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U.S.: A Change Of Spokesmen At The U.S. White House

Washington, 24 July 1998 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton took the unusual step of personally announcing that his press secretary, Michael McCurry, is leaving the post in the autumn.

Clinton walked out to the daily briefing of White House correspondents Thursday to say that much to his regret, McCurry will step down in October. Clinton said he understands and supports McCurry in his desire for relief from the extremely high pressure job.

Said Clinton: "Quite simply, Mike McCurry has set the standard by which future White House press secretaries will be judged. In an age where Washington has come to be governed by a 24-hour news cycle and endless cable channels with their special niche audiences, (McCurry) has redefined the job of press secretary in a new and more challenging era."

Clinton made a special point of praising McCurry for his ability to deal with international issues, saying the most difficult and sensitive part of the job was "explaining the foreign-policy positions of the United States to the world."

Clinton said: "His mastery of foreign policy, his understanding not only of broader issues but of the nuances of them, his ability to respond to developments precisely, and when necessary not so precisely, have made him a unique and instrumental element of our nation's public diplomacy around the world."

Before going to the White House in 1995, McCurry was spokesman at the State Department, which is responsible for conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Although Clinton did not mention this specifically, as spokesman, McCurry increasingly had to deal with questions about the various allegations and investigations into Clinton's personal life.

Clinton did note, however, that: "Whatever the news, in good times and bad, he is trusted by the American people and trusted by our administration, to provide accurate information about our policies and to be a forceful and effective advocate for them."

He said McCurry's ability "to fight the good fight on political or policy issues is well known, and few could hope to match his intelligence and wit from the podium."

Clinton named deputy press secretary Joe Lockhart to succeed McCurry in the dual post of assistant to the president and press secretary.

Lockhart is not a new face for Clinton. He was press secretary for Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign and worked in all three Democratic presidential campaigns of the 1980s. He also has worked in broadcasting.

McCurry's departure was not unexpected. He had made it known early in the year that he wanted to spend more time with his family and explore job opportunities that did not involve being a spokesman -- a job he has done for 22 years.