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#17: We Are Discouraged, Al ... By Your Facts1
Chapter 22 of Franken’s book is called "I Grow Discouraged About the Tone." He spends its first couple pages revisiting 2001 media reports that there had been vandalism to White House offices by outgoing Clinton staffers before Bush’s people moved in. After a couple of pages, Franken tells his readers that these reports were bunk. On pages 153-154 of Lies (on page 163 in the paperback, there is a re-worded version), he writes,
"Of course, none of this horrible vandalism actually occurred ... Fourteen months later, this, the final investigation of the Clinton administration, yielded a 217-page report that found no damage to the White House nor to the Executive Office Building. ‘There is no record of damage that may have been deliberately caused by employees of the Clinton administration.’" (bold added by me because we will return to this)
I guess Franken is a comedian, because the ‘Conclusions’ section of the actual 217-page report begins as follows (emphasis mine):
Damage, theft, vandalism, and pranks occurred in the White House complex during the 2001 presidential transition. Incidents such as the removal of keys from computer keyboards; the theft of various items; the leaving of certain voice mail messages, signs, and written messages; and the placing of glue on desk drawers clearly were intentional acts.2
Doh! The report, released by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), states the complete opposite of what Franken claims! Franken and his 14 Harvard researchers could not be more wrong!
But what about Franken’s cited quotation (the one I put in bold) that appears to be from the 217-page report? The answer: It isn’t. It’s from an earlier GAO review from the spring of 2001, nearly thirteen months before the final 217-page report was released! In his "Sources and Notes" section at the back of Lies, (on page 359 (p. 387 in the paperback)) Franken references a GAO "report" and a salon.com column from May 2001. The final 217-page GAO report is dated June 2002! Franken uses sources that date before the final investigation even being conducted!!
By the way, the line about there being "no record" (from May 2001) essentially refers to the fact that the White House/Bush administration had not themselves submitted a report (or "record") about deliberate damage that had occurred. It was not a conclusion that there was "no damage," as Franken leads his readers to believe.
In the end, there was, in fact, several thousands of dollars in damage.
Some of the vandalism? Here are some examples from a White House letter/report within the final GAO report. (Numberings of these examples are mine.)
1. " ... more than 20 W [keyboard] keys glued to the walls; at least 14 to 19 pieces of furniture overturned; computers piled up or overturned on floor; telephones and fax machines unplugged and/or piled on the floor in 25 or more offices; at least a dozen fax lines switched; 5 or 6 glass desk tops broken; a plant dumped in the middle of the floor; drawers open and their contents dumped on the desk or the floor; food inside of desks; and beer, wine and liquor bottles littering offices."3
2. A sticker was affixed to a filing cabinet that read "jail to the thief."4
3. A key to a file cabinet was found broken off and still hanging in its lock by a metal thread "(suggesting that the damage occurred not long before the transition) and, when the locksmith opened the cabinet, a Gore bumper sticker with the words ‘Bush Sucks’ was prominently displayed inside."5
4. A sign comparing President Bush to a chimpanzee was found "in a number of printers" and "laced" throughout reams of paper.6
5. A sign was taped to a desk. It was a mock MasterCard ad that included a picture of President Bush and read, "New bong: $50, cocaine habit: $300, Finding out that the good-old-boy network can still rig an election in the Deep South: priceless. For the rest of us there’s honesty."7
6. A sign was found reading, "VP’s cardiac unit."8
7. Graffiti in the men’s restroom read, "What W did to democracy, you are about to do in here."9
Pretty sobering ... If this happened at a frat house, it would be one thing. But these events reportedly occurred within buildings that are part of our national treasure. Dignity, anyone? Geesh.
1 I had considered other topics to add to this site, but a number of wonderful visitors brought this next issue to my attention. Thank you! (You know who you are.) [And ... Although the issue was brought to my attention by others, the report above was the final result of my own independent research.]
2United States General Accounting Office, "The White House: Allegations of Damage During the 2001 Presidential Transition," June 2002, p. 19 (page 22 of the pdf file). [It's online at www.gao.gov/new.items/d02360.pdf.]
3 Ibid., p. 91 (p.94 of the pdf).
4 Ibid., p. 92 (p. 95 of the pdf).
5 Ibid., p. 99 (p. 102 of the pdf).
6 Ibid., p. 93 (p. 96 of the pdf).
7 Ibid., p. 94 (p. 97 of the pdf).
8 Ibid., p. 94 (p. 97 of the pdf).
9 Ibid., p. 102 (p. 105 of the pdf).