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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.

Today's guest: White House Communications Director, Dan Bartlett

Dan Bartlett
June 24, 2003

Dan Bartlett
My name is Dan Bartlett, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director. I look forward to answering your questions today.

Fernando, from El Cajon, California writes:
If you could pick, who would you select as Governor of California -- Condoleezza Rice or Arnold Schwarzanegger?

Dan Bartlett
Currently, California has a Governor. I don't know if either of the people you have listed are going to run.

Betsy, from Santa Fe, New Mexico writes:
In your job, what sort of things require the President's approval? Does he usually take your advice and how exactly does one go about giving a suggestion to the President?!

Dan Bartlett
We usually try to keep the President informed about the big issues of the day and get his guidance on how to respond to them. He always listens to my advice, but I can assure you that I'm not batting a thousand!

Frank, from DC writes:
Is there anything the president can do about the parking ticket situation in DC? They are out of control. You park your car and they are trying to give you a ticket before you get out for parking too close to a fire plug even though you are far away! It is not fair here. Why don't they make the people who give the tickets instead fix the potholes? If Bush did this he would win DC in the next election. Thank you.

Dan Bartlett
Good advice. I've had my fair share of DC parking tickets!

MARTIN, from MARSHALL, MN writes:

Dan Bartlett
In fact, President Bush supports an investigation into the attacks of 9-11. That's why he worked with the Congress to set up the current Independent Commission. He is also concerned that we don't compromise current activities and intelligence gathering that will help us prevent future attacks.

Susan, from Alabama writes:
What are the best and worst things about working at the White House?

Dan Bartlett
Best: Having the opportunity to serve the American people and this President. Its an incredible place to work and I'm honored to be given the opportunity. Worst: The hours. I get to work around 6:15am in the morning and usually don't leave until late in the evening. As my wife says, 'its not a job, its a lifestyle!'

Lyle, from Salt Lake City writes:
I loved it when the White House gardener was on Ask the White House. You probably aren't as good of a gardener he is, but I'll try anyway. Do you have any suggestions for crabgrass?

Dan Bartlett
I can't solve your crabgrass problem. Although I did work one Summer as a groundskeeper at a local golf course.

Billy, from New Jersey writes:
Who is the toughest member of the President's cabinet? If there was an iron cage match and all cabinet members were put in that cage, who would be the last man or woman standing?

Dan Bartlett
Well Billy, that's a tough one. I will put my money on the former general, Sec Powell.

Richard, from Fraites writes:
Why did the Bush Administration omitedit the latest EPA report regarding global warming? Are campaign donations THAT important?

Dan Bartlett
President Bush makes decisions based on what makes good public policy -- not campaign donations. With respect to the recent EPA report - The Council on Environmental Quality's role is to provide advice and commentary on the government's environmental policy. Global warming is a serious issue that requires answers based on science. That's why President Bush has dedicated new funding to research global warming.

Phil, from Biloxi writes:
Dan, I hear a lot of rumors about the Vice President being quite the dancer. I hear his favorites are the Mambo, Salsa, Mergengue and the Cha Cha. But is it true that he is most accomplished in the dance world as a Clogger? Thanks

Dan Bartlett
Phil, you have more information regarding the Vice President's dancing habits than I do... Clogger???

Marciano, from Bakersfield, CA writes:
My students have a question: Why does the US spend inordinate amount of money, time, and manpower on solving world problems while domestic problems go unchecked?

Dan Bartlett
Marciano, I don't agree with the premise of your question. The US spends an incredible amount of money on both domestic and international problems. That's why President Bush's most recent budget focus' on our nation's priorities at home and abroad: strenghthening the economy, winning the war, protecting the homeland, and improving our education system in America.

Jim, from Boiling Springs, South Carolina writes:
Good afternoon, Mr. Bartlett. Is there really a RED telephone? Thank you. P.S. Thank you for your service.

Dan Bartlett
Sorry to inform you that there is no red phone in the oval.

Kent, from California writes:
Can you please tell Ari that he should just tell the press to go to h*ll when they start up with him at his daily press conference? They seem to want to make a scene so that they get covered on the evening news.

Dan Bartlett
Interesting perspective and advice. Thankfully, Ari is a real pro and treats the press with respect.

Ginny, from Denver, Colorado writes:
How does the president react to criticism in the press? It would seem to me that would eventually get to someone - all the carping and carrying-on from the media.....

Dan Bartlett
The President doesn't spend much time worrying about what is said about him in the press. He pays us to worry about it.

Wayne, from Idaho writes:
When will the president make an EPA admin selection? Will it be Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho?

Dan Bartlett
The President has not made a decision. We will let you know as soon as we have something to announce.

Andrew, from Oak Ridge, NC writes:
What is your job as Communications Director?

Dan Bartlett
I oversee all aspects of communications from the White House. That includes all aspects of dealing with the press (working with Ari Fleischer), speechwriting, global communications, and I am also in charge of the picture when the President does public events.

Steve, from Iowa writes:
People from Texas seem to use a lot of unusual sayings, All hat, no cattle comes to mind. You are from Texas and many people who work with you are from Texas, so if a bunch of my friends from Iowa were to listen into a conversation between you and your co-workers would we understand anything you were saying? Anything at all?

Dan Bartlett
Steve, that's an interesting question... coming from a guy from Iowa! We Texans do have interesting sayings, but there are plenty of translators around here to get me through the day.

Danny, from USA writes:
Do you travel with the President? If so, is there such a thing as a political groupie? Do women stalk White House staff like they do professional athletes? Please answer, I am trying to decide to get into politics or sports, your answer will help me make my decision.

Dan Bartlett
Yes, I do travel with the President. But to date, I have not been stalked. While some people may consider politics a "contact sport" I would recommend going into sports.

Shawn, from Madison writes:
Do people always ask you if working in the White House is anything like the television show The West Wing? Do they make fun of the fact that you share the same last name as Martin Sheen's character or that your TV counterpart is bald?

Dan Bartlett
I am often asked about the The West Wing. In fact, I was fortunate to recently meet "Toby". He's a great guy and we enjoyed talking about our "job". I can assure you we are not constantly running around 24/7 making dramatic decisions. The real West Wing is also much smaller than depicted on TV.

WHFan#1 writes:
You are the Communicatiions Director and Ari is the Press Secretary - what is the difference between the two jobs?

Dan Bartlett
Ari exclusively deals with the White House Press Corps, which is comprised of reporters representing the large national news organizations (NBC, CBS, New York Times, Associated Press, etc.) While I have a role in dealing with the national press, I am also responsible for all other aspects of communications (speeches, presidential events, etc.)

Craig, from Rumson, New Jersey writes:
Does anyone you work with have background experience in Hollywood?

Dan Bartlett
No, but one of my deputies is a former award-winning news producer with ABC News.

Ron, from California writes:
Mr. Bartlett, I was wondering how many times do you see the President a day?

Dan Bartlett
It depends on the day. Several times if there's a lot going on. But usually at least once a day.

Shannon, from New York writes:
Do you think the news media dictates each day's news coverage, or does the White House float ideas to the press that they then cover? Or is this a chicken and the egg type situation where both sides think they control what is covered?

Dan Bartlett
I am painfully aware that the news media has far better control over what you see and read. We try to make sure they have the facts.

Stanley, from Seattle writes:
Are you aware of the rumors of a monkeypox outbreak in crawford?

Dan Bartlett
Glad to see someone in Seattle is concerned about Crawford, TX. I haven't heard about it.

Dawn, from Ohio writes:
Taking the President and Vice President out of consideration, who is the smartest person at the White House?

Dan Bartlett
That's an easy one: Mrs Bush.

Houston, from Texas writes:
Does the White House mess serve Big Red?

Dan Bartlett
I don't believe so, but we're checking...

We checked, the White House Mess does not serve Big Red, however, they do serve Code Red Mountain Dew, which I understand is tasty.

Henry, from Syracuse writes:
Dan, We still haven't found the Weapons of Mass Destruction. Are they there? Do they exist? Why so long?

Dan Bartlett
Yes, they exist. In Iraq and we will find them. Saddam Hussein spent the last decade hiding these weapons from the entire world. It will take time, but I am confident we will find them.

Javal, from Raleigh writes:
What was your major in College?

Dan Bartlett
Political Science from the University of Texas

Don, from Boston, MA writes:
Hello Mr. Bartlett, As someone who has been with the President for a very long time, I am wondering what the most memorable moment has been thus far for you to witness. Thanks very much.

Dan Bartlett
Two come to mind: First, I was with the President on 9-11 and saw first-hand how he and country responded to the terrorist attacks. I will never forget it. Second, I won $100 bucks off of the President back in 1997 when I beat his running time in the Austin 10K. I still have the check framed and signed by him.

Jenny, from Albany, Texas writes:
Dear Mr. Bartlett, President Bush is my hero, and I would like to know what it is like to work for him. Do you get to fly in Air Force 1? Is he a good boss? Do you have as many UT shirts as my daddy? Thank you!

Dan Bartlett
Its an incredible experience to work for the President. He's the same person today as he was when I met him more than 10 yrs ago. AF 1 is very cool. I bet I have more UT shirts... HOOK'EM!

Dan Bartlett
Well, its time to hang up the keypad. Thanks for all the good questions and I look forward to doing it again real soon.

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