NBC's Brian Williams looks out onto the Rose Garden from the West Wing's Palm Room. He was preparing for the president's arrival and the start of a day spent reporting a behind-the-scenes documentary at the White House.
Reggie Love is the "body man" for Barack Obama -- the guy who makes sure the president has his Honest Tea and MET-Rx protein bars. The former Duke University basketball player is known to spar on the court with the commander in chief. "Can I, can I just point out, I am on my backside all the time during these games," the president tells NBC’s Brian Williams. "They're showing me no respect on the court. Partly because they know that when I beat them, I might do a little trash talking… As Reggie put it, you don't want to lose to Barack Obama. You'll hear about it for a while."
A White House worker runs a vacuum over the carpet of the Oval Office. Embroidered into the fibers is the presidential seal. To the right is the president's desk.
Former newspaper reporter David Axelrod is President Obama's senior adviser. Axelrod crafts responses for the emergencies of the day, reviews every speech, and studies each policy position. His office, barely the size of a service elevator, is the closest to the Oval Office. "Is that good or bad because the Oval is right here?" asked NBC’s Brian Williams. "Well, I can see him when I need to see him," said Axelrod, "And he comes by quite bit and pops in … You know, I've had a few conversations since I’ve been here that probably he didn’t necessarily want to have. But he invites candor, he invites honesty."
Receptionist Darienne Page oversees the comings-and-goings in the West Wing, a job that involves everything from serving coffee to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to collecting BlackBerries at the door of the secure Roosevelt Room. She was previously an Army sergeant stationed in Iraq. "There's a lot going on, and I just kind of sit here and manage it all -- whether it’s getting water or coffee for some of the guests or making sure that people aren’t going any place that they don’t need to be."
The former senator from Delaware is famous for speaking his mind and stirring the pot. "I'm not going to change," he joked with NBC’s Brian Williams. "When the president asked me to do this, I said, 'Look, two things aren’t going to change: I'm not wearing any funny hats, and I'm not changing my brand.'" Shortly after taking office, Biden was charged with overseeing the distribution of $787 billion in stimulus funds and heading up the White House's "middle class task force."
This customized fireman's hat sits in the Vice President Joe Biden's office. He credits fire and rescue workers for responding quickly to the car crash that killed his wife and daughter while critically injuring his two sons. He recently spoke at the International Association of Firefighters conference, telling the audience, "You know, I told you before, I owe you all. I owe the firefighters in my state. I will not bore you again, but my mom remembers and knows full hand, since she helped me raise my children when your guys used the jaw of life to save my two boys."
Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend of the Obamas, oversees the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs -- working as the principal contact for groups needing to connect with the president. She assists with the hiring of top staffers and often serves as a sounding board for the commander in chief. Jarrett tells NBC's Brian Williams that the current White House team understands the first couple. "I think we have a great combination of people who have been part of the Obamas' life for the last 20 years … folks who worked on the campaign trail and had an opportunity to see both of them out on the campaign trail and understand what really are the priorities of this administration."
During the campaign, Robert Gibbs was called the "Barack Whisperer" for his uncanny ability to anticipate how his boss would want to handle a given situation with the press. Now, as presidential spokesman, the Alabama native takes to the podium for daily White House press briefings. "If you don’t get a little excited about that," Gibbs told NBC’s Brian Williams of his job and responsibilities, "it’s time to write a letter to the president and go work somewhere else."
Gen. Jim Jones serves as the filter between the president and the military, but has done so with a low White House profile. "I don't think that in order to satisfy everybody's view of the national security adviser to the president that I have to be hovering around him all the time," said the former Marine Corps commandant. Asked by NBC's Brian Williams what Americans would think of the daily intelligence chatter that comes through his office, Jones said, "I think they'd be reassured, they'd be confident that we are doing everything humanly possible to make sure that this very complex … variety of asymmetric threats that has really changed the national security landscape is being dealt with."
National Park Service employees meticulously care for the White House's 18 acres off Pennsylvania Avenue. Perfect straight lines are routinely mowed onto the lawns -- including this patch of Rose Garden grass.
Even though President Obama is consumed with the work of the White House, he tells NBC's Brian Williams that his role as a father and a husband makes him a better leader: "And I've got two young ladies who are laughing and screaming and wrestling with the dog. And I've got a wife who's trying to make sure that I keep my head on straight. And you know, we've got soccer games and ... parent teacher conferences. And so, that keeps you grounded."
Bo, a Portuguese water dog given to the first family by Sen. Ted Kennedy, is "kind of crazy," according to first lady Michelle Obama. President Obama tells NBC's Brian Williams that "the nice thing is the girls just love him to death and the truth is all the staff loves him too. Our biggest problem is that he gets spoiled by the staff."
A White House steward holds a box of official presidential M&Ms in the West Wing. Each president gets his own box, showcasing his own, unique signature. Obama is still waiting for his personalized packaging, so for now, he has to make do with the standard-issue box.
This self-described "mom in chief" is a Harvard-educated lawyer and former vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center. Obama says their new home has brought her family closer, telling NBC’s Brian Williams, "When you come off a two-year campaign that's pretty grueling -- life, a normal life, even in the White House -- is a welcome respite and we've never lived above the shop before and it's been great … Barack and I usually work out together. We have an opportunity to go to all the kids' activities, to schedule things around the girls' activities. It's just been a blessing in so many ways."
A former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and congressman from Illinois, Rahm Emanuel is known for his fiery temperament and willful determination. Nicknamed "Rahmbo," he worked as an investment banker for three years before being elected to the House of Representatives -- earning some $16 million handling mergers and acquisitions. Asked by NBC’s Brian Williams if President Barack Obama has "all the intelligence of Bill Clinton and more mental discipline," Emanuel refused to get into specifics: "I’m not going to get into … I’m not going to do that. They're totally different presidencies at different times. And it's an honor to work for both of them."
NBC's Athena Jones observes President Obama in the Oval Office, sending notes on his activities to colleagues via her BlackBerry. This slideshow is part of a special NBC documentary -- "Inside the Obama White House" -- that airs Tues. and Weds. at 9 p.m. ET.