White House Shenanigans: Pranks or Vandalism?

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Ah, the majestic White House. The people's palace. The seat of democracy. Home to the most daring short-sheeters in the free world.

That's right — Camp Pennsylvania Avenue is in session (please report to your bunks) and pranksters are at it again. Sunday, upon entering the White House offices for their first day on the job, many Bush staffers sat down at their new desks and turned on their computers. Right away, there was a problem: The keyboards were missing their "w" keys. Not exactly subtle, and definitely annoying.

Unfortunately, the high jinks didn't stop there. During their first week, the GOP staff was also forced to contend with tangled phone lines and reports of broken glass desktops. A little surprise looms as well — according to one snickering Gore staffer, when the new White House occupants replace paper in the office photocopiers, they'll find themselves face to face with empty paper trays emblazoned with "Gore 2000" bumper stickers. (This little trick has also been reported in newspapers as "leaving obscene messages in the copy machines," a discrepancy that gives you a sense of just how subjective this "humor" thing really is — and how some campaign slogans just rub people the wrong way).

In Washington, everyone is debating whether all this is very funny or not funny at all. Gore staff members are happy to characterize their actions as "pranks," and while most freely admit they behaved childishly, no one seems especially remorseful. Bush staffers, on the other hand, are calling the transgressions "vandalism," and Thursday, the Bush administration announced they were "cataloguing" the damage they've discovered since the first day on the job.

Happily for taxpayers, no one seems particularly interested in pursuing a formal investigation — Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer reports that the President is eager to forgive and forget the transgressions, because he "understands that transitions can be times of difficulty and strong emotion." (Loosely translated, that means: "I have no interest in getting sucked into a debate over who has precipitated more undignified pranks in his lifetime.") Instead, GOP officials are taking this moment to gloat, shaking their heads sadly whenever the "incidents" are mentioned, and sagely murmuring that we could hardly expect any better from the likes of the Clinton family.

Meanwhile, Clinton aides are quick to point to travails they suffered during their first few days at work — staffers for former president Bush reportedly removed the cords connecting receivers to phones and left office furniture spackled with photographs of the elder Bush and Bush-Quayle campaign stickers. One staff member remembers an especially prescient note left in a desk occupied by a Bush aide. It read, simply, "We'll be back."