Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Spokesman Cool In Hot Seat.

Byline: Michael Coleman Journal Washington Bureau

* Former Domenici aide earns praise for fitting the high-stress job of being President Bush's press secretary

WASHINGTON The message, handwritten on White House stationery, came across Ari Fleischer's fax machine just minutes after his first grilling by the Washington press corps.

Fleischer, President George W. Bush's press secretary, had just been peppered with tough questions about Linda Chavez, Bush's controversial first choice for Labor secretary. And Jake Siewert, President Clinton's former spokesman, had a message for him.

The fax said simply: "Welcome to our world Jake."

The high-stress, high-stakes world of a White House spokesman often displayed on live TV in front of millions is one that Fleischer, a former spokesman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he is well-equipped to live in.

"The best way you prepare for the job is to know what you are saying and to do your homework," Fleischer said during a recent interview at the Bush transition office in downtown D.C.

Being "in the loop" doesn't hurt either.

Fleischer begins each day at 7:45 a.m. at a briefing with Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior White House aides. He also meets regularly with the National Security Council to brush up on foreign policy, his admitted main weakness. Fleischer said he speaks to the president nearly every day, and can have him on the phone in an instant, if need be.

"You need that (access) to do the job," he said. …

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