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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles and the Hutchinson report Communications Network in 70 cities nationally on February 25, White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki, Deputy Communications Director.
Transcription by Annette Lockett, McAl Typing Service * 4239 Denker Avenue * Los Angeles, CA 90062 * 323-293-3244 * FAX 323-293-0404 * E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
EOH: Who determines what will be stressed when President Obama does his press conferences?
JP: It’s a team of people, each a cog in the wheel. Every day we try to figure out how to communicate what the President cares about; putting people back to work, helping to grow the economy, and helping people in this time of need. That is our goal with everything we do. There are lots of events that we can’t control, i.e. the events in the Middle East. These are events that the President is responsible for speaking about, being briefed on and discussing with staff. We can’t always control how that works with what we are proactively trying to communicate. What we focus on every day is working together with all the different parts to best communicate to the American people on how we are growing the economy and putting people back to work.
EOH: How deeply involved is President Obama on a day to day basis?
JP: He always says that when an issue comes to his desk it is because it is a very difficult decision to make. He has a team of people around him who are making decisions on a daily basis. He switches topics every day, from one meeting topic such as the increasing cost of food, or the ongoing oil situation, to a public event about another topic, and a closed discussion with his advisors about another. It requires juggling about a dozen balls in the air at any particular time.
EOH: He may say wait a minute, we have this over here and we have to shift focus. So you always have to be on your toes.
JP: Absolutely right. His style of governing and managing a large administrative staff is that he likes to hear from different voices. He likes to hear from people who are running the meeting and he likes to call on the person in the corner who isn’t saying much, but looks like they may have an opinion; or the person who may have a conflicting role. He knows how serious the decisions he makes are and how much they impact people across the country. He wants to hear from as many different opinions as he can before he makes a decision.
EOH: How often does the President ask you what you think about the issues?
JP: There are a number of people he speaks to on a daily basis and he likes to hear directly from whoever is managing that issue. He doesn’t look at people as young, old, female, male, he likes to hear from the people who he knows are working on those issues daily. There are a lot of people he asks for advice, and he has his own governing view of issues. Oftentimes he asks his team to give more analysis of what the results of different decisions he makes would be. He does a lot of give and take with his team, constantly asking questions and wanting more information to make the best decision.
EOH: Does President Obama have certain favorites he goes to among the media.
JP: No one in the media tells us what they are going to ask at a press conference. We have tried to expand the pool of people who have questions, such as regional reporters and on-line reporters. It isn’t always the same group of reporters who are asking the questions. Some of the FOX reporting has not been supportive of the President’s policies, but he has done several interviews with FOX, including one on Super Bowl Sunday. He answers questions on a regular basis through interviews with television reporters, at a press conference, or questions at the end of a meeting. He enjoys doing this and will continue to be available.
EOH: Criticism is that the President doesn’t speak to Jane and John Doe. How much of a challenge is that for you?
JP: I may be a little bias because I work for him, but he is one of the best communicators, possibly in political history. It is always a challenge to determine the best way to explain complicated issues. It would be no matter who was president. People should not confuse his calm and stability with a lack of passion. He wakes up every morning worried about families losing loved ones overseas, or about people who don’t have a job. Every night he reads 10 letters out of the 10,000 letters that are received at the White House every day. These 10 represent the kinds of letters that are coming in, some supportive, some critical, some expressing what they are going through. He reads these because he wants to stay in touch with what’s going on with average people every day.
EOH: We thought the Super Bowl Sunday interview with Bill O’Reily was disrespectful. What is your opinion?
JP: That interview was a good example of the President being able to speak directly to people across the country. He probably would have rather been watching the Super Bowl himself. He had a good interview. He was able to communicate a lot of points about our agenda and what he is doing for the economy, and his approach to Egypt. It is important to remember who he is speaking to, the American people, not the person he is doing the interview with.