A question for President Bush on immigration rose up like a ghost from the grave this afternoon in Ohio.
Only the questioner was a 13-year old blonde-headed girl, Jessica Hackerd, from Brecksville, Ohio, who immediately broke into tears after making her inquiry.
"Mr. President, I know immigration has been a big problem in the U.S. And what is your next step with the immigration bill?" Jessica asked Mr. Bush, during a question and answer period after a speech Mr. Bush gave to a Cleveland business group.
Mr. Bush's sarcastic reply -- a wry "yeah, thanks" -- drew laughter from the crowd of 400. But the attention caused young Jessica, who characterized herself in an interview afterward as very shy, to immediately tear up.
"No, it's a great question. No, I appreciate that," Mr. Bush said, as he saw Jessica's reaction.
Jessica, in the interview, said that she was crying because she was so nervous.
But when the president's sarcastic answer was mentioned, she said, "I heard that too."
Mr. Bush went on to speak more than 1,100 words about the death of his proposed comprehensive immigration reform, which was a heavy blow when it fell apart last month.
But Jessica, there with her parents and younger sister, continued to wipe tears from her eyes for several minutes, and midway through his answer, Mr. Bush again tried to encourage the distraught youngster without drawing too much attention to her.
"It's a great question by the way, and I'm glad you asked it," Mr. Bush said.
But when the president finished taking questions, an aide immediately went to Jessica and took her backstage.
After Mr. Bush had finished shaking hands for over 10 minutes, he met with Jessica and her family.
"He said it was really brave of me to do that and he said he probably wouldn't have been able to do that," Jessica said. "And he said it was the first time anybody had asked him about [immigration] since it happened."
Jessica said she did not say much besides, "Thanks."
She asked the question about immigration, she said, because her father, Richard, has engaged her in conversations about the topic, and that was what popped into her head.
-- Jon Ward, White House correspondent, The Washington Times