"One of my missions has been to change the tone here in the nation's capital to encourage civil discourse," Bush said. "I want to thank the Democrats and the Republicans who have been coming up to the White House to hear me make my case. I just hope they vote for my agenda that I'll be submitting next week in a budget address to the Congress."
Tuesday night, Bush will lay out his vision for the nation and his agenda for the coming year before a joint session of Congress. The next day, he will outline his budget plan.
Slightly more than a month after he took office, Bush offered little new information during his half-hour news conference, which he held in the informal White House briefing room rather than the elegant, imposing East Room. As a result, the session was noteworthy as much for its stylistic shift as for its substance.
Unlike Clinton, who spoke easily off-the-cuff, in great detail, and at some length about issues, Bush responded to mostly predictable questions in clipped answers peppered with quips. As he did during the presidential campaign, he addressed familiar journalists by nicknames that he created, and at one point shouted out the name of a television reporter who already had questioned him and was not attempting to do so again.
At one point, when he appeared stumped by a question about a European military force, Bush laughingly accused a reporter of "trying to get me to tell you the answer twice" - once yesterday and again today during a scheduled news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Nice try," he joshed.
But even behind the serious, if not expansive, answers were smiling eyes and witty retorts, signaling a new manner in the Oval Office.
Asked how often he would hold news conferences, Bush agreed they would be frequent.
"Once a week?" a reporter asked.
"Well, you don't want to see me once a week. You'll run out of questions," Bush responded.
"Twice a week?" one journalist shot back.
"Oh, twice?" Bush said, laughing, "I'll be running out of ties."
On questions regarding domestic issues, the President:
Reiterated his confidence in FBI Director Louis J. Freeh despite controversy over the arrest this week of an FBI agent for spying.
Insisted that his proposed tax cut of $1.6 trillion over 10 years would not force painful cuts in needed spending.
Turning to foreign policy, Bush said he was concerned about reports that China was helping Iraq build a more sophisticated and effective air defense.
The administration is "sending the appropriate response" to Beijing, the President said. On that point, White House officials said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has expressed the administration's concern.
On Iraq, Bush said last week's air strikes were ordered both to warn President Saddam Hussein that he won't be allowed to build weapons of mass destruction and to diminish Baghdad's ability to attack patrolling U.S. and British planes.
"I believe we succeeded in both those missions," Bush said.
Pentagon officials say results of the strikes were mediocre at best, with damage detected on about 40 percent of the targets. Bush said he looked forward to the Pentagon's review.
Bush also said he was "encouraged" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested developing a European missile-defense system like the one Bush wants to create at home.
Separately, the White House announced that Bush would meet here March 30 with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Jodi Enda's e-mail address is jenda