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September 24 , 2009

Under This Roof

The White House and the Presidency--21 Presidents, 21 Rooms, 21 Inside Stories


In this history of the highest office of the United States of America, Paul Brandus, White House-based journalist and creator of the enormously popular “West Wing Report” (200K+ followers) on Twitter (@WestWingReport) focuses on an oft ignored key player—the life of the White House itself. Even in this time of relentless coverage of the President’s every move, we can forget that he and his advisers are human, with a life filled with smaller personal moments that lead up to the big public ones. Imagine Nixon in the East Room, worrying what would happen if the moon mission fails, or McKinley in the map room knowing he will soon start a war he doesn’t want to fight. The events that shaped America have usually started or ended at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, often with the White House becoming part of the story. Some of those narratives peaked in the Oval Office, but more often the most interesting moment occurred in some quieter, domestic event like Edith Wilson running the country from the Master Bedroom, or Obama nervously playing spades in the Private Dining Room before heading down to the Situation Room on the night Osama bin Laden was killed. These stories will tell not just the history of the event, but will detail, with as much detail as possible, the particular room in which the event occurred. The battered office chair Lincoln used as he pondered the Emancipation Proclamation. The overheated, dimly lit Red Room during the secret swearing in of Rutherford B. Hayes. The stories also mirror, in chronological fashion, the growth of America itself. The White House has expanded as the country has, gained workspace as the government grew, embraced technology as the nation did, and mirrors the dynamism of the United States itself.
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