Inside the White House: The Cabinet
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Inside the White House: The Cabinet

♪♪(music playing)♪♪ The President:
I mean, it was fascinating. The Great Wall was very cool. Chris Lu:
I was gonna say. The President:
One of the things I’m most
proud of is the Cabinet we’ve assembled. I mean, you’ve got
extraordinarily talented people in each of these fields. A lot of them are doing such a
good job that they don’t meet with me much because they’re
like the good students in class. (laughter) They are just handling
their business really well. ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ Well hello, everybody. It is good to see you guys. Chris Lu:
We try to do a Cabinet
meeting every two months. The meetings run about
an hour and a half. What we’ll do is talk to a lot
of different folks within the White House — the Policy folks,
the Chief of Staff’s Office, the Communications Office, and
find out what are the important initiatives that we want to
talk to the Cabinet about, and also talk to the Cabinet as
well about the issues that they think are important to
discuss with the President. So there is a series of
internal meetings to discuss. We hand write an
agenda after that. Iraq, Afghanistan,
the Asia trip, jobs. Dan Pfeiffer:
I think — I think that there should probably be robust discussion of job creation. Mona Sutphen:
This is a huge kind of six, seven weeks that’s coming up and a lot of the budget
and the — obviously, the war decision and a bunch of
other things start coming down the pike, so… Chris Lu:
Each President has the discretion to decide who’s in his Cabinet. There are the heads of the 15
executive departments who are always in the Cabinet. These are the people who are in
the line of succession after the President and Vice President. And then there are a number of
folks who have Cabinet rank. In our administration, that
would be the head of OMB, EPA, the Chairman of the Council
of Economic Advisors, the U.S. Trade Representative, and
the Ambassador to the United Nations. Liz Smith:
We hadn’t had coffee
service in the past. Maybe because it’s
an afternoon meeting, they want to give them a
little caffeine; I’m not sure. ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ Chris Lu:
I’ve worked for the President since he was in the U.S. Senate so I’m very used to sitting behind him at meetings. But to now sit in a Cabinet
meeting in the historic Cabinet Room — you’re just surrounded
by the history of this institution; it’s humbling. ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ Bill Allman:
The Cabinet Offices were created as soon as the Constitution was ratified and the government was
established in 1789 under the new Constitution. Chris Lu:
The first Cabinet meeting, I understand — from 1793 — the President had his four
Cabinet members there. We now have 25 people
around the table. Each of the Cabinet members sit
in a certain seat depending on when their department
was created. Bill Allman:
It’s still tradition that a Cabinet Officer would have the opportunity of taking the chair
away himself or herself — to buy the chair
from the government. It’s one of those great
souvenirs of being a Cabinet Officer. Chris Lu:
The Cabinet meeting is one of the few times that I’m aware of where the Secret Service allows
the entire Cabinet to be in one place at one time. As you know, during State
of the Union Addresses, we typically ask one member
of the Cabinet to sit out. These are closed sessions and
the President really welcomes frank, unvarnished
advice from the advisors. The President:
I want to, number one, make
sure that they know that they have my ear. The second thing is to reinforce
the real strong sense of camaraderie that the Cabinet
members have built around themselves. Peter Orszag:
How you doing? What’s going on? Ken Salazar:
Can I hug him? It means a lot more than
sending him an e-mail. Peter Orszag:
Yeah. There still is something to the
human interaction that you only get from the in-person meetings. Gary Locke:
Well, I — I don’t think there’s any substitute for the entire Cabinet coming together. These Cabinet meetings are an
incredible way for everybody to communicate, for everyone to
really understand what the issues are, and to help us all
get on the same page so that we can advance the
President’s priorities. The President:
Today, we’re going to be focusing a lot on jobs because, obviously, with the economy
as — in such a hole, one of the things that we
want to make sure of is, is that we leave no stone
unturned when it comes to helping people get jobs. Chris Lu:
What we’ve typically done is bring the press in at the end of the meeting. The Cabinet meeting is an
important symbol of government at work. ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ The President:
The primary focus of our discussion today, though, had to do with the same thing
that Americans sit across — kitchen tables all across
the country are focused on, and that is jobs
and the economy. Hilary Clinton:
You would think that in a world like the one we’re living in where you can communicate
with anybody in the world at, literally, a click of
a mouse or, you know, some other — picking
up a cell phone, that you wouldn’t need a lot
of face-to-face meetings. But in fact, I think that it’s
not only as important as it always was in the era before
instantaneous communication, but to some extent even more so. So that people can look
each other in the eye, they can watch the body language
and they can work together to get to the resolution of
whatever the issue is. So these Cabinet meetings give
everybody a chance to do that. Chris Lu:
This is one of the
biggest problems, that people walk out of here
without their BlackBerrys. So now I have to actually
go find out who all these BlackBerrys belong to. So — all right, so Chu
has walked out without — ♪♪(music playing)♪♪ (cross-talk)

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