President Bush made a rare visit to the White House briefing room this afternoon to celebrate the fact that the ratty, old pressroom that we correspondents call home (where the carpets are disgusting, the chairs are falling apart and the air conditioning is spotty at best) is about to undergo nine months of extensive renovations.
The president yukked it with newbie correspondents, as well as some veterans like Helen Thomas and Sam Donaldson, who came back for this special event and fired-off a screaming question for old-time's sake, prompting the commander-in-chief to joke that the ABC News denizen is a "has-been." Ouch.
But the president took no questions from the press corps as the war in the Middle East raged on for a 22nd day, leaving it to his press secretary, Tony Snow, to face a barrage of queries about why the United States has not stopped the violence yet.
"We would love a cease-fire yesterday," Snow said. But he again repeated the mantra that the administration wants a "sustainable" peace, not one that will slip away within days. He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is still hopeful that a U.N. resolution can be passed by the end of the week.
Despite emphasizing diplomacy in his remarks, Snow acknowledged that three weeks into the crisis President Bush still has not called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. That's led even some Republicans, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel, to raise questions about whether the Bush administration has given Israel tacit approval to level Lebanon, in hopes it will destroy the terrorist group Hezbollah, despite the ongoing toll on innocent victims in both Lebanon and Israel.
"We don't have a green light," Snow said. "The idea that the U.S. is saying, 'Go, go, go,' I think is a disservice to the Israeli government, which operates independently, and this government."
But has the White House given Israel a green light to "go, go, go"? We'll explore this question in more depth tonight.