The Bush administration has not always had great luck with domestic summits.
Sixteen months ago, when it convened one on education, the biggest headlines came after William J. Bennett, then the national drug policy director and former education secretary, described one of the sessions as "standard Democratic pap and Republican pap. And something that rhymes with pap."
Now the administration is planning another summit -- on violent crime. But critics are already questioning whether the event, announced in President Bush's State of the Union address, will be any more successful.
A copy of the preliminary agenda for the violent crime summit next month shows no panels or discussions on the role of guns, a particularly touchy issue because the administration has resolutely opposed any efforts to curb the flow of firearms.
There were more than 23,000 homicides last year, a record, and police chiefs and law enforcement groups have identified the biggest factor behind the violence as the ready availability of handguns, assault weapons and other firearms.
"This is clearly at best an incomplete agenda," said Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime and criminal justice. "How can you have this summit and not have anything on gun control?"
The summit, planned by the Justice Department, is billed as a session on "Law Enforcement Responses to Violent Crime: Public Safety in the Nineties." It includes panels on the national drug control strategy, apprehending and punishing violent offenders, a special session on a Philadelphia program for violent drug traffickers and models of federal, state and local cooperation in combating violent crime.
But, critics say, it leaves out discussions on the underlying social causes of crime, such as poverty or lack of educational opportunity in inner cities. That omission has particularly disappointed Lee P. Brown, New York City police commissioner and chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, who first suggested such a summit last fall.
The summmit "is not what Commissioner Brown called upon the president to establish," a spokesman said.
One panel, "Initiatives to Assist in Combating Violent Crime," also has attracted criticism. Critics say it lists speakers, such as Michael Moore, attorney general of Mississippi, and Richard P. Ieyoub, president of the National District Attorney's Association, who largely favor the president's political goals of extending the death penalty and restricting appeal rights of criminal defendants.
Dan Eramian, chief spokesman for the Justice Department, said the summit's agenda is still being developed and may change by the time the three-day affair begins March 3.
But he said critics who argue that the summit is too narrowly focused because it does not deal with larger social issues miss the point. "This is about how to deal with violent crime from a cop's point of view," he said. "This is not an all-world conference here."
As for the lack of panels on the availability of handguns and other firearms, Eramian said, "I suspect that weapons and guns will be part of the dialogue at some of the panels. I would just leave it at that."