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McCurry speaks about diplomacy

Tuesday, February 27, 2001

© The Review



Managing Sports Editors

Former White House press secretary Mike McCurry discussed lacking media coverage of foreign policy to students and community members last Thursday evening in Clayton Hall.

McCurry's appearance was part of Global Agenda, a communications course taught by Ralph Begleiter, distinguished journalist in residence at the university.

McCurry, who served as former President Bill Clinton's White House press secretary from 1995 to 1998, said he has seen a change in the coverage of issues around Washington since 1989, the year communism fell in the former Soviet Union.

"It's been bitter," he said. "Communism brought the country together. Now there is nothing to bring us together at the end of the day."

McCurry said the news media has made a point of cutting back on foreign policy coverage, citing the lack of attention to President George W. Bush's plan for a national-missile defense system during the 2000 presidential campaign.

McCurry called this action "the single most important thing a post-Cold War candidate has proposed.

"We have to adjust the way foreign issues are covered," he said. "Other countries have global economy on the front page. Here, it's in the back of the business section."

Begleiter said the seven-part lecture series, which runs on selected Thursdays throughout the semester, will include discussions on foreign policy issues involving the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Middle East, Africa, China, Russia and political disputes and trade policy in Europe.

"The idea is to expose students to practices in diplomacy, with a focus on the foreign policy problems that the new president will face," Begleiter said. "International affairs are generally not focussed on unless there is a war. This lecture series is a good opportunity to look at those problems."

McCurry was White House press secretary when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in January 1998. During that time period, his daily briefings were routinely broadcast on the major networks and CNN.

McCurry said he called CNN to inquire as to why they continued to broadcast the story without day to day changes.

"I asked them, 'Why are you broadcasting these conferences live when I'm not adding anything new to the story? Nothing has changed,'" he said. "They just told me, 'Because our ratings are up when you're on.' "

McCurry said the White House press corps covered the Lewinsky story disproportionately.

"If you know you can keep viewers, why stop feeding them the same story?" he said.

Before becoming White House press secretary, McCurry, a graduate of Princeton University, served as the press spokesman for the State Department from 1993 to 1995.

After his speech, McCurry fielded questions from approximately 100 people in attendance. The queries covered all areas of the political spectrum, ranging from the troubles in the Middle East to the future of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

"She has a very engaging personality," McCurry said. "Once her colleagues in the Senate get to know her, I think she'll be very successful.

"I don't think she'll try for the presidency [in 2004], but I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up as Senate Majority Leader in the future."