With the vandalism story turning so clearly against
them, the White House has now decided to strike back.
According to this
story in the Washington Post, someone at the White House went around
late last week collecting "recollections of officials and career government
employees" and wrote up a list on Friday. (This was in response to queries from
A few points seem worth making. Presumably this is the maximal argument,
considering that this is the best news-cycle moment for the White House to turn
the tide on the story. Even at that, it's pretty weak stuff. And at the
risk of stating the obvious, none of this is any more substantiated than it was
before. Ari Fleischer has a list. None of the people who saw the stuff have come
forward to make the claims and answer questions. With the exception of two
snapshots of the White House counsel's office which the Post said showed
the place with "lot of trash but no discernible damage," they have produced
In fact most of the accusations are worded in a broad and inflammatory
fashion -- but in a way that is quite short of specifics.
There was "obscene graffiti in six offices." Well, just what did it say? Are
they talking about the Office of Strategery signs?
Or what about the "Pornographic or obscene greetings ... left on 15 telephone
lines"? Just what did they say? Were these just harmless jokes? Like the stuff
the Bushies left for the Clinton's eight years earlier? Or things that were
actually nasty or obscene?
Many of the accusations seem at least as easy to explain in terms of
disorganization and confusion as intentional mischief. Fleischer reported that
75 phone lines were tampered with. But this meant "having the number plates
removed and the lines plugged into the wrong wall outlet."
What we have here are accusations and, truthfully, most are either vague to
the point of meaningless or just too pitiful to even mention. In this latter
category you'd have to include the mention of the "two historic doorknobs [that]
(Note To Mike Allen: did Ari say that line about the historic doorknobs with
a straight face? Did you ask for any more details? Is this "doorknob-gate" now?
Or, given that it centers on Fleischer, maybe just knob-gate?)
For my part, nothing in the Post article changes the essential facts
or merits of the case. It only shows Fleischer and company's willingness to
compound the original slander. "We tried to be gracious, but the last
administration would not take graciousness," Fleischer told the Post.
Fleischer's explanation for why they didn't tell any of this to folks at the
GAO also sounds fishy:
Bernard L. Ungar, the agency's director of physical infrastructure
issues, said in an interview that White House officials had told him some items
"had to be repaired, such as telephones and computer keyboards, but that there
was no record of damages."
Fleischer said the agency had only "asked us if we had anything in writing to
"The answer is 'no' because we did not keep track in writing -- consciously
so, because the president wanted to look forward and not look backward,"
Leaving aside Fleischer's again-repeated, risible claim that was trying to
tamp down the story, not elevate it, here's what we know: an administration
which campaigned on and flaunted its conspicuous honesty started its term in
office with a orchestrated campaign of lies. His press secretary (and numerous
White House officials and Republican operatives) started his administration job
off by deceiving the admittedly credulous White House press corps and
participating in an orchestrated campaign to slander his predecessors.
An administration which campaigned on and flaunted its conspicuous honesty
started its term in office with a orchestrated campaign of lies.
Coming from Ari Fleischer a mere list of accusations just won't cut it.