With a weary sigh, Albert Cox – custodian to the White House – yesterday again pressed the reset button on the ‘Days since the President Did Something Stupid’ Sign that adorns the lawn on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The latest action, promising to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has caused massive instability in the middle-east and led to a promise of four days of rage from the Palestinians.
For Cox, chief caretaker for six Presidents, changing the display has become an almost daily ritual in the last eleven months. ‘I almost forgot we had the sign at all.’ He said to our White House correspondent. ‘I hadn’t had to push it in almost 15 years. All the way back to midway through [George W] Bush’s first term when he choked on that pretzel.’
The sign, largely forgotten about and hidden by an overgrown hedge after years of administration ranging from “moderately competent” to “well-handled”, has now been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished, with the privet now nearly trimmed back and the bulbs replaced on the first digit. It was installed by President Ford after his trip down the airport steps in 1975 and had only been reset a handful of times since this year.
The first was seven days into the Trump Presidency, after the signing of the Executive Order banning travel from specific foreign countries that outraged many and was widely derided as highly xenophobic.
Following this, barely a week has gone by without Cox making the journey to the circuit breaker room to adjust the sign and re-zero the counter. He remembers the day well, ‘When he signed the order, someone mentioned the sign and it took some thinking to recall where the reset was. The button was thick with dust, now it looks brand new from all the pushing in the last year.’
Standing beside the sign, Cox looks wistfully at the previous record of 5492 days. ‘I just wonder if we’ll get to double figures again in the next three years.’ He says, tending to the grass beside the posts. Suddenly, his cell-phone beeps. With a roll of his eyes, he takes it out and reads the message. ‘If you’ll excuse me gents, I have to go reset the sign, our president has just tweeted again. I should just link the reset to his account, it would save me going up and down those stairs.’