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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.

Blake Gottesman
Special Assistant to the President and Personal Aide
August 10, 2004

Blake Gottesman

Hi everyone. I'm Blake Gottesman and I'm happy to take your questions today on "Ask the White House." I'm up here in Air Force One and I'm looking at your questions now. Let's go.....

Kevin, from Northern Virginia writes:
What is the President's fitness routine? daily? And how farlong does normally exercise? Thanks.

Blake Gottesman
The President usually works out about six days a week. His routine is varied and includes some weight training and a lot of cardio. His new passion is mountain biking.

Jenny, from Cumming, GA writes:
One of my greatest dreams is to become President Bush's personal secretary; he is a friend of mine and is a wonderful leader. How would a person prepare for such an occupation? I am certain he already has a personal secretary, and I understand becoming his secretary is very unlikely. Thank you for your time, and I appreciate your taking the time to do this for your fellow Americans.

Blake Gottesman
Jenny, The President's Personal Secretary, the newly-married (one month ago today!) Ashley Kavanaugh, is a very good friend of mine. Our desks are about two feet apart, and when the President is in the office, we spend just about every minute of our day together. I think your questions are great - and should be directed to Ashley herself. With a little encouragement, you might be able to get her to come on 'Ask the White House' ...

Ryan, from Jacksonville, FL writes:
Blake, Now that you've worked for the most powerful man in the world, not to mention the finest President in the history of our country, do you think you'll find life after the White House (2008 and beyond) difficult? What are your aspirations?

Blake Gottesman
I plan to go to business school after I finish at the White House. Thanks for your nice comments about my boss. I happen to agree - but recognize that I'm not exactly objective on the topic.

Jennifer, from Dayton, Ohio writes:
Whenever I read things from the First Lady or the President's twin daughters, they speak of how the President always has them laughing. I guess because the news is usually fairly serious these days, the rest of us don't really see that side of him. Do you? If so, what's it like?Also, the President seems to be a religious person? Does he attend church?

Blake Gottesman
The President has a GREAT sense of humor and definitely keeps the rest of us laughing. As for his faith, he has always said that it's a very important part of his life.

As to what it means to him, I would encourage you to look through some of the transcripts from the recent "Ask President Bush" events that he has been doing. He has been asked the same question several times at these event, and he can explain it much better than I can, of course.

David, from Washington, DC writes:
Hey Blake, All college students want to know one thing: Does the Personal Aide to the President get free meals? Do you root for Duke basketball or UNC basketball?

Blake Gottesman
Fortunately for you, your tax dollars are not funding my appetite. We have to pay for our meals - at the White House and on Air Force One. Duke v. UNC? My roommate went to Duke, so I gotta side with them.

Ross, from Westchester County, NY writes:
The President is always on the go. Obviously, you are at his side most of the time. Do you ever get some free time to yourself? Do you have to put your own life basically on hold?

Blake Gottesman
Fortunately, I am young and single. The job is very demanding time-wise, but we have a great time traveling and I consider myself very blessed to be working for the president - especially in this capacity.

When I do get free time, I'm usually hanging out with my friends and family (brother/sister live in DC), reading, or playing golf (poorly) ... I don't watch much TV.

Kevin, from Silver Spring, MD writes:
Do you ever have to wake up the President? How do you accomplish this very sensitive task?

Blake Gottesman
The President is a self-described early-to-bed and early-to-rise kind of guy. He wakes himself up.

Tom, from Evansville, Indiana writes:
The president has a private office off the Oval Office. Does the President use the smaller office as his working office? How large is it. How is it decorated? Thank You.

Blake Gottesman
The President does have a small private study off of the Oval Office. I hear that some past presidents have preferred to work in that office more than others. In my experience, when the president is working in his office - it is almost always in the Oval Office (maybe 95% of the time?).

Rich, from La Crosse, WI writes:
When you get free time, what sort of things do you do for leisure in the White House? Also, do you get more or less sleep than the President?

Blake Gottesman
I try to get to the office before the President and usually don't leave until well after him, so I probably get less sleep than the President, which might help explain why he is (at 58 years old) in much better shape than me ... or, maybe that's because he works out, and I don't.

(I am, however, a proud three-time member of the President's hundred degree club. 3 miles in a hundred degree heat. No time limits; you just can't walk. The key part - for my success - is 'no time limits'.)

Jackie, from Brooklyn, NY writes:
Hi Blake, you are doing a great job, I would like to know what is that bag that you always carry on your shoulder, when you are following the President. and, are you part of the secret service? I see you always talk to them.

Thanks a lot

Blake Gottesman
Fortunately for the President and the country, I am not - in any way - responsible for the President's safety. I do work closely with them, though. All the men and women of the Secret Service, especially the Presidential Protection Division (PPD), do a fantastic job, and I am proud to call many of them my friends.

The bag just has hair products for me. I keep all the President's official stuff in my suit pockets.

Kendall, from Tavares,FL writes:
What is Mr.President's favorite food?

Blake Gottesman
Kendall, it's hard to pin down one favorite food of his. If I had to pick one favorite food type, I'd have to say "Tex-Mex."

Abiye, from Alexandria VA writes:
How old are you? Are you as young as that kid on the West Wing on NBC

Blake Gottesman
dear abiye, I am 24 years old. I'm not sure how old 'Charlie' on the TV show 'West Wing' is. I do know that Charlie probably gets a lot more dates than I do.

Clifford, from Kent, Ohio writes:
Does the President have more than one Personal Aide? If so do you have some kind of schedule you work out? If not. Then you must have some pretty long days. When does your average day(if there is one) start and end? Have a good day.

Blake Gottesman
dear clifford, I am the only 'Personal Aide to the President'. My days are pretty long, but it'd be hard to describe an 'average day' - and that's probably one of the most exciting aspects of the job. We are leaving today for a five day, nine-state cross country tour. I got into the office this morning around 5:30am and probably won't finish tonight until around 10pm. Almost nine months ago, I was on a secret midnight flight to Baghdad. And weeks before that, we were staying in Buckingham Palace.

I consider myself very blessed and lucky to have had such fantastic experiences and to get to work for such a great person.


Aghogho, from Novi, MI writes:
Do you ever watch the West Wing? and is Charlie Young (President Bartlet's "Bodyman") an accurate portrayal of your job?

Blake Gottesman
aghogho, I watched the TV show 'West Wing' some during the 2000 presidential campaign from a non-descript cube in the campaign headquarters in Austin, Texas (my hometown). But, I haven't seen much of the show in the last three and half years. Charlie seems to be smarter, funnier, and better-looking. But, from what I remember - our jobs are probably pretty similar.

July, from ZHENJIANG, CHINA writes:
How many hours does Presedent Bush sleep a day?

Blake Gottesman
Wow, thanks for the question - from China! I couldn't tell you exactly how many hours a day the President sleeps, since it probably varies depending on his schedule, where he is staying, and few other things. Sorry I'm not more help. I probably get somewhere between four and six hours a night. (Not nearly as interesting, I know.)

Class, from Mullumbimby NSW Australia writes:
Why is the Whitehouse White?

Blake Gottesman
The very first 'Personal Aide to the President' made that decision long, long ago. Not sure why he chose white, though.

Michael, from Lenexa, KS writes:
Blake, How did you get to become the personal aide to the President of the United States? Did you interview for this position or were you asked to do it? What are some of your key responsibilities?

Thank you

Blake Gottesman
I didn't really have a formal interview for my current job. I had been working for the President for about two-and-a-half years by the time his former personal aide left, and i had been the back-up aide for his first year in the White House, so he and the Chief of Staff knew me pretty well by then.

Tony, from Fort Lauderdale writes:
You say the President has a great sense of humor. I think it is obvious in watching him that he is a lot of fun. Has he ever played a practical joke on you?

Blake Gottesman
There have been a lot of practical jokes with him and the other staff, but I'm not sure it'd be wise for me to go into those right now -- probably better to keep private.

Teri, from Lansing writes:
If you could date either Wilma or Betty, who would you pick?

Blake Gottesman
Neither. Judy Jetson takes the cake.

Mindy, from Saginaw writes:
I just watched the pastry chef's videos which are hilarious. Were the desserts made by Chef Mesnier really that good? Do you think he ever just went to Dunkin Donuts and brought back some pastries instead of actually making them? (I would -- no one would know lol)

Blake Gottesman
Now that you mention it, I did think it was weird that one of his cakes had the crusty, stale-tasting, wax-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth sprinkles on top ...

(Actually, his desserts really are that good. I think he's coming out with a cook book soon. You should check it out.)

Aaron, from Tulsa writes:
What is the coolest thing you've gotten to do in your job?

Blake Gottesman
Good question. And, very hard to answer. Some of the most memorable things have been being with the President on September 11, 2001; the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; landing on and sleeping aboard an aircraft carrier; the secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad; watching (and being a part of) the special forces demonstrations at Fort Bragg; staying in Buckingham Palace; staying at President Putin's dacha (country house) outside Moscow - and being in the Kremlin; visiting Mount Rushmore ... the list goes on. This is just part of why I consider myself the luckiest 24yr old college dropout, by far.

As amazing as all of those experiences were, some of the best memories I have from this job are a lot simpler. Watching the President with families who have lost a loved one in the armed forces, or watching him joke around with and comfort a sick child stand out in my mind much more than any palace ...

Jamie, from Oregon writes:
I have met Barney on a number of occasions and find him to be very standoffish for a dog. Do you share this impression?

Blake Gottesman
Barney's very friendly (especially with kids). As the President has said, he's just independent-minded.

Katherine, from Elmhurst, Illinois writes:
Although you are a personal assistant and not the Chief of Staff, is it still fair to say that you are probably the 2nd most powerful person in the world? Is there a turf battle between you and the Vice President? When you and the Vice President have a disagreement, who does the President listen to?

Blake Gottesman
Haven't had any disagreements w/ the Vice President before, but I can guarantee you he would win.

(Important not to confuse 'proximity to power' and power itself.)

Nathan, from Indiana writes:
Is President Bush allowed to grow a mustache? If so, I think he should consider it. I believe he would increase his image by at least 45 percent by doing so.

Blake Gottesman
Definitely my favorite question of the whole session. The look may be making a comeback - even so, I don't see a Presidential 'stache in the cards anytime soon.

Blake Gottesman
Thanks for all the questions. We're getting close to landing, so I better sign off. I look forward to doing this again. And stay tuned later this week. I believe Harriet Miers, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy will be answering your questions tomorrow on "Ask the White House." Thanks again.

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