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Ask the White House

The WSJ today writes about the "Ask the White House" part of the White House Web site.

Go Ahead, Ask: White House Chats Online [WSJ, 7.18.2005, subscription required]
The Bush administration's nod to transparency in the electronic age includes "Ask the White House," an online interactive forum where officials answer real-time questions on subjects both monumental and picayune.


Two fun parts from the article.

In the forum's two-year existence, questions have run from the trivial ("Is the White House like the television show?") to the bizarre ("How much does Canada weigh?"). Viewers were told by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe that the Apollo moon missions weren't faked. After a female writer asked if he was single, Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Laura Bush, said the first lady occasionally points out pretty women to him because he's a bachelor. "I think she is following the President's lead in being a matchmaker," he wrote. "I'll let you know if any of them work out."


And then this...

In some ways, the virtual chats on the White House Web site resemble drunken cocktail conversations that veer in all directions. After someone asked about economic growth among various industrial sectors, Stanley from Seattle piped up with this observation to former Commerce Secretary Don Evans -- "You look like a weatherman. Why is it we do not call female weathermen "weatherwomen?" "Stanley, you know much more about the Department of Commerce than many people in America," Mr. Evans graciously replied. "In fact, the National Weather Service is a part of the Department of Commerce."


The article notes that the chats have spawned other sites with a unique take on the chats.

Perhaps inevitably, the site has spawned an imitator -- whitehouse.org, a left-leaning and often bawdy spoof site that includes its own Ask the White House. Featuring "guests" such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush family twins, "Jenna and the Other One," it looks and sometimes reads like the real thing.


Last August, Federal Computer Week ran a portion of one of the Ask the White House segments that featured White House Internet Director Jimmy Orr. It was an interesting read then... and still is today. We edited the transcript to bring thematic areas together, but I have included links to both our edited version or the original.

Online marriage proposals probably do not figure in many people's vision of e-democracy. But that concept is still evolving, and White House Internet Director Jimmy Orr certainly appears open to new ideas.

White House officials began hosting online chats on the White House Web site regularly in April 2003, allowing citizens to submit questions to Bush administration officials and other people in the news. Recent guests on "Ask the White House" included Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House executive pastry chef Roland Mesnier.

Orr, who is in charge of the forum, took questions himself late last month. Besides talking about a marriage proposal that was posted during one of the chat sessions, he discussed the policies and philosophy behind Ask the White House and WhiteHouse.gov.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 14, 2005 at 12:14 PM


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