Bugged: Obama’s Roach Problem

As in cockroaches. But vermin is nothing new in a building that is 213 years old—and roaches aren’t the worst of it.

Asthma-Cockroaches
National Journal
George E. Condon Jr.
Sept. 13, 2013, 1:27 p.m.

It was just a cock­roach, one of mil­lions around the world. But this one had a White House ad­dress, mak­ing it pretty spe­cial. Well, spe­cial at least to the re­port­ers with work­space in the of­ten-troubled base­ment of the press of­fices. Already this year, they have been treated to flood­ing, soaked car­pet, mousetraps and the won­drous odors of mold.

“It was the size of a small drone,” said Martha Joynt Ku­mar, pro­fess­or of polit­ic­al sci­ence at Towson Uni­versity, who led the ef­fort Wed­nes­day to cap­ture the bug. Ku­mar, who has worked out of the press of­fices study­ing the pres­id­ent-press re­la­tion­ship for al­most four dec­ades, wanted to turn it in­to the Gen­er­al Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the agency re­spons­ible for the build­ing. “I wanted to bag it so that the GSA would know what kind of is­sue we had,” she said. “I chased it. But it got away be­hind some wir­ing.”

It is, of course, not the first time bugs or ver­min have done battle with the hu­mans who work in the 213-year-old build­ing. Hu­mans have not al­ways pre­vailed eas­ily ““ much to the deep frus­tra­tion some­times of the pres­id­ent of the United States. None was more frus­trated than Jimmy Carter, who battled mice from the start of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. To his dis­may, he found the bur­eau­cracy un­re­spons­ive. GSA, re­spons­ible for in­side the White House, in­sisted it had elim­in­ated all “in­side” mice and con­ten­ded any new mice must have come from the out­side, mean­ing, the New York Times re­por­ted at the time, they were “the re­spons­ib­il­ity of the In­teri­or De­part­ment.” But In­teri­or, wrote the Times, “de­murred” be­cause the mice were now in­side the White House.

To make mat­ters worse, GSA and In­teri­or re­fused to use traps, claim­ing hu­mane groups had pro­tested that in the past. But when mice star­ted scam­per­ing across his of­fice in day­light and when his meet­ing with the Itali­an prime min­is­ter was con­duc­ted amid the dis­tinct smell of a dead mouse, Carter erup­ted.

His fury was cap­tured in his di­ary entry for Sept. 9, 1977. Carter that day summoned top of­fi­cials from the White House, the De­part­ment of In­teri­or and the GSA to the Oval Of­fice to un­load on them about the mice over­run­ning the ex­ec­ut­ive of­fices ““ in­clud­ing the dead ones rot­ting away in­side the walls of the Oval Of­fice and giv­ing his of­fice a very un­pleas­ant odor. “For two or three months now I’ve been telling them to get rid of the mice,” Carter wrote. “They still seem to be grow­ing in num­bers, and I am de­term­ined either to fire some­body or get the mice cleared out ““ or both.”

Now more scared for their jobs than at any pos­sible re­ac­tion from hu­mane groups, the bur­eau­cracy re­spon­ded. Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press, daily battle up­dates were sent to the highest levels of the White House, com­plete with body counts and de­scrip­tions of the weapons be­ing de­ployed. On Sept. 12 ““ three days after the meet­ing with Carter ““ GSA re­por­ted 48 spring traps in the White House, in­clud­ing five in the Oval Of­fice and four in Carter’s study. Six more “Ketch All” traps were placed in the crawl space un­der the Oval Of­fice. Pea­nut but­ter, ba­con and cheese were the favored baits. By Sept. 13, the num­ber of traps de­ployed in the West Wing was up to 114. On Sept. 15, the body count was up to 24. By Sept. 19, it was 30; then 38 by the end of the month.

Fi­nally, on Nov. 4th, the GSA de­clared vic­tory, re­port­ing of­fi­cially “the prob­lem (is) un­der con­trol.” The fi­nal “con­firmed catch” was 61; the fi­nal count of traps was 296 spring traps and 141 GSA “bait sta­tions.”

Oth­er pres­id­ents have had their own battles with White House ver­min. First Lady Bar­bara Bush once was tak­ing her daily swim in the pool on the South Lawn when she was joined by a rat that “did not look like a Walt Dis­ney friend, I’ll tell you that.” She told re­port­ers “it was enorm­ous.” She cred­ited her spring­er span­iel, Mil­lie, and her hus­band, the pres­id­ent, with res­cuing her and drown­ing the rat.

With that his­tory, this week’s cock­roach is but a foot­note. But sev­er­al days later it is still un­clear if GSA will de­clare it an “in­door” bug or find a way to blame In­teri­or for let­ting an “out­door” bug in.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4441) }}

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×