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.
July 29, 2004
Hello all, thanks for joining me today on Ask the White House. My last time on here was in October. It is good to be back, although I'm present for almost each Ask the White House.
We've done a lot since that time. We are steadily trying to increase the number of guests on this "program." Our goal? Have a guest on every day. And we should be able to do that. Our feeling is you should have access to your government. And there are plenty of issues out there to discuss. So we are moving forward. We have had some great guests on this month. From Condoleezza Rice to Richard Armitage to Secretary Norton to Secretary Snow. Some great serious discussions. But we've also had some fun when we had on the Pastry Chef two days ago.
So we are going in the right direction. We've added a lot of content. And that unique content is key to keeping you all coming back to the site.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Joshua, from Princeton, NJ writes:
Do we take supportive questions too? Sure. Like I say, we try to balance it out. But we dont duck hard questions.
Depends on the guest too, Joshua. I mean, the Pastry Chef really didnt have tough questions. So it was a softball session. But go back and read Richard Armitages transcript or Condoleezza Rices transcript. They both appeared this month.
Sometimes the chats get confrontational. Go back and read Jim Wilkinsons chats. He relishes the confrontational questions.
Its really up to the guest though. I saw your question. I wanted to answer it. Its that easy. There isnt an elaborate screening process. Not only is there not the time for that, but if we just put up supportive questions who would read the chats? It would be preaching to the choir.
I would suggest reading any of the above mentioned chats and peruse some others as well: Paul Wolfowitz, Jim Connaughton, Treasury Secretary Snow, Commerce Secretary Evans, Margaret Spellings, etc. etc. I could go on forever. These are real exchanges. Check out Karen Hughes from earlier this year as well. Tons of examples out there....
Also, read any of the exchanges in White House Interactive. Yes, we have fun exchanges as well. But there are plenty of issues being discussed as well. Its a good balance.
The most important thing is we are putting these individuals online to take your questions. It's been compared to by many critics as a good step in
e-democracy. I have to agree with that.
Terrence, from Italy writes:
1. Keep the email short and to the point. 2. Try to limit the amount of questions within the question.
You'll see that most of the questions posted in "White House Interactive" have these traits.
Tom, from Midvale, Utah writes:
Some of the most recent ones I'll mention are:
Independence Day page --www.whitehouse.gov/independenceday/2004
The White House Calendar/Datebook page, which is under construction. But it is very good and our move to be more "bloggish."
Our education page is strong. www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/education/
The new Pastry Chef page is great -- under construction as well, but will soon be up hopefully today.
The economy page is strong
There are a lot more. I like the clean look of White House Radio. We have great stuff out there and
I'm missing a lot. But these are some recent pages.
Ama, from Montgomery, NJ writes:
We've discussed Iraq numerous times. Richard Armitage and Condoleezza Rice discussed Iraq just this month. Last month, Paul Wolfowitz and Jim Wilkinson discussed Iraq. Not to mention the many times Colby Cooper and others have answered questions on Iraq in White House Interactive.
Look at how many radio interviews we've posted from individuals discussing Iraq. Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, General Richard Meyers, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Dan Senor, etc. etc. etc. They have been on multiple times.
If you want to see anything the President has said on the topic, please go to the Iraq page. www.whitehouse.gov/iraq
Darien, from Nantucket, MA writes:
Ill try to do that. Check back here a bit later and hopefully Ill have some samples up.
Weve made great strides.
Most people dont have the opportunity to visit the White House or Washington, DC for that matter. The only White House they will see is the online White House. And the online White House is available 24/7. Therefore, we should put significant resources into the site.
Those who visit the site should be able to see all aspects of the Presidency. The policies outlined by the President, the Press Briefings, the biographical information, information on the White House itself and the people who work in the White House.
The two keys to a successful site, in my opinion, are web exclusive content and interactivity.
And weve tried to take full advantage of both. We can create content that people can only get here on our site. Thats important because people know to see or watch that content, they have to come here.
Some examples of the unique content include: Ask the White House, White House Interactive, White House Radio, any unique video content we create, Barney.gov, the history page, any of the special pages we create, like the World War II Memorial page, the Independence Day page. The Holiday pages. The White House Ghost stories page. And weve got a great new page with the departing White House Pastry Chef that we will hopefully unveil later today.
But the interactivity is so important too. Never before have people been given the opportunity to interact directly with the White House in an immediate format. But with Ask the white House and White House Interactive, people can do that. People can ask a question and get a response live on our web site.
This is a big deal. Our goal is drive traffic. We want visitors on our site. The way to do that is to create that web-exclusive content that no one else can create and interact with your visitors. Both are extremely important.
Think of the sites that you go to. Think of what they offer. Whitehouse.gov is moving in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go.
One of the sections I am most pleased with is White House Radio. Dan Bartlett was on the air with Hoppy Kercheval in Charleston, WV, last week. If you were listening to Hoppy in Charleston at that time, great. If not, you missed it. So we put up our radio interviews on our web site now so everyone can hear them.
We need to do the same with TV. We arent there yet. Were moving in that direction.
We are moving toward a society that doesnt rely on the clock as much. If you miss a TV program, you can record it for example. The successful web site will offer all of their programming at any time of day. I dont understand why networks arent offering that now, really. If you miss a TV program, you really should be able to go to their site and watch it online at any time of day. Same goes for popular news programs you want to increase viewership and name recognition put the program on the site.
.but this is a very powerful medium and it really hasnt been taken advantage of yet.
Joanne, from Chicago writes:
Ron, from Undisclosed writes:
Ashley, from Thomasville, Ga writes:
This isnt a campaign web site, so you wont find campaign information here. But there is plenty of information on the Presidents
policies on this site. By the way, our kids site will be updated soon, so check in on that in August.
Good stuff coming
Jeff, from Salt Lake City writes:
Our mission statement is to: Communicate the President's message while recognizing the rich history and traditions of the web site.
Without the two-pronged approach to the site, we're not going to get a lot of traffic which makes our goal ineffective.
Many people come to the site for the policy areas. But many others come for the more "personal" side of the White House. We get a lot of traffic when White House Chief of Staff Andy Card does an "Ask the White House" session -- but we also get a lot of traffic when someone like the Pastry Chef appears.
So, again, it is a balance. And it's a good balance.
Obviously, the news section of the White House is a top destination of our site, which is good. We're seeing increasing numbers on White House Radio -- which is very good. And our numbers on the "Ask the White House" and "White House Interactive" sections are increasing as well.
And on the "personal" side of things (remember we have a two-pronged mission statement), the History and Tours page is always a top section and the big "up and comer" is the Barney page, www.barney.gov. People really seem to like the Barney photos of the day.
It's all about balance.
Denise, from Texas writes:
You know what was really fun, was when Greg Mankiw was on in December and Mrs. Bush was on a couple days later. There was a marriage proposal in the email. Greg decided to post it and wished the person good luck. But there was no response.....
Until Mrs. Bush hosted Ask the White House a few days later and there was a response. And it all happened on "Ask the White House." It was the first online wedding proposal we've had on Whitehouse.gov. I suspect it might be the only one.
Just for entertainment value, I think Tuesday's chat with Roland Mesnier, the outgoing Pastry Chef, can't be beat. I re-read the transcript last night and laughed out loud.
You know who was really great? Richard Armitage. That was just a solid chat. He was so great to work with. Powerful presence.
Secretary Snow has been a frequent guest and if you look at his chats -- he takes a lot of questions. Those guys over at Treasury understand the power of online communications.
And look at the Department of Justice! 3 days of consecutive DOJ guests earlier this month.
I don't know if I have any favorites, but I do know that this online medium is well respected and guests look forward to appearing.
Sarah, from DC writes:
I didn't know we ever had a scroll bar on the White House home page. It could be a resolution thing on your computer as well. My resolution is set at 1280x1024. I know, that seems too small, but I don't like to scroll and if I have to scroll much, I move on. 1024 x 768 is another option. Some people still prefer 800 x 600, which is hideous.
Robert, from San Francisco writes:
We should. We should offer video in all formats. Money and resources is the issue. But we're moving in the right direction. At least we offer the video. We webcast live when we can -- when an event is on White House grounds.
In a perfect world, we would webcast every Presidential event live regardless of location (something that we are pushing for -- but $$ issues), and in every format. Hopefully, this will occur in the future.
It is important to do this because the news networks don't cover every Presidential address live. So where can you watch it? Some commercial sites
carry it now. But really, the White House web site should be the first stop in my opinion.
Ken, from Arlington, VA
It should be -- for this Administration and for all Administrations to come. It's really sad actually because you think of the children and others who have stumbled on to it. Some people have their sights set higher than others. I'm glad that's not my legacy.
Hopefully in the future, that issue will be resolved.
Bobby, from Horsepasture, VA writes:
Ivana, from Brooklyn writes:
It is important that people see that this section is updated all the time. If you were to go to a site that hasn't been updated for weeks or months, chances are you'd never go back.
I visited a site the other day which stated it was last updated in 1998. Ridiculous. Also, I don't get sites which use "counters." Why use them? What you consider high traffic might not be considered high traffic by the visitor. I went to one of my favorite bands' site the other day -- and it had a counter on it. And to me, it seemed low. Maybe people aren't as picky as I am, but why even take the risk. Updating the site is critical.
And our goal for White House Interactive? Update it several times a day. But it is only a few months old and each month we are answering more and more questions than the prior months.
A lot of the questions are answered in other areas too. Go to Scott McClellan's briefings, for example. He gets a ton of questions every day.
But your is well taken, Ivana. Steady progress, that is the path we are on.
Anna, from Wisconsin writes:
Your question has just been answered.
It is really up to the guest. The guest is encouraged to take challenging questions, as I've mentioned. But it's their call. They take the questions which look interesting to them.
Keep visiting the site and keep sending your questions in.
Kimberly, from Manhattan writes:
Content is key. Unique content is key. Of course, we have all the President's speeches and remarks on the site, but it is important to augment the site with other information. That's why I think White House Radio, White House Interactive and Ask the White House are all so important.
Photos are critical as well. Nothing says a site has been updated more than by new photos. So, we try to add new ones daily -- numerous new photos daily.
We don't have any today, so we began rotating some older photos on the site. But we expect to have some new ones soon.
Kent, from Chapel Hill writes:
We see growth every year in the number of people online. You check the weather online. You get news updates online. You watch video online. You listen to radio online. I've got a radio station playing in the background right now -- from the Internet.
Here's what the bloggers do. They notice something in the news or something they've observed that maybe the "traditional" media hasn't covered or is spending much time on. But they think it is significant. So, they give the story a 2nd life (or first). And they talk about it. And others talk about it. Before you know it, it is leading the news.
And of course, the most successful -- in my opinion, are the ones who constantly update their blogs. And these bloggers are just starting.
Watch over the next couple years to how influential they will become. I like the Note, instapundit, taranto, many more. Bloggers are great.
Laurence, from Georgia writes:
President Bush signed the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act on July 15. So it seemed logical that we the Department of Justice on -- specifically the person who oversees this issue -- James B. Comey, Deputy Attorney General.
On July 21, the President signed the Project BioShield legislation, so the next day we had the Department of Homeland Security on to discuss it -- specifically the Assistant Secretary who oversees the project.
So, we try to line up guests with what the topical event is. And other days, we put on a guest because it is an issue of much importance or because we
think our visitors will find it interesting. We want to keep you coming back to our site!
Carmyn, from New York City writes:
In all seriousness, what specifically are you asking? Email me back at White House Interactive
(on the home page) and I'll try to get you an answer....
Brahm, from Montreal writes:
Neil, from Pennsylvania writes:
You know, that's how we came up with Barney Reloaded was because of the Matrix (they should have stopped with the 2nd one, by the way. What was up with the 3rd one?)
So, I'm thinking right now of other movies which have had a third installment. There's Rocky III, but it was just Rocky III (they probably should have stopped with this one -- but Rocky IV was bearable).
I remember Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome -- we could do a Barney Thunderdome type thing. We can always ask Mel Gibson to help. Stay tuned.
Yolanda, from Houston Texas writes:
Daniel, from Anchorage, Alaska writes:
You may submit a request via fax at 202-395-1232, mail to The White House, Attn: Greetings Office, Washington, D.C. 20502-0039, or by Web Mail.
We ask that requests for greetings are received in our office at least six weeks in advance of the event date. At this date I recommend you fax or use
White House Web Mail to submit your request. We will make every effort to send the greeting in time for your special occasion. For more information on
our guidelines and the types of greetings you may request please visit the White House.
Rob, from Canada writes:
Press Briefings do not happen every day. When they do, we post them. If Scott gaggles on Air
Force One or away from the White House, we post that gaggle. There shouldn't be any missing briefings/gaggles on the site, but we'll double-check.
Myra, from Washington DC