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In his response, Bush seemed to suggest that small schools were safer than large ones.

Bush: "I think so. I think there's an awareness as a result of some of these tragedies. The Columbine tragedy, the Amish school tragedy. There's awareness for the adults in the schools to pay attention to behavior that is unpredictable. This is just a big university. In a smaller campus, there's a lot more awareness. Here, it's just very difficult to protect from a person that became deranged."

Today's Meeting

Bush is meeting at the White House with top Democrats this afternoon to discuss funding of the Iraq war.

AFP reports that "the two camps were to meet behind closed doors at the White House amid few signs that either side will blink.

"'The consequences of failure would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America,' Bush warned this week. 'I hope the Democratic leadership will drop their unreasonable demands for a precipitous withdrawal.'

"Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who this week called Bush's war policy 'wrongheaded,' said Tuesday he had not decided what he would tell Bush, but vowed to press for a 'change of policy' in Iraq.

"'He's going to be sitting right next to me,' said Reid. 'Unless he plugs his ears, he's going to have to listen.'"

Immigration Watch

David Rogers writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "Hoping to jump-start comprehensive immigration overhaul, the White House and Senate Democrats are embracing a two-step approach aimed at assuring wary conservatives that key border-security provisions will be put in place first.

"Last year, a similar 'trigger' proposal was defeated 55-40 in the Senate for fear it would effectively kill any chance of carrying out the next steps, such as guest-worker programs or adjusting the legal status of millions of undocumented people now in the U.S.

"Since then, its chief supporter, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), has been courted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has supported reviving the trigger to help broaden support. Democrats, now in control of Congress, say they also are open to the idea in a new immigration bill, if it wins Republican votes. . . .

"With Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Mr. Chertoff has participated in weeks of meetings, first with Senate Republicans and now members of both parties. Senior White House aides are part of the talks, which sometimes resemble political focus groups, as the administration tries to find the right formula to bring in Republican support."

Shooting at the White House

The Associated Press reports: "Two Secret Service officers were injured in an accidental shooting Tuesday at the White House.

"The incident occurred in a security booth at the southwest gate."

A (Former) Prosecutor's View

I called attention yesterday to a Chicago Tribune op-ed by Patrick M. Collins about the U.S. attorney scandal, noting how unusual it was for a federal prosecutor to express an opinion so publicly. The Tribune, which identified Collings as an assistant U.S. attorney, has since corrected itself. Collins left the U.S. attorney's office earlier this month, and is now in private practice.

Cooper's Tale

Former Time reporter Matthew Cooper writes in his new magazine about his own personal travails as a witness in the Scooter Libby case.

He evidently sees himself as quite the martyr. (At one point, describing his thinking about the possibility of going to jail to protect sources Libby and Rove, he writes: "I could do the full Mandela.")

Cooper describes all sorts of tensions involved in being a celebrity reporter for a corporate behemoth, caught between a special prosecutor and promises of confidentiality to top presidential aides.

But he doesn't seem to have been the least bit troubled by his failure to do his job -- if you consider the job of a journalist to inform the public, or at the very least not willfully misinform the public.

There is no sense in this piece that Cooper ever felt the urge to report his way out of his bind -- and find some way to tell the public what really happened. By contrast, in this October 2003 story, for instance, his magazine reported: "White House spokesman Scott McClellan said accusations of Rove's peddling information are 'ridiculous.' Says McClellan: 'There is simply no truth to that suggestion.'"

Cooper (along with at least two of his fellow contributors to that story) knew that to be an utter falsehood. But they printed it anyway, without any context or -- as far as I know -- any qualms.

For more, see the last item in my February 8, 2006 column, and also the liberal Media Matters Web site.

Yuck Yuk

Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "In hiring an impersonator practiced in an old-school approach to comedy, meant to entertain but not offend, the White House Correspondents' Association has . . . provoked left-leaning political activists, who see his assignment as a retreat from last year's dinner. Then, the television satirist Stephen Colbert delivered a stinging roast of President Bush and, to a lesser extent, the White House press corps.

"Mr. Little has said he would deliver no such performance this year. And his selection has become something of a symbol in the liberal blogosphere for what its members consider the proclivity of Washington reporters to give Mr. Bush and his administration a pass.

"'It represents that the White House press corps is more interested in playing friendly and cozying up to the Bush administration than it is in providing the sort of oversight that a free press should provide in a democracy,' said Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, founder of the Daily Kos. 'They shouldn't be yukking it up together as if they're pals and friends, and that's why we've had so much terrible coverage.'

"Conservatives, of course, hoot at the idea that reporters are too cozy with the White House, saying that by and large the news media is implacably hostile to the administration and ideologically left-leaning. And association officials say they are in no way seeking to protect their relationships, to the extent they have any, with Mr. Bush and his aides -- and that whatever relationships they do have are neither cozy nor friendly."

Rutenberg complains that the blogosphere "is populated by people who 'feel that the press was run over, and kind of told itself some story to avoid confrontation and lapsed into a phony kind of balance,' said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University.

"It is enough to make some reporters bristle. 'Some of them seem to want us to hate the people we cover,' said Ken Herman, a White House correspondent for Cox Newspapers and an association board member. 'They don't seem to understand that you can have a professional relationship with them where you don't hate them, and you can sometimes talk to them, and maybe have dinner with them.'"

But Rutenberg creates a false conflict. Rosen and Herman are both largely correct. The press has been played by this White House -- but that doesn't mean reporters have to be jerks. They just need to be tougher, more aggressive journalists.

The White House Correspondents dinner is not the problem in and of itself. But the pandering selection of Rich Little this year makes the occasion a particularly potent metaphor for a relationship that in recent years has not served the public as well as it could.


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