Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
5:35 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: We'll try to keep these brief, with Helen's indulgence, so that people can get back to work on deadline.
Okay, tomorrow's schedule. The President is scheduled to leave the White House tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. to attend the Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton. He'll leave there around 9:30 a.m. and go up to the Hill.
Q: Slow down.
MS. MYERS: So he leaves the White House at 7:30 a.m. and gets to the Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton --
Q: What time does he speak?
MS. MYERS: It's scheduled for around 9:15 a.m. He's like -- he's 12 speakers into this program, so I leave it to your -- 14 speakers -- 14 items into the program. It's a prayer breakfast.
Q: Will he jog in the morning before he goes?
MS. MYERS: We're praying for two hours tomorrow. Then he goes up to the Hill for the House Democratic Whip meeting. Then back to the Oval Office for lunch with Vice President Gore.
Q: What time is that?
MS. MYERS: Noon. He's scheduled to be at the whip meeting for about an hour, a little less than an hour. Then tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 p.m. he has his weekly meeting with regular citizens. Among those included will be a Girl Scout troop from Los Angeles -- a little parochial interest here -- and a meeting with women -- National Girls and Women in Sports. And then tomorrow he'll attend a reception with freshmen members of Congress at 5:00 p.m. in the State Dining Room in the Residence.
Q: He's hosting that, is that right?
MS. MYERS: He's hosting it, correct. And I believe it is bipartisan. I'll double-check that, though.
Q: I hate to ask this, but do you have a list of the Girl Scouts?
MS. MYERS: We probably will tomorrow. There's 25 of them.
Q: Is it just the L.A. Girl Scout -- or is there another --
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's a Los Angeles -- it's Los Angeles Girl Scout Troop 1265.
Q: How were they chosen? Just dumb luck? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Parochial interest. Letters come in. I mean, there is no specific process for choosing these. But people send letters or they contact members of the staff or they met the President on a bus trip or something, and somehow it will come to the attention of a staff member that this is a worthy cause. And they will be invited into the Oval Office on Friday afternoon.
Q: It's like your sister was in this troop or something? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: No, this is one of the few projects from Los Angeles not attached to my immediate family. I regret that. (Laughter.)
Q: Is he going to jog in the morning?
MS. MYERS: It's possible, but I think it's unlikely. It's a little early even for him.
Q: Is the prayer breakfast open press?
MS. MYERS: I believe it is.
Q: Everything you need.
MS. MYERS: Is it not usually? We'll take a pool with us. Jeremy, do you know? Yes, find out.
Q: You can't even get a sticks crew in there.
MS. MYERS: Really?
Q: Travel pool only we were told.
MS. MYERS: Travel pool only?
Q: Can the travel pool take sticks?
MS. MYERS: Yes, why not?
Q: I'll lug them.
MS. MYERS: Tight travel pool only. It's photo only -- photo op.
Q: At the top?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: No coverage?
MS. MYERS: We'll make a decision on that tomorrow. He will do this every week, have lunch with Vice President Gore, probably. Unless there's something that prohibits it. But generally, it will be on Thursday, every Thursday.
Q: Is he meeting with regular folks --
MS. MYERS: It will be a photo op.
Q: Is he meeting with regular folks every Thursday?
MS. MYERS: Every Thursday, correct. Thursday afternoons.
Q: Is there some kind of rule where a senior staffer has to clear any talk with a reporter through you or Stephanopoulos' office?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: You can just call the senior --
MS. MYERS: Sure. Sometimes they'll ask us to return calls if they don't have time, and we're happy to do that to try to serve the White House Press Corps efficiently. That's our only aim. (Laughter.)
Q: Has the White House Press Office directed the uniformed Secret Service people to deny us from getting into the vicinity of the congressmen or others as they go to their cars?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: It happened to several of us today and again last week.
MS. MYERS: I think -- I don't know what the standard policy has been on that --
Q: It's been that the congressmen, if they didn't want to take questions they'd say, no questions, and get in their car and leave.
MS. MYERS: Unless the congressman asks for it, which I doubt, we would not instruct them to do that.
Q: They have been instructed to do that. That's you guys' call.
Q: -- last weekend and then again today.
MS. MYERS: I'll check into it. I don't know who that came from.
Q: Does the President plan anything else in Michigan?
MS. MYERS: Unclear at this point.
Q: Is it possible he'll do an event there before or after the --
MS. MYERS: Sure, I think it's always possible.
Q: Is he flying out that day?
MS. MYERS: We just don't have the details. I think he'll leave here on Wednesday and it's unclear whether he'll come back. His pattern in the campaign was always to fly home -- or to travel late at night. He liked to wake up where he was working. So I just give you that as guidance, although no final plans have been made.
Q: He did these town meetings I think at least three Detroit stations in the campaign. Is there a reason for choosing seven? Is that primarily technology or logistics?
MS. MYERS: I think it's -- yes, we had done one there before. It was --
Q: -- top-rated station.
MS. MYERS: That never hurts. Is it an ABC affiliate, Mark? (Laughter.) I thought you might want to advertise that. And remember the CONUS network.
Q: Did you say it's going to be available for --
MS. MYERS: Yes, it is. It is available with the market exception that -- it will not be available to run live on the other affiliates in the markets where -- in Detroit and Miami, Seattle or Atlanta. But other than that, there will be a feed and anybody can pull it down and use it.
Q: -- be piped in here?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. That's a good question. It will be on C-Span as well.
Q: Are you going to ask C-Span to black out those cities?
MS. MYERS: No, I think it's just the affiliate -- the competition.
Q: Why seven then? Or why Detroit, for that matter?
MS. MYERS: Detroit because Michigan was a key state, was a swing state, a place that the President campaigned hard and a place where jobs were always the primary issue whenever we were there. And the President wants to go back to continue the dialogue about how best to create jobs.
I don't know all of the details of why WXYZ was chosen other than we had worked with them before and they were very accommodating and wanted to do it again.
Q: Why are you doing this now, before he has anything to say?
MS. MYERS: I think he has a lot to say. I think he wants to continue his conversation with the American people about the need --
Q: But there are no specifics to sell, nothing to tell the people that he's going to do.
MS. MYERS: But I think there are a lot of underlying circumstances that we can talk about. For example, the budget deficit is much worse than anybody knew until a few weeks ago. I think that, even though there's been some recovery and the economic indicators look good, there has been no recovery in jobs or income. The middle class still lost income and saw their taxes go up in the 1980s and the President is still committed to fairness. I mean, I think he wants to remake those points with the American people, and I think he also feels it's time to go out and talk to people. He has not had an opportunity to travel outside of Washington since the inaugural. He'll have been in office three weeks. And I think he feels like it's time.
Q: You say he'll stay overnight?
MS. MYERS: No. No plans have been made. I mean, generally, he would not stay overnight in a situation like that, but again, I give you that only as guidance.
Q: How long ago was this organized?
MS. MYERS: It's something that we've talked about for several weeks. I think -- as you know, Jeff Eller is the person who primarily negotiates with TV stations and sets up the logistical details of town halls. He's been working on this for at least a week, maybe 10 days.
Q: A couple of quick things. Is he meeting with the German Foreign Minister tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: The German Foreign Minister is coming in to meet with Tony Lake, the National Security Advisor, and will pay a courtesy call to the President.
Q: What time?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what time. Let me look. I don't think it's on the schedule yet.
Q: What day is it?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow. I believe it's in the afternoon. But it's a courtesy call only -- like a five minute meeting. And I don't know whether we'll do a photo with that or not.
Q: I want to make sure I understood -- are you conceding that he won't have anything specific to say about his economic plan right now?
MS. MYERS: He won't be ready to outline the details of his economic plan, but I think he'll talk about the underlying circumstances that will certainly give rise to some of the decisions that he makes. But keep in mind the questions will come from the participants. So people will be able to ask the President anything that's on their minds. Generally, particularly in Michigan, those questions have tended to focus on jobs and the economy generally.
Q: Are you going to let the station pick the audience?
MS. MYERS: Traditionally -- I will check with Jeff, but traditionally that's how it's been done, that stations have been free to choose the guests as they see fit. And sometimes it's been by random drawing, other times they've chosen community leaders.
Q: Is that how you prefer it this time?
MS. MYERS: Yes, we prefer to let them make the choices. And each of the stations will have a slightly different sort of audience. But normally we encourage them to just invite regular citizens without any particular criteria that sort of represents a broad cross-section of the community. And I think generally we've been very successful at that.
Q: One other thing. The meeting on the Hill -- does he have a regular schedule of Hill meetings now? Is there sort of regular, every week he's going to do X, Y and Z?
MS. MYERS: Every Tuesday he'll meet with congressional leaders on -- one Tuesday it will be Democratic leaders and the following Tuesday it will be bipartisan.
Q: Are those generally going to be up here or is he going to continue to track down --
MS. MYERS: I think generally it will be here but I think sometimes -- periodically, I think he'll attend their meetings whether it's the policy group committees or this is a Whip meeting or other reasons to go up there. I think it will be definitely a twoway dialogue and sometimes he'll go see them and sometimes they'll come down and see him.
Q: -- on the agenda with the whips besides the --
MS. MYERS: General, and largely the economic plan. I'm sure campaign finance reform will come up and probably health care and whatever else they want to talk about.
Q: Is he going to pick something in particular?
MS. MYERS: No. Family medical leave, depending on what happens with that.
Q: The prayer breakfast, can we expect a transcript of his remarks there?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: Can we expect not to get it live?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe there are any provisions for getting it live. I will have to double-check that.
Q: We usually get it live.
MS. MYERS: You do. Jeremy will check.
Q: There are two ways. WHCA can sometimes give us a phone-feed live. That's not of any interest for radio. I presume since TV can't put in sticks they can't run lines. Can somebody help me on that?
Q: That's right.
MS. MYERS: Okay.
Q: Have you already gone over what the prayer breakfast is and who organized it?
MS. MYERS: No. I know it's -- Reverend Billy Graham is one of the primary organizers of it. It's, I think, a regular breakfast that he has. I don't know all of the -- let's see if I can -- it will be sent back live, but probably not broadcast quality.
Q: Telephone feed?
MS. MYERS: Okay. Is that normally how it's been done? So you will not miss a minute of this if you all show up here. The program is scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m. But I know this is Reverend Billy Graham's, and if you want more details on how it got organized -- I think it's something that he does fairly regularly.
Q: Dee Dee, who else from the White House staff might be going, and is this an event that falls under the new ethics restrictions?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that, who's going to be going. I think Counsel's reviewing the ethics restrictions and trying to make sure people comply. I know they're taking a second look at things like the Gridiron Dinner.
Q: Well, not just that, but I mean, how does this apply to the President in terms of his ability to go to events like this and fundraising dinners and things like that?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll check.
Q: -- housekeeping things, Dee Dee. You're 9:15 a.m. briefing, the first couple of days there were transcripts available of that later in the morning, but that seems to have not been happening. They're starting again today? Are those going to generally be available before George's briefing?
MS. MYERS: The transcripts?
Q: Yes. The other housekeeping thing is what happened with the orders on the labor things on Monday? They came out after the lid apparently?
MS. MYERS: Correct. What happened is he signed them -- we put the lid on I believe it was around 6:00 p.m. He signed them later. And so what we did was gave them to the travel pool, not wanting to break the lid, but also knowing that a couple news organizations had them. I would take your guidance on how to deal with a situation like that. We didn't know that he was going to sign them. We thought that had been put off until the following day. And he ended up signing them, and I know that at least one news organization had it. So in order to try to be fair without calling everybody back, we gave it to the pool.
Q: You can put an all-call out.
Q: The beepers would be the best way to do that because if people don't know to come get the pool report, then giving it to the pool doesn't really do anything.
Q: Is the President having a hard time finding an attorney general?
MS. MYERS: No. I think he's making good progress --
Q: Did he have any interviews today?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of but he's making good progress on it and I expect we'll have an announcement soon.
Q: This week?
MS. MYERS: Unclear. I don't think -- it's possible.
Q: Who is she? What's her name? Anyone we know? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think what we'll probably do is the travel pool -- why don't we push the briefing back to 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, just 15 minutes. Then the program will be over and he'll be on his way to the Hill. I don't plan to go there, to the prayer breakfast or to the Hill.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:50 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/269277