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Ask the White House - 2004 Guests Ask the White House Archives
 JULY
July 30 2004 | 6:00 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Barbara from Bowling Green Public Library:
What must I do to have the "President" send a birthday card to a wonderful full-time wife and mother who will be 90 years old on October 26, 2004?

Heidi Marquez Smith A: Heidi Marquez Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence:
Dear Barbara, Thank you for your interest in requesting a greeting from President Bush. You may submit a request via fax at 202-395-1232, mail to The White House, Attn: Greetings Office, Washington, D.C. 20502-0039, or by Web Mail located on the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/. Please make sure to include your mother's full name with appropriate salutation, date of birth, mailing address, and your (the requestor's) name and daytime phone number. We ask that requests for greetings are received in our office at least six weeks in advance of the event date. At this date I recommend you fax or use White House Web Mail to submit your request. We will make every effort to send the greeting in time for your special occasion. For more information on our guidelines and the types of greetings you may request please visit the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/.

July 30 2004 | 12:00 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Stephen from Arizona:
Recent legislation was sent to the president for his signature, H.R.218. This was a law enforcement act giving sworn police officers the right to carry concealed weapons across state lines without restrictions imposed by individual states. Was it in fact signed into law by the president? Thank You

Ginger Loper A: Ginger Loper, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs:
Yes, H.R. 218, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 was signed into public law (PL 108-277) on July 22, 2004. This law allows retired and off-duty law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms in the hope that they may be better able to respond to crime and help protect innocent lives.

July 29 2004 | 4:15 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Stephani from Livermore, California:
I was wondering if there is a way to send any encouraging mail to the Italian Prime Minister...to thank him for standing firm and let him know that so many Americans are praying for him as well? Thank you for helping me know how to go about this.

Sincerely, Stephani

Colby Cooper A: Colby Cooper, Director for Communications and Media Relations, National Security Council:
Stephani

I would recommend sending it to our Ambassador to Italy. Thanks for your email and your support.

The Honorable Mel Sembler

Ambassador
Embassy of the United States of America
via Vittorio Veneto 119/A
00187 Roma, Italia

July 28 2004 | 3:27 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Jackie from Morgantown, West Virginia:
Does Barney ever eat dessert?

Roland Mesnier A: Roland Mesnier, White House Pastry Chef:
No, I don't give Barney desserts because it is against the rules and regulations. The President and First Lady have requested that we do not feed Barney because we want to keep Barney slim and trim like everyone else in the residence.

Why should he get fat?

But Barney has a way of getting his own dessert. If he happens to see me in the elevator or anywhere in the White House, he runs to my shoes and starts licking them.

Guess why? There is sugar on my shoes, and buttercream and chocolate. Barney absolutely loves it. He would know my shoes among thousands of other shoes.

July 27 2004 | 4:17 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Andrea from Cincinnati, OH:
Once the President leaves office, can he/she be employed in another occupation? Why can't a President run for another political office after they leave the Presidency? Is there a law stating that they can't either run for political office again or work in any other industry? Thanks.

Ruben Barrales A: Ruben Barrales, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs:
Presidents can still work after leaving office, and more than a few have. For instance, Former President Gerald Ford has served on corporate and charitable boards since the end of his Presidency, and former President Jimmy Carter has embarked on a second career as a humanitarian and leader with groups like Habitat for Humanity. Since the ratification of the 22nd Amendment in 1951, no person may "be elected to the office of the President more than twice." But former Presidents can still run for or serve in other public offices, and a number of them have. To cite just a few examples, former President John Quincy Adams had a distinguished post-presidency tenure in the U.S. Congress, and former President William Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

July 23 2004 | 2:38 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Kathleen from Ventura, California:
I got into a debate with a friend after reading the book 'Deception Point' by Dan Brown. Is there any truth to the section about switching the carpet in the Oval Office when the country is at war or peace? Specifically, the American Eagle's talons facing left toward the olive branch in peace and right toward the arrows at times of war. I personally think it's fiction but my friend is insistent that it is a fact. Thank you

Bill Allman A: Bill Allman, White House Curator:
There is just one Seal of the President at any given time, and it does not change according to whether or not the United States is at war. However, the Seal has undergone modifications over the years. President Truman modified the Seal in 1945, and the changes included turning the eagle's head to face its right as opposed to its left.

A press release issued after the new design was approved said, "In the new Coat of Arms, Seal and Flag, the Eagle not only faces to its right--the direction of honor--but also toward the olive branches of peace which it holds in its right talon. Formerly the eagle faced toward the arrows in its left talon--arrows, symbolic of war."

Although the eagle featured in the Presidential Seal has faced its right ever since, there are items in the White House collection that were made before 1945 that display the eagle facing its left (such as state services, furnishings, architectural elements, etc.)

July 23 2004 | 11:10 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Lauren from Queens, NY:
How far in "advance" does the Advance staff go for an event? What sort of things do they make sure are ready for when the President arrives?

Greg Jenkins A: Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Advance:
About five days ahead of the President on a domestic trip. Ten days for an overseas stop. We are responsible for every minute of the President's schedule from wheels down to wheels up. We build events, work with locals, prepare for the local and national media, organize all logistics ... the list is very long and differs based on the nature of the event.

July 22 2004 | 4:20 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Ty Miller from Davenport IA:
Why is the United States not doing anything in Sudan? To see so many people being killed and us not doing anything about it, really disturbes me.

Colby Cooper A: Colby Cooper, Director for Communications and Media Relations, National Security Council:
What is happening in Sudan is horrific and we are acting with great urgency to stop it. We have called on all parties to the conflict to respect the April 8, 2004 cease-fire, as well respect the rights of civilians, and allow unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to the people in need (of which the United States is the largest provider). The United States is also continuing to provide strong support to the ongoing negotiations between the Government of Sudan and Sudan People's Liberation Movement. During his June 29-30, 2004 visit to Sudan, Secretary of State Powell gave the Sudanese Government a list of specific actions that need to be taken -- he made clear that the U.S. will press for a strong United Nations Security Council resolution. We are, and will continue to very closely monitor the situation on the ground.

July 22 2004 | 3:29 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Nick from Rockford, MI:
I ask this question everyday almost, but have yet to get an answer. What is the difference between an Assistant Secretary, a Deputy Secretary, and an Under Secretary? Thanks.

Brian Montgomery A: Brian Montgomery, Deputy Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary:
In all cases, a Deputy Secretary is the number-two person at a Cabinet-level agency after the Secretary, so in the Secretary's absence, the Deputy Secretary is in command. Typically, a Deputy Secretary is in charge of the operational side of a department or agency.

In some cases, Cabinet agencies are so large and programmatically complex that they utilize an Under Secretary to oversee groups of Assistant Secretaries. For example, the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense all utilize several Under Secretaries.

Most Assistant Secretary positions within a Cabinet agency oversee functions such as public affairs, legislative affairs, policy, and the like, while others are in charge of an program division like Community Planning and Development (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) or Land and Minerals Management (Dept. of the Interior).

Cabinet Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, and Under Secretaries all require Senate confirmation as do most Assistant Secretary positions. Thank you for your question.

July 21 2004 | 12:58 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Steve from Las Vegas, Nevada:
How long do the Marines have to stand at the entrance to the West Wing? Thank You.

Admiral Michael Miller A: Admiral Michael Miller, Director, White House Military Office:
Marine Sentries fall under the operational control of the White House Military Office. Their primary purpose is to greet and assist guests of the President entering the West Wing; this courtesy is extended to all persons entering or exiting the West Wing when they are posted. Currently there are four Marines Sentries assigned to the White House Military Office that stand post for 30 minutes at a time - shorter if there is inclement weather.

July 20 2004 | 12:58 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Marcus from Oaktown:
I love the photo of the President's note which says, "Let Freedom Reign!" My question is to Eric Draper, White House photographer. How did this shot come about? Can you give us some background on it?

Eric Draper A: Eric Draper, White House Photo Director:
Note from Rice to the President When I saw a piece of paper being passed to the President, I knew what was written on it would be important to document. Later, I photographed the note's contents after receiving a message from the White House Press Office that they had it for me at our hotel in Istanbul. I simply placed it on an easel I found in an office there, near a sunny window. It was a thrill for me to hold a piece of history in my hands.

July 19 2004 | 3:54 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Donna from Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
Years ago there was an address one could write to for the president of the United States to send a birthday card to someone 80 years of age or older. I cannot locate the address. My grandmother will turn 90 on August 12th and I would love to request the card.

Heidi Marquez Smith A: Heidi Marquez Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence:
Dear Donna, Thank you for your interest in requesting a greeting from President Bush for your grandmother for her 90th birthday. You may submit a request via fax at 202-395-1232, mail to The White House, Attn: Greetings Office, Washington, D.C. 20502-0039, or by Web Mail located on the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/.

Please make sure to include your grandmother's full name with appropriate salutation, date of birth, mailing address, and your (the requestor's) name and daytime phone number. We ask that requests for greetings are received in our office at least six weeks in advance of the event date. At this date I recommend you fax or use White House Web Mail to submit your request. We will make every effort to send the greeting in time for your special occasion. For more information on our guidelines and the types of greetings you may request please visit the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/.

July 16 2004 | 5:03 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Gregory from Kenosha, WI:
I turned to the internet for information on government grants or low interest loans to get a home inspection business off the ground and found a large number of sites purporting to provide "guaranteed acceptance" government grants...for a nominal fee of course. What government site or agency can I contact to learn more?

Hector Barreto A: Hector Barreto, Administrator of U.S. Small Business Administration:
You did the smart thing by being cautious about any site that 'guarantees' grants or loans for a fee. The U.S. Small Business Administration can help you get started on the path toward capitalizing your new venture. The first step you might want to take is to visit our Web site at http://www.sba.gov. There you can learn about various SBA loan programs - like 7(a) and the 504 program - and how they might apply to you and your new business. Next, you should contact your local SBA office (there is at least one in every state) and speak directly with a specialist there who can better explain how to best go about getting your business capitalized. They might direct you to one of our partners, like SBDC or SCORE, who specialize in offering free, professional counseling to entrepreneurs. Those experts may in fact tell you that you don't need an SBA loan, and that some other source of capital would be a better fit for you. Or they may tell you that the SBA is the place for you. Either way, they can help you prepare to apply for that loan or grant, and get your business off the ground. I hope this answer is helpful, and good luck with your new business!

July 16 2004 | 4:23 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Ty Miller from Davenport IA:
Why is the United States not doing anything in Sudan? To see so many people being killed and us not doing anything about it, really disturbes me.

Colby Cooper A: Colby Cooper, Director for Communications and Media Relations, National Security Council:
What is happening in Sudan is horrific and we are acting with great urgency to stop it. We have called on all parties to the conflict to respect the April 8, 2004 cease-fire, as well respect the rights of civilians, and allow unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to the people in need (of which the United States is the largest provider). The United States is also continuing to provide strong support to the ongoing negotiations between the Government of Sudan and Sudan People's Liberation Movement. During his June 29-30, 2004 visit to Sudan, Secretary of State Powell gave the Sudanese Government a list of specific actions that need to be taken -- he made clear that the U.S. will press for a strong United Nations Security Council resolution. We are, and will continue to very closely monitor the situation on the ground.

July 16 2004 | 3:53 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Kyle from Atlanta, Georgia:
Scott, You do a great job at your news conferences. I was wondering if you could tell me who April and Les(Don't know their last names) work for. Keep up the good work for the President! Kyle

Scott McClellan A: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary:
Kyle, I appreciate your kind words and your support for the President and his agenda. April Ryan is the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, and Les Kinsolving hosts his own radio talk show which is broadcast in Baltimore.

July 16 2004 | 11:52 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Erin from Mesa, Arizona:
Do you feel that the Iraqi interim government is doing a good job with security?

Scott McClellan A: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary:
Look at the statements from the leadership of the interim government. They have made a firm commitment to go after the terrorists and go after those who are a continuing security threat to the Iraqi people. They are determined to improve the security situation and bring about a free, democratic, and peaceful country for all the Iraqi people.

There's certainly been some positive signs in terms of the Iraqi security forces addressing these ongoing security threats. You have the police force going after and rounding up some of those who seek to derail the transition to democracy, so you can look at their actions to see that this is a government and country that is determined to rout out the terrorists and rid itself of those former Saddam loyalists who continue to seek to derail the transition to democracy. And we're going to be there to work with them along the way and partner with them to address these security threats.

July 15 2004 | 11:00 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Tracy from PA:
It has been told there are several past President's still lurking in the shadows of the White House. Has any of the current residents seen any of these ghosts?

Jimmy Orr A: Jimmy Orr, White House Internet Director:
We put together a special Halloween page last year where we discussed the myths of ghosts at the White House.

Click here -- www.whitehouse.gov/ghosts/ -- it is a fun page...

July 14 2004 | 5:44 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Sam from Salem, Mass:
Before it became the Press Briefing room, there was a pool adjacent to the White House which Nixon had filled in. I heard once that this pool was tiled with dimes by Roosevelt, in honor of his March of dimes to find a polio vaccine. Is this true?

Gary Walters A: Gary Walters, White House Usher:
As a matter of fact, the pool remains under the Press Briefing room. You can still see the tile and the steel ladder remains as well (that's what I'm stepping on)...Jimmy Orr, White House Internet DirectorThe West terrace pool was built in 1933 for Franklin D. Roosevelt to exercise as polio therapy. It was paid for by a newspaper campaign soliciting contributions large and small, like the March of Dimes, but we have no record that it was a March of Dimes project and it was not decorated with dimes.

It was a very simple pool, 50 x 15 feet, of graduated depth. In 1961, President Kennedy's father comissioned a painting of the Virgin Islands to be hung on the walls around the pool to enliven what had been a rather austere space. The painting was removed when the pool was covered over in 1969 and returned to the Kennedy family.

July 13 2004 | 5:51 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Pamela from Cape Coral, Fl:
How do I find an application for The American Dream Downpayment Initiative fund?

Alphonso Jackson A: Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development:
The American Dream Downpayment Initiative is an exciting new program to help first-time homebuyers overcome the biggest obstacle to homeownership: high downpayments and closing costs. Last year, President Bush signed into law legislation creating the program, and $161.5 million is now available to help new homebuyers all across the country--in fact, more than $8 million has been reserved for families and individuals in your state of Florida.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has created a website to help future homebuyers who are interested in receiving assistance through the American Dream Downpayment Initiative. You'll find it at http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/programs/home/addi/index.cfm

Owning a home is truly the American Dream. Best of luck to you, Pamela, in making your dream a reality.

July 9 2004 | 6:20 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Randy from Eunice, Louisana:
How can I sign up to get emails from the White House?

Neil Zimmerman A: Neil Zimmerman, Associate Director, Office of Strategic Initiatives:
Thanks for the question - I always love a chance to plug White House E-mail Updates. You can sign-up by following this link.

Every Friday we send out a Weekly Review newsletter, available in both plain text and HTML format. The Weekly Review provides a summary of President Bush's remarks, initiatives, and other notable events around the White House and throughout the Administration. Subscribe today!

July 9 2004 | 2:21 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Long from Shermer High:
What's happening with the West Wing? I was there a couple months ago and saw scaffolding, hammering and whatnot.

Gary Walters A: Gary Walters, White House Usher:
West Wing -- Early May 2004The work occurring the north side of the West Wing is part of the comprehensive restoration of the exterior of the East and West Wings begun in 2002 by the Executive Residence.

West Wing -- July 9, 2004The project includes the stripping of all paint, restoration of all masonry and wood surfaces, restoration of all the windows including insulating glass and UV filtering film, and the application of new paint. These photos show progress made from early May, 2004 through today (July 9, 2004).

July 9 2004 | 1:46 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Keith from Columbus, Ohio:
Why does the administration have such names as "clear skies" initiatives, and other programs that truly neglect the environment with corporate interest's coming first? We know that many more good jobs can be started by being more proactive in protecting the environment, and by intitiating bold energy policies that create alternate forms of transportation. Why does the Bush administration aviod such things?

Jim Connaughton A: Jim Connaughton, Chairman Council of Environmental Quality:
Thanks for the question, Keith. It touches on issues of high importance and about which there is significant misinterpretation. As I.ve said before on "White House Interactive". we all share the same goal of improving the environmental quality of our country and ensuring responsible stewardship of our natural resources. Today, it is no longer an issue as to whether to protect the environment, but instead it's how much, by when, and using the best tool for the job. Most differences only lie in how we accomplish our shared goal.

You should know that air pollution was cut by almost half over the last 30 years, while the economy more than doubled in strength. Our policies build on that success. As President Bush said, "With the landmark Clean Air Act of 1970, our nation set high goals for air quality. And this administration strongly supports those goals. I believe that by combining the ethic of good stewardship and the spirit of innovation, we will continue to improve the quality of our air and the health of our economy and improve the chance for people to have a good life here in America".

Clear Skies legislation and the related Interstate Air Quality Rule are great examples in that they accomplish just what you and millions of Americans are asking for - sustained economic growth (new jobs) while being, to use your words, "proactive in protecting the environment". Clear Skies will cut pollution that causes smog, soot and acid rain by approximately 70 percent. This is an historic proposal that will bring cleaner air to Americans faster, more reliably, and more cost-effectively than what's being achieved under current law. The emissions trading program created by Clear Skies will create an economic incentive to reduce emissions early. It replaces a cycle of endless litigation with rapid and certain improvements in air quality. Every major coal-fired power plant will be in the program and the power sector will spend nearly $50 billion to come into compliance with our clean air policies that help States comply with the new national health-based air quality standards. You can learn more by visiting www.epa.gov/clearskies and www.epa.gov/cleanair2004.

With respect to "initiating bold energy policies". President Bush introduced his Hydrogen Fuel Initiative in 2003 that will make it possible for the first car driven by a child born today to be powered by pollution-free fuel cells. Coupled with the FreedomCAR partnership, it is providing $1.7 billion over five years to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, a hydrogen infrastructure, and advanced automobile technologies that emit no greenhouse gases and will help reduce the country.s dependence on foreign oil. Visit www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/ and www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/ to learn more. The United States is also sponsoring, with international and private-sector partners, a $1 billion, 10-year demonstration project to create the world's first coal-based, zero-emissions electricity and hydrogen power plant (FutureGen). This project is designed to dramatically reduce air pollution and capture and store greenhouse gases. Visit www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/futuregen/ for more information.

We are also making significant strides in cutting pollution from diesel engines and reducing the sulfur content in diesel fuel. In May, we finalized a rule that will dramatically reduce pollution from heavy-duty diesel engines used in construction, agricultural, and industrial equipment. Soot and NOx emissions will decrease by more than 90 percent by 2014, and the sulfur content of diesel fuel will be cut 99 percent by 2010. You can learn more at www.epa.gov/nonroad-diesel/.

The President is also calling for $4.1 billion in tax incentives through 2009 to spur the use of clean, renewable energy, and energy-efficient technologies, such as hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, residential solar heating systems, renewable energy produced from landfill gas, wind, or biomass, and efficient combined heat and power systems.

July 8 2004 | 11:34 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Brandon from BYU-Hawaii:
Hello,

I have always wandered if there is a red phone located in the oval office like on the orignal Batman TV series and if there is what is it used for

Thank!

-Brandon

Gary Walters A: Gary Walters, White House Usher:
We have no evidence of a red phone. If it were a "hot-line," it may have been concealed in a desk drawer. The various generations of regular desk phone were: black (prior to Kennedy, Nixon-Ford, and Bush 41-present), turquoise (Kennedy-Johnson, or white (Carter-Reagan).

July 7 2004 | 11:21 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Virginia from Conroe, Texas:
I was wondering if there was a "virtual" tour of the Whitehouse. I was on tours there years ago and I would like for my grandchildren to see it.

Jimmy Orr A: Jimmy Orr, White House Internet Director:
Hi Virginia

There are viritual video tours of the White House and the West Wing available on our web site. Click here

This is one of the most popular sections of the web site

July 6 2004 | 4:03 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Roseanne from Storm Lake, Iowa:
First of all, I want to wish a happy birthday to President Bush! Were there any special activities planned at the White House? Thanks!

Andy Card A: Andy Card, White House Chief of Staff:
Thank you for your thoughts. I will pass them on to the President.

He has been overwhelmed with birthday greetings today. The press pool even burst into an during his meeting with the Prime Minister of Iceland.

President George W. Bush, at 58, is in great physical, mental and emotional shape. When he arrived in the Oval Office very early this morning there was a spring in his step and he had a clear vision for America.

The staff celebrated the President's birthday with the President's family and friends July 4th. We presented the President a three volume leather-bound set of correspondence between Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

July 6 2004 | 2:33 p.m.(EDT)

Q: J. J. and Kathy from Cottonwood, AZ:
Happy Birthday Mr. President! Our country is truly blessed to have such a compassionate and caring visionary leader. We hope that this year is your best yet! May God bless you and continue to guide your actions. J. J. and Kathy Cottonwood, AZ

Laura Bush A: Laura Bush, First Lady:
Thanks so much for wishing The President a Happy Birthday. I'll pass on your message.

July 2 2004 | 11:06 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Jim from Cleveland, Ohio:
Is the Terrorist threat level looking to be raised for this 4th of July weekend?

Tom Ridge A: Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security:
While we do not have any specific credible threat reporting that terrorists are planning to target July 4th celebrations, we know that the homeland remains a top al-Qaida target. During the holiday weekend, Americans can be assured that there will be security, especially at those events where large crowds will gather.

We encourage the American public to celebrate this occasion, but as always, keep a watchful eye for items left unattended or suspicious behavior and report any incidents to local authorities immediately.

July 1 2004 | 3:45 p.m.(EDT)

Q: John from Cupertino, CA:
I recall that when King George VI visited FDR, they had an open-car procession down Pennsylvania Ave. When did they stop hosting parades for state visits? Now it's just a South Lawn ceremony...

Bill Allman A: Bill Allman, White House Curator:
President Franklin D. Roosevelet and King George VI of England processed from Union Station to the White House during the roayl couples' state visit in 1939. That parade was one of many events stated in honor of King George and Princess Elizabeth, and was an exception rather than the rule for all formal visits. The state arrival ceremony as we think of it today was begun during the Kennedy administration, when President Kennedy changed the location of the formal welcome ceremony from Andrews Air Force Base to the South Lawn of the White House.

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 2004