Donald Trump has spent a good chunk of his presidency far away from the fly-infested White House — lately at a cottage on his resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he recently explained to fellow golfers that the “White House is a real dump,” according to Golf magazine.
“TOTALLY UNTRUE,” he wrote Wednesday, several hours before he again evacuated the White House for Bedminster — at which point a renovation crew immediately began tearing the presidential residence apart.
Because regardless of whether Trump said it, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has undeniably acquired some not-un-dump-like qualities over the years.
Renovations underway at the @WhiteHouse. One hour after Air Force One is wheels up🛫the Oval Office is empty. West Wing is clearing out now. pic.twitter.com/FRLZX2WWFN— Dan Scavino Jr. Archived (@Scavino45) August 5, 2017
The scuzziness has nothing to do with the current occupant. As Jenny Starrs noted for The Washington Post, the White House is a centuries-old mansion whose original designers and occupants, whatever their foresight regarding matters of governance, never planned for the plumbing, wiring, extensions and HVAC systems that would be tacked on in future decades.
President Harry S. Truman imagined that the building was haunted, Starr noted — and so dilapidated that he had the place overhauled in the 1940s.
That was the White House’s last major renovation, and many a smirch has accumulated since. President Bill Clinton had a little asbestos problem in the 1990s — his family returned from vacation once to find their bedrooms unusable while a work crew finished up the repairs, according to the New York Times.
And then there are the maggots.
President Barack Obama was famously beset by a housefly during a TV interview a few months into his presidency, amusing reporters when he killed it on camera.
But that fly was one of many generations that had infested the White House through several administrations, the New York Times reported.
Nearly a decade later, Trump reportedly ordered his chief of staff to kill one during a meeting in the Oval Office.
His alleged “dump” comment caused previous White House regulars to defend the building’s beauty.
Obama’s White House photographer wrote that it was a “shameful thing to say, or even think,” and Clinton’s daughter pointedly thanked all the “ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers and curators” who keep the place up.
Thank you to all the White House ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers & curators for all you do every day https://t.co/rjQS9HeALG— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) August 1, 2017
Trump called the report “Fake News,” though a White House official told CNN that the president frequently complained about the building’s poor condition.
So a worker turned off the air-conditioning as soon as Trump left for Bedminster on Friday, the Times reported.
White House officials packed up and moved to a building next door, the Resolute desk was hauled off by movers, and a crew will work to overhaul the place before the president returns in 2½ weeks.
Behind the scenes at the @WhiteHouse - the Resolute desk being removed from the Oval as renovations begin. History: https://t.co/t0alLjNryj pic.twitter.com/8uV1KqxVQC— Dan Scavino Jr. Archived (@Scavino45) August 5, 2017
“The president’s going to continue to work and we all need to be relocated out of the West Wing due to these renovations that should have taken place before,” deputy White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the Associated Press.
She was right. According to the Times, the White House’s heating and air-conditioning systems were nearly three decades old and supposed to have been replaced during Obama’s second term.
But Obama elected to leave the job for the next president, the newspaper reported.
“It’s dire,” Walters told the Times, adding that the system was effectively 81 years old in HVAC years.
Crews will also address other embarrassments across the mansion.
These include a “foul odor” that CNN reported in the West Wing, where ceilings drip in the rain.
And as the Times noted: The South Portico will get its first new steps in 64 years, and Obama-era carpets will be de-yellowed.
It’s unclear how much of the work, if any, is at Trump’s behest. The White House did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
And again, the president says he never called the White House a dump. In a tweet after leaving for Bedminster, he denied he was even taking a vacation — suggesting instead that “long planned construction” had forced him to work out of office.
Regardless, when he gets back from his latest escape from the White House, he should see a spruced-up building that offers slightly more incentive to stay.
This story has been updated.