GOP leaders on Capitol Hill claimed vindication on Friday upon news that the White House cheese was nearly stolen. The government announced that an intruder had gained access to the Cheese Room, but that the historic Jefferson Dairy Case had not been breached.
Republicans had predicted trouble if President Obama went to Copenhagen for 18 hours in an attempt to win the 2016 Olympic Games for the United States.
“I hate to say we told you so, but: we told you so,” said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, adding, “When the cat’s away.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner agreed: “Protecting the cheese should be at the top of our shopping list.”
“The American people deserve better than a president who tries to do more than one thing at a time. And anyway, it’s not like Americans ever do well in international athletic competitions,” Boehner said.
The senior Republicans had good reason to expect trouble: the chief suspect in Cheesegate is Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin), a member of the Wheys and Means Committee. Secret Service sources say White House staff found Petri in the Cheese Room, when he was meant to be attending a meeting on dairy price supports.
However, architecture experts say there was little threat to the cheese. “I know it may look like an ornate Federalist era drawing room you could break into with a butter knife, but the Cheese Room has security,” said Minnie Frandle, historic buildings researcher at the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. The sophisticated system, installed during a $400 million security upgrade ordered in 2002 by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has sophisticated motion detectors, video surveillance, and temperature controls to keep cheese fresh.
President Obama can even monitor the cheese from Air Force One, which he was doing Friday on the ground in Denmark — while also teleconferencing with generals about Afghanistan, strategizing with aides about health care reform, helping his daughter Malia with homework, and balancing his checkbook. Obama saw an unauthorized person on his Cheese Room screen, and alerted staff back in Washington. “The president’s critics can relax: no one’s going to move the nation’s cheese,” Frandle said.