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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.

Dan Bartlett
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January 20, 2004

Dan Bartlett
Good afternoon, glad to be back here at Ask the White House. Tonight is a big night and President Bush is excited about his speech. Let's jump right into the questions!

Larry, from Seattle writes:
Does the President have a glass of water or something with him on stage when he is giving the state of the Union speech? Does he ever drink it?

Dan Bartlett
Larry, They do provide the President with a glass of water, but I've never seen him drink from it. It's there more as a - just in case he starts coughing moment!

Melanie, from Raleigh, NC writes:
Sir, ....a trivial question..out of curiosity.... Is there a particular room in the White House that President Bush uses to rehearse his State of the Union address? If so, which room? Thanks. Melanie

Dan Bartlett
Yes. The President uses the White House theatre to practice. We set the teleprompters up and a few his staff listen and give recommendations.

Matthew, from Bethesda MD writes:
Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl? Personally, I'm hoping for the New England Patriots.

Dan Bartlett
Always take the better defense -- the Pats. Although my heart is with the underdog... Carolina!

Josh, from Phoenix, AZ writes:
Good afternoon Mr. Bartlett. I'm sure you haven't had much sleep the last few days while preparing for tonight's speech, so I'll try to make this quick.

How much of the State of the Union address does the President actually write? I know the address is comprised of the President's policies and agenda and then written by speechwriters, but does the President sit down with a draft and a red pen and make many changes to the actual words?

Thanks for apprearing on "Ask the White House". This is a great tool for people to learn and get involved with the government.

Dan Bartlett
The President actually spends an enormous amount of time writing new lines, making edits and giving general direction to the speechwriters to rework sections of the speech. The entire process takes several months, particularly to focus on the actual policy development.

We give him a draft outline of the speech before Christmas and he received the first draft about 10 days ago. We're now on about draft 30 of the speech, but we're pretty close to nailing it down for good.

Between now and the speech, the President will rest, get some exercise, and the fine tune the speech for delivery. He's delivered several big speeches as President, but I have never seen him nervous.

Randy, from Albuquerque, NM writes:
Mr. Bartlett, As WH Comm. Director, how much of a hand do you actually have in the writing of the State of the Union address? Who else is involved in the preparation of the speech? Thanks very much for your time.

Dan Bartlett
Three speechwriters wrote most of the speech. I give general direction, suggested edits, and help broker differences between competing suggestions.

Claudia, from Portland writes:
Who picks out the President's clothes for major speeches? Does he do it himself, or do you help pick what color or pattern will look best on TV? Does Mrs. Bush help?

Dan Bartlett
He usually has an idea about what he wants to wear, but a couple of us give him suggestions as well. I bet Mrs. Bush weighs in as well!

Mary, from California writes:
Why is the State of the Union at 5:00 p.m. on the West Coast. Does the President not care if the west coast hears his speech? No one is home from work at that hour.

Dan Bartlett
Sorry about the early time - actually 6pm on the West Coast - but it wouldn't be practical to do it at midnight on the East coast.

Sara, from Dayton, OH writes:
What will be Bush's top domestic agenda going into his re-election?

Dan Bartlett
His top domestic agenda is turn this economic recovery into lasting prosperity -- that means creating more high-paying jobs and giving Americans the skills to compete for those jobs. He will have a lot to say about this tonight so tune in.

Owen, from Texas writes:
I am a fan of the President - however - I am also a fan of the TV show Frasier. Does the President worry about alienating those of us who have favorite TV shows that he will bump by choosing to do the state of the union on a week night during prime time?

Dan Bartlett
Tough call -- my favorite college basketball team -- the UT longhorns -- tip off tonight at 9pm! I guess work has to come first!

Steve, from Baltimore writes:
Does the President ever get mad at how many revisions occur prior to each State of the Union address? I have read that you might go thru 10-20 draft before the final copy is approved.

Dan Bartlett
He gets frustrated when people suggest unnecessary changes to the speech real late in the process. At this point, any changes better be good or they will get an earful!

Jim, from California writes:
Do you build in applause lines to a State of the Union address? Or do they just happen naturally?

Dan Bartlett
You build them in, but there always lines that get applause that we didn't anticipate.

Terry, from Oregon writes:
You must work very hard putting together such an important speech for the president. Do you ever watch the response offered by the opposition? That seems like it would make you mad, I mean, after all your hard work and everything. If you do watch the response, do you yell at the TV? I would.

Dan Bartlett
I yell at the TV, newspapers, radio... you get the point. It's important to hear what your critics are saying so you make sure the record is set straight.

Andy, from Mission Hills, KS writes:
As the economy continues to recover, and the expense of the war in Iraq decreases after next year, what is the administration's plan for deficit reduction?

Dan Bartlett
The President's budget this year will outline a specific plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. This will require the Congress to show discipline on spending the taxpayer's money, so President Bush will stress this point tonight.

Laura, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Dan, The space initiative is a horrible idea with poverty increasing, millions with no health insurance, the divide between the rich and poor growing -- a President who advocates increasing spending on the space program at such a time is not showing compassion.

What is your opinion?

Dan Bartlett
Obviously, I disagree. Space exploration is an incredibly important part of who we are as a country. Currently, NASA is spending billions of dollars without a clear mission or goal. The President thought it was important to provide a new mission and almost all the spending for this project will come from reorganizing their current budget.

This issues you raise are important -- and the President's budget will focus on strengthening our economy, helping those who can't help themselves, and tackling the rising costs of health care. I don't accept the notion that we can't do both.

Tom, from Louisiana writes:
What does the president do after his speech?

Dan Bartlett
Its pretty late at night. I'm sure he talks to his family and then heads off to bed.

Brahm, from Montreal writes:
Will there be a special section on the web site regarding the state of the union as in past years?

Dan Bartlett this will let you watch the speech and learn about the history of the State of the Union. You can also take a quiz to test your knowledge!

David, from Rochester Hills Michigan writes:
Mr. Bartlett, Is there ever a time during the President's term in office when he can talk without being recorded by someone, press or otherwise?

Dan Bartlett
Unfortunately, almost everything is recorded. But there are a few moments that are just for him.

ax, from Diegueno Middle School writes:
Do you think the capture of Saddam Hussein will lead to the capture of other terrorists? If so, How will President Bush do this?

Dan Bartlett
Capturing Saddam Hussein was very important - and we commend the US military forces who were successful in getting him. The mission in Iraq continues -- many of Saddam's loyalists and foreign terrorists want to deny the Iraqi people the freedom they deserve. We will continue to train the Iraqi people to govern themselves and we will help make their country secure.

Dan, from Ohio writes:
Dan - As a fellow "Dan" - do you ever get tired of people giving you nicknames involving the name "Dan?" In the last week I have been called, "Dan the Man," "Dan-o," "Danny Boy," "Danimal," and others. I am really tired of this.

Dan (Just Dan)

Dan Bartlett
I don't get these as much as I used to.... but "Danny Boy" really bugs me.

Dan Bartlett
Sorry, but I have to get back to my day job. I hope everyone tunes in tonight (unless its a Frasier episode you haven't seen) and listens to the President's agenda for our country. Thanks for the interesting questions.

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