Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
3:45 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: First, a very brief announcement. Ginny Terzano, whom many of you know, has been named Deputy Press Secretary to replace Lorraine Voles. So, for those of you who don't know, Ginny comes most recently from NEA. Before that --
MS. TERZANO: Not the Education Association.
MS. MYERS: That's right. National Endowment for the Arts. Before that, she was at the DNC for several years, and before that at CBS News. And we're glad to have her -- I think me most of all.
No other announcements. If you guys have any questions --
Q: Are you about to make a major announcement on ethanol?
MS. MYERS: There's a court required deadline tomorrow about -- under the Clean Air Act. EPA will be making the announcement sometime before tomorrow. I'm not sure what the timing is on it. They haven't set a specific time.
Q: What will be the announcement?
MS. MYERS: The announcement is new regulations for fuels -- for reprocessed fuels.
Q: Some have interpreted the President's comments today as stepping back from what he said yesterday about the Russian elections. How do you characterize how this administration feels about the results in the Russian elections?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's been any change in our characterization. I think, first of all, we're still waiting to see what the final results are in the parliamentary elections. I think that will be at least several more days before we know for sure what the makeup of Parliament will be. In terms of the broader --
Q: But it's already quite clear --
MS. MYERS: I think in terms of the broader message there's two things. One, I think that clearly there was a protest vote for a number of reasons. I think the people in -- the Russian people have been going through some difficult economic times. They've seen the dissolution of the Soviet empire, very difficult circumstances, a declining standard of living. And I think the President made clear yesterday and again today that that has clearly resulted in a protest vote.
Nonetheless, there are many things that are encouraging in Sunday's results. One, the fact that a democratic election went forward at all. And there have been no reports of irregularities. Millions of people turned out and voted. It was a peaceful, orderly process. Second, the Constitution was approved, which creates institutions which will allow for continued democratic reform, economic reform, and a separation of powers, which I think -- between the legislative and executive branches, which will help prevent some of the problems that they had earlier this year.
So President Yeltsin is still in charge. He's a reformer. He has reformed government. We're waiting to see the what the results of the Parliament will be. Clearly, there is a protest element in there, and they will have a platform within the Parliament.
Q: Will President Clinton meet with the leaders of all the opposition parties when he is in Moscow?
MS. MYERS: I think -- we're still working on the schedule. I think it's been our intent for sometime to reach out to broaden our base somewhat in Russia, something the President has talked a little bit about, as have others. Vice President Gore is there now; is going to be meeting with a broad range of Russian leaders, political leaders -- I believe it's tonight Russian time, whatever that is.
Q: Specifically, will President Clinton meet with the party that is likely to hold the greatest -- the head of the party likely to hold the greatest number of seats in Parliament?
MS. MYERS: No specific plans at this point. I mean, part of it --
Q: He wouldn't stiff them and see the other guys, would he?
MS. MYERS: We don't have any specific plans yet. But we'll see. I mean, I think it is our intention to meet with a broad range of political leaders while we're there and I wouldn't rule it out.
Q: What about Gore -- is he going to do it? Is he going to meet with --
MS. MYERS: It's not clear. It was possible, but they hadn't made a final decision.
Q: You said there are encouraging signs. Is there anything discouraging about the rise of this man who seems to have tendencies that are kind of --
MS. MYERS: Certainly, some of the --
Q: Fascist? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think that there is no doubt that many of the things he says are an anathema to the values that we hold. There's no doubt about that. And it's something that we'll be watching clearly. But it is unclear who, if anyone, will have a working majority in the Parliament.
Q: Are we familiar with him at all?
MS. MYERS: Not in any -- I don't think he was a major player on the political scene. Certainly, he's emerged rather quickly at the end of the election cycle in Russia.
Q: Dee Dee, why is it important to go beyond Yeltsin at this point?
MS. MYERS: I think just part of the ongoing process -- the move toward market reforms and greater democracy there that we've said over the course of the last several months that it's our intention to reach out to broaden our contacts there some.
Q: Dee Dee, has the President talked to Yeltsin, or does he plan to?
MS. MYERS: He sent him a message yesterday congratulating him on the passage of his Constitution, which was a thing that he had worked hardest on -- Yeltsin had worked hardest on.
Q: Did you tell him all about the broadening of the contacts?
MS. MYERS: That's something that the President and Yeltsin have talked about previously -- previous to this week.
Q: How does he feel about that? Is that okay with him?
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether he expressed an opinion about it.
Q: Dee Dee, on Korea, has the U.S. heard back since its latest communication to the North Koreans on the unacceptability of the North Korea's offer?
MS. MYERS: No, we haven't heard back. Expecting something in the not too distant future -- a response. But at this point, there's really been no change in the situation with regard to North Korea.
Q: Are meetings scheduled --
MS. MYERS: Nothing -- yet, no. But we do expect to hear back from them sometime in the near --
Q: Why do you expect it?
MS. MYERS: That's just the indications that we've been getting informally. Again, there's no meeting scheduled at this point.
Q: Dee Dee, are you taking a look at this marriage that you've had with Yeltsin and giving it a second look at this point?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't want to suggest that at all.
Q: You really tied yourselves -- you tied yourselves very closely to Yeltsin both in terms of aid and political appearances by the President.
MS. MYERS: And I don't want to suggest that there's been any change in our policy. We still remain committed to democratic reform. Yeltsin is still the President. We still believe he's the best possibility for continued reform. He's still the head of a reform government. And there's been no change in our posture toward him. President Clinton looks -- I think the Vice President will meet with him on Thursday. President Clinton is looking forward to meeting with him in Russia in January.
Q: Dee Dee, what is the President doing today on this situation. Is he meeting with his advisors this morning? Has he had any time to think about it? What is he doing today and the rest of the day?
MS. MYERS: He's spent sometime in meetings. He's met with his foreign policy advisors today to talk about the situation in Russia as well as other foreign policy issues.
Q: He met with all the foreign policy advisers?
MS. MYERS: No, just Tony, Sandy --
Q: Has he talked to anybody on the telephone outside of the White House, any other outside advisors or other countries?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. No, he hasn't talked to any foreign heads of state today. He's spending some time on GATT today, some time on Russia, some time on other internal matters.
Q: On the budget, has he had --
MS. MYERS: He has a budget meeting today.
Q: Which Cabinet members?
MS. MYERS: You know, I'm not sure which agencies it is today?
Q: He's he going to be finished with the review by Christmas?
MS. MYERS: He should be finished with the review by the end of the week, unless there's some --
Q: And that will include the cuts -- whatever cuts he decides to make?
MS. MYERS: No. That will be the preliminary review. The first thing he's going to do is go through -- as you know, he's gone through agency by agency. He sat down with the secretary or administrator to talk through -- everybody was given a budget under the caps targets. Some of the departments and agencies have come in under those caps; others have not. The President is going to review that and then begin to assess the sort of aggregate. But he expects to have completed the meetings with each of the agencies and departments by Friday.
Q: Did the President meet with Secretary Aspin today?
MS. MYERS: Secretary Aspin was here, yes.
Q: Did the President meet with him?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: And about?
MS. MYERS: About a number of things. I mean, specifically, they talked about --
Q: Are we at war?
MS. MYERS: We are not currently, no.
Q: What was that?
MS. MYERS: He just made a -- he asked if we were at war. I said we're not currently at war.
Q: Wait a minute. Don't stop. (Laughter.)
Q: Did they talk about Korea?
MS. MYERS: They talked about a number of issues, and I don't have a full readout on the meeting. It was a broader-based meeting than any one particular issue. They have talked about Korea, though, within the last week. This was not specifically on the budget and it was not specifically on Korea, it was on a number of things. Just for clarity here, he has talked with Secretary Aspin about the situation in Korea previous to today. He talked to him on Friday.
Q: Dee Dee, what are the President's feeling on the delays in the Middle East-PLO-Israel -- now it's delayed and --
MS. MYERS: Well, we're still hopeful that the process will go forward. As you know, Secretary Christopher just returned from the region where he met with a number of the leaders, believes that there is serious commitment to the process. We continue to urge restraint on behalf of all the parties. I believe the Secretary has been in touch with Foreign Minister Moussa of Egypt today --different people every day to try to keep the process moving forward.
Q: Is the President involved personally talking to any of the leaders of the region?
MS. MYERS: He hasn't in the last week or so, but he certainly is keeping on top of it and is interested in seeing the process go forward, and, as you know, has talked with various leaders and will meet with President Assad sometime next month.
Q: Dee Dee, D'Amato is saying that -- is accusing Clinton of hypocrisy, saying that Clinton --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Surprising -- that Clinton criticized Bush for meeting with Assad and now he's doing the same thing. Is there any element of hypocrisy in this?
Q: Did he criticize Bush for meeting with Assad?
MS. MYERS: I don't remember -- I was just going to say the same thing. I am not familiar with any critical comments that the President, then Governor Clinton, might have made with reference to that meeting. He's talked to Assad a number of times on the phone and has said repeatedly that he thinks progress on all tracks is important toward comprehensive peace, and will meet with Assad toward that end.
Q: But you don't recall his criticizing --
MS. MYERS: I sure don't. That was before the Gulf War. And I don't remember Clinton criticizing that. I will certainly take the question and check, but I don't know of any comments.
Q: In view of the fact that there are supposed to be more foreclosures, I believe, of farms now than ever, and in view of the criticism of the cutback on the budget for the Agriculture Department, I wonder if the President is taking a second look at the Agriculture Department budget.
MS. MYERS: Well, he's looking closely at all of the different departmental budgets. He met with Secretary Espy and the Ag Department people, I believe it was last week, to make sure that the most necessary programs get funded and that the lower priority programs are cut if cuts need to be made. And given the tight discretionary caps that the President put in place as part of his five-year economic plan, that is necessary. But we'll try to make sure -- the President will try to make sure that those cuts come in the least important places.
Q: Dee Dee, when you said you expect to hear back again from North Korea, is that on the subject of inspections?
MS. MYERS: It's on the subject -- yes, it's on the ongoing dialogue about inspections and the denuclearization of the peninsula.
Q: So their last offer, their last statement on that was not -- it was portrayed by what they said as take it or leave it. What's left to be said?
MS. MYERS: The dialogue is ongoing. I mean, I think it continues to be -- our position in this has not changed. We continue to insist on full inspections and continuation of a dialogue between North and South Korea toward a nuclear-free peninsula. I think it's our intention to make sure they understand what their options are in this case.
Q: When the U.S. made its counteroffer to the North Koreans last week, did the U.S. give the North Koreans a certain time period in which to respond? Did it suggest get back with us in a certain period of time?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think there are any deadlines attached, but I think there is some urgency. This process is ongoing. We'd like to see it continue to go forward.
Q: What are their options? You said you wanted to make sure they understood their options. What are their options?
MS. MYERS: Well, their options are that they can comply with inspections, which is required of them under the nonproliferation treaty, and they can resume dialogue with South Korea toward a nuclear-free peninsula and honor their international obligations, I think, thereby, having more contact with the international community. Or they can fail to meet their obligations and become increasingly isolated and see further deterioration their economic situation. And I think what we've tried to do is make that choice clear to them through this process. They -- I mean, our bottom line has not changed.
Q: Can you give us a little bit more of a fill on what the President is going to do the rest of this week?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Tomorrow -- this is looking ahead toward the rest of the week. Tomorrow he has no public appearances except for the reception tomorrow night. Thursday he'll meet with the Democratic congressional leaders at 10:15 a.m. There will probably be another health care event on Thursday morning, late morning.
Q: What is the leaders on?
MS. MYERS: I think it's just a look ahead toward next year.
Thursday -- that's Thursday -- excuse me. Friday at 1:00 p.m. he'll have some children up to the East Room and he will read "Twas The Night Before Christmas."
Q: To us? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: To the press.
Q: We're the ones who need --
Q: You'll put that on the PA for us, won't you?
MS. MYERS: We'll put it on the PA and serve hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies.
Q: Is that open coverage?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if it will be expanded pool or open coverage, depending on how much room.
Q: How about live?
Q: How many children will there be?
MS. MYERS: You know, I don't know. I don't have the -- it's a group of children, and I'm not sure where they came from, but we'll have that for you before Friday.
Q: Will there be an advanced text? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: We can't guarantee that the President will follow the text.
Q: And what else on Friday besides the heartwarming --
MS. MYERS: That's the only public event at this point. I don't expect anything else. He will do the radio address live on Saturday, 10:06 a.m. And the rest of the weekend is down.
Monday is still coming together. I think he's going to sign the Child Protection Act here on Monday, which is one of the pieces of legislation passed toward the end of the session. And Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are still coming together. There's not much on the schedule in terms of public appearances at this point.
Q: How's his aching back?
MS. MYERS: It's getting better. He has not complained about it.
Q: Dee Dee, do you think he will approve any Christmas bonuses this year?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: So his policy is a blanket -- I mean, is that going to be his policy for four years?
MS. MYERS: That's the policy. I don't expect it to change.
Q: None for anyone, even lesser paid --
MS. MYERS: No bonuses.
Q: Will he give any pardons?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know, but I will certainly check.
Q: Has he received any report from the Justice Department about Pollard?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Do you anticipate -- do you know when it is expected to be received?
MS. MYERS: No firm deadline on it. We expect it to come sometime soon, possibly this week.
Q: Did the President ask the Justice Department to accelerate the process so that he could get a recommendation within this period of time?
MS. MYERS: I think he asked them to give him a recommendation as quickly as possible and, I think, understanding that they want to do this as thoroughly as they can. And I think we expect it fairly soon.
Q: Is there any word on who the new Congressional Affairs person is and on whether --
MS. MYERS: No personnel announcements for you other than the vaunt of Ginny Terzano.
Q: Harold, just can't make up his mind?
MS. MYERS: You'll have to call Harold. What's that?
Q: Is he getting a lot of Christmas presents?
MS. MYERS: I think he's both purchasing them for his family, and I don't have an update on the gifts situation, but I'm sure he is.
Q: No report from the closet?
MS. MYERS: No report from the gift closet.
Q: Will there be a Wayne -- replacement announcement by the end of this year, or will that wait to 1994?
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether it will come by the end of this year or not.
Q: Is there going to be any coverage of Christmas?
MS. MYERS: I hope not. No, I'm sure there's not. Christmas Day -- unless he goes to -- I don't know what his church schedule is, and we'll get that to you as soon as we can. I'm sure there will be a pool. Christmas Eve -- possibly. There's not much on the schedule at this point, but that could change. I wouldn't think it would be anything big.
Q: Will he tape the radio address for Christmas Day?
MS. MYERS: For Christmas Day? Good question. I would imagine that he's not going to do it live on Christmas. So I'm sure he'll pre-tape it, and we'll release the advance text. Maybe even on Thursday to get it done as much ahead as we can.
Q: Have you heard anything from Vietnam about the POWs from Winston Lord or anybody?
MS. MYERS: As you know Win Lord is there. The Vietnamese have turned over both -- I think six remains and some additional documents. He continues to insist that anymore progress in our relationship is going to be determined by tangible progress on POW/MIA issues. I think -- we'll wait until he gets back to get the full report, but things seem to be going well.
Q: Dee Dee, it's been traditional that the President calls representatives of the various Armed Forces on Christmas Eve. Is that on the schedule on Christmas Eve?
MS. MYERS: It is on the schedule, and I'm not sure exactly what that will look like. But, yes, there's a Christmas Eve phone call.
Q: Are we likely to hear that or just see paper on it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I don't know what the tradition is, and it something that we haven't dealt with yet. As soon as we have more details, we will let you know.
Q: Well, the tradition is whatever you want to do.
MS. MYERS: And he hasn't -- I just don't think this is at the top of his decision list for today.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:03 P.M. EST
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/269275