Fox News is latching on to benign White House renovations in order to stoke fears that President Obama is “building a bunker” under the White House:
Fox's big scoop comes courtesy of a big hole dug into the White House lawn. According to The New York Times, the General Services Administration says the construction is connected to “an elaborate renovation of the building's aging air-conditioning and electrical systems.”
The Times also reported speculation that the construction might be related to an emergency White House operations center that already exists beneath the East Wing of the White House, which dates to World War II and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
Vice President Cheney was famously taken to the PEOC on September 11, 2001. And this is not the first time in recent years that underground operations center has been expanded. As the Washington Post reported:
There's already the underground Situation Room, which was renovated and expanded to 5,000 square feet in 2007, and the nuclear bomb shelter below the East Wing, where Vice President Richard B. Cheney was taken on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. And who knows what else sits beneath the White House? A tunnel to the State Department? A secret passage to the Treasury?
With all that subterranean space, think of the White House not just as a 200-year-old, neoclassical Federal-style mansion, but as the tip of an iceberg. Think of what you don't see. It's a building with roots, which in D.C. is not uncommon.
And the Washington Post reported last year when construction began that the White House regularly undergoes upgrades concealed from public view:
Big construction projects - most of them unannounced, unexplained and done at undisclosed cost - are not uncommon at the White House.
Often they are hidden behind tall fences or even in buildings shielding them from view. A major project undertaken during the Reagan administration was situated near the East Wing and lasted for many months, concealed from public sight. It was widely believed to be connected with the underground bunker known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, or the PEOC.
The PEOC has served 12 administrations and can hardly be called Obama's bunker.