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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 14, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY
                    National Naval Medical Center
                         Bethesda, Maryland

2:55 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: (In progress) -- that's what we're going to do to your knee. (Laughter.) Either one of the doctors or the nurses.

Q Can you say that again?

MR. MCCURRY: Lovett and Buffet, that's what we're doing to your knee. And they all cracked up at that. So they had a good laugh at that.

Q Which Lyle Lovett album?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the particulars. Okay. That ought to keep you entertained for a while. We'll give you a time when it's over.

Q Mike, can you explain to us -- although, I think you may not want to -- what the procedures have to be, what has to be in place if there were to be an exercise of the 25th Amendment, what would it be?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have it here. I mean, there is a very formal procedure in place. One of the recommendations that came out of that 25th Amendment conference that was held recently is that every White House have a written plan in place, such as ours, that indicates what the procedures are. We've never made that public because, in fact, some aspects of that are classified. But it does require a written transmission of letters. You've seen that happen in the past and the procedure we have is similar.

Q Have those letters been drafted?

MR. MCCURRY: No, but we have, through counsel and through contacts with the Vice President's staff, we've made all the necessary arrangements just in case.

Q When you say, "made all the necessary arrangements," what do you mean?

MR. MCCURRY: Just that we've made sure we would be able to reach the people we needed to reach, have the people who would need to make the transfer, make sure that Gene Sperling was in place so that he could go in and announce that he was in control. (Laughter.)

Q Where's Mrs. Clinton?

MR. MCCURRY: Mrs. Clinton gave him a big hug and a kiss as he left, and she's remained in the quarters, in the President's quarters in the METU unit.

Q And is Chelsea up?

MR. MCCURRY: No, she's at school, but there was some discussion that she might want to come out here later today.

Q Is the President under any anesthesia besides the epidural?


Q That's it, no tranquilizers, no --

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct.

Q But he will be on painkillers after?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they had discussed prior they would not -- they were not going to prescribe any narcotic painkillers, but he might take some type of painkiller if it's required. And we'll let you know if that's prescribed.

Q Toratol was the one that was mentioned.

MR. MCCURRY: That's what was prescribed by Dr. Cohen and Dr. Mariano earlier. But I don't have information on his -- I don't have any information on --

Q Did he actually talk to the surgeon while --

MR. MCCURRY: Early and often, apparently.

Q What's the music? Does he wear headsets?

MR. MCCURRY: No, they just play it in the operating room.

Q In the operating room, make everybody have to.

Q So he was actually talking as they were working?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they asked him if he would -- they said sometimes we play music and are you interested? And he said, it depends on what you have or something like that. (Laughter.) So they went through the whole list and they apparently spent some time debating what they were actually going to --

Q But he is actually talking to them?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, yes. He's fully conscious, fully awake, and fully yakkable.

Q -- himself -- (inaudible.)

MR. MCCURRY: He probably would be willing to.

Q Can we request the orthopedic camera, orthoscopic camera video?

MR. MCCURRY: Actually, I don't think -- this is not a laproscopic program.

Q Is anybody photographing in there?

Q Are there agents --

Q -- straight up, across, exactly how the cut was made and how long it is or any of the details?

MR. MCCURRY: The doctor indicated they were going to do lateral -- no, wait a minute.

Q He said vertical.

Q Longitudinal.

MR. MCCURRY: Vertical, vertical. Longitudinal, right. In other words -- and he indicated it's like up -- from the kneecap up.

Q Mike, are there agents in the operating suite?

MR. MCCURRY: They've got -- one of the advantages of being here in Bethesda is they that have a secure facility, and they -- a pre-arranged secure facility for the President, which is why this is, in a sense, his hospital. So the Service has got what they need here.

Q Mike, can you say if the President was drinking prior to --

MR. MCCURRY: That was answered this morning by Dr. Mariano. She said no.

Q Did you say Mrs. Clinton was -- here, waiting for him?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. They have kind of a suite. They have a -- it's really a very nice suite where they can take care of the President and his family members if they need to here.

Q King-size, double?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, there's a kind of master bedroom suite with a hospital bed and a large-screen television which I think is going to get a real workout. Then normal -- the kind of -- and it's nice, got a desk and a phone. In fact, Mrs. Clinton was actually working at the desk and making some phone calls. And then in the next two are the normal things you have in a hospital room, sink and stuff for doctors to wash up, an extra-large bathroom with extra-large doors. There are two guest rooms in the hallway across, a conference room for the doctors to meet, and a little lounge area that has also got a television and books.

Q Is there a possibility that we're going to be able to get a still this afternoon in the room?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll see.

Q The accident itself -- did the President actually fall? Did he describe a flash of pain, or what did he --

MR. MCCURRY: That all has been briefed and we can give you the transcript from earlier today. But I wasn't there for that, but Dr. Mariano briefed on that and Mary Ellen Glynn briefed on that.

Q What happens to the government -- even though the President is conscious, certain things --

MR. MCCURRY: We have a full crew of people working at the White House today and the President gets updated like he would any other day, as leader.

Q But not during.

MR. MCCURRY: If we needed to ask him something or get some decision from him, he would be available for that.

Q Will the First Lady spend the night here tonight?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have information on that.

Q When will the President decide when he gets out of here?

MR. MCCURRY: After they talk to the doctors, later on.

Q Could they decide today rather than tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think they'll decide today. I think they will probably see what's going on tomorrow.

Q Are you still looking at 5:00 p.m. --

MR. MCCURRY: If I can do it around then. That might be a little optimistic. It is probably going to be a little later than that.

Q Would the surgeons come up, too?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. My intent is to provide the surgical team that did it, yes.

Q So when do you think -- what are you looking at for time?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no way of knowing. They just started.

Q I assume it's safe to assume he's not planning to do any -- (laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: No, he's not.

Q Was it the front door of the house or the back door?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You should have asked folks who were down there.

Q -- videotape --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer.

Q Is a Navy film crew in there and we're not?

Q Does the President have health insurance?

MR. MCCURRY: He's covered by an act of Congress. His medical care and the medical care of the First Family and the Vice President and the Second Family are prearranged by act of Congress. I'm trying to get more information on that. But, for example, when they do the annual physical or when they're treated here, and I believe that when they are treated at a remote site like St. Mary's, they work out the arrangement through the Medical Unit to reimburse for the cost, pursuant to the authority they've got under the law.

Q But it's not a health insurance policy, it's the government assuming the --

MR. MCCURRY: No, it's not like -- I think the government assumes the direct cost of the health care because they provide health care for the President and his family and the Vice President and his family.

Q Is Dr. Mariano in there?


Q She's observing?

MR. MCCURRY: She's there and has supervised the consultations with the President. She knows all these docs herself, being a Navy doctor herself. In fact, she interned and has served with virtually all the members of this team, so she was very happy to be introducing all of her friends to the President and told little stories.

Q She knows them?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, she knows most of them quite well, personally.

Q How many doctors are there?

MR. MCCURRY: Everyone that can be in on it, is in on it. (Laughter.) The Chief of Cardiology came running over and said, we're happy to hook up an EKG, because our unit would like to be in on it. They wanted to see if they needed blood workups or anything like that.

Q No dermatologist there? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Dr. -- I think it's Corbett already got his moment in the sun. Remember he came and did the little inclusion cyst.

Q Someone will have to check out the scar on the knee, though.

Q How close was Dr. Mariano -- pretty quickly.

MR. MCCURRY: She was in, I think, another one of the guest cottages nearby. Yes, she wouldn't always be in the vicinity. Now, they had a doctor on duty who was with them, because there would be a doctor on duty with him right up until he goes out, yes.

Q So there's always one physician or more than physician?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, traveling -- when the President's traveling away from Washington, they always have a number of physicians. They have someone who's on the ground who does the specific site, who's familiar with the local hospitals -- for example, St. Mary's had already been designated as the hospital that they would use in the event the President needed medical care. So they do -- a lot of work goes into contingency planning for that.

Q -- have liability insurance?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a very good question, but he won't need it.

Q The meeting with King Hussein that has been cancelled Monday -- is that just because the President's accident, or other reasons?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, both the King's schedule and the President's schedule have had some matters affect it in the last 24 hours obviously. So I think it was mutually agreed that it would be better to postpone. They'll try to meet in the next two to three weeks.

Q Is there any indication that the ski accident he had a while ago made this any worse?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not even --

Q Mary Ellen said this morning -- it's in the transcript.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I don't know.

Q There was no history of --

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I don't have the President's medical history. I don't think in his medical records that we released that there was anything to indicate that. He had a prior injury -- I think a ski injury or -- nothing indicated that that was a factor.

Q How much will this affect his personal -- program will be conducted?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, at great length. No, I mean -- that's -- John, two of the questions he asked almost immediately of the doctors was when would he be able to work out and run again and when would he be able to play golf again. And we're probably months, several months away.

Q Was he disappointed about that?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he was, but he was interested in hearing a description of what kind of therapy program they would have for him and what he would be able to do and --

Q Did he discuss this with --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. They may have.

Q Will there be a therapist who comes out every day --

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a therapist assigned to this case by the hospital, by the command here, and they will augment the Medical Unit staff.

Q And a therapist will come to the White House, or he'll come here?

MR. MCCURRY: Probably both. I mean, conceivably both. They've got the capacity to do a lot of in-patient stuff at the White House. So mostly it will be at the White House.

Q Is he going to be -- he's not going to be in a cast, but will he be walking with a cane or crutches?

MR. MCCURRY: They'll have a restraining -- I mean, not a cast, as a plaster cast, if you mean, but they've got the kind of brace device that you can put on and wrap around the leg. Very similar in some ways to what the Vice President had for a while after his Achilles tendon injury, which was also treated here, by the way.

Q Did the President opine to the Vice President about this and did he tease him?

MR. MCCURRY: No, he said it's one more thing that Al Gore was trying to get ahead of me on. (Laughter.) He cracked a joke to someone else -- or something to that effect, that's a paraphrase.

Q -- crutches or with a cane?

MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President's experience, when he had his tendon operation was that he was on crutches for a while and then switched to a cane and then was able to walk without either. So that's just whatever the normal convalescence is.

Okay, that's all for now.

Q And you'll let us know somehow that the surgery is actually over?

DR. WADE: We're running about 40 minutes behind.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 3:08 P.M. EST