At the White House, getting in touch with the inner circle's inner iPads

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2010; C09

The folks who gather early every morning in the West Wing office of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have something new in common these days. Practically everyone has an iPad -- or will have one very soon.

Emanuel just got his, as did senior adviser David Axelrod and deputy press secretary Bill Burton. Both communications director Dan Pfeiffer and press wrangler Ben Finkenbinder have one on order. Economic adviser Larry Summers takes his to staff meetings.

The device is the hot, new White House toy, a gizmo that is popping up around Washington but seems to be particularly in vogue at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But the big question is: What's on your iPad? So we asked.

Summers has the Bloomberg app for financial information, says adviser Matt Vogel. Also Scrabble. And the first book he downloaded was a free copy of "The Federalist Papers," Vogel says. (It turns out that "Tax Policy and the Economy," Volume 4, by Lawrence H. Summers, isn't available on Apple's iBooks store.)

Burton, who has been a bit of an iPad evangelist at the White House, has the app for Vanity Fair magazine, Scrabble, a news app and the entire last season of ABC's "Lost."

"I was going to watch on our way to Indonesia," he wrote a day after the president canceled that trip for the second time.

Emanuel has "all the newspaper apps," says a top aide, and has installed the iBooks app so he can read books on the device, just like on a Kindle. A friend recalled recently that "when Rahm's arrived in the mail, his kids kept calling asking when he was getting home so they could open it. Cute."

Axelrod has only downloaded a couple of apps so far, his assistant, Eric Lesser, said. They include the Major League Baseball app and the National Public Radio one. Pressed about movies or books, Lesser pleaded that "he got it like two days ago."

The device -- which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs dubbed "magical" -- has hardly helped President Obama change the way Washington works. And it appears to be catching on more slowly outside the White House gates.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is an Amazon Kindle fan, but recently told a newspaper reporter that he was considering an iPad. A senior aide said Friday that the top U.S. banker has yet to make the switch.

Neither have some in Congress.

"Not sure that trend has hit the Hill yet," said Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a lawmaker known as a techie.

Manley's counterpart, Don Stewart of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office, promised to check around. "A couple of our guys have Kindles, but I haven't seen any members with iPads," Stewart said.

In fact, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has one, though his aide says he is "fiscally conservative" when it comes to buying apps. Asked what's on his iPad, Flake e-mailed: "Hmmm. I have a 'notepad' app that I checked the other day. It said 'Dad, buy more apps!!!' It was from Dallin, my ten year old."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has an iPad, as do some lobbyists, consultants and heads of associations in Washington.

Carrie Severino, the chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, has the apps GeoDefense, Beat the Traffic and Harbor Master "for fun," in addition to Toy Story Read-Along and Timmy Tiptoes for the kids. She also has iAnnotate and To Do for work, her assistant said.

And veteran Republican consultant Russ Schreifer -- an early iPhone adopter -- says his iPad is the "fully souped-up, 64-gig, 3G version. Why not? Right."

Schreifer has the Epicurious app for cooking and the interactive Elmo book for his 2-year-old daughter. He has two books: "The War Lovers," by Evan Thomas, and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," by Seth Grahame-Smith. There are also a few episodes of the just-finished "24" television series, transferred from his iPhone to take advantage of the iPad's bigger screen.

But Schreifer says the device is not all for play. He says he's already approved rough cuts of campaign commercials and raw footage for ads on the iPad.

"Love it," he said. "Love it."

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