President Clinton was quick to back away from his suggestion that the nation was in a “funk.” His spokesman followed up Tuesday by suggesting that it was the press - not the people or the president - that was in the dumps.
The wrangle over funk - a word with meanings from fright to depression to gloom - began in the aft cabin of Air Force One late Friday when Clinton told reporters that a big part of his job is “trying to get people out of their funk.”
By lunchtime on Monday, the clouds had parted. Clinton, admitting to a poor choice of words, said that actually, “I feel very optimistic about the country.”
Some found Clinton’s use of the word “funk” reminiscent of the “malaise” speech delivered by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, suggesting an attempt to blame presidential woes on a national bad mood.
But Clinton said he saw a significant difference.
“Malaise is a state of mind; funk is something you can bounce out of,” he said.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Mike McCurry had his own take on the matter.
Speaking about the swearing in of a new Peace Corps director, McCurry suggested that many reporters have exactly the skills needed for Peace Corps volunteers, including teaching English as a second language.
“Should I suggest this for some of you to get out of the funk that many of you are often in?” he asked.
“You might seek an opportunity to enhance your own skills and contribute something to this ever-changing world in which we live in by leaving here and going there.”