Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
2:18 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: I have a statement here that talks about the President's trip, and then we will have a background briefing on the European aspect of the President's trip next year. And then after that -- which will be on background. So we'll shut off the cameras. Then I will come back and answer any other questions that you might have.
Q: Are you turning the lights back on again?
MS. MYERS: For five minutes.
Q: Is this a formal announcement of a trip?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it is.
Q: Can we then have a break for a few minutes?
MS. MYERS: It's fairly been announced. I mean, there's no -- I'll read it and if you think you need a filing break, by all means.
President Clinton will visit Western and Central Europe and Russia in January of 1994. The President views this trip as an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the transatlantic relationship to global stability and prosperity, and to promote the enlargement of the community of market democracies. He will visit Western Europe, including a NATO summit in Brussels during the week of January 10th for discussions on the full range of economic and political interests that underlie the transatlantic partnership.
At the NATO summit the President and allied leaders will chart NATO's new course in the post-Cold War Europe. When the United States called for this summit last June we underscored the centrality of NATO to Western security and to the security and well-being of Europe's new democracies.
To reinforce the goals of the NATO summit, the President then plans to visit Central Europe for discussions with regional leaders.
The President's visit to Russia comes at the invitation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. This visit will underscore the strong commitment the President attaches to the process of democratic and market reform in Russia, a commitment he has consistently affirmed since the Vancouver Summit in April. The Presidents will discuss the enhanced economic and commercial engagement between the two countries and a wide range of security, regional and political issues.
In addition, Vice President Gore will travel to Moscow for the next meeting of the Joint Commission on Energy and Space Cooperation on December 15th and 16th. The commission, cochaired by the Vice President and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, was created by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin at the Vancouver Summit. Its purpose is to enhance cooperation between the two countries in business development, energy, space, science and technology, defense conversion, and environmental programs. This meeting follows the highly successful first meeting of the Commission in Washington this September.
Q: What countries is he going to in Europe?
MS. MYERS: Charlie can come and answer some questions about that. So let's shut off the lights. We don't have all the specifics, but we'll talk a little bit more about it.
Q: Are you going to put this out as a statement?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: Dee Dee, do you have dates on the Russia visit?
MS. MYERS: The statement I just read includes all the specifics we can give as per dates and countries at this point.
(continued after the background briefing)
MS. MYERS: I think it's going to be a frank and honest exchange of views.
Q: Dee Dee, in the past --
Q: Where did he teach? Harvard? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Hey, he's very excellent. (Laughter.) That was a most excellent and informative briefing, I will say for the record. (Laughter.)
Let me just say really quickly -- as soon as we have the rest of the details on this we'll announce them. We expect to have it fairly soon, within the next week or two.
Q: In the past, when Presidents have traveled to what used to be the Soviet Union, they've had a very specific goal in mind. Can you be a little bit more specific about what the President hopes to get from a meeting with Boris Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think a number of things. First of all, the President considers Russia to be this country's most important strategic relationship, something that he's spent a great deal of time working on and has worked closely with President Yeltsin from the beginning. I think they'll discuss a number of security and economic issues. I think the President will continue to discuss with President Yeltsin ways to promote the democratization and the transition to a market economy in Russia.
Q: Is the White House embarrassed that the CIA keeps briefing Congress and speaking about Aristide being mentally unstable and that he was engaged in human rights violations while he was in power?
MS. MYERS: When a United States senator requests a CIA briefing, we comply. It's as simple as that.
Q: Dee Dee, what is the risk that the President's visit to Russia might be seen as interfering in the political internal affairs of Russia?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he was invited by President Yeltsin. He's expressed continued support for President Yeltsin throughout the last several months. They've worked closely together on a number of issues and I think President Clinton will continue to do what he can, working both with the United States Congress and the international community, to provide aid for economic transition and other things. So I think that the cooperation between them is excellent. And, again, President Yeltsin invited President Clinton, and President Clinton looks forward to going.
Q: Since you seemed to have Gingrich and Michel climb on board today, did you turn a corner in NAFTA today, do you think?
MS. MYERS: I think with every passing day, the President seems to feel a little better about it. I think he's confident that it's moving in the right direction, that we're picking up support. I think he feels that there are a number of members in Congress who agree in principle that NAFTA will help create jobs and improve the standard of living on both sides of the border. And I think the President's committed to continuing to work.
I think today was excellent, it was another step forward. But again, the President feels that there's a little momentum building and things are going in the right direction.
Q: How is he going to pay for it, Dee Dee? He's --now they came out and said they're thinking about cutting in half the ticket tax to $2.50 rather than $5.00. How do you make up the difference? It has to come out of spending cuts from entitlements or some other kind of tax or fee.
MS. MYERS: Correct. And that's something that's being discussed on the Hill today. There are a number of proposals that are sort of operative right now. Director Panetta, Ambassador Kantor and others are working on it. And we expect that this will be resolved. This is not a major stumbling block to NAFTA. It's a relatively small portion of it and something that we fully expect will be resolved.
Q: Can you tell us what Gingrich meant by the President going on the offensive? Are we going to see a national address, lots of travel?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think next week will be -- there will be a lot of health care next week, as well as NAFTA. I think after that you'll see increasingly -- as you've seen over the course of the last few weeks -- an increasingly visible presence. The President's going to continue to talk about it as he has. He's going to continue to meet with members, to call members and, I think do public events in a variety of ways. We haven't settled on the final schedule yet. But I think you'll see a very aggressive final three weeks before the NAFTA vote.
Q: We saw not long ago a fair amount of violent shooting in Moscow. How confident are you that the President's visit will be secure and trouble-free?
MS. MYERS: Things there have been calm since that crisis ended and we're hopeful that things will remain that way. You can never foresee the future, but there's no reason to believe that after the elections in December, things won't still be calm.
Q: Will the President be prepared to offer Yeltsin any additional new U.S. assistance?
MS. MYERS: We'll see as the agenda develops for the summit between them. One of the things he'll certainly discuss is progress on implementation of other programs and U.S. and international aid that's already been promised and delivered.
Q: There's a prospect of some sort of new aid program --
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have more to say about the specifics of the agenda as the time draws a little bit nearer.
Q: Your answer to CNN here, to Wolf, on the question of Aristide -- you mean the President knows what's in the CIA report and he's allowing it to be disseminated without any comment that this man is supposed to have a problem? A real problem, I mean, in terms of how he deals with people?
MS. MYERS: There are two separate issues here. One is that when a United States senator requests a briefing from the CIA we comply. As for the specifics, I can't comment on the specific content of a classified report, but I will say that this information has been around for sometime; it's something that we're aware of. In our dealings with President Aristide, he's been rational and responsible. He's had the best interests of his people at heart. He's lived up to the commitments that he's made. And I would remind you that he is the duly-elected leader of that country, democratically-elected leader. And so it is our judgment, based on our experience with him, that he is fully qualified to serve as the President of Haiti.
Q: But you don't believe the report, actually, or you wouldn't -- I mean, you don't believe that it's based on any of his past activities? I don't mean you, per se.
MS. MYERS: I would just say that there's a lot of conflicting evidence out there, a lot of conflicting information out there. And I can't comment on the specifics of qualified report. I would say that nothing that has been talked about in the last few days is new, and there is a lot of conflicting information.
Again, we have had a lot of dealings with President Aristide. He's always appeared in our dealings with him responsible; he's lived up to the terms of his commitment; he was elected by the people of Haiti. Our interest is in restoring a democraticallyelected government to that country. It is not for us to tell the people of Haiti who to elect.
Q: So you don't have any pause about his past in terms of how he's dealt with the people?
MS. MYERS: I think the way he's -- when he was President of Haiti, human rights abuses were down, transition to democracy was moving in the right direction. Certainly there were problems, but I think all of the reliable studies show that there was a marked improvement in the way people were treated.
Q: If that's the case, why not just tell the CIA to cool it, stop telling everybody that he's unstable?
MS. MYERS: They were -- Senator Helms asked for a briefing and the CIA complied. But, again, this is information I think has been out there for quite a while. We're judging him on the basis of a number of things, including our experience with him, and our judgment is that he's fully qualified to serve as President of Haiti.
Q: Are they out there as rumors, though, or has it been out there as established fact?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on what's in the report. There's a lot of rumors out there, I will say that.
Q: You keep saying you can't comment on a classified report, but it's not like it's a secret. There are news reports that suggest that the CIA has told Helms that Aristide is more or less a manic depressive who has a tendency to incur violence and who has been into necklacing. Can you tell us --
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that's what the CIA told Senator Helms. What I can comment -- I can certainly comment on news reports -- is that based on --
Q: Is The Washington Post report today accurate as to what was told at that briefing?
MS. MYERS: I wasn't at the briefing, but based on our experience with him, with all the information that we have, we believe that he's acting responsibly, that he is fully capable -- based on all the information that we have, including information that the CIA has produced -- that he is fully capable of serving as President of Haiti.
Let me just point out one other thing. There are a lot of conflicting evidence and none of it -- there are no concretes. There's a lot of conflicting facts and evidence, both in --
Q: Is that what the report says? Does the CIA report say it's conflicting or do they say it's a true analysis?
MS. MYERS: I just can't comment on what's in the report, I'm sorry. I wish I could, but -- yes.
Q: Next week very probably another party in Canada is taking over, and the leader of that party, the new Prime Minister in Canada, is talking about renegotiating NAFTA. How are you dealing with that one?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's always been our position that we would press ahead with NAFTA because we believe it's in the best interests of this country. And we will await the results of Monday's election and see what happens and go from there.
Q: Back on Aristide. What is coming out of that CIA report is something very different from what you've just said from the podium.
MS. MYERS: Wait a second. I didn't say what was in the report.
Q: No, you didn't. You said what is coming out in that report is exactly the opposite -- is the suggestion he is not fully qualified to serve as President to Haiti.
MS. MYERS: I don't think that's necessarily true.
Q: Are the news reports inaccurate then?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if the news reports draw a conclusion about whether or not he's qualified to serve, or speak to the CIA's conclusion in that regard. I haven't seen that.
Q: Does the CIA have a conclusion?
MS. MYERS: I can't answer that.
Q: A couple of questions. One is, do you perceive the announcement of this summit in Moscow now sort of shifting attention away from some of the foreign policy focus that a lot of us have had in the last few weeks -- on Haiti, Bosnia, and Somalia?
MS. MYERS: Well, Secretary Christopher is over there. The Secretary of Defense is in Europe. It seemed like an appropriate time to make these announcements. But I think it does remind everyone that our foreign policy is much broader than some of the issues that we've dealing with lately. While Haiti, Bosnia, and Somalia have certainly been the most talked about topics, and they're certainly very important and difficult problems, perhaps the problems that are most important to the future of the country and our strategic interests are issues like Russia, nonproliferation, the economic future of this country of Europe, of Asia. And all the while we're continuing to make progress and do a lot of work on these things as well. And I think as we work toward the APEC summit in Seattle next month and toward the trip to Europe and then to Russia at the beginning of next year, I think there will be more focus on the broader picture of the President's foreign policy.
Q: I know you haven't got details worked out on a lot of cities yet, but do you have a rough length for the President's travel in January?
MS. MYERS: I think it's about seven or eight days. It will be about a week, maybe a little longer.
Q: Can I follow my earlier question? There's been as you know a lot of criticism about the foreign policy team and the national security team. How satisfied is the President about the performance of his national security team? And do you foresee any changes in that area in light of some of the criticism?
MS. MYERS: I think the President is fully satisfied with his foreign policy team. He has great confidence in them and I don't expect to see any changes.
Q: Dee Dee, on the health care front --
Q: Before we move, can we just ask one more on foreign policy question?
MS. MYERS: Sure, follow up, and then I'll come back to you.
Q: Just on Russia. When the President goes there, does he expect to discuss what's going on in the Georgian republic? And what is the administration's position on that?
MS. MYERS: I think they'll discuss a number of regional issues. Again, we don't have the full agenda for the summit yet, but regional issues will certainly be something that we talk about.
Q: Is he considering meeting with Shevardnadze somewhere during this trip?
MS. MYERS: Again, we're just now putting together the specific logistics of meetings. I don't know the answer to that.
Q: On the health care front, do you see the alternative that was raised -- that was introduced by Breaux and Cooper yesterday as a signal that the President might have to make concessions primarily on the issue of universal coverage and employer mandates?
MS. MYERS: When the President made his speech to the Joint Session, one of the things he said -- he outlined some principles that he wasn't willing to compromise on. And one of them is a guarantee of health care for every American that can never be taken away, health care that's always there. And I think that the President is going to fight tooth and nail to make sure that that is included in any kind of health care package that's ultimately passed.
Q: Isn't the issue how quickly that's phased in? Even in his plan, it would be phased in over a period of years.
MS. MYERS: I think there's obviously going to be a great discussion about the specifics of these. Again, the President outlined the principles that he's not willing to compromise on, and within those principles I think there is a great deal of room for discussion. I think the President will work very hard to build a consensus in the middle -- people who want to see health care for every American and maintain the quality, increase choice. And it's going to be an interesting year.
Q: I have a follow-up. The President once said that if it ends up being that you've underestimated the cost for covering or subsidizing that you would consider lengthening the phase-in of benefits.
MS. MYERS: That was something for the additional benefits. That was something the President discussed in terms of long-term care and prescription drugs that --
Q: So those are all benefits as far as --
MS. MYERS: Those were the main ones that are being phased in, but it was something that he said that he would consider. What he ruled out was raising taxes.
Q: Dee Dee, is it possible that the President would go to Georgia perhaps as a show of support for Shevardnadze?
MS. MYERS: Again, I just can't comment on the details of the trip that haven't been decided.
Q: Dee Dee, back on health care. Preventive medicine -- is that something that's going to be phased in or lengthened, or is that again an area that is noncompromised?
MS. MYERS: Preventive care, as you know, is currently in the comprehensive package of benefits. It's something the President feels is important that will help in the long term to keep costs down and --
Q: and drugs. And you say that that would be phased in --
MS. MYERS: Preventive care is currently in the comprehensive package of benefits that's part of the package now. Long-term care and prescription drugs, as you know, will be phased in over the next few years. I think that there will certainly be some changes within the context of the benefits package. I don't know that -- it certainly won't look exactly looks when it's sent up to the Hill next week when it finally passes Congress.
Q: To follow up please. You talk about things that he's not willing to compromise on. Is the alliance structure, which is coming under fire from Democrats and Republicans, a new bureaucracy and perhaps an unnecessary layer they're saying, is that an area where he's unwilling to compromise also on the exact structure of alliances and how they operate?
MS. MYERS: Outside the principles that he outlines, I don't think anything is a deal breaker.
Q: Are alliances one of the principles?
MS. MYERS: No, the alliances were not one of the principles.
Q: Does the whole idea of a single payer system eventually becoming, not only a few states but nationwide, would not be a compromise? Because Joe Kennedy here, yesterday, said that in Canada it was done initially province by province. And Hillary Clinton has indicated that state by state would be allowed in this plan as well, and that he said in a few years --
MS. MYERS: I certainly can't foresee the future, but certainly a single payer plan was something that was very carefully considered and was not what the President chose to propose. As you know, there is an option for single payer programs within the states. States will make their own decisions about how best to implement their own health care systems, their alliances systems. I think there's a lot of room for flexibility within that program. But I can't foresee whether or not that would lead to a universal single payer system in 10 years. I have no idea.
Q: After promising the U.N. the U.S. would get out of arrearage, is the President going to accept the pledge it has passed by Congress for U.N. activities that puts us way back in the hole?
MS. MYERS: I think we paid our peacekeeping arrearages through the end of the year, end of the fiscal year. And what's being talked about now are arrearage for projected costs that we have not yet incurred based on what Congress has allocated.
When this came up at the U.N. -- what we have is a plan to pay off all of our arrearage by 1995. I think this changes the structure a little bit, but what we want to do is go back and negotiate with Congress, work with Congress to stick with that plan to get our arrearages paid off by `95. We're hopeful that that will happen.
Q: So you're willing to accept the condition that a certain amount be withheld until the U.N. appoints an Inspector General?
MS. MYERS: He has generally supported that measure, yes.
Q: Dee Dee, will the President give authority to Mayor Kelly to bring in the National Guard?
MS. MYERS: As you know, we haven't received a specific request from Mayor Kelly. I think we're reviewing that here just to see what our options might be under the existing law, but we'll have to wait and see what the request looks like.
Q: How does he feel in general about the prospect of using the National Guard to help with crime in cities where crime is bad?
MS. MYERS: I think it's something that we're reviewing given what the existing law is, and we'll wait and see what the request is. He had a few things to say about it today. He raised a few concerns, but I think at this point he's just studying it.
Q: The previous briefer said that there would be regional meetings. Does the President envision going to one city in Central Europe and one city in Eastern Europe and gathering more heads? Is that the idea?
MS. MYERS: The general plan is for one stop in each of those regions. But we're still working on the specifics.
Q: And then have others come in to --
MS. MYERS: Yes, we're still working on the specifics. I'll wait until we have real answers.
Q: Will the trip end in Russia, in Moscow, or might he go on after that?
MS. MYERS: I don't know how the final logistics are going to work out.
Q: So what you're saying to Helen is that these are not going to be specific visits at the request of the head of state to meet with a particular country's head of state?
MS. MYERS: I just don't want to get off into it because there is a number of options on the table and there's ways you can combine those things. So let's just wait -- another week or two we'll probably have all the details and we'll release them as soon as we do.
Q: Will the NATO meeting definitely be in Brussels, and the Russian meetings definitely be in Moscow?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Fill us in on what the President and the First Lady are doing next week in connection with health care?
MS. MYERS: I'm going to give you the whole schedule for next week. It's not the whole schedule, it's what we have.
Q: Why don't you publish a week ahead?
MS. MYERS: We are. Today for the first time, we are putting out a week ahead. (Laughter and applause.)
Q: and briefing times?
MS. MYERS: Right. Exactly.
Q: Can you start with Sunday, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: Sunday is down. Nothing scheduled this Sunday. So Saturday he's loaded up with events. Sunday he's down. Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. he has a working meeting with Mubarak, followed by a press availability at 2:00 p.m. On Tuesday, at 10:00 a.m. he has a NAFTA congressional meeting.
Q: Can I stop you here for just a second? The Mubarak meeting -- is that specifically aimed at the Middle East peace process, or is he just coming here on a general visit? Obviously, that will be a topic but --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think it's a general visit. Certainly that will be a topic, but I don't think it was tied specifically --
Q: Have they met before?
MS. MYERS: Yes. President Mubarak was here, remember, a couple of months ago. We did the same thing, a working meeting with an availability in the East Room.
Tuesday after the NAFTA congressional meeting, there will be a procurement event of some fashion.
Q: You mean the RIGO -- is this the rescission package?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Tuesday is a congressional meeting?
MS. MYERS: Right. And then we'll talk about -- we expect to have an announcement on the rescission package.
Q: It will be Tuesday afternoon?
MS. MYERS: That's -- 11:00 a.m. is the tentative time.
Q: NAFTA on Tuesday -- are you hoping to have the financing settled by then? Because Ways and Means and Finance --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think -- I don't know when we'll have the financing settled. They're working on it, and hopefully it will be done soon.
Q: What is the Tuesday meeting about?
MS. MYERS: The procurement event is rescissions. It's an additional package of budget cuts based on -- it includes some RIGO savings, procurement reform, and a few other things, something that we've been talking about for a while.
Wednesday, we expect to have ready the health care legislation.
Q: How will that be presented?
MS. MYERS: We're still working out the final details. And the President and First Lady will do an event of some kind.
Q: Here or on the Hill or --
MS. MYERS: We're still working it out. We're going to have an around-the-clock -- we're going to have a 14-hour briefing on each specific item. (Laughter.)
Then on Thursday, the First Lady and the President will travel to Rochester, New York. The event -- we're still working on the event. On Friday he will attend --
Q: Does he come back?
MS. MYERS: Thursday night, it's unclear. Because Friday -- Thursday is a health care. Friday he's in Boston for the JFK Library dedication. They're rededicating the renovated John F. Kennedy Library.
Q: What time is that?
MS. MYERS: That is at 11:00 a.m.. He will then spend the night in Washington.
As you all know, he's been reading the Reeves book.
Saturday he will give the radio address. The President and First Lady will host a reception at the White House for the Ford Theater, and then attend the Ford Theater gala. And Sunday is a down day.
Q: What's the topic of the radio address tomorrow?
Q: Do you know the general topic for tomorrow's radio address?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow's radio address is on crime.
Q: Pro or con? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The President's weighing his options on that.
Q: The Wednesday health care event -- that's in town?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it will be in Washington. Thank you.
Q: Wait, wait, wait. You were going to get back to me --
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. We're going to take his question and then we're going to wrap it up.
Q: The Mayor claims to have concern about not having the authority to call out the Guard herself. That's her -- that appears to be her focus. How does the President feel about that?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, I think there are laws and precedents to be considered and he's looking at them.
Q: Is that what he was talking about when he said there were precedents -- said earlier at the photo op today that there were precedents that he said were specific to D.C. that were involved?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't know what all the legal precedent case work out there is, but it's something that's being reviewed now to find out what our options are within the law. The President -- one's I think -- said there would be a request forthcoming and when we get that, we'll certainly review it.
Q: Do you know how the President wants to accommodate the Mayor in giving her the ability to call out the Guard?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think beyond saying the President shares her concern about crime and violence and drugs, he's not ready to make a comment about whether this is possible.
Q: Gotcha. Thank you.
END 2:58 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/269263