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Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers

July 30, 1993

The Briefing Room

1:47 P.M. EDT

MS. MYERS: The good news is that the filibuster has been broken on national service. The Senate has decided that there is no need for a second cloture vote. Mitchell and Dole just announced that national service will be the first order of business on Tuesday and we are fully confident that the Senate bill will now pass. So good news breaking out all over.

Q: Is there any good news to be seen in a 4.3 cent gasoline tax which either won't fund enough of the social programs that many people want, or won't reach the $500 billion target? How do you make that add up?

MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, as you know, they're still working out the final details of the package, but I think we're going to get a very good package that meets the President's principles, which is roughly $500 billion in deficit reduction, investments -- somewhat scaled down, but his investments are still there. There still will be family preservation; there still will be earned income tax credit; there still will be a terrific package of incentives for business, small business in particular. We feel very good about this package.

Q: How roughly will it approximate $500 billion?

MS. MYERS: Well, it will be roughly 98 percent of the way there.

Q: You mean $490 billion or --

MS. MYERS: Yes -- they haven't worked out the specific number, but it will be somewhere in the vicinity of 98 percent of the way there, which we think is good news. As you know, there were several attempts to move from a target of $500 billion to something like $400 billion, and the President stood his ground. He was committed to getting close to half a trillion dollars in deficit reduction. He got 98 percent of the way there. We think when the deal is done and the dust settles that it will be roughly 98 percent.

Q: Do you think you have the votes?

MS. MYERS: We hope so. I mean, we're guardedly optimistic. We're going to work like crazy over the course of the next week. We're not going to take a single vote for granted. We're going to continue doing what we've done for the past week, but I think we feel good about the package and steeled to fight for its final passage.

Q: How do you feel about Ross Perot's suggestion that since this doesn't meet even his target, maybe we ought to just start all over again and have a little -- you know the rest. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

MS. MYERS: I think it's yaddee-yaddee-yadda, that's how we describe that. (Laughter.) No, I think the President, this administration and Congress have worked very hard to put together a package that will get this economy moving again, that will create jobs, that will provide incentives for growth, that will invest in our people again and reduce the deficit by an historic margin. And we've got that.

Q: You're going to have the next two days of him on television. He's got five interviews scheduled where he's going to do his best to destroy this. That's just -- I mean, he's not interested in this passing. How do you counteract that? And has the President had any contact with Perot at all about this? Does he plan to? Has anybody else in the White House?

MS. MYERS: The President, I don't believe, has had any contact with him at all.

Q: Has Gergen --

MS. MYERS: I don't know, and I will have to take that question, because they do talk from time to time and I don't know when the last time that they may have spoken.

Q: How do you counteract this -- Susan asked --

MS. MYERS: I think what -- Perot may be out there, but so will members of this administration, as they have been aggressively for the last couple weeks and consistently before that. But I think what -- and I think you've seen some of the results of that. They're starting to show up. I think people are getting a better sense of what's in the package, of how it's going to affect their lives. We're going to continue to fight to educate people about this. This is something that we believe will create jobs, it will have an impact on their lives. It will cost the middle class about $1 a week. The vast majority of the new revenue comes from the wealthiest people in our society. This is a fair package.

Q: Can we get it today?

MS. MYERS: I hope so. I think that's our expectation, yes.

Q: Dee Dee, I saw Senator Hollings over here and I guess he went jogging with Senator Baucus. Could you tell us some of the other senators that the President has talked to personally today or on the phone?

Q: Or last night at dinner?

MS. MYERS: Gosh, I don't have a list from last night at dinner. I will take that question and will post who he talked to today. It's been kind of a shifting list.

Q: You said the President was standing his ground. Can you comment on the way the President lobbies individual members, particularly of the Senate, and why he is reportedly seemingly unable to actually ask for people's votes and push hard -- (laughter) -- could you talk a little about --

MS. MYERS: Generally these are one-on-one meetings, so I don't know whether or not he's asked for people's votes. I mean, I think certainly he wants -- is seeking their votes, which is why he's been meeting with them.

Q: Right, but so many senators -- congressmen have come out of there saying he never really put the squeeze on me. I mean, all of them --

MS. MYERS: He's a nice guy. No, I think it's very clear from both the President's conversations with members and from other members of this administration's conversations with members that we're seeking their votes. And I just can't -- I don't know who you're talking about who feels the President hasn't --

Q: had story today that listed -- quoted by name -- a big handful of people who said that said that he never asked for their votes. Now, is it just because he feels like he -- that's impolite or --

MS. MYERS: I would have to ask him about it, and I have not.

Q: Could you?

MS. MYERS: Yes, sure.

Q: Dee Dee, sort of an arithmetic problem. Is there any possible way of meeting this roughly $490 billion package by counting the additional interest savings that are now estimated as a result of your lower deficit projections that you announced a few weeks ago?

MS. MYERS: I'll have to take -- I don't know how the math is going to come out on that. We'll have to wait and see.

Q: Can you count additional interest savings as a result of your lower deficit projections. Can that be counted into the mix of $490 billion?

MS. MYERS: I just don't know whether that will be factored into the final package or not. I'll have to take that question. We'll have to wait and see what comes out of the conference report.

Q: Are you going to do a briefing on Panetta or --

MS. MYERS: Yes, this afternoon after -- we're going to actually do two briefings. I'm glad you asked, because you love it so much. I think somebody will come down and do national service once they get the final details worked out on that package. And that will be -- and then as soon as we get a conference report, which we hope will be today, I think the President will have something to say about it, and then there will be a briefing in 450.

Q: Is it possible to do it here? That's late.

MS. MYERS: Yes, if it's late, we can try to move it to here, sure.

Q: What's the briefing on?

MS. MYERS: It will be on the details of the conference report.

Q: What are you going to do next week exactly --

Q: Who's going to do it? The President's going to do it?

MS. MYERS: No, no, no. The President will say something about it.

Q: Where?

MS. MYERS: Somewhere -- I don't know if it will be in the briefing room. It will depend on what time.

Q: To the pool? To the pool or to the assembled mass?

MS. MYERS: I think we may try to do it for the assembled mass. We haven't really worked out the details yet.

Q: In the Rose Garden --

MS. MYERS: Probably.

Q: Is he going to do a TV address on Monday?

MS. MYERS: We're working on details of an address, and we haven't worked it out yet. As soon as we -- we hope to get the details on it worked out today.

Q: Would Monday be a likely time?

MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out.

Q: When?

MS. MYERS: The question was is the President going to do an Oval Office address on Monday, and the answer is we're working on it. If we get it worked out we'll let you know. We hope to have something to talk about later today.

Q: Sunday?

Q: Sunday is fading?

MS. MYERS: I would rule out the weekend.

Q: Yeah! (Laughter.)

Q: What do you have on the weekend?

Q: Dee Dee, David Mixner and some other people were arrested today about midday in front of the White House. Do you have a response from the President? And if you don't, could you get one?

MS. MYERS: I just don't think the President will have any comment on that.

Q: What's he doing this weekend?

MS. MYERS: Saturday is -- he will come in, I think be in the office here in the morning for a couple of meetings probably on the budget package. Then he'll take the rest of Saturday down. And Sunday is -- I'm not sure.

Q: Does David Mixner's participating in that demonstration affect his job here in the White House?

MS. MYERS: He doesn't work here.

Q: I'm sorry.

MS. MYERS: There's a lot of David's. I know.

Q: Does it affect David Leavy's job? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: He's a short-timer anyway, so --

Q: Gergen's --

MS. MYERS: Right.

Q: First, the Washington Post today says that the famous torn note mentions travelgate. Is that correct?

MS. MYERS: I am not in the position to comment on the contents. I just can't.

Q: Also, in regard to your answer to Carl before, you said you don't think the President would have any comment. David Mixner has described himself and Clinton has described him as close friends for 20 years. This is someone who is so upset by his close friend's policy that he got himself arrested in front of the White House. It's a little mind-boggling --

MS. MYERS: I think that the President is well aware of Mr. Mixner's position on the military decision -- gays in the military decision. And I don't think he has anything further to say. I think it's been well documented Mr. Mixner's opposition.

Q: Dee Dee, does the President favor a wider use of airpower in Bosnia? Wider than just to protect the U.N. peacekeepers?

MS. MYERS: As you know, we're talking to our allies about how best to support the negotiations in Geneva and to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Sarajevo and some of the other population centers. And beyond that, I don't have anything to say.

Q: In these talks with allied officials, are we making the suggestion that airpower ought to be considered for the purposes you just stated?

MS. MYERS: I'm just not going to comment on the content of the discussions, other than to say that the general goal is to figure out how best to support the negotiations in Geneva and to protect the -- to prevent the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Q: Would this, again, be a multilateral thing? In other words, supposing that the allies as in May don't go along at that point. We also get off --

MS. MYERS: We're discussing the situation with our allies, and beyond that, Leo, I just don't have any comment.

Q: Dee Dee, in connection with the Vince Foster case, the police are described in this morning's paper -- the Washington Post -- as saying that the White House hindered their case by slowing down the examination of the evidence, especially the note. Do you have a reaction to that? What do you say to that? And also, in the search of Foster's office, was it actually Bernie Nussbaum who physically went through all of that evidence, or did the Park Police physically do it under the supervision --

MS. MYERS: The first part is that we're doing our best to cooperate with the ongoing investigation -- Park Service investigation. And we will continue to do that. We will continue to do our best to facilitate that and cooperate. Bernie did actually do the physical going through, because many of those documents are protected by either executive privilege or attorney-client privilege. And so Bernie went through and sort of described the contents of each of his files and what was in his drawers while representatives of the Justice Department, the Secret Service, the FBI and other members of the Counsel's Office were present.

Q: Was that the only time any White House official had gone through those documents?

MS. MYERS: That was the first time. And I believe then an associate counsel cataloged the contents -- catalogued the files in Vince's office.

Q: Regarding -- note, is the name Nussbaum mentioned in it?

MS. MYERS: Again, I'm not going to comment on the contents of the note.

Q: Dee Dee, have they checked the --

Q: And what about the FBI -- the incident described that the FBI agent told to --

MS. MYERS: My understanding was that a junior member of the Counsel's Office said something to an FBI agent when he stood up and Bernie Nussbaum then contradicted that and said that he thought that the other person was wrong.

Q: Is the FBI conducting its own investigation?

MS. MYERS: You'd have to check with them.

Q: Does anyone know if he ever threatened to quit and whether he was taking an antidepressant?

MS. MYERS: I don't know. On the drug you'd have to check with the Park Service Police.

Q: And will the Park Service report be put out publicly without going through the White House control?

MS. MYERS: You'd have to check with whatever their standard operating procedure is.

Q: Well, I'm sure they don't deal with the White House every day.

MS. MYERS: That's true. I mean, I think that that's something -- or perhaps a better point of contact on that is the Justice Department. I don't know and I don't think that we know exactly what the final report is going to look like, what it's going to contain, or how it will be handled. I think we'll have to wait until it's done.

Q: In the search of the office, did they check the -- with the FBI and the police present -- did they check the computer files, any dictating tapes, videotapes, or audio cassette tapes to see if an audio or electronics message was left or anything?

MS. MYERS: I will have to take that. I don't know whether there is any kind of audio equipment in his office, whether he used any of that. And as to computers, I'm not sure what the arrangement was on that. I know there was some arrangement the they tried to put in place to have those files checked.

Q: And the phone logs?

MS. MYERS: The computer files and phone logs. I'm just not sure what the status of those two issues is.

Q: What do you know about -- relationship between Mr. Foster and Mr. Foster?

MS. MYERS: They had a very good working relationship.

Q: What was the question?

MS. MYERS: What was the relationship between Mr. Nussbaum and Mr. Foster. They had a very good working relationship. Bernie described it, I thought, fairly eloquently on Wednesday of last week when he said that they got together when they both came here and decided that they wanted to run the White House Counsel's like a little law firm and to operate as partners in a law firm would. And I think that they were well on their way to establishing what they thought was a good partnership.

Q: Dee Dee, is it true that McLarty's directions that the Foster office be sealed was not carried out for 12 hours?

MS. MYERS: No, what happened in that regard was that evening, Tuesday evening, as people were here in the White House notifying family members and others about what had happened, it was suggested by Mack we need to make sure that Vince's office isn't disturbed. The Counsel's Office is -- every night is locked and alarmed. So I don't think -- there wasn't a need to lock it in any other way. So people just made sure the door was closed and that when the members of the Counsel's Office left that the door was locked and alarmed as it always is. And the next morning, they asked the Secret Service to put a guard on it just for an additional layer of protection.

Q: Is the White House satisfied that there were no improper removals of documents or other possessions from that office?

MS. MYERS: Yes, we have just no reason to believe that that happened.

Q: Since the outbreak of fighting in Lebanon, has the President himself been in touch with any of the Middle East leaders?

MS. MYERS: No. As you know, Secretary Christopher has been in constant contact with the Israelis, the Lebanese and the Syrians.

Q: getting back to Bosnia, there's a report on the wires that there's been an agreement reached in Geneva between the parties -- at least an initial one. Have you received word of that? Do you have any reaction?

MS. MYERS: That's the first I've heard of it. I've not seen that report.

Q: And has the President been speaking with any foreign leaders today?

MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. I don't believe so, and I'll double-check, but I don't think so.

Q: I'm a little confused. Does the White House not trust the FBI or the Park Police to treat the information in Foster's office with due confidentiality? And how can they conduct a thorough investigation if they're doing it through the filter of Nussbaum who's doing it himself apparently?

MS. MYERS: Well, I think that is a -- it's not an issue of trust, of whether or not you trust. Certainly, we trust the Justice Department and the FBI. But there is an issue of privilege, which is I think always taken very seriously by attorneys, as it should be. And so, I think most of the documents that Vince was working on were protected by one sort of privilege or another.

Q: Protected from whom?

MS. MYERS: Protected from anybody outside of the attorney-client relationship.

Q: Well, wait a minute, does the President not also have an attorney-client relationship with the Justice Department?

MS. MYERS: I'm not familiar with all the privileges that exist, but I know in the case of the White House Counsel's Office, one of Vince's functions was to serve as the First Family's lawyer within the White House Counsel's Office, and that was part of what he did. Plus a number of the issues that he's working on are --

Q: So he's the President's private lawyer --

MS. MYERS: Well, he's the White House -- he's the guy in the White House Counsel's Office who handles issues relating to the First Family and the Residence.

Q: So the White House is asserting here an issue of personal privilege with regard --

MS. MYERS: Well, both. I mean, there's an attorneyclient privilege and there's also an executive privilege. And I am not an attorney, nor an expert on privileges, but I know that this is -- there's a very serious question about how -- but in answer to the other part of your question, I think that Mr. Nussbaum conducted a very thorough investigation, particularly in terms of what they were looking for. I mean, he went through the files and described what the issues were and what the contents of the files were without having them read the specific documents.

Q: So the investigators had to rely on his characterization of everything?

MS. MYERS: That's correct.

Q: And, Dee Dee, he missed the note. Didn't Nussbaum miss the note?

MS. MYERS: Well, it was in the bottom of Vince's briefcase torn up. So, yes, they didn't discover it until Monday.

Q: Well, how can you characterize it as a thorough investigation when he didn't find the most salient piece of evidence that's been found so far?

MS. MYERS: Your characterization, not ours or anybody else's.

Q: So you don't think it was --

MS. MYERS: I just don't know if it's the --

Q: Was it a thorough investigation?

MS. MYERS: Yes, I think it was a --

Q: Was a thorough search?

MS. MYERS: Yes, I think we feel it was a thorough investigation.

Q: So you -- okay. (Laughter.)

Q: Thank you, Brit. You may step down. (Laughter.) But was there any other piece of evidence that's more relevant?

MS. MYERS: I'm just not going to get into characterizing things like that.

Q: Isn't there an inherent conflict of interest if you have the same person representing the family -- the client-family relationship as executive privilege? You're saying -- is there any consideration of taking or having an independent counsel look into this? If you're being protected both by the attorney-client privilege as the First Family's lawyer --

MS. MYERS: The intimation here is that -- I mean, there has been no allegations of any kind of criminal wrongdoing. There's been no suggestion that there's anything in there. We have cooperated fully with the ongoing investigation. If, at the end of the investigation, the investigators or somebody thinks that there needs to be another look at this, then we'll be happy to revisit it. At this point we've cooperated completely. I think the investigating agencies feel they have gotten what they need and continue to get what they need.

Q: Then how do they know if it's been screened?

MS. MYERS: They're the investigators. Talk to them about how they know.

Q: Wait a minute, Dee Dee. If you're the ones who control the evidence, it's not -- it's perfectly appropriate to ask you that question.

MS. MYERS: But I -- no.

Q: And to say -- it is not an answer to the question to say talk to the people who have to get it through to you --

MS. MYERS: It is -- no, no, no, Brit.

Q: as to why -- how we can know.

MS. MYERS: No, no.

Q: That's a fair question to put to you is all I'm saying.

MS. MYERS: But here's the thing. It is not up to us to determine what they should be looking for.

Q: That's how it works, though, isn't it? What they get -- you're determining what they get to see.

MS. MYERS: No, it -- in terms of -- they haven't -- I don't know exactly what they've asked for, because -- I'm not the point person on the investigation. But it is up to them to decide what it is they think they need. If they need more information they'll come back to us.

Q: Did the Park Police decide --

MS. MYERS: That's a decision -- if they don't feel they have enough information --

Q: Let me ask you a question. If there's an investigation of a private citizen, suicide, do you really imagine that the private citizen's lawyer gets to stand there and see -- preside over the search of the person's premises?

MS. MYERS: Of anything that would be protected by attorney-client privilege, absolutely. Of course, they would, Brit. Of course, they would. If somebody had legal papers pertaining to some issue that they were working on that were protected by an attorney-client privilege, that would be something that the --;

Q: I think you better look it up.

Q: How about if the attorney was a partner of the deceased? This is not just an attorney-client relationship, this is an attorney that had a working relationship with the deceased --

MS. MYERS: The issue is not --

Q: not a third attorney here looking at this.

MS. MYERS: The documents are protected by privilege. The Park Service police is conducting an investigation. They feel they are getting enough evidence to make a conclusion about what happened and why Vince took his life. They feel they're getting access to the information they need to make that determination with enough certainty to conclude it. They have said that they think they'll wrap the investigation up next week. Among other things, they said in the paper this morning they're waiting for the results of his autopsy. They feel they have enough information to make a conclusion. That's what -- that's their judgment.

Q: Just to take it perhaps to an extreme that it shouldn't be taken, but how about --

MS. MYERS: Why not? (Laughter.)

Q: Nussbaum flipping through this finds a note from Vince that says I can't stand working with Bernie Nussbaum anymore. And Bernie says, oh, this is executive privilege and stuffs it back in his coat pocket. I mean, there's no independent person looking at these materials and saying this is relevant, this is not.

MS. MYERS: Again, the documents that -- the documents that were not protected, such as, I think he had some personal documents -- his lease for his house, for example -- they were allowed to look at. But the documents that are protected by privilege they were not allowed to look at.

Q: Dee Dee, do you deny that the White House could waive attorney-client privilege?

MS. MYERS: I don't know. I --

Q: Can take the question of whoever --

MS. MYERS: Sure.

Q: And ask you whoever in the White House is making the judgments about what the White House will or will not do --

MS. MYERS: As you know, that's a complicated and precedent setting kind of decision.

Q: The second question is, you originally designated the Justice Department as the point of contact --

MS. MYERS: We designated them on Tuesday night after Vince's death -- or Wednesday morning.

Q: What's the rationale for that. And doesn't that rationale maybe apply to who the filter becomes for evidence that goes to the investigators?

MS. MYERS: The rationale was to have a point of contact outside the White House in case there were requests for things, in case the investigators needed additional information, that they wanted to come back in and talk to people. It's a way to have a point of contact --

Q: Then why isn't the Counsel's Office just as qualified to do that as they are the screen the evidence --

MS. MYERS: That is not protected by attorney-client privilege or by executive privilege.

Q: Wait a minute, that's not the question.

MS. MYERS: Well, I mean -- yes, I think that's the answer, though.

Q: Why is the Counsel not fit to be the point of contact since the Counsel is --

MS. MYERS: Well, for the reason that I just gave, but the distinction is attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. That is why Bernie was conducting the investigation. But under the circumstances, we thought it would be easier, better, to have the Justice Department to serve as the point of contact.

Q: Was the President among those interviewed by investigators or has he provided them a statement or been requested to provide a statement?

MS. MYERS: He's not been requested.

Q: Why was it necessary to have the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General weigh in on the question of whether the note should be turned over to the Park Service?

MS. MYERS: They were contacted and they came over and were asked what should be done with it, whether it should be given to the Justice Department or to the Park Service police. They said they took a copy of the contents of the note and suggested that the note itself be turned over to the Park Service Police, so that was done.

Q: That seems like an -- I mean, it seems obvious that the people who are investigating whether or not this was a suicide are finding reasons for a suicide would be allowed to have a copy of the note. And I guess I'm just mystified by the summoning of the two top ranking people at the Justice Department to weigh in on this.

MS. MYERS: It -- Phil Heymann was the lead coordinator person. I mean, he -- and so I think the point of contact works both ways. Our point of contact for an ongoing investigation wisely, I think, is the Justice Department. So Phil Heymann was contacted and he asked the Attorney General to come with him. I think that that was the appropriate thing to do. I think the point -- it's important that the point -- that our contact with the investigating agency be done through the Justice Department.

Q: And the discussion there was not whether to turn over the note, but who should get it?

MS. MYERS: Well, what we should do with it. I mean, I think that was a judgment we asked them to help us make, or to -- we asked for their best guidance on that and they said it should go to the Park Service Police. That's part of what we asked them to do.

Q: What were the other options?

Q: alternatives?

MS. MYERS: You know -- I think it was pretty clear we were going to give it to either the Justice Department or the Park Service Police.

Q: Who made the decision not to make it public and why?

MS. MYERS: The Park Service Police -- and, again, that contact happened through the Justice Department -- that they thought that it would not be wise in the context of an ongoing investigation.

Q: But would it -- how about the future?

MS. MYERS: I think we'll wait and see.

Q: go back to a question Jill asked a while ago. The Washington Post account this morning described a scene where supposedly Nussbaum told an FBI agent to sit down and not to peek at documents. Were you saying that account is incorrect?

MS. MYERS: I don't remember -- maybe you guys can help me -- if it said who from the Counsel's Office.

Q: It said an official, I think.

MS. MYERS: Yes. And my -- I think I explained that it was a junior member of the Counsel's staff who suggested that the person sit down and Bernie suggested that that was not necessary.

Q: Dee Dee, I'm confused here. What -- a lawyer relationship are you talking about? That's usually a phrase used between a man on his personal business and his lawyer. Are you talking about personal business or are you talking about public business?

MS. MYERS: There is an issue of privilege in both.

Q: We know what executive privilege would be, but what about the client-lawyer relationship as regards public governmental matters -- public governmental matters?

MS. MYERS: Well, executive privilege would apply --and, again, I should probably -- at some point we probably need a better explanation about how these privileges work. But there is both personal relationships since Vince Foster handled a lot of the President and First Family's -- what personal business there exists for them. And he did previous to his arriving here at the White House. And he also handled legal issues pertaining to federal government business. So both.

Q: When you turn over something to the Justice Department -- to people who are appointed by the President -- that's hardly independent. That's not independent. When they speak of an independent counsel or investigation, they're usually speaking of somebody being appointed outside the government. But Reno and Heymann would certainly be under the President's --

MS. MYERS: I think that Janet Reno has shown herself to be quite independent and we expect that she is.

Q: we all love her and all that, but -- (Laughter.)

Q: Who has taken over the Clinton's personal attorney business?

MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question. I don't know that it's been passed -- some of the existing files were probably passed on to somebody, but I don't know if a determination has been made in a larger context.

Q: Will Christopher go to Lebanon if they're still fighting?

MS. MYERS: He's --

Q: I mean, not to Lebanon. I mean to the Middle East.

MS. MYERS: To the Middle East? Yes, his plans are to leave over the weekend and to be in the Mideast next week as planned.

Q: Will he go to Europe?

MS. MYERS: There have been no change in his plans.

Q: Will he go to Europe too in addition to the Middle East?

MS. MYERS: I don't know that he has any plans to. I'd have to refer you to Mike over at the State Department.

Q: On the Middle East, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. spoke to reporters this morning at the National Press Club, and he said he was highly optimistic that in the next few hours things could possibly return to normal in Lebanon and that the U.S. was keeping very -- continuous contact in the region. Is there any reason for his --

MS. MYERS: The second part of your statement is certainly true. Secretary Christopher has been working very hard, and the U.S. has been continually urging for a stop to the violence there and making our case very aggressively. We're hopeful that the violence will stop. We'll wait and see what happens.

Q: He sounded very, very --

MS. MYERS: If it happens, that would certainly be good news. I mean, we'll wait and see, but we've certainly been urging them to stop.

Q: Dee Dee, is there any -- is the President concerned that the Senate may filibuster on Dr. Elders' confirmation proceedings for Surgeon General?

MS. MYERS: I don't know whether that's a concern or not. As you know, she passed out of the committee -- I believe it was 13-to-4, and picked up three Republicans. So we were -- that was obviously very good news for us today. And we'll see. I haven't heard that the Senate may filibuster her, but I don't know.

Q: Dee Dee, there was an impression -- the last few days that the administration was washing its hands of Bosnia -- maybe an incorrect impression, but there were stories written to that effect. And then there have been these incidents -- attacks on U.N. forces. Has that compelled Clinton to be reengaged? Or how would you describe -- the last few days and his personal thinking and his -- in other words, has he said now I've decided I've got to do something again? What's going on with his thinking?

MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, I think the President directly tried to dispel the notion that we were disengaged. I think he said specifically that he thought some statements in Secretary Christopher's speech had been misinterpreted and that we were still very much engaged in Bosnia. I think the -- this administration's foreign policy team has been continually involved in that very difficult situation. I think -- obviously things have gotten very difficult and we're continuing to discuss with the allies what we can do to support the negotiations and to counter what to do -- we're worried about the deteriorating conditions there.

Q: Will he be reluctant to do anything while negotiations are at such a seemingly important stage?

MS. MYERS: Well, again, the conversations are ongoing, and I just can't comment on the content.

Q: Can you walk us through the logistics for the afternoon again --

MS. MYERS: It's somewhat unclear, but we expect -- assuming we get a conference, which we're hopeful that we will, then the President will have something to say. And then as soon as we can get the information together, we'll do a background briefing on it. Now, we had originally planned to do it 450. It's been suggested that if we're on deadline that we do it here. I think that's something we can try to accommodate. I think it's Rubin, Altman --do you know who the other -- Tyson and Panetta, I think are the people who will be on hand to brief.

Q: When you say background briefing, do you --

MS. MYERS: It will probably be on the record --

Q: Before camera?

MS. MYERS: Yes. I think we made that decision.

Q: When you say -- when you say you're going take a question, what are the terms that you're committing to in terms of a response?

MS. MYERS: We post the answers to all taken questions everyday.

Q: Well, there were questions taken yesterday --

Q: Did it happen yesterday?

MS. MYERS: Yes, sure, it did.

Q: The problem is -- late.

MS. MYERS: Well, yesterday's briefing was late, so we apologize for that. But we do try to get them turned around in a timely manner with sensitivity toward deadlines.

Q: But to each question to which you say you will take the question.

MS. MYERS: Yes, normally we don't necessarily post the questions, we usually just post bullets that contain the answers to taken questions.

Q: But if they're ones that you don't have responses for, you just don't note that or you try to note that there won't be a response?

MS. MYERS: No, I generally don't note it. I mean, we provide the information that we're able to obtain in reference to taken questions. It's usually -- we usually answer all the questions.

Q: There was talk about him going up to the Hill as well. Is that off completely?

MS. MYERS: Yes, that's not going to happen today.

Q: Is the radio address live tomorrow?

MS. MYERS: No, it will be taped sometime this evening.

Q: What about next week?

MS. MYERS: I don't have -- we'll continue to do a lot of work on the budget package. The President -- there's no plans to travel. But beyond that we don't have much that's locked in at this point.

Q: Will he do more state interviews --

MS. MYERS: Yes, we'll continue to do state interviews and meetings with sort of opinion makers in various states.

Q: Does he have any today?

MS. MYERS: He has -- assuming that the schedule holds together, California and Arizona and opinion leaders from Nebraska.

Q: little bit -- position of the Clinton administration on Lebanon. -- to what extent is it correct or is it justified today that -- position taken by the regime in Tehran --

MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, I didn't understand the question.

Q: My question -- is it justified given all that you know about, to say that all that you know about it to say that -- happened in Lebanon -- only one position taken by --

MS. MYERS: I don't think anyone's ever suggested that. I mean, it's clear that Iran is supplying Hezbollah with arms and Hezbollah has clearly been firing rockets into southern Israel. I mean, I think that those facts are fairly undisputed. But there are -- I would never say that a decision made in Tehran is the sole source. There are deep problems there that we're trying to address to the peace process.

Q: It doesn't make much sense to -- civilians and on Israel to get it --

MS. MYERS: I think we've urged all the parties to stop the violence, to show restraint and to get on with the peace talks, which -- the only solution to the kinds of problems that lead to the kind of violence we're seeing there is some kind of a broader settlement which can be achieved through the peace talks. And we're eager to get them going again.

Q: A budget question -- when the President was lobbying people on the House side to vote for the Btu tax, he told them that he wouldn't abandon them. And then in the Senate you said, well, he was going to fight for what he believed in in conference. Now the conference is coming up with something on the gas tax that is the Senate version. What happened to the President standing up for what he believes in and living up to his pledge to -- the House -- walk the plank --

MS. MYERS: He absolutely stood up for what he believed in, which is why we've got a package that will include somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 billion in deficit reduction plus the investments plus the incentives. It is a good package. It will create jobs, and the President fought very hard for it.

He supported an energy tax. One of the things that he said was that he wanted to see as little tax on the middle class as possible. Through the course of the process, both the House and Senate have identified additional spending cuts which made the need for a tax -- decreased the amount that was needed to meet some of his objectives. That's good. I think everybody agrees, including members of the House, that less tax is better.

Q: So the President now agrees with that -- that the higher --

MS. MYERS: Oh, I think he's always --

Q: That the broad-based energy tax that was once a principle of this program is now a good idea to get rid of?

MS. MYERS: No. No. That's not what I said. I said that we thought that the lower the tax, the better.

Q: Didn't he oppose that -- didn't he oppose lowering that until this very minute really? That he wanted it larger?

MS. MYERS: I don't think that he took a position on it.

Q: Wait a minute. What do you mean?

Q: He asked for people on the House side --

MS. MYERS: On the --

Q: He didn't take a position on it?

Q: Btu tax.

MS. MYERS: Well, look, his position on this has been he supported a broad-based energy tax. This package includes an energy tax. It's not as broad-based as the one he originally proposed. We've conceded that from this platform innumerable times.

Q: But it's better?

MS. MYERS: The overall package is better.

Q: Because it -- but, wait a minute. You said the lower tax is better.

MS. MYERS: The lower tax is better. The lower -- I don't think that -- the Btu tax was better because it promoted conservation and was --

Q: Well, which is better, the Btu tax or this?

MS. MYERS: The size of this tax is better because it's smaller. The Btu tax is better at promoting conservation --

Q: If it was better, why didn't he propose it in the first place? (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah.

MS. MYERS: He proposed the Btu tax because it continued to maintain that the Btu tax, he thought was a better tax in meeting his objective, which was to promote conservation and to hit all regions and parts of the country as fairly as possible.

The energy tax is -- the fuels tax, which is in this package, raises revenue, it hits regions of this country fairly evenly, it hits a number of different industries, as you know, within the transportation sector. The fact that it's a smaller tax -- something that the President thinks is good news. He thinks that additional spending cuts identified through this process have allowed the tax to be smaller, and that the smaller the bite on the middle class, the better.

Q: Dee Dee, the issue was one --

Q: Oh, I see, thank you.

MS. MYERS: I don't think that's hard to understand.

Q: Dee Dee, the issue is one of politics and the President's promise to stand by House members who made a very difficult vote, even as members of the Senate were attempting to change the tax. What happened to that promise?

MS. MYERS: The President stood by members of the House. Over 100 House members participated in this conference process and reached an agreement, or are about to reach an agreement that meets the President's stated objectives, and I think it's a package that we can pass.

Q: Am I to understand that the President said that the House caved?

MS. MYERS: This was something that was worked out in conference. This is a plan that meets the President's objectives. It meets the President's objectives, it was something worked out by House and Senate conferees. It's something that we think is a good package that will get the economy moving. It's something we think we can pass. We're going to fight like hell for the next week to get it done, but we think we can get it passed.

Q: Are you saying that the President now prefers this energy tax to the one that he originally proposed?

MS. MYERS: No, I'm saying that the fact that the energy tax is smaller because of additional spending cuts is a good thing. I think that everybody agrees that the --

Q: So the Congress has made the program better.

MS. MYERS: That's right. In many regards, the Congress has made -- this program has been improved through the process.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:25 P.M. EDT

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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