly picking its battles. Asked if the White House had prompted the move, press secretary Ari Fleischer said coyly, "It is not, in the President's judgement, a disqualifying matter in the appointment of Cabinet secretaries." Maybe not, but by quietly disqualifying himself from a Senatorial grilling on the matter, Snow and his handlers sent a message to the markets and the media that this candidate would not be blowing all his political capital on tacky displays of ego and ideological bent. For that, he wins our PR Play of the Week.

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