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 »
CYBER THREATS INCREASING
Clapper: ISIS Will Try to Attack U.S. This Year
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

“Leaders of the Islamic State are determined to strike targets in the United States this year,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a congressional panel today. Clapper added that “al-Qaida, from which the Islamic State spun off, remains an enemy and the U.S. will continue to see cyber threats from China, Russia and North Korea, which also is ramping up its nuclear program.”

Source:
CLYBURN WEIGHING HIS OWN NOD
CBC PAC to Endorse Clinton This Morning
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC will formally endorse Hillary Clinton this morning, and “nearly a dozen CBC colleagues will descend on” South Carolina next week in advance of that state’s important primary. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the highest ranking black member of Congress, reversed his earlier position of neutrality, saying he’ll make a decision “later in the week.”

Source:
MORE TENSIONS ON KOREAN PENINSULA
Senate Votes 96-0 to Sanction North Korea
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the Senate echoed the House’s move last month to stiffen sanctions against North Korea. The bill “would sanction anyone who engages in, facilitates or contributes to North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms-related materials, luxury goods, human rights abuses, activities undermining cyber security and the provision of materials for such activities.” Senate Democrats said they expect the president to sign the bill. In related news, after South Korea suspended operations at a jointly run power station in the North, Pyongyang declared the area a military zone and cut off a hotline between the two countries.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Large Is Hillary Clinton’s Delegate Lead?
2 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Three hundred fifty-two, thanks to superdelegates pledged to Clinton, and the vagaries of the delegate allocation process in early states. Not bad, considering her results have been a virtual tie and a blowout loss.

Source:
×