Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina System, was at the White House today as President Obama signed an executive order creating a deficit reduction panel that Bowles will co-chair.
The former Charlotte businessman and former Republican U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson stood behind Obama for the ceremony in the Diplomatic Reception Room.
"Erskine Bowles understands the importance of managing money responsibly in the public sector, where he ran the Small Business Administration and served as President Clinton's chief of staff," Obama said. "In that capacity, he brokered the 1997 budget agreement with Republicans that helped produce the first balanced budget in nearly 30 years."
Obama said Simpson, known for his candor and humor, as a "flinty Wyoming truth-teller."
"If you look in the dictionary it says "flinty," and then it's got Simpson's picture," the president said to laughter.
When the ceremony was over, someone asked another question.
"What's 'Erskine' in the dictionary?"