The White House has published a transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks to journalists at the Associated Press lunch during the ASNE convention. Here are highlights:

Clearly, we’re already in the beginning months of another long, lively election year. There will be gaffes and minor controversies, be hot mics and Etch-a-Sketch moments. You will cover every word that we say, and we will complain vociferously about the unflattering words that you write -- unless, of course, you're writing about the other guy -- in which case, good job.  (Laughter.)

Obama spoke to the gathering in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

But there are also big, fundamental issues at stake right now -- issues that deserve serious debate among every candidate, and serious coverage among every reporter.  ...

I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented -- which reinforces I think people's cynicism about Washington generally. [The debate over deficit reduction] is not one of those situations where there's an equivalence. I've got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it.  And we couldn't get a Republican to stand up and say, we'll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won't give more tax cuts to people who don't need them.

And so I think it's important to put the current debate in some historical context.  It's not just true, by the way, of the budget.  It's true of a lot of the debates that we're having out here.

Likely Republican nominee for president Mitt Romney will speak at the convention tomorrow. || Related: AP Chair Dean Singleton gave Obama a "rather warm introduction" (Dylan Byers/Politico) || Flashback via Michael Calderone: Obama addresses "bitter"comment at AP lunch (Politico)