Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
10:31 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: As you know, the President will go out shortly to the Easter Egg Roll. There's been one addition to his schedule. I don't have the exact time, but probably sometime around 1:00 p.m., he will make a brief statement to a defense conversion convention in Pennsylvania. We'll get the details to you as soon as we have them.
Q: By phone?
Q: Is he going there to do it?
MS. MYERS: No, no, he's going to do it by satellite. So we'll bring a pool in or something.
Q: A pool?
MS. MYERS: Yes. You guys will have access to the -- it will be -- obviously there will be video available because he's doing it via satellite. And that's it for major announcements.
Q: What can you tell us more about this report that the President -- the special team that went to Bosnia is recommending the use of force?
MS. MYERS: What, the report that was --
MS. MYERS: The President commented on that, as he pointed out -- when Secretary Christopher announced the Bosnia policy in February, he pointed out that there would be a team going -- the team has gone and come back. They have not prepared any kind of official report. They did report to Congress, but at this point we're still evaluating it.
Q: So they have made no recommendations?
MS. MYERS: No. And we just believe that the administration ought to have a chance to evaluate the policy options before we make a report that is public.
Q: Why did they report to Congress?
MS. MYERS: They talked about some of their findings to Congress, but there's not official report at this point.
Q: When they met with Congress, they didn't discuss the possibility of military action?
MS. MYERS: Because we believe that the administration ought to have -- the Executive Branch ought to have a chance to evaluate the options before we have some kind of a policy report.
Q: What is the President's view about military action?
MS. MYERS: It's the same as it has been. We're still -- we have a number of options in terms of what to do in Bosnia, and we're reviewing them.
Q: Had it not been leaked, which, thank God, is always the likelihood, would we ever have known that they recommended the use of force?
MS. MYERS: They haven't finished the report yet. There's nothing official at this point. It is our position that we will -- that policy options ought to be reviewed by the administration before we go public with them.
Q: Yes, but then do you ever tell us of dissenting options?
MS. MYERS: I think it's -- you will know what the administration's policy positions are.
Q: What about the other policy positions not adopted by the -- the other alternatives, let say?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the alternatives are fairly widely known.
Q: Would we not want to know that some of these experts favored the use of force even if that does not turn out to be the administration's policy?
MS. MYERS: I think that is widely known at this point, that there is a school of thought out there that favors different options and what the administration has put forth.
Q: Through no fault of the administration.
MS. MYERS: Well, Clinton said that he would consider it and he continues to consider it. There are a number of options on the table. The President never called for any specific actions with regard to force ever.
Q: They reported on the findings but not on the recommendations, is that right?
MS. MYERS: The administration is currently reviewing their findings -- that is correct. And there is no -- and policy options. And there's been no report to the President, as he pointed out in the photo op that he just had. He hasn't seen anything on this yet.
Q: Dee Dee, so why would they be reporting to Congress at all?
MS. MYERS: They briefed Congress on their trip. I don't know the details of that briefing, but there is no official report. DOD has not had a chance to look at their findings, nor has the administration.
Q: But, Dee Dee, there is a draft report. That's what The New York Times was quoting, the draft report of this commission.
MS. MYERS: I think there a number of options, of findings, but there is no policy report at this point.
Q: Well, the draft report of the commission is not the same as, you were talking about, administration policy.
MS. MYERS: They went -- let's understand clearly what the mission of the group was. It was to go look at the humanitarian options. That was their -- if you go back and look at the February 8th announcement on Bosnia policy, their task was humanitarian.
Q: Yes, but their conclusion, Dee Dee, was that --
Q: you can't support that without the use of force.
MS. MYERS: The administration is reviewing their findings. We haven't had a chance -- the President has not had a chance to look at it yet.
Q? Did they go beyond their mandate?
MS. MYERS: I don't have more to add to it. The administration -- we're looking at their findings.
Q: Do you expect that the Russians will block attempts in the U.N. to impose tighter sanctions that the administration seeks? What is your expectation after three more days of consultation?
MS. MYERS: We think that -- we're going to continue to work with the Russians to get the Serbs to come back and to abide by the peace plan. At this point we expect -- we're going to continue to work forward on this. I don't have a specific timetable, but we think that the Russians will work with us on this.
Q: So do you -- does that mean that the administration is giving up its attempt to tighten the sanctions?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: What are you doing on the --
MS. MYERS: We're going to continue to press for tighter sanctions.
Q: Does the 1972 document discovered in Moscow in which Hanoi lists 1,205 U.S. POWs change the objective of the Vessey mission to Hanoi this week, which is widely reported as paving the way for recognition or some form of increased trade?
MS. MYERS: That was not what the mission of the Vessey mission was. It was to continue fact-finding. Let's understand a little bit about the background on that Russian report. We were first -- we first learned about that and Morris met with NSC officials and discussed it, although he did not provide us with a copy of the report at that time.
Q: When did you learn about it?
MS. MYERS: This was in February. Based on that meeting, NSC officials went back and reported it to DOD and asked them to look into it. Working through the U.S.-Russian joint commission on MIAs and POWs, we requested a copy of the report through Ambassador Toon, which we received on April 8th. And that is now being reviewed. We've only had it -- as you know, we just received it last week, and we're reviewing it. Vessey's mission is to over there and that will be among the things that he discusses. We need to know that the Vietnamese are doing all they can on the POW-MIA issue before we move forward. And that continues to be out policy towards Vietnam.
Q: Yes, but Senator Kerrey, among others, has recently concluded that there are no more POWs being held and that perhaps the time is right to move our relations with Vietnam.
MS. MYERS: That's one of the reasons that General Vessey is going over there.
Q: So what impact will this have on Vessey's mission?
MS. MYERS: He's going over there to find out what the status of it is. But, I mean, I think President Clinton has been consistently very clear about this. There can be no progress toward normalization until we're assured the Vietnamese are doing all they can on the POW-MIA issue. General Vessey will go over there. He'll discuss this report, among other things, and report back to the President when he returns.
Q: If, as it now appears, the Vietnamese have been deliberately lying for 20 years, what does that do to the prospect of improved relations?
MS. MYERS: Well, when General Vessey returns from Vietnam, he'll discuss his findings with the President. Obviously, it continues to be -- the POW-MIA issue continues to be of great concern to the President, not only with reference to the Vietnam War, but just generally. And he is -- there can be no normalization of relations with Vietnam until those -- until we're sure that the Vietnamese are doing all they can.
Q: Did the Toon report corroborate the Morris report? Was it the same --
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's the same document. It's a Russian version of the Vietnamese report, and as you know, we're reviewing it.
Q: So you'll present those concerns about the 1,200 MIAs and POWs --
MS. MYERS: It's something that General Vessey will discuss with the Vietnamese on his trip.
Q: And does it -- again, trying to follow up these questions, does it at all undermine their reliability, their credibility so far on this issue?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's one of the things that we have -- that General Vessey will discuss.
Q: To catch me up since I've not been here for a week --
MS. MYERS: I've noticed that.
Q: what did the President sign today and how is it affected by the Senate filibuster?
MS. MYERS: He signed the proclamation of Immunization Week. It is --
Q: And the money itself --
MS. MYERS: The money for immunization, the $300 million in the stimulus package is being held up.
Q: Another topic. Who's in charge of the administration antidrug program at this point, since there is no drug Czar?
MS. MYERS: Right. I don't know who the exact people are -- the people ongoing in the drug office.
Q: Are these Bush holdovers? Are these your people?
MS. MYERS: No, I think they're -- some temporary people are our people and then some Bush holdovers.
Q: When do you expect to have a drug chief named?
MS. MYERS: Sometime soon. And I'd also point out that there is a lot of work being done on drug treatment through the health care policy, which Bob Boorstin had talked some about.
Q: But that's going to take some time to implement, isn't it? I mean, that's not something that's going to be happening in this budget cycle, this coming year?
MS. MYERS: No. This budget cycle has been put forward. But there's a lot of work being done on a number of policy fronts, particularly with regards to treatment that I don't think are reflected necessarily in the budget document, but are ongoing.
Q: Wouldn't that be very long-range?
MS. MYERS: No, not necessarily. I mean, the health plan is something that we hope to push forward this year.
Q: As the President moves toward a compromise -- I know that's an assumption -- on the stimulus package, what does he plan to do? Have meetings this week, and so forth, or is he going to try to find some modus vivendi with the Republicans?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, he's going to do what he can to get as much of the jobs package pushed through Congress as possible. He'll continue to work with members. He'll continue to talk about various elements of the plan like childhood immunization, which are important parts of the stimulus that are being held up. But he's going to work hard now to get as much of that package passed as possible.
Q: With Republicans, Dee Dee? Is he going to talk to individual Republicans, do you know?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have any plans right now to talk to individual Republicans, but I wouldn't rule it out.
Q: He had some of his harshest words yet for Republicans just moments ago, talking about this thing being held up and politics and all that. Is he going on the offensive the rest of this week while the Congress is out? Does he have plans to say more things?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, I think he's going to talk about some of the components of the package like immunization that are important. He obviously wants to get as much of that through; I think he made that pretty clear that he's committed to this. He believes we need to -- the government needs to play a role in creating jobs and getting jobs going and that he's going to do what he can to make that happen.
Q: But it will be tough to look for compromise in the shadow of words like this, isn't it?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I think he's going to work with Congress to try to get -- I mean, I think what he was communicating was that he's very committed to a jobs package, he wants to get as much of his package passed as he can, and he'll work with Congress to make that happen.
Q: A follow-up question, Dee Dee? Is there a chance, though, that this backfires, that this causes Senate Republicans to dig in and say, gee, we're being personally attacked; we can't give in now? Is that something that has been factored?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I don't know that he made any personal attacks, but he wants to get as much of this package through. It's very important to him. He believes that things like child immunization and summer jobs program and extending unemployment benefits are very important. And he's going to continue to press.
Q: I appreciate that. My question was, has it been factored in that this might -- is this a high-risk strategy, this might cause these guys to dig in their heels deeper?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure how much deeper. But I think he'll continue to work with them. We'll see where we go from here.
Q: Does he have any foreign policy meetings scheduled today?
MS. MYERS: None on his schedule. Other than the usual briefings.
Q: But nothing to get caught up from whatever the output of the principals meeting was on Friday?
MS. MYERS: No, he's talked to his security advisers, though, over the weekend and this morning.
Q: Has he had any specific briefings on the institution of the no-fly zone?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment specifically on what he's briefed on every day other than to say that that's something that took effect this morning at 8:00 a.m., and he's fully aware of it. And obviously, it was something that we pushed for for quite a while, and has now been passed. But we can't comment on things like rules of engagement.
Q: Is this going to make his 10-day deadline for offering a second package of aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: He's working on it.
Q: So will that be by Wednesday?
MS. MYERS: It's something that's going to come up in the ministerial meetings in Tokyo later this week, so we'll have more to say about it later this week.
Q: Will it be anything beyond what's already --
MS. MYERS: Bentsen and Christopher left this morning.
Q: in FY '94 budget?
MS. MYERS: Pardon me?
Q: Will there be anything beyond what's already in the FY '94 budget?
MS. MYERS: We're working on that now. We'll have more details later this week.
Q: You say you can't comment on the rules of engagement, but usually other administrations have, in terms of the right to fire back if they're fired at.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that -- but what we have continued to maintain in Iraq is that when threatened our forces will respond.
Q: Dee Dee, does he plan any trips out of Washington this week to promote the economic plan? He hasn't really done a whole lot on that.
MS. MYERS: There's nothing on the calendar right now.
Q: Do you expect that we'll get --
MS. MYERS: It's possible, but there's nothing on right now. It's just not on --
Q: Is there any way that he is going to try to reach beyond the Senate and talk to Americans directly?
MS. MYERS: Again, a lot of the details -- I mean, he'll continue to do things like he did today. At this point there are no specific travel plans. And I don't know whether or not they'll be added.
Q: Did he get blind-sided by the degree of Republican unity on the filibuster?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if blind-sided is the right word. I think that the -- obviously, we can't control Senate rules. And that's something that we knew going in.
Q: Well, looking back, do you think some mistakes were made in maybe having Byrd be the manager and not going after some of the moderate Republicans?
MS. MYERS: I think that hindsight is always 20-20. And we're going to continue to push to get the package through.
Q: Yes, but what do you mean by hindsight is 20-20?
MS. MYERS: People can look back now and say that things could have been done differently. At the time --
Q: Well, will they --
MS. MYERS: I'm not to engage in that.
Q: So now you're going to accept the principle of Breaux-Boren, according to Senator Mitchell, which is to scale it down and delay it some.
MS. MYERS: I don't think any final decisions have been made.
Q: But tentatively, you're moving in the direction of Breaux-Boren, which you could have accepted two weeks ago.
MS. MYERS: Pure speculation at this point.
Q: Senator Mitchell is --
MS. MYERS: I can't say, and none of you can say, where this package is going to end up. At this point we'll continue to work with Congress. The President's committed to getting as much of that through as possible.
Q: Do you disagree with what Senator Mitchell said yesterday that it will obviously have to be scaled down and some of it delayed, which is what Breaux-Boren announced?
MS. MYERS: I think that's fairly likely. I don't think that -- obviously, what we're going to do is try to get as much of that package through as we can. Now, exactly what form that takes I don't think anybody can say at this point.
Q: Dee Dee, Senator Dole yesterday said that by his analysis, the average job created by the package would cost $89,100. What's your estimate of the --
MS. MYERS: I don't have a breakdown on that.
Q: Wouldn't you want to challenge his with a different figure?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a figure in front of me, Deborah, but what I can say is that the President's package will create 500,000 jobs, including 700,000 summer jobs. The President believes it's important. There has been -- it's been a jobless recovery to date.
Q: It's 500,000 including 700,000?
MS. MYERS: Five hundred thousand full time equivalents over the next -- in the '93, '94 fiscal years.
Q: Plus another 700,000?
MS. MYERS: It's part of the 500,000 full-time equivalents.
Q: What's the formula on that? One part-time job is equal to what percentage of a full-time job?
MS. MYERS: A summer job I believe is a quarter -- it depends on how long it lasts, but if it lasts three months --
Q: So it's a quarter of a year's employment?
Q: Isn't it getting too late for the summer job at this point? This is a creeping bureaucracy that hasn't worked in a long time. Isn't there a turning point?
MS. MYERS: Yes. We believe if we get the stimulus passed now -- the job package passed now, we can still create a lot of summer jobs. The President is attending a conference on Wednesday with Secretaries Riley and Reich, which is a joint Education-Labor private-public partnership specifically aimed at creating summer jobs. It's something that he'll be talking about this week.
Q: Where is that?
MS. MYERS: It's in Washington. I don't know exactly where. There is a two-day conference on creating summer jobs.
Q: You said he'd be doing events similar to date. Do you mean with people he views as victims of the filibuster?
MS. MYERS: No. For example, he will be on Wednesday going to this conference -- the Labor-Education joint conference on creating summer jobs, just talking about various elements of the stimulus.
Q: Are big city mayors invited to that conference, for instance?
MS. MYERS: I believe that they are. I don't have the exact agenda of the conference.
Q: So that conference makes the point in another way that he's tried to make this morning with the hostage comment?
MS. MYERS: The point being that there's a lot of things in the jobs package that we -- that the President's committed to and would like to see passed right away; things that create jobs and help kids and do all kinds of important things.
Q: The vaccination part, though, the $300 million that he was talking about this morning, that in and of itself is not a jobs-creating part of the stimulus package?
MS. MYERS: It creates some jobs, but the primary goal there is to immunize children. Every dollar spent on immunization saves $10 down the road. The President made a good example about the 20-month-old child.
Q: What else is happening this week?
MS. MYERS: Friday, Prime Minister Miyazawa is here. Tomorrow he will go to the Chamber of Commerce -- speak at the Chamber of Commerce. And he'll probably -- I think it looks like he'll do an event around Thomas Jefferson's 250th birthday at the Jefferson Memorial sometime mid-day.
Q: What's the Chamber --
MS. MYERS: The U.S. Chamber -- it's tomorrow evening.
Q: Didn't he talk to the Chamber a couple of weeks ago?
MS. MYERS: Yes. That was a meeting here.
Q: What's tomorrow? You mean the Chamber or the Jefferson?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow evening is the Chamber. Tomorrow during the day is the Jefferson. So it's Jefferson mid-day; Chamber in the evening. Wednesday he will speak to the Labor-Education Conference. Thursday is unclear.
END10:47 A.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/272214