What is a POTUS usually doing at his/her Oval Office desk?

There isn’t any computer at the desk, although there do seem to be phones. Does he/she just sit there and read documents (paper documents) the old-fashioned way? Sign bills? Chill out on the Oval Office sofas, go through Blackberry text messages?
Other than meetings with guests, or having chats with advisors, the VP, Cabinet, etc., what is the POTUS using that desk or Oval Office for?
(no Monica Lewinsky jokes, please)

Meeting with staff, reviewing briefing binders and signing papers, and talking on the phone, from all the pictures I’ve seen. The President also has a hideaway office through the door to his left, as he sits at the Resolute desk.


This is really a General Question rather than an Election discussion.

I’d bet the Oval Office and its desk are used 99% for ceremonial purposes - formal meetings, signing documents, addresses to the nation, photo ops. As EH said, he* has a “real” office just a door away, where the desk can get a little messy and he can put things on the walls without it being a major historical/personal/international faux pas.

  • well, so far!

Does the hideaway office have a name and is there photos of it?

It’s just called the President’s Study. Here are some pictures.


Agreed. His REAL office may even be his bed in the living quarters or just walking around the Whitehouse. Probably varies with the style of the President. But I doubt any of them put on a tie every morning and spend 8-5 in the oval office. Why would they?

There are plenty of real meetings in the Oval Office. The President may not be behind the big desk, or wearing a tie, in all cases, but it’s typically his primary room for meeting with individuals and small, single-agency groups.

Meeting with guests, advisors, department heads, and members of Congress is most of the President’s work.

Jed Bartlett did!

Drinking his Ovaltine.

In one of his books, Hunter S. Thompson said that Nixon had an office in the Eisenhower building where he usually worked. Of course, he also claimed that Nixon turned into a werewolf that had sex with Martha Mitchell on the full moon, so take that for what it’s worth.

2009 and he still had a 13" tube TV? I bet Sasha and Malia got the new TV, and they just moved the old one from their room to his office.

I thought that Presidents also kept an office in the (now) Eisenhower Executive Office Building. But Nixon was the last sitting President to have one there (and which contained is infamous recording system, of course.). It still has the VP’s office.

Nonetheless, the President still carries out quite a few official actions there. Meetings, press conferences, the odd address, etc.

BTW, PotUS definitely does have and uses a laptop.

**What is a POTUS usually doing at his/her Oval Office desk?

**Posing for pictures. Really. That’s not a slam at the current President, that’s pretty much a given for all Presidents. The real work is done, as noted by posters above, elsewhere.

The VP also has, since Mondale I believe, an office in the West Wing.


I don’t know why people think “real work” doesn’t go on in the actual Oval Office, just because it’s picturesque. Of the first-hand accounts I’ve heard of working meetings with Presidents, most all of them that weren’t (a) outside Washington, (b) with large groups, or (c) involving active military operations, were in the Oval Office. Yes, when somebody’s PM or Foreign Minister is in town, they do the photo shoot in chairs in front of the fireplace; they don’t then remove to some other room for the “real” talk.

Or, cite?

Wasn’t there fake outrage when Obama added a laptop to the desk?

:eek: Is that right? I had always assumed the recording system was in the Oval Office.

It was, and some other places, too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_White_House_tapes

I’m not sure that you can add any set of words to “Wasn’t there fake outrage when Obama…” that makes an untrue statement.

But given the enormous number of hacks and such in the last few years, it wouldn’t surprise me if the President did most of his computing in some sort of Faraday cage (etc.) secure environment, which would be impractical to build into the Oval Office with all those windows.

Short answer? Minesweeper.