by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I’m sure some readers will look at Joe Biden’s inauguration as a sign that the presidency is heading to the toilet. (Donald Trump’s foes thought the same in 2017.) Tevi Troy‘s latest article avoids that debate. Instead he focuses on the history of toilets at the White House.
Heeding the Call
Lyndon Johnson was frustrated that he couldn’t reach his aides when they visited the john, so he had telephones installed in the staff bathrooms. He also had phones in his own facilities, so no matter what urgent personal business was being attended to, urgent presidential business could also be addressed.
While working in Richard Nixon’s White House, national-security adviser Henry Kissinger appropriated colleague Bryce Harlow’s private bathroom as part of an office expansion. Harlow had a good attitude about it, though. “In a way, I’m glad to know the place I used to shit will be Henry’s office,” he told White House counsel John Dean. “That tells me who’s who around here.”
Sharing the Throne
Gerald Ford allowed personal friend and staff troublemaker Robert Hartmann to have an office off the Oval and share his private bathroom. The unusually free access caused challenges to the staff, as Hartmann was able to peruse presidential memos and leak the ones he didn’t like. Deputy chief of staff Dick Cheney eventually evicted Hartmann from the office (and the lavatory).
After Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, White House communications aide David Gergen kept excusing himself from tense discussions in the Situation Room, ostensibly to answer nature’s call. But national-security adviser Richard Allen suspected that Gergen was actually sneaking off to give updates to the press. Either way, Gergen was earning his “Professor Leaky” nickname.
Troy’s latest book focuses on White House infighting. He discussed his work during an episode of the “HeadLocke” podcast.