visit the house
September 8, 2003 6:06 AM   Subscribe

White house open to tours again to the public on September 16th-only by reservation that is. How do you get a reservation? Submit your full name, date of birth, social security number and a copy of a photo ID-to your member of Congress for a security "screening". Visit the house paid for by you.
posted by omidius (16 comments total)
You're not missing much, unless you have a weird fascination with Nancy Reagan's fine china collection. All the good parts of the WH have never been open to tourists anyway.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:19 AM on September 8, 2003

it is good news of course. it's just sad that since foreigners don't have a member of Congress I don't see how they'll be able to visit the White House (a tour I enjoyed very, very much)

the power to actually visit public buildings like the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, FBI headquarters, the Supreme Court has always impressed me as a really cool American thing. I'm still nostalgic for the pre-1994 days when Pennsylvania Avenue was open to traffic right in front of the White House. Americans should never underestimate the powerful impression a (safe, of course) open-doors policy of public places has on foreigners.
It impressed me a lot when I first visited Washington, a lot

this decision effectively deletes potential non-US-citizen Al Qaeda terrorists from the visitors list, but all foreigners shouldn't pay that price, I hope they can find a way to get back to first-come, first-served policy

ps me, I liked the WH visit a lot but was most impressed by the tour of the Pentagon. it was about 10 years ago, looks like ancient history after 9-11, sadly
posted by matteo at 6:19 AM on September 8, 2003

I toured the WH at least 3 times in my life. As part of an overall visit, Washington DC has impressed me with its majesty and grace. It renews in me a hope that there's something good about our government and the people that run it -- a hope that falters almost daily.

I'm always most impressed by the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The words that are inscribed on each memorial echo on my soul, and inevitably bring tears to my eyes.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:35 AM on September 8, 2003

I got my tour (and I'm a foreigner). The new way to get tickets is the same as the old way, as far as I can tell. We just had a US Aunt get the tickets for the whole big group of us. She didn't seem to have any trouble getting tickets for both families. And my dad doesn't even have US citizenship at all. (My Mom, Sister and I are dual CDN/US.)

I remember being very bored, and I remember the Secret Service being very nice about the fact we came on the wrong day from what our tickets said. They let us in anyway.
posted by tiamat at 6:39 AM on September 8, 2003

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I've lived in the area (on and off) since 1983 and I've never toured the White House. Or the Washington Monument or the Capitol (which is now off-limits too).

I don't really understand the appeal of touring the Pentagon or FBI though. I mean, they're just (kind of ugly) office buildings.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:56 AM on September 8, 2003

I'd rather go to Disney World, where I can watch the actors in Mickey Mouse and dwarf suits (ex IT workers who get paid minimum wage) toppling over like bowling pins from heat prostration, to be dragged back (by swarms of faceless worker bees) into the labyrinthine tunnel network which underlies the MouseWorld - to be recycled as Soylent Green and also as raw breeding stock for reptilian grey alien breeding experiments.

The White House has nothing comparable to offer.
posted by troutfishing at 7:01 AM on September 8, 2003

I don't really understand the appeal of touring the Pentagon or FBI though. I mean, they're just (kind of ugly) office buildings.

well, the Pentagon tour (ca 1992-1993) was pretty interesting: I toured it with a group of about 12 people (first-come, first-served basis, I just had to show my passport and they took my name, that's all -- pretty reasonable). Of course it was forbidden to take photographs, but you could keep your camera/videocamera with you (back then videocameras were pretty bulky, maybe that rule changed in the era of very small videocameras, who knows). What I remember is the "tour guide" was a very nice marine, you were shown around different offices (including the Secretary of Defense's, it had to be either Cheney or Les Aspin), the big chunk of the Berlin Wall, the POW wall, and I also saw the press briefing room -- very very tiny. It was really cool if you're somewhat interested in foreign/military policy. and the architecture (the small, low concentric hallways) was very cool (I think the Pentagon building, designed in a weekend and built in about less than a year, is genius)
The Hoover building (FBI headquarters) is, yes, the ugliest concrete box ever. but the museum inside was very interesting (the FBI's most famous cases, Dillinger's death mask and so forth), and they showed you a crime lab (one-way mirrors) and you were also shown the target practice range, and a sniper gave a target practice demonstration (so if you're into firearms, you'll probably dig that). It was also kind of funny the way they didn't really talk that much about J Edgar Hoover, that's probably what happens when you don't wait long enough before naming a building after somebody -- history not being very kind and all.
posted by matteo at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2003

the big chunk of the Berlin Wall

I got to see that chunk of the berlin wall in the pentagon, which was kinda neat. I wasn't on a tour, but was in the pentagon because I needed an updated military ID (my father was air force and he was taking me to the proper office for doing that). Other than that, what little I saw was a pretty dreary office building.

Never visited the white house, but did get to do the walk down the washington monument, oh, probably 10-13 years ago or so. Back then it was something they only did occasionally, and we just happened to be standing in line to go up the thing when they came around asking if anyone was interested in the tour. (This was before the renovation, didn't they open it up after that? I honestly don't remember).
posted by piper28 at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2003

On one hand, it is the primary residence of the President, debatably one of the most powerful men in the world.

On the other hand, why on earth do they need my Social Security Number? Do they need to report my visit to the IRS, or maybe put it on my credit report?

"Why yes, Ms. Ilsa, I see here that you have a Visa, a mortgage, a car payment, and a visit to the White House in 2003...."
posted by ilsa at 11:02 AM on September 8, 2003

No doubt, Ilsa, it'll be so that they can check your criminal history, compared to the hundreds of other Ilsa's in the country. If you're a convicted felon, or appear on any of the government watch lists, don't expect to get your "Welcome to the White House" packet any time soon.
posted by Dreama at 11:33 AM on September 8, 2003

ilsa: probably just so that they can run it and make sure you're really you, and that you don't have a note that says "plans to kill the president" somewhere in your various police files.

From what I understand US law enforcement uses the SSN as one of their primary ways of tagging and filing data, and therefore asking people to supply one before they can get into the White House makes good security sense.
posted by tiamat at 11:34 AM on September 8, 2003

the big chunk of the Berlin Wall

So THAT'S where the head of the toppled Saddam statue will end up.
posted by archimago at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2003

From what I understand US law enforcement uses the SSN as one of their primary ways of tagging and filing data

America: Simultaneously prosecuting and causing identity theft since 1995.
posted by PrinceValium at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2003

The whole problem stems back to the last year of the Clinton administration, when a couple of boys broke off from their tour group and got into the residence area. One of them even allegedly got into Chelsea's room when she was taking a nap.

posted by kablam at 7:16 PM on September 8, 2003

Submit your full name, date of birth, social security number...

You know, I have the original ss card my parents got when I was born...and on it, it says "Not to be used for the purposes of identification."
posted by dejah420 at 8:17 PM on September 8, 2003

I think this is a very wise move by the US government. You don't want us Canucks touring your white house, 'cause we're just all too likely to burn it down again...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:07 PM on September 8, 2003

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