Allan Hubbard, assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council, was Tuesday's breakfast guest.
Hubbard's clout in administration circles comes, in part, from a long friendship with the president. Hubbard has both a law degree and an MBA from Harvard University. At Harvard Business School, he became friends with George W. Bush. The president told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year that Mr. Hubbard is "my old buddy" and "one of my best, closest friends."
Before accepting his current post in January, Hubbard became a wealthy man as president of E&A Industries, an Indianapolis investment firm whose component companies make Car Brite car polishes and Gilbert and Soames high-end hotel cosmetics.
When not making the world brighter and better smelling, Mr. Hubbard served as deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle and as executive director of the President's Council on Competitiveness. He is a former chairman of the Indiana Republican party.
During his hour-long conversation with reporters, Hubbard was modest, soft spoken, unassuming - and skilled at keeping the veil on internal White House economic policy deliberations.
Here are excerpts from his remarks:
On Bush economic team's shortcomings:
"I am going to let the president tell you about his agenda for next year.... We are frustrated by our failure to communicate to the American people the remarkable success of this economy. A part of it is we, and I include myself, and the rest of the economic team, have not been spending as much time as we should talking about its success. And I think you all have noticed we have been spending more time lately. It is so easy in the White House to get caught up with the policy apparatus and working on new ideas and forgetting about the importance of communications.... It is remarkable how strong our economy is, and it is also remarkable the American people do not appreciate that."
On one reason why voters worry about the economy despite strong economic growth:
"There is churn that goes on. There are 50 million jobs that are created every year and 48 million that are lost every year. So you have this net gain... People are over a lifetime having more jobs than they used to have. That creates some unease."
On rebuilding efforts after hurricane Katrina:
"The president is an impatient person to begin with, but he is especially impatient about the Katrina recovery and is pushing us - [Homeland Security] Secretary [Michael] Chertoff, obviously the Corps [of Engineers], everyone involved to expedite the process as quickly as possible."
On Time and Newsweek cover stories saying the president is isolated:
"If you were to ask me the question, 'Is this president insulated from talking to real folks?' I would say just the opposite. He is someone that, No. 1, encourages debate among his own staff. It is almost an open-door policy in terms of assistants to the president, which was not true of other presidents, based on what I have read. But equally importantly, he is always talking to folks, folks not in government, about how things are going. To be perfectly honest, he grabbed us Tuesday about a Katrina situation that was communicated to him not by one of us but by someone from the region down there."
On Social Security reform:
"With respect to Social Security, I can tell you this president is not going to give up on Social Security. In terms of the timing and the method and how he is going to approach it, that is obviously for him to decide and to share with you at the appropriate time."