'McCurry Has Set the Standard'
Thursday, July 23, 1998
Excerpt from President Clinton's July 23 statement to the press, transcribed by the White House:
Now, I now have the privilege of making the second most important personnel announcement in the news today. I have no information about the status of any of the Chicago Bulls. (Laughter.) However, the long-awaited coup in the press office is finally taking place. (Laughter.)
Much to my regret, but with my full understanding and support, Mike McCurry will be leaving us in the fall. I have also determined to appoint Joe Lockhart as his successor.
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, Mike has redefined the job of press secretary in a new and more challenging era.
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. His ability and his eagerness 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.
But the most difficult and sensitive part of being White House Press Secretary is explaining the foreign policy positions of the United States to the world. 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.
Hillary and I have both enjoyed and deeply valued Mike's presence not only for his obvious skills, but for his wonderful sense of humor and his genuine friendship. We've appreciated his hard work, his loyalty and his ability. We will miss him a great deal and we're glad he's going to be around a while longer.
I am also very fortunate to have in Joe Lockhart an outstanding successor for Mike. I've had an opportunity to work with him very closely, especially over the last several months, not only on important trips to Europe, to Africa, to Latin America, but also on our work on economic and other domestic issues. He is smart; he knows our policies, foreign and domestic. And he has skillfully articulated them.
Mike and Joe were a great team in our 1996 campaign. Mike served as Press Secretary at the White House; Joe did a superb job for Vice President Gore and me during our reelection effort. You all know that the great teamwork has continued here at the White House, with Joe and Barry Toiv serving as Mike's deputies.
When Mike told me at the beginning of the summer that he would begin planning an orderly transition, I knew that Joe would be the ideal replacement, not only for me, but I believe, also for you. Joe knows you well and you know him well, and that's probably half the battle. Joe knows that he can only serve my interests well if he takes care of yours also by being your advocate here at the White House. He does that well already and I know he will continue to be sensitive to your requirements when Mike leaves later this year.
I'll have more to say about Joe and about Mike this fall when we actually make the change. But it's rare in this White House that I get to announce my own personnel decisions. (Laughter.) Especially involving the press. So I wanted you to be the first to know -- after Mike's press office staff, who were just told a few moments ago.
Joe has accepted my offer to be Assistant to the President and Press Secretary.
I also would like to say a word about two very special women who are here -- Debra McCurry and Joe's wife, Laura Logan. While these guys have the pleasure of working until all hours here, it's their families, especially their spouses, who make very special sacrifices. We appreciate them and their willingness to lend Mike and Joe to the American people for a short while.
Now I'm going to be with you later at a meeting for Congress, and I'll be able to answer your questions then. So I'd like to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, under the leadership of old what's his name over here. (Laughter.)
Q: What does this say for Joe's credibility when I asked him yesterday if McCurry was leaving? (Laughter.)
CLINTON: Did he say no or not yet?
Q: He didn't say no -- yes, he said no; he didn't say not yet.
CLINTON: Well, the answer yesterday was no. (Laughter.) The answer today is no. But at sometime in the near future, the answer will be yes.
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