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No question -- Bush a fan of new press corps briefing room

After an 11-month renovation, President Bush introduced the new White House briefing room to the press corps yesterday. After an 11-month renovation, President Bush introduced the new White House briefing room to the press corps yesterday. (Pablo Martinez/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- President Bush introduced the refurbished White House briefing room yesterday, showing off a sparkling upgrade to both the equipment and the appearance of the famous space.

"Welcome back to the West Wing," he said to the presidential press corps, assembled in the room for the first time since the massive renovation began 11 months ago. "We missed you -- sort of."

Bush decided not to take that particular line of humor much further, sticking mostly to acknowledgments that the news media needed better than "substandard conditions." .

Though he joshed that reporters' questions represent "verbal bullets" and that he doesn't always like their stories, one line in his prepared remarks was crossed out: "There's no truth to the rumor some of those new seats can be ejected by pressing a button at Tony's podium."

Bush seemed most impressed by the powerful new cooling system, saying "a fellow like me will feel comfortable coming in here answering a few questions without losing 20 pounds."

The president and his wife, Laura, who took a personal interest in the project, cut a red-white-and-blue ribbon.

The reporters' adjacent working quarters, though yet to be completed, are sleek and uniform -- no-frills, industrial-style desks, and booths of tan, silver, and black. But there are marble walls, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances.

The briefing room backdrop, intended to be a high-tech wonder appropriate for a modern, 24-hour television world, was widely panned. Some said its frosted-glass panels set against a glowing blue background, flanked by 45-inch flat-screen monitors, flags, and fake white columns, lent a gaudy, game-show aura to one of the most visible rooms of the White House.

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