Hoarseness forces Clinton to shut up and stay put

January 27, 1994|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Practice is supposed to make perfect, but in the case of President Clinton's State of the Union speech, too much rehearsal has ruined the follow-up act.

Yesterday, because of a voice so hoarse that he couldn't speak, Mr. Clinton canceled several appearances designed to bolster the points he made in Tuesday's address, including a planned trip to General Motors Corp.'s Broening Highway plant in Baltimore.

The president also postponed an evening sojourn to Piney Point in St. Mary's County, where he was supposed to speak to more than 150 House Democrats meeting at an issues conference. The lawmakers now hope Mr. Clinton will show up in time for lunch tomorrow.

"It's your basic hoarse voice," White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said. She added that Mr. Clinton's doctors had ordered him to keep quiet, which in his case "is a challenge."

It's also an inconvenience.

Mr. Clinton had planned to visit Kramer Junior High School in southeast Washington yesterday to dramatize his call to give inner-city children "something to say yes to."

"Let's give our children a future," he said in his speech Tuesday. "Let's take away their guns and give them books."

But that event was canceled, as were his plans to call Bob Dole of Kansas, the Senate minority leader, and Robert H. Michel of Illinois, the House minority leader, critics of his health reform plan, to try to find common ground.

In Baltimore, he was supposed to address workers at the GM minivan plant and offer them as a success story.

"It's a plant where management retooled and the workers were retrained, and it has been extraordinarily successful," a White House official said. "It's a place that shows what the president has been saying about American workers needing to be 'smart' and why it's necessary to keep the deficit low and exports flowing for the recovery to keep going."

In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Clinton focused most heavily on health insurance, welfare reform and pending anti-crime legislation. White House strategists, worried that the good news about the nation's economy might get lost in the shuffle, hurriedly put the Baltimore visit together over the weekend.

"The request came in, 'Can you host the president?' and we said, 'Certainly,' " said Linda Cook, director of public affairs for GM's truck group.

But after rehearsing his State of the Union speech for three days, taking 64 minutes to deliver it and then even fielding a couple of calls from citizens through the White House switchboard, Mr. Clinton's voice was shot.

White House officials said the events would be rescheduled.

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