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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Today's guest: Ari Fleischer

Ari Fleischer
July 14, 2003

Ari Fleischer
Hi. This is Ari Fleischer and I'm glad to be tonight's guest on the new hit show, "Ask the White House." Fire away.

Will, from Phoenix writes:
In the past, reading newspapers was part of your job - now that it will no longer be part of your job - will you still read the same number of papers? Or will you only read one? If only one - which paper will you read?

Ari Fleischer
I'll still read a couple papers, although I'm going to read the sports section first from now on.

Jack, from Edgewater, MD writes:
Ari, Congrats and job well done. Can you describe an average day for the press secretary? How much time is spent gathering information from staff as compared to time spent meeting or on the phone with reporters?

Ari Fleischer
Like everyone who works at the White House, the day is long. I'm up at 5:00 and I usually get home around 8:30. I'd say the day is split between being in meetings and talking to reporters.

Matthew, from Queensland, Australia writes:
Mr Fleischer,

Let me begin by saying that I truly admire your calmness, happy personality and ability to remain polite and professional when interacting with an occasionally rude and demanding press corps. Often when engaging in public debate through the debating system which exists in Colleges and schools I find it difficult to remain calm, to think clearly under such pressure and to remain polite to the opposition. Would you mind sharing with us all your secret to polite, yet stern and effective methods of communication with persons who intend to demand of you, and interrogate for information?

Oh, and on a lighter note... what do you think of the role of the Press Secretary in NBC's The West Wing the character of C.J Cregg - played by Allison Janney? Is your role in the White House accurately portrayed by the character C.J?

Thank-you for your time, Matthew.

Ari Fleischer
The secret is to do your homework. If you're prepared because you know what the President thinks and you anticipate what the press will ask, then you're ready to brief.

CJ is much more articulate than the current White House Press Secretary.

Joshua, from New York, NY writes:
Dear Mr. Secretary: In your opinion, what is the unique trait or traits which makes a man or woman capable of being President of the United States? Thanks for your service. Best, Josh

Ari Fleischer
The key is to know where you want to lead the country, and then do take us there. Successful Presidents have big ideas and they follow up to get them done. The President has done that on improving education, cutting taxes to boost the economy, and his determination to fight and win the war on terror.

On September 11th, the President instantly knew we were at war and said that to the nation. It's conceivable a different President could have reacted to the attacks by imposing sanctions, convening an international conference, or slowly ratcheting up the response. Our nation was attacked and President Bush immediately rallied the American people to take decisive action.

Adil, from New Hampshire writes:
I know its been a log time since you graduated, but I have always wanted to ask you about your experience at Middlebury College. How do you think the college has influenced your life?

Ari Fleischer
I loved Middlebury. It taught me the value of being a good student, reading source material, and having fun.

Jeff, from Woodbridge, VA writes:
Ari, Assuming that shortstop for the New York Yankees is not a possibility, what other dream job would you like to attempt?

Ari Fleischer
Centerfield for the Yanks.

Amy, from Elizabethtown, PA writes:
What is the strangest question you have been asked during a press conference?

Ari Fleischer
Too many to remember.

Mike, from Eureka, CA writes:
How long was the average work week for you?

Ari Fleischer
It's probably a little under seventy hours a week.

Adam, from Washington, DC writes:
Looking back on your days as a congressional press secretary, any advice for those of us just starting out in Hill press shops?

Ari Fleischer
Be thorough, be accurate, and represent the views of your boss - not yourself. Learn substance. Being a press secretary is more than "public relations."

Greg, from Atlanta writes:
What will you miss the most ? Dealing with White House Press or working in a pressure cooker, The White House ?

Ari Fleischer
I'll miss the President. I believe in him. I believe in his policies and he's a pleasure to work for. He's got a great sense of humor, and he's a great example of what a boss should be.

This job is like permanently playing the seventh game of the World Series. It's always exciting. But because it's always exciting, you can't do it forever. It does tire you out.

Larry, from New York writes:
How many Yankee's games will we see you at this summer now that you will not be tethered at the White House?

Ari Fleischer
As many as I can. I'm going to a Yankees-Texas game in early August. Sorry Mr. President, I hope your team loses.

J, from Danbury, CT writes:
What is your favorite sport to play?

Ari Fleischer
No question - baseball. I still play in an old man's hardball league in Virginia. You have to be thirty and older to play, thirty-six and over to pitch. I didn't make it to many games last spring. I plan to make it this fall.

Janet, from VT writes:
Dear Ari,

Sometimes when I watch White House personnel on the Sunday talk shows and read about White House comments in the newspapers I feel like I living in some sort of parallel universe. What the White House says defies logic and common sense. Especially about the Africauranium incident. First it was the CIA's fault now they say the statement is correct. But what's correct? The fact that British intel said it or that the info is correct. And then there was all that talk about smoking guns being mushroom clouds. Do you think the White House spin is out of control?

Ari Fleischer
I think the White House has been up front and forthright about this. After all, it was the White House that first said the remarks should not have risen to the level of a Presidential speech.

Given Saddam's history of seeking, and obtaining, uranium in Africa in the 80s, the intelligence suggesting he continued to try in the late 90s may be accurate. But because it's not certain, it should not have been in the State of the Union.

The war, however, was not fought because Iraq did or did not seek uranium in Africa. It was fought because of his possession of chemical weapons, biological weapons, and his pursuit of nuclear weaponry, whether he sought its components from Africa or elsewhere.

Brad, from Burr Ridge, IL writes:
Mr. Fleischer, I saw you on t.v. today of your final day with the press. What does it feel like with your last day at the White House? What does the President feel about you leaveing today? Thanks for your time.

Ari Fleischer
Someone asked me if it was bittersweet. It's not. It's sweet in every way. I'm leaving at a time when I can say I love this job, but I also love what's next. For me, it's the right time to begin a new chapter in my life.

Diane, from Hazlet, New Jersey writes:
What would you say to an audience of middle school students to motivate them to get more involved in their government, whether it be at a local state or national level?

Ari Fleischer
If you're interested in government and politics, get involved in a local campaign. One of the most interesting questions the President ever received was from a high school student about nuclear disarmament issues. He asked a question that still results in press coverage today. Young people have great, unvarnished perspectives and their views count.

Susan, from Denver, Colorado writes:
I imagine that working in a high pressure place like the White House, one gets used to fast-paced, difficult work. Do you think that everything else you do in life will be easy after having held such a difficult position?

Ari Fleischer
I hope so.

Alexandra, from Valdosta, GA writes:
I would like to be enlightened. Please tell me, how many more of our men have to needlessly die overseas in Iraq for our president to decide it's time to bring them home? They are dying for absolutely no reason and no one in the white house seems to care...why is that?

Ari Fleischer
The President is determined to complete the mission and that's to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country. The more secure Iraq becomes, the more the prospects grow for a stable Middle East, a region whose volatility has been a longstanding national security problem for the United States.

The President mourns every loss of life. No one, especially the President, likes to see any serviceman or woman be wounded or killed in combat.

I think the American people know how important it is to complete the mission and so does the President.

Rich, from NYC writes:
Were you ever tempted to do a press conference armed with a Super Soaker water gun and if so, how were you able to resist the urge?

Ari Fleischer
What a great idea. I wish now I wasn't leaving, but I'll be sure to pass on the idea to Scott.

Ari Fleischer
Thanks for your questions. Thanks also for being involved and paying attention to what the White House is doing. It's been a honor to serve this President. Although I'm leaving the White House, I'll never leave President Bush.

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