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Former Counselor to the President
Karen Hughes
January 21, 2004

Karen Hughes
Hi, I'm Karen Hughes -- it's good to be here on Ask the White House! As always, I feel privileged to be in this fabulous place, and I'm glad to spend some time answering your questions this morning.

Jason, from Knoxville, TN writes:
It was quoted, I believe that it was an Australian newspaper, that the candidate President Bush was most afraid of was John Leiberman. How strong of candidate do you think John Lieberman is. And should President Bush not be worried more about Senator John Kerry?

Karen Hughes
People ask me all the time which candidate the President would prefer to run against, and I reply: the Democratic nominee. Right now, the Democratic primary seems to be quite topsy-turvy -- Democrats seem to be having trouble making up their mind. Once the Democrats have selected their nominee, the campaign for President will begin in earnest, and I think the American people will see two starkly different visions for the future of our country.

David, from Belize City, Belize writes:
What is your reaction to the recently released book by former Treasury Secretary O'Neil?


David Pohl

Karen Hughes
I haven't read the book, but thought many of his statements in interviews and excerpts were bizarre. I've worked for the President for ten years now, and I've never been in a meeting where he didn't ask tough, probing questions. It's one of the things he does best -- ask questions that get right to the heart of the matter.

Mr. O'Neill called the President "blind" and his former colleagues on the Cabinet -- smart, tough, opinionated people like Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld "deaf" -- then said he couldn't understand why anyone would be upset about his book -- I think that tells you everything you need to know about his skewed perspective.

John, from London writes:
As an American abroad, do you think the President should spend more time fence-mending with Allies or should he continue to build coalitions of the willing?

Karen Hughes
The President spends a great deal of time meeting with, visiting and reaching out to our friends and allies throughout the world -- I have been with him on numerous foreign visits and in meetings with foreign leaders.

He listens, he respects their opinion and he seeks their support -- after all, he was the one who decided to go to the United Nations to challenge that body to make its words mean something and stand up to Saddam Hussein after 12 years of diplomacy. As he said last night, he will reach out to our friends and allies, but will not allow a few nations to block actions that he believes are vital for America's security.

Mike, from Washington, DC writes:
Where are the WMD?

Karen Hughes
I think the only answer is that we are trying to find out. The evidence on which we acted was based on 15 years of information and analysis from the intelligence community, gathered during both Democratic and Republican administrations. I saw a recent interview with a senior career CIA employee, who said the information we were given did not suddenly change -- and had been consistently the information given American presidents and the Congress for 15 years.

It was based on the best information and analysis available. In his report, Inspector David Kay found-- and I quote -- evidence of "ongoing weapons of mass destruction activities" and Iraqi deception -- although the media frequently ignores that -- I notice it wasn't mentioned in several newspaper stories this morning. Those "ongoing weapons of mass destruction activities" would be ongoing to this day had we not acted.

We are continuing to seek all the facts, and the President will share them with the American people as we learn them.

Brady, from Vero Beach, Fl writes:
Being the advisor to the President, is the White House like the television show?

Does President tells jokes to senior staff?

Do you miss working in the White House?

Karen Hughes
We are not quite as hip as the youngsters on the West Wing -- most of us are a little older and married! But I think the show does a good job of capturing the intensity of what it is like to work in the White House -- one of the differences is that because it is television, the show has the luxury of focusing on only one issue each episode, and we never have a day like that in the White House. Usually, you have meetings and crises involving an incredible variety of difficult, complex subjects.

The President has a wonderful sense of humor, which is one of the reasons it is so much fun to work for him. I miss the daily interaction with President and Mrs. Bush and my colleagues -- they are great people -- but because President and Mrs. Bush are so thoughtful, I still get to spend a great deal of time with them -- they invited my family to come to Camp David over the weekend, so my son and I were able to bowl with the President and have several meals with President and Mrs. Bush and our chief of staff, Andy Card, and Condi Rice and our speechwriting team.

I'm also working with Mrs. Bush on some education projects in Afghanistan, so I get to see her a great deal. She is a wonderful person, very caring and warm and down to earth. Whenever I do start missing the action up here, it's usually about time for a visit!

Nancy, from Portland Maine writes:
Hi Karen, What were your feelings about the democrats who remained seated when the President stated the United States is safer without Saddam Hussein. I was in shock that they sat on their hands Thank-you.

Karen Hughes
I have to admit to being a little bit shocked too. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't think the world is safer without a tyrant who murdered his own people, used weapons of mass destruction against them and flouted the world for so many years.

Jim, from Utah writes:
Did you approve of the President's gay-bashing? Is it really appropriate to use the state of the union address to bash minorities and propose constitutional amendments to take away the rights of minorities? Bush seems so small, petty, and certainly unpresidential when he stoops to such hate-mongering. When I see your face on TV I am reminded of the president's bigotry and intolerance. Shame on both of you

Karen Hughes
I'm sorry you feel that way, because I don't believe it's valid. The president is a very compassionate and caring person. As he said, he believes it is possible to respect individuals while taking a principled stand for the important institution of marriage. He and I both believe that all individuals are created equal in God's sight.

Carolyn, from New Philadelphia, Ohil writes:
What do you do for yourself? I know as a mother who also works parttime, I can get busy with the family and with work, but it is important to have "mental health" times when I do something for myself. What do you do?

Karen Hughes
That's a great question, and it is important to take time for yourself. I love to putter around my house and work in the yard -- I have lots of flowers and spend some time almost every morning (not in the winter, but most of the rest of the year) watering and taking care of them.

I also go on long walks with my dog, a golden retriever named Breeze -- and I work out with weights at a health club a couple of times a week. I used to be a regular lap swimmer, but I hurt my shoulder last year -- I'm trying to get back to it, because I love the exercise and the quiet thinking time in the pool.

Andrew, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Are you still on the U.S. payroll now that you live in Texas?

Karen Hughes
No, I am not. For the year after I left government service, I worked as a consultant to the Republican National Committee because the lawyers advised that was the proper way for me to comply with ethics regulations and continue to advise the President.

Now, I am completely independent -- I earn my living by speaking and writing. I promised the President when I left the White House that I would help in his re-election campaign, so I anticipated sometime later this year I will become a consultant to the campaign -- and I promised that I would travel with him this fall as I always have during his campaigns for office.

J.D., from California writes:
Why is the President proposing what amounts to an illegal alien amnesty when poll after poll shows that Americans want a decrease in immigration across the board?

Karen Hughes
I don't agree with the premise. The President is opposed to amnesty because he thinks it would encourage further illegal immigration and reward those who broke the law.

The temporary worker program the President is proposing is a way to recognize the reality of the economy -- that many low skilled workers from other countries are here working because companies cannot find American workers to do those jobs -- and to make the process more orderly, thus freeing border patrol and other resources to guard against real threats to our national security -- and setting up a system where workers come, perform jobs, and then go home.

This program also preserves the path to citizenship for those who have played by the rules -- and doesn't allow those who came into our country illegally to jump ahead in line.

Karen Hughes
Thank you all so much for your great questions! I have to go out to the White House lawn for some radio interviews -- it's radio day here at the White House as well -- I'm sure many of you remember that old-fashioned form of communication known as radio! For all you high tech folks, many of those interviews will be posted on the White House website as well. Thanks so much for your questions!

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