Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
2:16 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: I have no announcements, in addition to that fabulous briefing on the AmeriCorps award winners today.
Q: Could you go over some of --
MS. MYERS: I'd be happy it in great detail any questions that you have. But before we get to that, I'll take any questions that you all have.
Q: Dee Dee, on the Korea business, while the United States is trying to verify exactly what Jimmy Carter achieved in North Korea, effectively is the sanctions option on hold?
MS. MYERS: No, it's not on hold. In fact, consultations are ongoing today in New York. Ambassador Albright met with the Russian representative to the U.N. today to discuss the sanctions resolution. I think that they reached additional agreement in the direction that that resolution is moving. And we'll continue to consult until we're able to verify that North Korea is, in fact, committed to freezing their nuclear program while additional talks would move forward.
Q: You're not going to push forward for a vote until you complete the verification process.
MS. MYERS: I think we're moving forward in the U.N. now. We're working with other countries. We're in the consultation process. I don't think we've slowed anything down at this point. And, again, Ambassador Albright had a very good meeting today with Representative Vorontsov.
Q: What do you mean very good? I mean, does that mean you have a positive reaction on a resolution?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Making progress on that, and we'll continue to consult this week in New York.
Q: So they will vote for it?
MS. MYERS: There's been no voted scheduled yet, but we're moving forward. Consultations will continue. And there is no intention of slowing that process down.
Q: Dee Dee, Senator Packwood said today that it's now or never, that the President should declare victory and cut a deal with Republicans, with moderates, on health care. Is the President prepared --
Q: Can we finish on these other subjects first --
Q: certain amount of --
Q: Well, I know, but can we finish at least on --
Q: Dee Dee, could you give us on Korea --
MS. MYERS: Yes, we'll keep the lights on until we get to health care.
Q: Could you just give us a definition as of this moment what the administration believes that Jimmy Carter accomplished in Korea, how you describe it right now?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think as we said yesterday, that this is possibly an opening. We need to verify that through diplomatic channels. We're in that process this week. I think we need to verify that they are in fact willing to freeze their nuclear program while talks are ongoing. As we've said repeatedly, what that means is they won't refuel the reactor; they won't reprocess the fuel they recently removed from the reactor; and they'll allow the continuity of safeguards to be enforced. That means keeping the U.N. inspectors on the ground, keeping the monitoring equipment in place, and generally allowing the continuity of safeguards to be ensured.
While that process continues, while the diplomatic process continues, to find out exactly what they meant and to guarantee that they are committed to that, we will move forward in New York with the sanctions resolution, as we've been doing today, as we'll continue to do this week.
Q: Including a vote?
MS. MYERS: If it comes to that. We're moving forward. Nothing has been -- there's been no change in our posture in New York. We're moving forward on the resolution at this point. We'll see how things proceed.
Again, we always said -- I just want to point out that we always believed this would take some time. We began consulting on this last week. Consultations are continuing this week. Again, Ambassador Albright had a good meeting today with the Russian representative. We'll continue to move forward. But we always thought it would take sometime before we got agreement.
Q: Do we now have any new or alternative method of communicating with North Korea that we didn't have before the Carter visit or that we're now seeking to establish?
MS. MYERS: No, and I don't think there's any new alternate method of communication. I mean, certainly President Carter was a new source of information. There hadn't been any direct -- there have not been any other direct contacts between the U.S. government and the North Korean government. There is a channel that exists in New York. That's one of the options for pursuing diplomatic talks this week. But I don't think there's any particularly new structure.
Q: On balance, does the administration feel that Carter's trip was worthwhile?
MS. MYERS: I think the President answered that this morning. He thought it was -- he was grateful for President Carter going. And we'll see what comes out of it. I think it's too soon to say what the results will be, but it may have created an opening, and that would certainly be a positive step.
Again, it would be very useful if North Korea was willing to freeze its nuclear program. That is one of our objectives in this -- is to get them to freeze their nuclear program, to guarantee a nuclear-free peninsula, and a comprehensive nonproliferation regime. Those are certainly things that we'll continue to pursue.
Q: How much time do you expect it will take to verify whether the North Koreans meant what they said?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we know. Again, one of the things we'll do this week is begin to explore that, to begin to reach out to diplomatic channels to the North Koreans and find out exactly what they are willing to do. But we don't have any particular timetable.
Q: North Koreans -- (inaudible) -- from Mr. Carter or what? Because it is kind of a changing position.
MS. MYERS: I think that, certainly, that -- I don't speak for the North Koreans, but I think that they were becoming increasingly isolated. I think they saw what was happening. They are being increasingly isolated from the world community. There was a serious discussion about sanctions moving forward. I don't know exactly what caused them to move forward and to reach out to President Carter, but if it means that they're willing to freeze their nuclear program, that they won't refuel, that they won't reprocess, that they'll allow the continuity of safeguards to go forward, that's potentially good.
Q: Does the message that Jimmy Carter brought back from North Korea take some of the sense of urgency out of the movement toward sanctions that the U.S. is pushing for?
MS. MYERS: No, I think we'll continue to consult. We're continuing to move forward in New York. And I think that should diplomatic channels not be able to bear out North Korea's commitment to move forward, then I think that will just reinforce the need to move to sanctions.
Q: Could repeat -- about what -- sorry -- what Vorontsov said this morning to Madeleine Albright in U.N. Did he commit Russia to support and to vote in favor of sanctions if it comes to a vote?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think I'll let them speak -- I don't want to suggest that. And I'll let them speak for themselves. But I think there was good progress in the meeting today, that they generally agreed on a general direction. And I think that they felt the results of meeting were very good.
Foreign Minister Kozyrev and Secretary of State Warren Christopher will meet in Brussels tomorrow. So I think consultations are ongoing with the Russians at many levels.
Q: Dee Dee -- President decided which of Secretary Perry's options to follow up on the buildup of American forces --
MS. MYERS: We will do everything we feel is necessary to certainly protect our troops in South Korea, to protect South Korea through our treaty commitments, and to protect the safety of the region and our allies in the region. Beyond that, I'm not prepared to get into discussing military options.
Q: proceeding at the same pace that it was last Thursday and Friday?
MS. MYERS: Again, certainly we're doing everything that we feel is necessary to protect our interest in the region, and beyond that I'm not going to say.
Q: Has he made a choice among the options, without identifying --
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to discussion specific military options. That's not --
Q: I'm not asking you to discussion the options, I'm just asking whether he's made a decision or not.
MS. MYERS: I'm not even going to -- I'm not even going to discuss specifically whether he's made any choices.
Q: Can you discuss the reports that the South Koreans have moved heavy weapons into the DMZ?
MS. MYERS: We see news accounts along those lines. There's nothing to verify that. I think we've categorized these as North Korean propaganda.
Q: Kim has also seemed to demand that the United States declare that peninsula denuclearized and to officially confirm that we would not attack them with nuclear weapons. Are we prepared to do that in this current go-round?
MS. MYERS: I think what we're doing at this point is trying to ascertain what they mean by freezing their nuclear program as reported by President Carter. And we're going to move forward on that track, and that's what we're doing at this point.
Q: But we're not responding on what we're prepared to do?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Have you heard from any North Korean officials directly? Has the White House?
MS. MYERS: No. We're in the process of determining how we want to proceed with contacts. Were looking at a number of options at this point.
Q: Has the United States backed away from the earlier condition for a third round of talks by no longer insisting on verifying the 1989 nuclear business?
MS. MYERS: What we said earlier was that if North Korea -- this is during the talks about reestablishing a third round -- that if North Korea defueled their reactor in such a way as to make it impossible for the IAEA, through measurements, to determine what had happened in 1989, that we would end the process toward the third round.
We said at the time, which was June 3rd, when the IAEA said they could not longer determine from the fuel rods what had happened in 1989, we said at the time that it would be up to North Korea to reestablish the basis for talks. They have -- if they agree to freeze their nuclear program while the talks go forward, that could be a basis for reestablishing the third round.
Once we get to the third round, we'll certainly discuss ways to determine what happened in the past, their previous nuclear activities. That has always been envisioned as a topic for the third round.
Can we move onto health care -- can we switch to health care so we can --
Q: Do you know -- U.S. going to -- (inaudible) -- if you're entering the --
MS. MYERS: It's -- that is all being discussed -- exactly how -- what, in a third round?
MS. MYERS: No, that's something that we would decide later. Certainly, the leader of the team of the senior advisers on North Korea is Robert Gallucci, Assistant Secretary of State.
Q: Packwood says the time is now. Is the President ready and willing now to start looking for -- (inaudible) -- compromise?
MS. MYERS: As the President said this morning, his bottom line remains universal coverage. He believes that any bill that comes to him must include guaranteed private insurance for every American and benefits that cannot be taken away. Those are benefits that he has; those are benefits that members of Congress have; those are benefits that he believes the American people should have.
He certainly is willing to look at other ways to get there. He said -- he put forward a very complicated, very specific health care plan. He said he's already made some changes in that. He's willing to make more changes. But the one thing he's not willing to do is give up on guaranteed private insurance for every American.
Q: Is he going to accept a trigger for your mandate down the road?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think he's willing to say specifically at this point without seeing the full proposal what he would and would not take. He said this morning that he believes it has to be something that reaches universal within a reasonable period of time. The plan he put forward, phased in universal coverage over a course of a couple of years, getting it in by January 1st, 1998.
He said again today that it would have to be something that was done over a reasonable period of time. He thought phasing it in was certainly something that he could agree to. But it had to reach that bottom line of universal care -- universal coverage. So it depends on what Congress can work out and how they can reach that goal.
Q: But people like Senator Moynihan are saying it's too late to let Congress work this out. He put out an invitation yesterday. Has the President called him or made any effort to be in touch with the leaders on the Finance Committee and try to get something negotiated?
MS. MYERS: He had a series of meetings, as you know, last week. He met both with bipartisan leaders from the House and Senate. He had a number of members in from the Senate Finance Committee. I don't believe he's spoken to Senator -- he had not spoken to Senator Moynihan today to my knowledge. He had not as of a little while ago.
But certainly, he has been very involved in the health care process. He will continue to be involved in the process. And I think he's hopeful that -- he actually believes that we will get a bill this year. Senator Moynihan is also committed to getting universal health care. That's something that they agree on. And he's working with the members of the Senate Finance Committee to get that.
Q: Dee Dee, can you give us some sense of what the administration may now be willing to do in order to accommodate the Haitian leaders or to get them out of there? There are obviously reports to the effect that we might be able to do quite a lot.
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly we're tightening sanctions and continue to enforce sanctions as best we can. As you know, the President actually added a couple of additional sanctions last week which we think are increasing pressure on the military. We will continue to put pressure on them through those channels until they agree to leave. At this point we're pursuing that track.
Q: What about the reports that -- something close to a massive amnesty for them and others?
MS. MYERS: Well, amnesty was something that was envisioned under the Governors Island Accord. It was something that President Aristide and the democratically-elected government had agreed to.
Now, the military leaders abrogated that agreement. They failed to live up to the terms of the agreement that they signed last July. I think it is up to the democratically-elected government now to determine whether or not there will be amnesty. That is certainly, I think, something that will be conditional, would depend on how and when the military leaders decide to give up their power.
Q: What about AOA working with these leaders or using any kind of intermediary to work with these leaders to both find places where they could have a safe haven and also to get them to agree to go to one?
MS. MYERS: Well, we've had discussions at a number of levels. We're looking at a number of options. Certainly, working with our, with friends established around the Secretary General of the U.N. and more broadly on a number of issues. So we'll continue to do that. In the meantime, we're doing our best to enforce sanctions and to work with our allies --
Q: Are we willing to pay them off?
MS. MYERS: There's no plan to pay them off.
Q? Well, is there consideration of paying them off?
MS. MYERS: I think we're discussing a number of options. And I just can't rule anything in or out at this point.
Q: So we're going to give these guys golden parachutes?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: But we would consider that?
MS. MYERS: I just -- I'm just not going to rule out anything at this point. But what we're doing now is pursuing very tough sanctions measures that --
Q: you can't -- you can't say there's no plan, can you, really? I mean, that is on the table?
MS. MYERS: I can't rule anything in or out. But, let me just emphasize that what we are doing at this point is pursuing a very tight international sanctions plan designed to force the Haitian military leaders to give up their power, to either resign or to leave Haiti. That's been a track that we've been on. That is our preferred track at this point, and we'll continue to do that.
Q: Dee Dee, has the administration already approached any foreign government you know that would be willing to accept these people -- Cedras, Biamby, and Francois?
MS. MYERS: I think there have been discussions with a number of governments about a wide variety of topics.
Q: Including --
Q: Can you answer that?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to answer that one specifically.
Q: Dee Dee, on health care, you said the President would be willing to accept a reasonable amount of time in getting to universal coverage. Could 10 years in any way be considered a reasonable amount of time?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to discuss numerical limits on it. I think the President has said, he said that he expected to be done within a few years, a reasonable amount of time, but beyond that, I'm not going to limit his options.
Q: Would he consider 95 percent of the people covered, universal coverage?
MS. MYERS: Again, universal means everybody, and I'm not going to get into a numbers game on that either. The President has said he wants to see private insurance for every American.
Q: Dee Dee, is the President willing at this point to start really dealing with Congress and negotiating and saying, I can live with this, I can live with that, but not this? I mean -- really get down to specifics on what he --
MS. MYERS: He told them what it is he has to have, what he can live with, which is the only immutable piece of his plan is guaranteed private insurance for every American. That is the one thing that he will not compromise on. And beyond that, he said, it's up to Congress to come back. He put forward a means of getting there. His plan or employer-based program is still being discussed in a number of committees -- certainly, a couple of House committees this week even as we speak.
If the Senate has other ideas and the House has other ideas, the President has asked to see them. He says he's not wedded to any particular idea. As long as it gets to universal coverage within a reasonable amount of time, he's willing to look at it.
Q: Has the President added any further meetings with members of the Finance Committee or any of the other key players up there either this afternoon or tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: He'll certainly continue to meet with and speak with members of Congress throughout this week. But I've nothing specific to announce on that yet.
Q? How about a congressional leadership meeting at some point?
MS. MYERS: Nothing scheduled that I know of at this point. He just did that last week.
Q: Can we assume then that lawmakers know -- he has expressed to lawmakers what he considers to be a reasonable amount of time, though you won't --
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't believe he's put a limit on it.
Q: So the 10 years then could be within the realm of possibility?
MS. MYERS: I don't -- again, I'm not going to get drawn in to a debate about a particular amount of time. I think he's had discussions with Congress. They know -- he put forward a plan that would phase in universal coverage by 1998. He said today that it would be within a few years. Again, I'm not going to put on a numerical limit where the President didn't. I'm not going to make policy from this podium.
Q: Dee Dee, would you like to comment on this Time Magazine story?
MS. MYERS: This is a choice? (Laughter.)
Q: There's a story speculating that Warren Christopher --
MS. MYERS: It wasn't me, by the way. (Laughter.)
Q: Are you familiar with this?
MS. MYERS: I think I am, go ahead.
Q: It's a story saying that -- speculating that Warren Christopher will be named a senior adviser to the President by the end of the year; and Lloyd Bentsen will take over at State, opening up the door for Mack McLarty to become Treasury Secretary, and Harold Ickes taking over for McLarty.
MS. MYERS: Thank you for that oral reading of Time Magazine here in the Briefing Room. That is simply not true.
Q: Which part of it -- (laughter).
MS. MYERS: None of it. The President has confidence in his foreign policy team, and there are no changes planned.
Q: The President thought he killed off Harry and Louise, but they're coming back tonight. What does he think of that?
MS. MYERS: Well, clearly, the health insurance industry doesn't believe that health care reform is dead, or they wouldn't be spending more money to try to defeat it.
We've seen special interest spend tens of millions of dollars to try to defeat health care reform.
Q: So it's still alive --
MS. MYERS: It's alive and kicking.
Q: Harry and Louise are a testament to how much momentum you have? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Exactly. (Laughter.) Brit, you have a future in this business.
Q: best -- that's the best ever --
MS. MYERS: It's true, Brit. Why would they be spending tens of millions of dollars if they thought health care reform was dead?
Q: Thanks, Brit.
MS. MYERS: Do I get a gold star for today?
Q: You do.
MS. MYERS: Excellent.
Q: In light of Senator D'Amato's $37,000 in profits in one day on stock trading, does the White House see a certain inconsistency in its fierce advocacy --
MS. MYERS: I will leave that for you all to evaluate.
Q: It's right there.
Q: Are we any closer on a GATT funding decision?
MS. MYERS: Moving forward, but nothing to announce.
Q: What was that?
MS. MYERS: GATT financing.
Q: Dee Dee, if you can't get anything out of Congress that meets his definition of universal coverage, is he looking forward to going to the people in the '94 elections and campaigning against Congress or --
MS. MYERS: No, I think the President at this point believes that he will get a health care reform package that does include guaranteed private insurance for every American. He continues to be very optimistic about that, and is working very hard toward that goal.
Q: Does he agree with Moynihan's analysis of PAC groups, and Durenberger's today, that if it's not agreed to within the next two weeks, it's lost?
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly there is some urgency to moving forward and making progress at this point. I'm not, again, going to set a deadline. That's something that Congress will have to decide.
But certainly, there is a lot of work being done this week, I think, in the House committees as well as in the Senate Finance Committee. So we'll see what happens. I think there will be a lot of movement in the next two weeks.
Q: Did he see anyone besides Nunn today, so far, on this issue?
MS. MYERS: No, and you know what? I'm glad you brought that up. I said earlier that Nunn was on health care. It was not. It was on foreign affairs, particularly North Korea.
Did he do the stakeout?
Q: He tried to run.
Q: not to.
MS. MYERS: Did he say --
Q: You can run, but you can't hide.
MS. MYERS: He tried not to be Secretary of State?
Q: He was tackled halfway down the driveway. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Oh, he tried not to be -- to do the stakeout.
Okay, why don't we do the week ahead and then we'll call it a day. Okay, tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., the President will do a drop-by with Ugandan President Museveni. That will be a White House photo only. That's at 10:00 a.m. in the --
Q: dropping by?
MS. MYERS: He's dropping by Tony Lake's office. Tony is -- I'm sorry Tony is --
Q: McDonald's --
MS. MYERS: Yes -- you know, I hear they have an excellent McDonald's at EuroDisney. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Forty-seven dollar lunch for three.
10:30 a.m., the President will meet with the Hungarian President and the Slovakian President, following up on the meeting last January in Prague. There will be a pool spray at the top of that meeting. Then the President will go to the business roundtable; at 12:30 p.m. he'll speak there. The topics will be health care-welfare reform, generally domestic policy.
Q: Where will that --
MS. MYERS: That is at the JW Marriott.
Q: Will he thank them for their wonderful support?
Q: Is he trying yet again here on this Business Roundtable?
MS. MYERS: No, he's simply giving a speech to them on a topic that is certainly of some interest. That's open press. Then tomorrow, here, on the South Lawn, he has a DNC reception; that is closed press.
On Wednesday --
Q: The evening, I presume.
MS. MYERS: Yes, yes. Wednesday at 10:45 a.m., he will meet with King Hussein in the Oval. There will be a pool spray at the top of that meeting.
Q: Is this a working visit, or is he just stopping by because he's in town?
MS. MYERS: Yes, they'll discuss, obviously, workrelated issues. But he is here on private business.
Q: This is a King Hussein drop-by.
MS. MYERS: No, King Hussein is here for a meeting in the Oval Office followed by brunch.
MS. MYERS: Brunch. The President and the First Lady are hosting a private brunch for King Hussein and Queen Noor in the Old Family Dining Room.
Q: Is this a state brunch?
Q: Will they do a visit with us afterwards?
MS. MYERS: No, no.
Q: Why not?
MS. MYERS: They're meeting -- there's a pool spray at the top of the meeting. It's not a working -- it's not the full working visit.
Q: Why not a little press thing after with the Slovaks and the Hungarians?
MS. MYERS: We'll do a pool spray at the top of that one as well. Again, it's a half-hour meeting and not a longer forum.
Q: Do you expect they'll have anything to announce?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't expect any particular announcements out of either of these.
Then, at 1:00 p.m. -- we're on Wednesday now -- is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the G.I. Bill at the VA, H Street entrance. And then that evening, he has a couple of events. He's doing the DNC gala at the Washington Hilton, followed by the Saxophone Club reception at the Omni Shoreham.
That is -- I'm not sure what the press is on that. I think it's sort of a younger group of financial backers of the DNC.
Q: Is this part of the -- this is it a special saxophone group?
Q: It's like the Eagles.
Q: Is it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know, is that some Young Republican group?
Q: These are big givers.
MS. MYERS: I'm unfamiliar with those.
Q: This is not a musical group, in other words.
MS. MYERS: I believe that there will be saxophone entertainment. But actually, is that Trisha Yearwood, or is that the DNC, the bigger one? Trisha Yearwood is at one of these events.
It's not Young Republicans, it's Young Democrats. I'm sorry, I'm being a little confusing. They're all DNC events. Tuesday and Wednesday evening are all DNC Democratic events.
Q: Will there be coverage, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: That one -- is the Saxophone Club pool? Okay, both the DNC events on Wednesday are pool for remarks.
Then, on Thursday, continuing our week of foreign guests --international guests, Wolf -- (laughter) -- he will meet with Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. At this point, it's a tight meeting so there's going to be a White House photo only.
Q: What? You have the Russian Prime Minister and there's not going to be --
MS. MYERS: Yes, at this point, it's White House photo only.
MS. MYERS: Because we haven't had a chance to see what the deal is.
Then -- you know, the Vice President is hosting him -- Prime Minister Chernomyrdin here to do a lot of work on the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission. I believe Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And we will probably --
Q: That will be open coverage, I'm sure.
MS. MYERS: -- tons, and I'm sure you'll be at every event.
We will probably have somebody here, probably tomorrow, to discuss U.S.-Russian relations, both with respect to the Gore-Chernomyrdin and looking ahead a little bit to G-7.
Q: What time will the President meet Mr. Chernomyrdin?
MS. MYERS: 11:20 a.m. on Thursday.
Q: Is that after brunch? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: It is around the brunch hour, actually. Then, at 6:30 p.m., the congressional picnic on the South Lawn -- it is closed press, which I believe is traditional. Then on Friday --
Q: It's traditionally open.
MS. MYERS: It is?
Q: No, it's been open.
Q: It's been open forever.
Q: They even used to feed --
Q: Yes, they actually fed us.
MS. MYERS: What beliefs? I just repeat what I'm told.
Q: By whom?
MS. MYERS: Just kidding.
MS. MYERS: Right, exactly.
Okay, Friday -- Friday -- I don't believe the congressional picnic was open last year, was it?
Q: You said traditionally. I thought you meant previous presidents, not like --
MS. MYERS: That's what I was led to believe. But you know we have plenty of time. Ann, I know this is something that you have great interest in covering, so I'll make sure that -- we'll revisit that.
Q: Who's the entertainment for the congressional picnic?
MS. MYERS: No, I know some people are. I'm not sure Ann would be there.
Q: Who's the entertainment for the congressional picnic?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
On Friday, the President leaves the White House at 9:40 a.m. for St. Louis. At noon -- noon Central Time -- he makes remarks at Union Station.
Q: He did that --
MS. MYERS: He's been there before; this is true. At 1:00 p.m. -- this is new -- he will do a Summer of Safety event, along the lines discussed earlier today, which is national service. And we'll get the details of that as soon as we have them to you. Then in the evening, he has a reception and a dinner, which are fundraisers for Congressman Gephardt. He returns to Washington and arrives back at the White House about 12:15 a.m.
Saturday, the radio address will be live, followed by --that's it for open -- I mean, that is it for his weekend schedule at this point.
MS. MYERS: Unclear. Thanks.
END 2:44 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269589