Barack Obama

Burying the Lede About Buried White House Underground Lair in Vanity Fair Obama Profile


You are hearing a lot about Michael Lewis–usually a genuinely good reporter and explainer and writer–and his "unprecedented deep access" loving encomium to President Barack Obama, decisionmaker-in-chief, in Vanity Fair

You learn, in a piece framed as being about the seriousness of Obama's Libyan intervention, far more about his basketball playing style than his foreign policy. (Don't go too easy on the Prez, or you are out! Alternately, don't hit him in the face; you are out for that too.)

Andrew Ferguson in a funny Weekly Standard evisceration/deep reading of the Lewis profile says of the Lewis piece the exact same thing I said about a past Joe Biden profile in Esquire–that it tells you about the politician in question exactly what that politician wants you to think. What I said about the Biden piece:

It is all so completely inside Biden's own head, so obviously exactly the way he wants to think about and present himself, including the way it deals with his defeats and foibles, that one has to respect the writer's skill as psycho-biographer. But ultimately, this article is a skilled and devoted act of a courtier, not a journalist, and the last sort of thing Americans need from their writers on politics.

This is a common thread, and its actually pretty bi-partisan (McCain got the same loving treatment, mostly), in America's quasi-serious magazines such as Vanity Fair or the various men's magazines when writing about politicians. It's like they are required to take them seriously in exactly the same way they take themselves seriously. It's sad.

Sadder though is how few are focusing on the coolest and weirdest detail buried in the middle of the article, one that should limn in a bigger way than even the rest of this story how, when it comes to government, too often we only know exactly what they want us to know:

Crossing the White House lawn on the way out that morning I passed a giant crater, surrounded by heavy machinery. For the better part of a year hordes of workmen have been digging and building something deep below the White House—though what it is no one who knows will really say. "Infrastructure" is the answer you get when you ask. But no one really does ask, much less insist on the public's right to know. The president of the United States can't move a bust in the Oval Office without facing a firestorm of disapproval. But he can dig a hole deep in his front yard and build an underground labyrinth and no one even asks what he's up to.

The Associated Press wrote about the project, now finished, earlier this month:

The General Services Administration, which oversaw the work, said it was to replace aging water and steam lines, sewers, storm sewers and electrical wiring conduits. Heating, air conditioning and fire control equipment also are being updated, officials said.

However, what reporters and photographers saw during the construction appeared to go well beyond that: a sprawling, multistory structure whose underground assembly required truckload after truckload of heavy-duty concrete and steel beams.

The GSA maintains this structure is merely "facilitating" the utility work. But neither the agency nor the administration will elaborate on its function. Last year, when the project began, GSA officials denied the construction was for additional office space or another bomb shelter. The existing White House bunker, known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, is under the East Wing and dates to the Roosevelt administration.

The GSA went to great lengths to keep the work secret, not only putting up the fence around the excavation site but ordering subcontractors not to talk to anyone and to tape over company info on trucks pulling into the White House gates.

Bonus Tom Waits: "What's he building in there?"

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  1. It’s not fair that only high-powered, wealthy people have underground bunkers – if liberals REALLY cared, EVERYONE would have an underground bunker.

    Otherwise, it’s just racist to only let the powerful people have them.

    1. …for the children.

    2. Not if they live in Austin Texas.

      If you’re a white guy with a bunker in Austin that makes you a scary militia type.

  2. I’ll bet it’s the White House Man Cave, with an underground driving range, private sports bar with a Jumbotron, a 9-hole pitch-and-putt, and a couple of full court basketball gyms.

    1. What? No bowling alley or underground TRAKTOR PULLZ arena?

      1. The White House already has a bowling alley.

        1. Used to have an inside pool, too.

          1. What, no tennis court?

            1. Don’t know about that. There was a track back in the Clinton years.

              1. Warlords.

    2. “full court basketball gyms.”


  3. Each workman was responsible for only 3 cubic meters of the bunker, and when his section was completed, he was terminated. National Security, and all that.

    1. And they already had a hole to dump them into… hmmm.

  4. There are already tunnels there. I was at the entrance to the one between the OEOB and the White House back in the 90s. At the time, someone (I want to say the FBI or the SS) had a little shop there for WH souvenirs.

    Gotta figure there were more than just that one, even then. One that some lowly fellow wouldn’t have access to.

  5. They are redoing some of the stuff in the West Wing. BFD. Why is that even interesting let alone the most interesting thing in the article?

    1. You’re in on the secret. Otherwise, you’d be hating on the president’s underground coup chamber, too.

  6. It was said (by Condi) during 9/11 the bunker/Situation Room couldn’t handle the number of bureaucrats that were in there and that some of them had to be asked to leave. It would make sense to upgrade the air handling systems, etc. down there, because dog knows each high-level asshole needs a herd of staff and sycophants follow behind.

    1. The West Wing is really small. It makes total sense they would do this. I have no idea why Reason finds this so interesting.

      1. The interest seems feigned to me.
        Perhaps you need to recalibrate your sarcasm detector.

        1. Maybe so. Is that the joke? That the article is so poorly written and such a boring peon to Obama that the most interesting thing in it is the stupid hole in the ground?

          If so, bad on me for not getting the joke.

          1. Maybe only people who know how to spell get the joke.

    2. And some of them smell bad, too.

  7. The president of the United States can’t move a bust in the Oval Office…


    Oh, wait. That’s bust a move.

    Never mind!

    1. Close enough. It is a dog whistle.

      1. To leftists, everything sayable by non-liberals is a “dog-whistle”.

    2. The 9 Most Unnecessary Greatest Hits Albums of All Time

      #2. The Best of Young MC

      More than any other album on this list, this is as far from a greatest hits or best of collection as it gets. In fact, “The Best of Young MC” is really just his first album with a different title, a different album cover and three fewer songs. Three… fewer… songs. Sure, he recorded more albums, a bunch of them in fact. But none of those songs made it onto “The Best of Young MC.” What this implies is that Young MC’s career ran out of creative steam 10 songs into the recording of his first album, but someone decided a best-of collection was still a good idea anyway.

      As if that’s not sad enough, a quick check of the titles of some of his other albums, “Return of the One Hit Wonder” and “Bust A Move 2002” for example, are so desperate, pathetic and self-loathing they make Color Me Badd’s story sound like a happy ending.

      1. Nearly every one of them is from the 80s.

      2. The Best of Nelson takes the cake, dude.

          1. At least he was in Ace Ventura. Nelson, on the other hand…

            1. 1990 was a brutal year for music.


                Look at the Grammys for 1991. My God. It is horrible even for the Grammys.

                1. Top Ten Rock Albums of 1990
                  1. Fear Of A Black Planet – Public Enemy
                  2. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – Sinead O’Connor
                  3. AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted – Ice Cube
                  4. Ritual De Lo Habitual – Jane’s Addiction
                  5. Violator – Depeche Mode
                  6. Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em – MC Hammer
                  7. Mama Said Knock You Out – LL Cool J
                  8. Shake Your Money Maker – Black Crowes
                  9. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches – Happy Mondays
                  10. Ragged Glory – Neil Young Crazy Horse



                    Top Five songs for 1990

                    1 Everything I Do) I Do It For You

                    2 Black Or White Michael Jackson
                    3 It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday Boyz II Men
                    4 Rush Rush Paula Abdul Paula Abdul –
                    5 Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) CC Music Factory

                    The singles are worse than the albums.

              2. Your favorite band sucks
                /Generic Slam

              3. Albums released by MC Hammer, The Black Crowes, Kid ‘n Play, Everlast, Tony! Toni! Ton?!, Paula Abdul, Wilson Phillips, New Kids on the Block, Extreme, Too Short, LL Cool J, Vanilla Ice, Warrant, The Simpsons Sing the Blues…

                I was a horrible time to live through…

                1. Fuck I hated The Black Crowes. All of that shitty fake soul music. And that God damned song about the chick on heroin that listening to made you want to OD on heroin.

              4. 1990 was the dead time after 80s alternative and glam rock had utterly played itself out and nothing had come along to replace it yet (which grunge would do shortly). It was also a terrible time for movies.

                1. It’s ninth grade all over again!

                2. 1990 in movies at least had Goodfellas.

                  1. Ghost made 505 million?

                    1. That’s all it made?

                    2. Wikipedia doesn’t say if it is adjusted or 1990 dollars.

                      The Hot Spot came out in 1990, at least redeeming the year somewhat.

                      Jennifer Connolly’s boobs when she was nineteen… gg[D\

                      Sorry, I think I stroked out there for a second.

                    3. And Virginia Madson as well.

                    4. Yes. There was actually a federal law that mandated that every first date in America during the summer of 1990 be to see Ghost. It was a dark time.

          2. Tone L?c is especially sad, since “Funky Cold Medina”–one half of his two “Greatest Hits”–was written by Young MC.

            1. Actually both Funky Cold Medina and Wild Thing were written by Young MC

              1. It’s even worse than I thought. Poor accent “O” bastard.

      3. Vanilla Ice is of course on there. I blame that on a vast overestimation of the quality of what other pop hip hop acts were doing at the time rather than anything unique about his crap output.

    3. Shit, I actually read that as bust a move, since I had forgotten about Bustgate. I guess I’m racist.

  8. The General Services Administration, which oversaw the work, said it was to replace aging water and steam lines, sewers, storm sewers and electrical wiring conduits. Heating, air conditioning and fire control equipment also are being updated, officials said.

    I fail to see why that would not include big steel beams and a large quantity of concrete.

    I also fail to see why one would not want to keep the specifics of (design schematics) of the particulars of the utilities a not only could tampering of those systems lead to the death of the president but specifics could also give an intruder access to the white house for spying and or an attack.

    Jesus fucking Christ the US government is not releasing information about fast and furious and the idiotic press is worried about access to storm sewer dry well schematics.

    1. You can’t fool me. Underground escape rocket silo or nothing.

  9. Excellent work on the Tom Waits. “He has no dog.”

  10. The General Services Administration, which oversaw the work, said it was to replace aging water and steam lines, sewers, storm sewers and electrical wiring conduits. Heating, air conditioning and fire control equipment also are being updated, officials said.

    As a land developer with reasonable understanding of building code and development standards and how the federal government works i think what happened is one small thing broke. Could be a sewer pipe, could be some wires, a clogged storm sewer ect.

    Anyway we are talking about the federal governmetn here. A developer would fight the sort of upgrade to meet new standards horse shit federal and state try to push anytime you try to fix any utility work. I do not imagine the federal government putting up any sort of fight against itself. So a pipe broke and you needed to dig but that would require moving some wire conduit which also do not meet code and the wires are part of x which is part of z and a whole fucking cascade of substandard utility work suddenly needs to be upgraded. So they end up digging a giant hole on the white house lawn and haul in copious amounts of steel beams and concrete.

    1. Also, graft.

  11. Hai Guays!
    Obama says he needs 4 more years to fix things.
    What do ya say, should we give him a chance?
    Just a small chance?


    you guys are meanies.

    1. Obama says he needs 4 more years to fix things.

      Next time he’ll do the right thing and hire licensed, bonded, contractors.

  12. Note to Michael Lewis: You can stop polishing the Prez’s balls now. I mean, if smoke starts coming out of his underwear, you’re polishing them too hard.

  13. Obviously, it’s a containment chamber for zombie Lincoln.

  14. All these comments, and no


    1. I thought it and forgot to mention it. Thanks for getting us back on track.

  15. Maybe they’re adding a Metro stop.

    1. Just a stop? Fuck that.

      As part of the President’s commitment to public transportation, he’s installing a whole new line, running from one end of the whitehouse to the other. For security reasons the new line will not be connected to the rest of the system.

      Completion is scheduled for some time in 2045, by which point the ridership will have doubled beyond planned capacity (though still insufficient to even pay back the capital investment, much less pay for day-to-day operation) and all the escalators will be permanently out of service.

  16. High Speed Escape Rail?

  17. Sounds like a plan dude. Wow.

  18. I’ll worry when he starts construction on a series of palaces.

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