WaPo sez tonight’s town hall “debate” should be fun:
Several Bush advisers said the president may well pay a price for his decision to remain isolated from tough or unexpected questions when he faces Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), whose events are notably less scripted, in a town-hall-style debate tonight at Washington University in St. Louis. The questions are likely to be tougher than those he faced when he taped an interview about parenting for the “Dr. Phil” show this summer.
The president has stopped taking questions from the small pool of reporters who cover his photo opportunities, and he has answered questions from the White House press corps twice since Aug. 23, both times with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at his side. His last prime-time news conference was April 13.
The tradition of the White House news corps shouting questions at the president has largely faded during this term because Bush reacts testily and does not answer, and his staff typically sets up events so he does not have to walk near reporters.
Bush used to frequently talk to small groups of local reporters as his campaign bus rolled through their state, although such roundtables have tailed off.
For the extraordinary state of Ohio, Bush made an extraordinary effort. On Sept. 1, two executives and a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch were ushered up the front steps of Air Force One — a treatment unheard of for journalists.
The White House suggested the venue after the newspaper asked Bush to meet with its editorial board. The front-page headline that emerged from the 45-minute interview was a quote from the president: “The Country’s Getting Better.”