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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.

Harriet Miers
Harriet Miers
Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
August 11, 2004

Harriet Miers

Hello, I am Harriet Miers. I am happy to take your questions today.

Andrew, from Mesa, Arizona writes:
Dear Ms. Miers, According to a poll by the Horatio Alger Association, 55 (plus or minus 3.1) of high school students, including new voters ages 18 and 19, believe that the federal government will reinstitute a military draft within the next few years. Also, 70 (plus or minus 3.1) of high school students oppose such a draft should it be reinstated. What is the White House's stance on this issue? Will the President reinstate the draft to meet the military's need for up to 80,000 more troops? Why or why not?

Thank you.

Harriet Miers
Hello, Andrew. While young people in our Nation should consider the wonderful careers available in the U. S. military, you will have to volunteer to serve. President Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke about this issue very recently. He tells us the military is not having any problem maintaining a force that is appropriate. He says that recruiting and retention are going well across the board. I feel so fortunate to be here in the White House and to have the opportunity to meet many wonderful men and women who are serving in the military. They are remarkable individuals. Some are doctors, some are nurses, some do communications, some are computer experts, some are managers, some are generals or Admirals who have served in combat.. We are all so fortunate to have the men and women in the U. S. military who step forward to serve our country. Many of them put their lives at risk to make our Nation safer and the world a better place. They are truly inspirational.

Rob, from Canada writes:
Has there been any progress in pushing forward energy reforms? This was an issue that seemed to be prominent in 2000 with Alaska drilling, resurfaced in 2001 with Vice President Cheney's task force, and again in 2003 with the blackout in the East. Given the recent run up in energy prices, what steps is the administration taking towards energy reform? Thanks for taking some time to answer our questions.

Harriet Miers
Thanks, Rob, for asking this very important question. As you may know, President Bush proposed over three years ago the first comprehensive energy plan in a generation and that plan called for the expansion and diversification of energy sources. Implementation of the President’s plan also would reduce our dependence on foreign sources for energy. He worked hard to get an energy bill passed by the Congress consistent with his plan, and he will continue to do so. The President also encourages energy conservation. The President believes in the benefits of technology. He has increased research on clean coal technologies and committed $1.7 Billion for research on hydrogen and fuel cell technology. The President has also sought to modernize electricity grids to prevent blackouts. Energy is a very important issue for our Nation, and I am glad you are concerned about it.

Clemencia, from Nogales, AZ writes:
Ms. Miers, Does President Bush speak Spanish? If so, where did he learn to speak it?

Harriet Miers
Yes, Clemencia, the President does speak Spanish. He apparently learned in his younger years in Texas, and in some classes in college. Speaking foreign languages is a real asset, and I encourage particularly young people in school to be sure and take advantage of the opportunity to learn a language.

Tim, from Pottstown, PA writes:
What does the President plan to do to crack down on domestic terrorists? An example of this would be the terrorists who bomb abortion clincs. We are rightly focused on foreign terrorists but the trial of Terry Nickol this week should serve to remind us that we have homegrown terror threats as well.

Harriet Miers
Tim, the President created the Department of Homeland Security, the most sweeping Federal reorganization since the Cold War. This department has a central mission: to protect the American people against any kind of terrorist activity. The President will continue to fight for tough measures to reduce crime, to help make our communities safe. One of his efforts is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national strategy to reduce gun violence. Gun prosecutions have increased by 68% and the violent crime rate is down 21% to a 30-year low.

carol, from dallas writes:
Why can't we do more to eliminate poverty in our country?

Harriet Miers
Carol, I am from Dallas also, and I appreciate your thoughtful question. This is a hard question to answer in the time and space I have available. However, I will mention three important things that government can do. The first is to make sure that every child in America gets a quality education. An effective education system helps demonstrate society’s commitment to each member regardless of income level, background, race, or ethnicity. That is why the President’s No Child Left Behind program is so important. This sweeping reform sets high standards and requires accountability for results, while providing flexibility to achieve those results. The President has increased funding 49% for K-12, funding for disadvantaged children is up 52%, and special education funding is up 75%. The President has set a goal that every student who graduates from High School will be ready to enter the workforce or attend college. Education brings opportunity. Second, government should help foster economic growth and prosperity, so all Americans can benefit from a thriving economy. The President has positive, pro-growth policies, and I invite you to visit the White House website to learn more about these policies. Finally, the President has been a stalwart advocate for service and for allowing those in need to have a choice in how their social service needs are met, including by faith-based organizations. He created USA Freedom Corps to encourage volunteer service throughout the country, and has done what he can to remove barriers that discriminate against faith-based organizations in the Federal grants process. He seeks to create a culture of service and responsibility in our Nation.

Paula, from San Antonio writes:
What exactly does the Asst to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy do? Is your job kind of like Josh Lyman on the West Wing.

Harriet Miers
Paula, my job principally is to help coordinate policy development for the Administration. In that role I have the opportunity to work with a team of some of the finest individuals I have ever known who are experts in their various fields. The President sets the agenda for the Nation, and we help develop policy recommendations to him to accomplish that agenda for the American people. Andy Card is our Chief of Staff, and he leads the staff in a remarkable way. You may have seen him on TV. He is from Boston. He does not have a Texas accent like me.

I am not a Josh. We do have two great Joshua's. One is Director of OMB and the other is an Assistant Press Secretary.

James, from El Paso, TX writes:
Dear Ms. Miers,What advances have been made in the development of hydrogen fuel cells and how much has the use of ethanol increased as part of our energy policy?


Harriet Miers
James, thanks for your question. As I indicated earlier, since the President took office he has placed a high priority on developing and implementing a National Energy Policy to increase our energy security through increased conservation, domestic production, and innovative technologies like ethanol and hydrogen. The President strongly supports the increased use of ethanol, a clean and reliable energy source produced on American farms. And as the President announced in his 2003 State of the Union Address, the US Government is embarked on a $1.7 billion initiative to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure, and advanced automotive technologies. These funds are being used to develop the technologies to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen. These research efforts are in the early stages, but we are hopeful that hydrogen will be a clean, reliable, and secure source of energy for the future.

Simon Willard clock Tom, from Old Greenwich, CT writes:
I have seen pictures of the tall-case clock in the Oval Office, and it looks like a Simon Willard to me. Please educate me Thanks.

Harriet Miers
Actually, the Simon Willard clock is in the Lobby of the West Wing. We call it a Gallery Clock, and it is made of gilded wood. We believe it was made around 1810. It is a type that was used in churches and public assembly buildings back then. One unusual thing is that the number four has four bars instead of the traditional Roman numeral. The four bars achieve symmetry. There is a tall-case clock in the Oval Office. It was created apparently by John and Thomas Seymour. Both are beautiful.

Jeannie, from Tampa, Florida writes:
Is it true that the right for African Americans to vote will expire in 2007, when the Voters Rights Act expires? From what I've been told is that Former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Act in 1965 and it was amended by Former President Ronald Reagan in 1982 for another 25 years. Please advise.

Harriet Miers
Thanks for the question, Jeannie. The Department of Justice has received numerous inquiries concerning a rumor that has been intermittently circulating around the nation that the Voting Rights Act will expire in 2007. The rumor is false. The voting rights of African Americans are guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, and those guarantees are permanent and do not expire. The 15th amendment to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibit racial discrimination in voting. Under the 15th amendment and the Voting Rights Act, no one may be denied the right to vote because of his or her race or color. These prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting are permanent; they do not expire.

There are some sections of the Voting Rights Act that need to be renewed to remain in effect. When Congress amended and strengthened the Voting Rights Act in 1982, it extended for 25 more years--until 2007--the preclearance requirement of Section 5, the authority to use federal examiners and observers, and some of the statute's language minority requirements. So, for those sections to extend past 2007, Congress will have to take action. But even if these special provisions are not renewed, the rest of the Voting Rights Act will continue to prohibit discrimination in voting.

I hope every American who can vote registers to vote and votes.

Alex, from Fargo, North Dakota writes:
Could you explain how Barney plays horseshoes?

Harriet Miers

The President throws the horseshoes to Barney, and Barney runs after them. Metal horseshoes are too heavy for Barney to lift, so he doesn't carry them around. Instead he moves them around with his nose. He has figured out pretty quickly how to get under the horseshoe enough to flip it over. As you know, the President loves horsing around with Barney.

Dennis, from Storck Barracks, Germany writes:
How do I get a flag flown over the White House? My unit has the oldest CW5 in the Army assigned to it and we want to present him one as a retirement gift.

Thanks very much.

Harriet Miers
The White House flags fly until they are no longer in good enough condition to be used, and then they are destroyed. You can, however, call the office of a member of the Congress and request a flag that has been flown over the Capitol building.

Robin, from Memphis writes:
Who is the Attorney General?

Harriet Miers
The Attorney General of the United States is John Ashcroft. He is doing an outstanding job. He also served previously as a Governor and Senator from Missouri.

Brent, from Caldwell, Idaho writes:
My questions concerns how many years a person may serve as president. It's my understanding that a president can run for only two terms, 8 years, but can acutally serve up 10 years. Am I correct? Thanks

Harriet Miers
Thanks for your question, Brent. In 1951, the XXII Amendment to the Constitution established that a person could be elected President only twice. The biggest exception to that rule is that a person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than 2 years may only be elected once. This is a rather long way of saying, yes, a person may only be elected President twice (serving a total of eight years), but may have served up to two additional years of a term to which another person was elected making a total of 10 years. For more information about the Constitution and the other seminal documents of our country, you can visit a Presidential initiative to explore the 100 milestone documents of American history.

scott, from glenwood, ia writes:
The adoption tax credit is a wonderful thing for people working on international adoption. But, with rising cost it is still very expensive.

Harriet Miers
You raise an important issue, Scott. Thanks for your question. President Bush wholeheartedly supports parents choosing adoption whether it be domestic or international. He has worked very hard to promote adoption -- especially the adoption of foster youth. In 2001, the President extended the adoption incentives tax credit, lifting some of the financial burden that falls upon adoptive parents. He extended and increased the adoption tax credit from $5,000 per child to $10,000 per child for qualified adoption expenses. For special needs adoptions, he increased the credit from $6,000 to $10,000, regardless of expenses.

You might also like to know that the President launched the AdoptUSKids website in 2002. To date, 2,300 foster children who were listed on the site are no longer foster children because they've found loving families to embrace them.

Belinda, from Colorado Springs, Colorado writes:
I am proud of President Bush for all the things he has done to keep our freedom a priority. I live in a miliraty town and it really close to home. I just wanted to know, when he has a free moment, what does he do in his 'down time'?

Harriet Miers
The President spends some of his down time exercising. He wants all Americans to live healthy lives, and exercise is an important part of doing so. He also reads a lot, and enjoys spending time with his family, friends, and, of course, Barney. He is a great role model for all of us. Like Blake, I don't always follow his example.

lonnie, from laredo writes:
Will the White House continue filling up the SPR despite the high oil prices?

Harriet Miers
Lonnie, the SPR is being filled to help insure our energy and national security, and the Administration will continue to fill it. It is scheduled to be filled by the middle of next year. It is important to understand that current deliveries to the SPR are a tiny fraction of global oil demand (only 0.15%). Filling the SPR has negligible, if any, impact on oil prices. We continue to support passage of an energy bill consistent with the President's comprehensive energy plan.

Harriet Miers, left, speaks with Margaret Spellings in the Chief of Staff's office.
Harriet Miers, left, speaks with Margaret Spellings in the Chief of Staff's office.
Chris, from Alexandria, VA writes:
Harriett- I understand that Margaret Spellings has left her position as Director of Policy at The White House for a position with the Dept. of Education. Who will take over her position as head of the Policy shop at the White House? Thanks.

Harriet Miers
Chris, no, Margaret is very much still Domestic Policy Advisor at the White House. I don't know where the rumor got started, but of course, education is one of her loves. She works closely with Secretary Rod Paige and the Department, but the team here at the White House is very glad she is still here dealing with education issues and all the myriad of other issues she handles.

Harriet Miers
I have enjoyed seeing what issues interest our writers today. Thank you for participating. I hope everyone has a great rest of the summer. Harriet