WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, enduring a seventh day of severe hoarseness, was ordered by two physicians yesterday to immediately desist from speaking.
Aside from causing a strain on a man who is voluble even by the standards of his profession, the dictum has thrown a crimp into his efforts to fill the many openings in the Cabinet and White House staff. That process requires long conversations with top aides and prospective appointees.
Clinton's voice, which has failed periodically for years, was almost gone by the time he returned a week ago from a trip to Asia. Since then, he has sipped hot tea, sucked lozenges and kept his public schedule to a minimum. But in attending to his staff reorganization, the president has held lengthy conversations each day.
Yesterday, two doctors summoned to the White House told the president that if he continues to talk, he simply won't get better.
The physicians altered the dosage of an antacid prescription that exacerbates the president's throat condition, said Mike McCurry, Clinton's spokesman.
After performing a fiber-optic probe of the president's vocal cords, the doctors confirmed the diagnosis of Clinton's regular physician, Dr. Connie Mariano: Clinton's voice is failing because of overuse, dry air on Air Force One, a reflux condition that causes stomach acid to rise into his esophagus and, perhaps, allergies.
The solution, doctors say, is "complete vocal rest," McCurry said.
"They would think a period of three to four days would be sufficient, but there is at least some evidence that the patient is not following doctor's orders already," McCurry said. "It seemed to have gotten better over Thanksgiving, when he rested a bit, but it seems to have gotten worse when he started yakking this week. So the doctor is saying: 'No more yak.' "
Those instructions come at an awkward time for Clinton. He is nearing a decision on his new foreign policy team but sought a couple of additional conversations before signing off on the new moves, aides said. He is eager to announce the new names himself.
Yesterday, a frustrated president gave up and went golfing.
But another potential challenge to his vocal cords awaits: the Christmas entertainment season. The first of dozens of White House parties was last night, and Clinton typically talks to each of the thousands of guests who make their way through the receiving lines.
"All of the members of Congress who are here for the Congressional Ball tonight will get a handshake and a smile, but not the cheerful words of welcome that the president usually provides," McCurry said. "The good news is, it makes the reception line go faster. Probably."
Pub Date: 12/05/96