The White House vandal scandal that wasn't How the incoming Bush team nudge-nudged a credulous press corps into swallowing a trashy Clinton story.
- - - - - - - - - - - - By Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery
May 23, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- The "scandal" broke benignly enough, with an item in Lloyd Grove's dishy Reliable Source column in the Jan. 23 Washington Post, three days after the inauguration of George W. Bush.
"Incoming staffers of the Bush White House," Grove wrote, were "apparently victims of a practical joke." Bush aides in the Old Executive Office Building (EOB), adjacent to the White House, discovered that "many computer keyboards in their work spaces are missing the W key -- as in President Bush's middle initial."
Some W keys were discovered "taped on top of the doorways," while others were broken.
The report was more cute than cutting, with Grove quoting former Al Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, who quipped: "I think the missing W's can be explained by the vast left-wing conspiracy now at work."
But within two days, Grove's playful item had morphed into one more full-blown Clinton scandal. Suddenly newspapers and TV news shows were featuring extensive reports of Clinton administration "vandalism," stretching from the EOB offices of former Vice President Gore to the West Wing. Reports alleged expletive-ridden graffiti, sliced computer and telephone wires, file cabinets glued shut, presidential seals steamed off doors, stolen pictures and so-called porn bombs, which were never exactly described.
The technological problems the vandals wrought were so severe that, according to a report in the New York Daily News, "a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing."
"Phone lines cut, drawers filled with glue, door locks jimmied so that arriving Bush staff got locked inside their new offices," a disapproving Andrea Mitchell reported on NBC News. The message seemed clear: The trailer-trash Clintons and their staff had enjoyed one last bacchanal at taxpayer expense.
Now it seems those closely detailed stories were largely bunk. Last week it was revealed that a formal review by the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative agency, "had found no damage to the offices of the White House's East or West Wings or EOB" and that Bush's own representatives had reported "there is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by the employees of the Clinton administration."
While cautious GSA staffers won't issue a blanket exoneration of the Clinton team, Bernard Ungar, the agency's director of physical infrastructure, told Salon the media clearly exaggerated the extent of the damage. According to the terse GSA statement that formed the basis of Ungar's conclusion, "the condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy."
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., the ardent Clinton foe who requested the GAO review, has tried to interpret the agency's findings to mean no "record of damage" had been compiled, not that no damage had occurred. But the lack of records "cataloging" any damages -- which Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer promised in January the White House would compile -- would seem to suggest one thing: Widespread acts of vandalism never occurred.
Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002 DCScripts.com
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators
Important Notices: By participating on this discussion
board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules
page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the
opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent
the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.