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.
Hi. It is great to be here. I've been a part of every chat (except one, when I was out ill), but I love "Ask the White House" because it encourages a discussion between the citizens and the White House. With that, let's get the ball rolling. Fire away...
Brian, from Dallas, TX
Hi Thank you for taking the time for questions. I log on to whitehouse.gov everyday after lunch just to see what's new. I notice that the site is very well managed and updated regularly. Where are you that you can maintain it so rapidly?
We have a great team here. And of course, the home page is so very important to any web site. We have to keep it updated frequently. Sometimes when there is not a Presidential event, it can get difficult to make it fresh and new. But a stale site is a killer. The visitors dont come back. So we strive to keep it new through a variety of ways.
We find that Ask the White House has been a good way to keep the site fresh and to encourage interactivity. Interactivity is one the THE most important keys to a quality web site. But as Ive said, this is just the beginning. We have many more ideas that are being worked on.
Julie, from Washington, DC
Which Administration started having a White House website? What do you think is the most intersting feature available on today's White House website - other than "Ask the White House", of course?
Good question, Julie. The Clinton administration was the first to have a web site. I believe it was launched in 1994. I think it was redesigned four times. Weve redesigned ours now two times. A major overhaul in August of 2001. Then a tweaking last year. I think we will continue to see it evolve.
My favorite portion of the web site is Ask the White House. But outside of that, I love our tours page (which is being redesigned) simply because it offers the online video tours, which are great to watch.
I think our Iraq page was an interesting step. We decided to break a rule of uniformity and create a different format different navigation, different header a drastically different design. The jury is still out for me on this approach, but I like the fact that we, to use a WAY OVERUSED saying, thought out of the box.
Staff, from Casper Wy
What is the new name for pebble beach?
Hello to my home state of Wyoming! For those of you not familiar with the White House Pebble Beach -- it is the strip of land outside of the West Wing where the TV networks broadcast. Youll see a number of cameras in this area.
It was called Pebble Beach because there were little rocks on the ground (very creative). It recently got a face-lift and is quite a bit nicer now, but the little rocks are gone and have been replaced with stone. The press has apparently renamed Pebble Beach Stonehenge.
Frank, from New Jersey
Do you think the government uses the internet effectively as a tool for reaching out to America? Without a doubt, we use it--but do you feel it's effective or could use improvement? Also, I know that you don't get into the "politics" side of things, but on a personal level--would you credit Howard Dean's surge in the 2004 campaign to his use of internet outreach?
Frank, good question. I think the government is getting better all the time with using the Internet. It is still a relatively new medium, but in the short span of time it has been around, it has dramatically changed our lives. It is an exciting time. It has made our lives easier in many respects. Google it, for example is a phrase that is probably said millions of times a day now.
To properly harness the tremendous power of the Internet, government must do more than just put forms online. It is about significantly improving the governments quality of customer service for citizens and businesses.
How do we do that? President Bush outlined a management agenda for making government more focused on citizens and results, which includes expanding E-Government.
And these E-Gov Initiatives will make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars, and streamline citizen-to-government transactions.
The results are impressive. Go here: www.whitehouse.gov/egov to find out more.
This is a topic I love talking about so I hope we can further discuss it.
John, from Des Moines, Iowa
I read where the White House press corps were complaining that the Bush White House was using "other means" to get their message out to the American people and they specifically cited regional media and the internet. As an American I find this offensive that this snobbery bunch feels "they" are the only way we should get our news. Please tell me that you won't stop doing internet chats such as these, just because this crowd was complaining? Thanks for your efforts.
We have received such great feedback for our Ask the White House online program and we will continue to host these discussions.
Really it is the first time that citizens can interact with the administration in real-time on a mass scale. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The online community is very important to this administration; it always has been. And we look forward to continuing to host Ask the White House,; improving Ask the White House, and offering many other ways to bring the White House closer to the people.
We took a small step in that direction a year ago when we offered video tours of the White House and the West Wing. The Presidents Oval Office tour is one of the most frequently watched videos on our site. Of course it goes beyond video tours but our goal on the web site is to help make the citizens more of a participant rather than a spectator. And we feel that Ask the White House is a good step in the right direction.
And we want your suggestions. Make sure to drop me an email if you have a good idea. I look at the feedback email daily, so please participate.
briana, from oxon hill
where is the white house located
We get this question every time we do Ask the White House. So much, that we are starting a FAQ section soon and this will probably be at the top of the list. The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
Sam, from Cambridge, MA
Hello Jimmy, let me first say that I love checking out whitehouse.gov - it's really informative and has cool pictures of the President and his visitors. Does the White House have a team of dedicated web developers and programming gurus who maintain the website? How do you protect yourself from hackers who might infiltrate into the website and do some bad stuff? Thanks, and have a good day :-)
Great questions Sam. We have such a great team here. We have to work together or the site wont work. You mention cool pictures. Well, we have to maintain close coordination with the photo office to get the photos up. Thanks to Eric and his team (special shout-out to Lynden who I drive crazy). It means close coordination with the tech team as well the best programmers and designers you could ask for. Monty has put together a great team. This is a huge site and it is the result of many, many people. I just like the fact that the White House truly values the online world. Its gratifying.
William, from Colorado writes:
How many hits does the White House Website receive during an average day? Will the BarneyCam run again this Christmas season?
Thanks It's a great site
We get a ton of hits per day. I dont have the latest numbers on me, but millions of hits per day. Weekday numbers are highest and we have peak traffic in the late morning/early afternoon, which is the standard drive-time for the Internet world. Barney Cam was such a great experience. And it is still available, click here. We are talking about a sequel. Of course, Barney is a superstar so contract talks might take a long time. Stay tuned...
Rick, from Lusk, WY
I keep getting these annoying pop-up ads when I surf my sports sites... ;-) Can the President do anything about that? If he can't, can you?
Yeah, pop-ups are annoying as are pop-unders. We rarely use them here. Now, we have in special instances and I think it was okay. Im still undecided as to whether we should ever use them. If you do, its gotta be sparingly. And I agree with you on pop-up and pop-under ads. Cant stand em. I really, really appreciate the commercial web sites that dont use them.
Lindsey, from TX, USA
What is your favorite part of designing the web page? What program do you use?
Well, Im not a designer. So luckily weve had great designers in the past and a great designer now who comes up with the ideas. I think weve done some really good work. I like the overall design; I like the Iraq template; I like the new do not call page. Very clean design; crisp; easy to navigate.
Crystal, from Minnesota writes:
I am wondering about Iraq and the progress being made. Any and all I know of the situation in Iraq comes from the t.v. or newspapers and only God knows how much of it is true. My husband is currently over there and there is possiblity that my father is going over there after he fully recovers from a surgery he had. I know that this is an ongoing situation but I want to know where we honestly stand with our progress on everything. I understand that there are some things that are confidential due to what ever reasons. I just want a straight forward answer. I don't know if this is the kind of question you would normally respond to or if it is a question that needs to be addressed to someone else. Thank you for your time.
Thanks for writing in Crystal. Dan Senor was on Ask the White House about a week ago. He works for Ambassador Bremer in Iraq and discussed the progress made.
Check out his chat: /ask/20031010.html
But also, review the videos on this page. They are from the people on the ground in Iraq who can tell you first hand about the progress.
Furthermore, we look forward to having guests on frequently (hopefully weekly) to discuss Iraq and to answer your questions. Thanks again
Kelly, from Arlington, VA writes:
Can we tour the white house?
Yes, you can tour the White House. I will refer you to two places. The first is the White House tour page which should answer your question. It is located here: /history/tours/
But also take a look at Clare Pritchetts chat on Ask the White House. She answered a ton of questions that we frequently receive: /ask/20030924.html
The cool thing about going on a tour is you never know who you might run in to. My guests have been most delighted when they see Barney running around.
Pacho, from Mexico writes:
What is the best thing about your job? How does someone become an internet guy?
There are many great things about my job. I love it. Getting the opportunity to work with so many of the people here is a highlight. Just the other day to have Secretary Don Evans in here to discuss his personal experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan was outstanding. Faith-Based Director Jim Towey was on the show yesterday and he has such a passion for what he does. I wanted him to stay on for three hours yesterday. So definitely getting an opportunity to interact with so many great people here is the highlight.
Second part of your question, Ive never been a tech-guy. I dont know how to program. Ive always been a communications person, but my emphasis has been in the online world. I think this is the best job in the White House.
Jackie, from Lopez writes:
Hi Jimmy I would like to thank you for your service. we enjoy so much all of your work. you keep us informed, and the live video is great. just a small thing, who is the guy who always comes out a minute before the president and puts down the speech on the podium? he is always behind the president. Thanks again, God bless..
That is Blake, the Presidents assistant.
Bob, from McBobby writes:
How many rooms are in the White House
Another FAQ ..132
Diana, from Virginia writes:
Who do you think has been the best guest on ask the white house? what's next for the site? will barney and spot be giving tours this year?
Great question. Im not certain. Ive really enjoyed these because you see all sides of the guests. You see their senses of humor and their passion for what they do. It can be a serious discussion; an enlightening discussion; and a humorous discussion all in the same chat.
I loved it when Mrs. Bush hosted Ask the White House in July. Eric Drapers chats are great because we use photos at the same time. Jim Toweys chats are always inspirational.
Having Gary Walters (chief usher) and Bill Allman (curator) on the show was outstanding. The history and first hand knowledge of the White House that they have is fascinating.
Weve had White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on twice and both times his staff had to get him away from the computer because he was running late for other meetings, but really enjoyed doing it so he didnt want to stop.
I do enjoy the lighter moments. From someone asking Gary Walters if we ever serve Count Chocula at State Dinners, to the individual asking if he can get his ex-wife on the do-not-call list, to the regular communication between King Bloop Zod from Mars and Secretary Mel Martinez, it really is a lot of fun.
Your second question
were talking about sequels
Scott, from Iowa writes:
Id love to see Dr. Rice as a guest on one of the chats.
Im with you. I agree. Were in the process of scheduling. Hope to have Dr. Rice on soon.
My copy of RealPlayer v2, Build 6.0 reports a failed connection at: http:www.whitehouse.govnewsreleases20010920010920-8.a.ram which is associated with President Bushs Sept. 20th address to congress. Is this link indeed broken Id really like to listen to and obtain a copy of this speech.
Other links on the respective page seem to be broken as well. Please advise when it might be repaired.
Thank you very much
There have been some issues with some of our archived video lately. I know the tech team is working on fixing these issues and were making good progress. Thanks for the feedback.
Jason, from Cleveland, Ohio
How often do you update your site with news?
As often as news is made. If the President gives a speech, it goes up on the site. Or the Vice President. Or when Scott McClellan holds a press briefing. The same goes for an Ask the White House. The challenge is how to make the site fresh when there isn't a specific news event. If the site gets stale, it dies. This is always the challenge. But I think we do a pretty good job.
Ive tried many times to watch the WHITE HOUSE OVAL OFFICE TOUR,all I get is a
blank box...what do I need to watch this,I have real one and Windows media
player.Thanks so much any help is appreciated
Thats not good. Right now, we offer our videos in the Real format. But we are working toward offering them in Windows as well (hopefully very soon). Sometimes you cant go as quickly as you would like but we are moving in the right direction. Ill check with our tech team to make sure that the error isnt on our side.
For those of you who haven't seen the online tours (and assuming they are working okay), go to the tours page.
Monty, the commander of the tech team just tested out the Oval Office video. It should work fine.
ryan, from bloomington, mn writes:
why was only the twenty dollar bill modified or updated? When will the others be updated? if they are going to be.
It just so happens that we had Rob Nichols last week to discuss the new $20. Go here: /ask/20031017.html
Paul, from Purcellville, Va. and Wash., DC
Jimmy. Come clean one which of your guests had the hardest time with the keyboard.
You are trying to get me in trouble, man.
Ann, from Marlyland writes:
Can you describe for us the president's involvment with the hope on aids effort for Afirca?
Thanks Ann. Here is some good information for you:
Lauren, from Delaware writes:
Mr. Orr, you have drastically changed how the White House uses the internet through interactive programs like this one. How do you think this precedent will effect future administrations?
Great question. The Internet has become, in its short lifespan, such a powerful medium. You cant turn back the clock. The Internet will become more and more essential as the years go by. It is essential now. Really, were just beginning. We do textual Ask the White House discussions now. I think the next step is video Ask the White House discussions. This is where the guest gets the email and responds via live video, of course webcasted from here. That's the next step and we're discussing the best way to pursue.
But like I said, the Internet will continue to grow and become more and more important. Right now, according to an arbitron and edison media research study, 80 percent of Americans have access to the INternet . This contrasts with 31 percent in 1998.
What's great are the webcasting stats. Number of Americans who used INternet broadcasts in the past month was 50 million people. Webcasting is for real.
In short, the importance of the Internet will continue to grow -- really grow.
Andrea, from Cincinnati writes:
I think you and your staff do a great job with the whitehouse.gov web site. It has become one of my favorite websites Keep up the good work
One area I do have a question about. Why hasn't the photo index been updated on whitehouse.gov? I think the White House photographers do a fantastic job. More of their work should be displayed. Thank you
Yes, I know. This is a portion of the site that needs attention and work. To that end, we had a meeting just two days ago to discuss how we move forward and dramatically improve the presentation for our amazing photos. I think we will see some real progress very soon.
Brandon, from Maryland writes:
How often to meet with Dan Bartlett to discuss website content? Thank you.
Dan is the Communications Director for the White House. He actually did a chat a couple months ago. Obviously, the Internet falls under Communications so we discuss content frequently.
Terry, from Los Angeles writes:
We need to be able to download the President's weekly radio address (Spanish version) each week for airing on our radio stations. Could you make a link available for direct download as opposed to having to play it through RealPlayer?
That's a good thought. The President's radio addresses are available here. And we will discuss making the address downloadable. In the past, we've streamed all of our webcasts -- but it is something we can discuss. Thanks for the suggestion.
Steve, from Bethesda, MD
Dear Mr. Orr, You guys do a fantastic job running the White House web site. However, I have had trouble accessing the audio and video for a majority of the 2002 speeches. Is there any way you could look into fixing this?
I'm not certain why this is the case. But I do know the tech team is working on the problem and hopefully we'll have it fixed soon.
Robert, from Houston writes:
Mr. Orr, How many people visit the site daily, and how many of those utilize the Spanish section?
Again, I don't have specific numbers, but we do get a lot of traffic and this number has increased dramatically over the past 2 1/2 years. I'm really pleased with the progress on the Spanish site. It isn't perfect yet -- but we're moving in the right direction. We update it daily and it is getting better all the time.
cortney, from florida writes:
Can u send me pictures of the places in side the white house like the oval office and the rest of the place...Im doing a report and it would allow me to get a really good grade. thanks.
Cortney, I want you to get a good grade. I'm here to help. Go here:
There are great photos on this page and the corresponding pages.
Let me know if you get a good grade. If you don't, you can blame it on me. I'll write you a note claiming full responsibility : )
Amanda, from Haysville, KS writes:
Hello, I am a high school senior, and it has just been brought to my attention that the government is thinking of getting rid of the penny. Now, I am not sure about the credibility of the story I heard, so I am out looking for some answers. I am planning on doing my newspaper story (for my school paper) on the new money that is coming out, and the addition of this penny story would be great I searched the web for treasury news, but I have yet to actually find anything on the topic. I would thank you for a response, and maybe it could be forwarded to my e-mail, I realize you are all very busy people, and I am as well.
Thank you for you time Amanda
It just so happens that I've got the information for you. Our friend Rob Nichols addressed this very issue just last week on "Ask the White House." Here's the link:
Now, if you don't want to read the whole chat (which you should because it is highly interesting), just search for the word "penny." He addresses it more than once -- including a really bad joke.
Steve, from Seattle writes:
When are you going to start having Windows Media Player compatiblity?
Hopefully very soon. We understand the importance of providing our media content in that format as well. Thanks for understanding and sorry about the delay.
Andrea, from Alexandria, VA
I heard a rumor that Barney, the First Lady's little Scottish terrier, perished in an "unfortunate accident." (actually , I heard he was accidentally dropped by President Bush) However, his portion of the website does not have any information on this. What is the scoop on this? If poor Barney really did meet his demise, I think that his fans have a right to know what happened. Thank you.
Not at all, Andrea. Barney is alive and doing very well. As a matter of fact, make sure to tune in very soon when we have an online discussion about Barney and Spot.
Tomas, from Alabama writes:
When I try to print out pages on your web site, the right side gets cut off. Can you please do something about this?
Hate to pass the buck, Tomas. But it isn't our site. Actually, what you need to do is reconfigure your printer settings. Take some of the margin space out of the left and right side of your page. Mine are .25 on each and that way I can print out our web pages. Let me know if this doesn't work.
Shaneeda, from Washington, D.C.
What sort of training did you get to run a web site, and do you have advice for someone who would want to get into this field?
I've always been a communications guy Shaneeda. But I grew interested in the online world in the mid 90s and just migrated toward online communications. As this is a communications medium, I would suggest the study of journalism.
Curly, from Los Angeles
Is that your real hair?
Ezra, from Orlando writes:
Didn't you used to play for the Baltimore Colts? You don't look that old.
Jimmy Orr was a great football player for the Baltimore Colts and then the Pittsburgh Steelers. I actually have a football from Jimmy Orr which reads, To Jimmy Orr, See you in the NFL, Jimmy Orr. I received it when I was six months old. I never quite made it to the NFL, but Im an avid Denver Broncos fan. Jake Plummer is for real folks. Just give him a couple weeks to heal.
Ryan, from Fair Oaks, CA
I was wondering if it was possible to post on this web site what Executive Orders the President has signed while in Office, what Bills he has signed, and what his position is on pertinent matters.
This would make it alot easier for American's to see what their President has done and make re-election much easier easier for the Commander in Chief.
Ryan, good feedback. Executive Orders are located here:
You can find out policy positions by going here:
/infocus/index.html (this page is constantly updated, and probably needs a good update right about now)
As for bill signings, they are listed on the site but on the news index. Good idea about having a special section.
Thanks for the feedback. This is the great thing about the interactivity.
Brian, from Pentagon writes:
How does the White House feel about Joe Torre's decision to bench Alfonso Soriano in last night's game?
Good question Brian. Of course, Ari would have had a strong opinion on this matter. And I don't know if the White House has an official position. I'm just hoping it goes seven. The ALCS and the NLCS produced some great, great baseball this year. I'm hoping the World Series can live up to the same drama.
Kim, from Nineveh, IN
I don't actually have a question....just a comment. Wanted to let the President know that we are praying for him and how proud we are to have him as our President. We know that it is not easy to stand up for what you believe with all the negative press and all the other wordly influences bombarding him each day. Just would like to thank him for being a man of integrity and to let him know that we are all behind him in his endeavors....Kim
Thanks Kim. I will pass this along.
Thanks for the questions all. I look forward to doing this again. And please submit feedback. Like I said, I check the feedback email every day and we listen to your comments. There are a lot of good ideas out there and we appreciate hearing from you. We'll do this again soon. Jimmy