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Rats Invade White House Pressroom

September 24, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ ``Dirty rats″ among the White House press corps? Nothing new: Kill `em anyway, ordered Mike McCurry.

Workers from the General Services Administration laid traps Thursday after CBS News correspondent Peter Maer _ first through the West Wing briefing room door at 6:10 a.m. _ was greeted by what he called ``an 8- to 10-incher, not counting the tail.″

``I know the feeling,″ commiserated McCurry, the White House press secretary who confronts pesky reporters’ questions in the same room just about every day.

He opened Thursday’s briefing, which was broadcast live by CNN, with the announcement that GSA workers would ``capture and exterminate″ the critter.

``It’s a problem they are very familiar with, apparently, here in the press briefing room,″ McCurry said. ``We have rats _ dirty rats.″

Warned against drawing too close a parallel between reporters and rodents, McCurry joked, ``I’m a short-timer. What do I care? This is not live, is it?″

His resignation takes effect at the end of the month.


If only Bill Clinton were president of Portugal.

McCurry held up a pledge by Portugal’s news media to restrict voluntarily their coverage of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. ``A group of news organizations have decided not to spread _ as of today _ aspects of the intimate life of Bill Clinton,″ McCurry told White House reporters Thursday.

``I have copies duly translated,″ he offered.

U.S. reporters smelled, well, a rat. ``When’s that state visit to Portugal, Mike?″ one asked good-naturedly.

McCurry grinned. ``No, it is not correct that Secretary Albright today proposed permanent Security Council membership for Portugal. That did not happen. Rest assured.″


Maybe Vice President Al Gore and his ``Plain Language Action Network″ could give Clinton a hand.

In what has become a monthly event, Gore presented the network’s ``No Gobbledygook″ award _ whose logo is a cartoonish turkey _ to GSA program analysts who streamlined a 194-word rule on government travel reimbursement down to 45 words.

``Plain speaking helps to create understanding, and understanding helps to create trust,″ Gore advised a small gathering in the Roosevelt Room.

The president, by contrast, struggled with the meaning of ``alone″ and used 39 words to parse ``is″ in his recently released grand jury testimony on Monica Lewinsky:

``It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the _ if he _ if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.″

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