Your Tax Dollars At Work

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Were there 11 or 13 doorknobs missing? Do "slasher marks" constitute actual writing on a wall? The General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, and the Bush White House nitpicked over such questions in a 215-page GAO report on allegations of vandalism at the White House by Clinton staffers before the Bush takeover. The report, which took nine months to assemble, includes the 82-page GAO text, followed by a 78-page White House rebuttal and another 53 pages of GAO comment on the White House rebuttal. All this cost far more than the roughly $20,000 in damages--which the GAO was "unable to conclude" was any worse than similar sabotage by previous transition pranksters in 1981 and 1993. Scenes from the duel: --By Sean Gregory

Fouled-Up Phones

THE GAO SAYS About 100 phone lines were forwarded to ring at other numbers by outgoing Clinton staffers.

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS The GAO understates the confusion the phone forwarding caused "throughout the complex." The chief of staff's line, for instance, "had been forwarded to ring at a phone in a closet."

Missing W Keys

THE GAO SAYS The President's staff found 30 to 64 computers with their W keys removed or damaged, and 13 to 15 keys taped or glued on walls.

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS The numbers are higher: 58 to 70 keys missing or damaged and 19 to 21 stuck on walls.

Sticky Goo

THE GAO SAYS Four to five desks "had a sticky substance on them."

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS The GAO failed to appreciate how annoying the sticky substance--"a mixture of Vaseline and glue"--actually was. The pranksters hid the stuff under desk drawers, so unsuspecting workers got slimed. One Dick Cheney staffer "got the substance on her pants."

Signs And Graffiti

THE GAO SAYS Bush aides observed "about two dozen" prank signs and messages.

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS There were dozens more, and the GAO failed to itemize them. Some egregious examples: a sticker affixed to a filing cabinet reading JAIL TO THE THIEF, and a sign found "in a number of printers" comparing Bush to a chimpanzee.