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Washington Insight

December 19, 1996|From The Times Washington Bureau

TIME TO REMEMBER: As senior presidential advisor George Stephanopoulos scoots out the door to other endeavors, he's getting a few farewell kicks in the keister from conservatives, who never liked the cocksure wunderkind. Stephanopoulos' move to ABC News drew howls from the political right. But it was reports of his $3-million deal for a book about his years with Clinton that brought the sharpest response. The Republican National Committee Tuesday resurrected an exchange from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee hearings on the White House Travel Office controversy, in which seven longtime employees were fired. In the hearing transcript, a committee lawyer asks Stephanopoulos a series of questions beginning with "do you remember" or "do you recall." To each, the aide replied: "not really," or "I don't remember" or "not specifically." The RNC release then wryly concluded by noting that when Stephanopoulos was asked by the Washington Post on Monday about the source material for his memoirs, "The outgoing White House aide said he kept no diaries or notes but has 'a very good memory.' "

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CLEAN SWEEP: Incoming Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says that Strobe Talbott will remain--for a time, at least--as deputy secretary of State. But most of the rest of the department's top leadership is expected to leave shortly after Secretary of State Warren Christopher does. Undersecretaries Peter Tarnoff, the department's third-highest-ranking official, Lynn Davis, international security, and Joan Spero, economic affairs, are expected to resign early next year. So are chief of staff James Steinberg and assistant secretaries Winston Lord, East Asia, Robert Pelletreau, Middle East, and John Kornblum, Europe. Officials say that the exodus is not a result of Albright's appointment as much as it is a reflection of the "burnout factor."

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TOUGH FIT: That tornado spinning over at the White House is actually the revolving door to the counsel's office. With the president and his top aides caught up in endless ethics and legal conundrums, four White House counsels have come and gone in Clinton's first term: Bernard Nussbaum, Lloyd N. Cutler, Abner J. Mikva and Jack Quinn, who said last week that he would be leaving. Finding a replacement is a special task. At the Justice Department, word is that the White House is searching through a short list of lawyers "smart enough to do the job and dumb enough to take it."

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VANILLA MAN: Rarely does the bland become legend. But as Secretary of State Warren Christopher prepares to leave the administration, accounts of his dignified and utterly muted personal style are gaining luster. Among the stories now going around: For White House staff members on overseas assignment, a refueling stop at Shannon Airport in Ireland is known for a different sort of refueling--a cup of Irish coffee, in which your basic joe is spiced up with a shot of Irish whiskey and whipped cream. Christopher regularly partook, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry noted. But Christopher always bellied up to the bar to order his decaf only, without alcohol. "Defeating the purpose," McCurry said. "But of course Secretary Christopher used to always work on the plane on the way home, too."

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HO HUM: Maybe, America just isn't in the mood for pomp, or folks aren't eager for a rerun. Whatever the reason, President Clinton's second-term inauguration on Jan. 20 is meeting with a relative yawn, say congressional staff members charged with doling out the roughly 200 passes each lawmaker gets. "Four years ago, people were screaming and yelling for tickets," said a congressional aide.

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