Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:45 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Okay, schedule. As you know, Prime Minister Miyazawa will arrive at 10:30 a.m. He will meet privately with the President in the Oval Office and then in a larger group. At 12:30 p.m. they'll have lunch in the Old Family Dining Room, and they will have a press conference in the East Room at 1:55 p.m. Actually, I think we can say 2:00 p.m.
At 3:30 p.m. -- we'll give you that five minutes. At 3:30 p.m. he'll meet with a group of gay leaders, including representatives of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the March on Washington Committee, the Campaign for Military Service, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, and Coalition '93.
Q: How many people altogether?
MS. MYERS: There will probably be six or eight.
Q: Any coverage?
MS. MYERS: No coverage.
Q: Why not?
MS. MYERS: It's a private meeting.
Q: private meetings --
MS. MYERS: And many, many, many more don't, so --
Q: Increasingly so.
MS. MYERS: There will not be a photo op.
Q: Is this a political decision, Dee Dee, to not have a photo op with --
MS. MYERS: I think it's consistent with our policy of these kinds of meetings. Political meetings are often closed.
Q: Will they be escorted out this door so at least they'll pass by the stakeout position?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what door they'll go out, but I'm sure at some point today they'll make themselves available.
Q: Who requested this meeting?
MS. MYERS: They requested it. As you know, they've met with other White House officials and have requested an opportunity to meet with the President.
Q: About what?
MS. MYERS: I think it's about a wide range of issues, from AIDS, to the AIDS czar, to other issues that are of concern to the gay and lesbian community.
Q: Did they officially ask him to participate in the parade?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure that will come up. I don't think there's been --
Q: Is there any chance at all that he might change his schedule to do that?
MS. MYERS: No, as of right now -- I think his schedule is clear. He will be at the Senate Democratic retreat in Jamestown and then in Boston for the meeting with newspaper publishers.
Q: Is that meeting with the newspaper publishers on Sunday?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I think they're there for a weekend conference.
Q: And he'll spend Saturday night where?
MS. MYERS: I believe in Jamestown. We're still working out the final details of the schedule. That will be a pool, and then we'll probably take the expanded press corps from Washington to Boston on Sunday.
Q: What's the status of the immigration ban that's been under study at HHS since you came into office? It supposed to be changed immediately. Where is it now?
MS. MYERS: No, I think the Senate actually took action on that. I think we're reviewing it, but I think the Senate took action. It's pretty clear where that policy is.
Q: That's -- moot.
Q: You're not trying to overturn or lobby the Senate or change their minds --
MS. MYERS: Not at this point.
Q: You've just given up on that
MS. MYERS: We're not -- there's no active attempt at this point.
Q: What about the new stimulus package that's coming --
Q: Can I just follow up on this one more time? What is the status of the possibility that Clinton may call the gay rights march, ala Ronald Reagan and George Bush to an abortion rights -- abortion --
MS. MYERS: I think that's something that will be discussed today, but there's no final decision on it yet.
Q: How long does the meeting last this afternoon?
MS. MYERS: It's schedule for 30 minutes.
Q: New stimulus package?
MS. MYERS: As the President said, he will have an alternative proposal. We'll have more details on that perhaps today.
MS. MYERS: Probably today.
Q: What time?
Q: How will that be announced?
MS. MYERS: George. George will discuss it. George will probably discuss it at his 12:30 p.m. briefing. And then I'm sure you'll have a chance to ask the President about it at 1:55 p.m.
Q: Is this a unilateral package, or is this something that he's worked out with either Democrats or Republicans on the Hill?
MS. MYERS: It's his proposal but it's something that he has talked to members of Congress about. Certainly to the Senate leadership about it, and to the House leadership as well.
Q: Dole's people said they didn't know anything about this.
MS. MYERS: Democratic leadership. And of course, as you know, Senator Dole called the President and they discussed, not specific details, but they discussed the jobs package.
Q: Senator Dole since the phone call, I guess, the night before last?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: In Dole's conversations with him, did he indicate to the President he was willing to compromise, because his statements post-Clinton remarks yesterday indicated that he's not interested in a compromise. He's interested in taking the whole package down.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that we believe that we're still hopeful that we can get some kind of a jobs package through. Obviously, we're well aware of Senator Dole's objections to it. President Clinton is going to try proposing a different package and we'll see if we can't work that through.
Q: But did he indicate any willingness -- are you operating from --
MS. MYERS: Again, they didn't discuss the specific details of the package. But we believe that the American want to see a jobs package passed. The President said yesterday he's willing to compromise. We will propose an alternative today and work with the leadership, both the Democratic and Republican leaders, to try to get it passed.
Q: Dee Dee, can you share with us the price tag?
Q: Dee Dee, is there a strategy, then, just to win over the number of Republicans that would make it possible for you to end the cloture -- to end the filibuster, rather than to actually win over Dole's support?
MS. MYERS: Well yes, obviously we have to -- we believe that we have enough votes now to pass a jobs package. We've always believed that.
Q: If you could get it to a vote.
MS. MYERS: If we could get it to a vote. And so we're going to continue to work with -- you know, I think we're in the process of continuing to develop our strategy on exactly how to get that to the floor so that we can vote on it.
Q: Now is that the purpose of Saturday's trip to Pittsburgh, to pressure --
MS. MYERS: Well, we're going to continue to discuss it. Again, we believe the American people support this. We're going to continue to campaign for it, to go out there and talk about it, to discuss it with the American people, and to try to put some pressure on members of the Senate.
Q: How do you win over Specter by going to Pittsburgh and embarrassing him?
MS. MYERS: I don't think our intention is to embarrass anybody. But the airport in Pittsburgh stands to gain a great deal, as do other parts of Western Pennsylvania, from this package. And it's something that we're going to talk about.
Q: Dee Dee, some Senate Democrats say they're hearing exactly the opposite of what you're saying about American --
MS. MYERS: I saw that in your report this morning.
Q: American public opinion that when they've gone home on Easter recess, they're being hammered about reducing the deficit and not spending more money. Are you guys tracking this kind of public opinion here in the White House?
MS. MYERS: We believe that the American people -- and there's both public and private numbers that back that up -- that the American people want to see a jobs package passed. They believe -- they're insecure about the status of their job. There's been a lot of bad, or at least mixed, economic news in the last couple of months. And we believe there's broad public support for this. Clearly, there's support for reducing the deficit, too, which is why the President put forward a comprehensive deficit reduction plan. But what people are most concerned about is jobs. And we continue to maintain that. And the President believes that, again, this is a recovery without job creation. It continues to be a problem.
Q: Is your own White House polling supporting that position?
MS. MYERS: That there's broad support for a jobcreation package, yes.
Q: Then why are you compromising?
MS. MYERS: We don't make the Senate rules.
Q: Can you explain what the need is in Pittsburgh? They opened a brand-new airport about a year ago --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't know what the need is. I can get back to you on that. But there is specifically a good chunk of money that would help with that airport in Pittsburgh.
Q: anywhere else besides the airport in Pittsburgh?
MS. MYERS: No, it will just be a trip up and back.
Q: When does he go?
MS. MYERS: He'll leave Saturday morning, roughly 8:00 a.m., and come back Saturday afternoon before 2:00 p.m.
Q: Is he giving his radio speech --
MS. MYERS: Yes, we'll do that from Pittsburgh.
Q: Same time?
MS. MYERS: 10:06 a.m., correct.
Q: Without necessarily, Dee Dee, giving us the details, can you tell us what the price tag of the new streamlined package is going to be?
MS. MYERS: We'll have more to say about that later.
Q: Is it going to be half?
MS. MYERS: Again, we'll have the details of that a little bit later.
Q: Is Mitchell carrying the ball on this? Has he talked to Dole? Has it been unveiled to Dole yet? Have they sounded him out?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that there's been any -- there's no guarantees. Certainly Mitchell has been contacted. We've been working with the Senate Democratic leaders on this.
Q: Dee Dee, how different is this from what the President was referring to yesterday afternoon when he was talking about police, et cetera?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President made clear what his priorities are for this package yesterday. And that will clearly reflect those priorities.
Q: So these are the specifics of what he was talking about yesterday?
MS. MYERS: It will be a little more -- there will be more information in this.
Q: Can you tell us what it will be? In other words, will it be a price tag, or will there be specifics?
MS. MYERS: There will be some specifics. And, again, we'll have the details of it later.
Q: Will it include any way to pay for this, such as perhaps corresponding spending cuts or --
MS. MYERS: Again, we'll have details of it later. I don't want to get into that.
Q: What is his audience in Pittsburgh going to be?
MS. MYERS: We'll invite people from the community.
Q: Any particular groups --
MS. MYERS: I don't have the complete list of who exactly might be there. It will be probably a cross section of people from the Allegheny County area.
Q: Dee Dee, where will he be meeting with the gay groups, in the Oval Office?
MS. MYERS: Yes, in the Oval Office.
Q: This will be like the first time, I understand, that the President will be meeting in the Oval Office with leaders of gay groups. Why are you going out of your way to keep it -- so lowkey --
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's low-key at all. I think we said yesterday we were going to have this meeting.
Q: No you didn't.
MS. MYERS: We've announce who's --
Q: You said yesterday you might have it today.
MS. MYERS: Well, it wasn't completely firmed up, and people who called later in the afternoon it was confirmed and it was written about in a number of papers today.
Q: But there's an appearance here you're trying to keep it under wraps almost.
MS. MYERS: I don't believe that's true at all. I just gave you a list of the groups -- we'll have the list of the specific individuals later. And we don't always do photo ops for meetings as you all well know.
Q: Well, can we request that if you're not going to do a photo op, then request still photos, which you often also --
MS. MYERS: We often do that. I'll certainly consider that, and we'll let you know.
Q: Dee Dee, Lord Owen said today that it was time for the allies to start bombing Serbian supply routes because of the situation in the former Yugoslavia. Is there any change in the administration's position, or will his statement alter the administration's position?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously we take seriously Lord Owen, but the violence in Eastern Bosnia is deplorable. I think that there's been a change for the worse in Srebrenica overnight. Things don't look too good there. Obviously we're very concerned about this and we're reviewing it.
Q: If the United States can stop it, are you going to stop it?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure I agree with the premise of that question, but we're looking at it. Obviously the violence is deplorable, we're very concerned about it, and we're watching it closely.
Q: Being concerned about it isn't going to save anyone's life.
MS. MYERS: We're looking at it.
Q: Are you trying to indicate that there may be a change in policy?
MS. MYERS: No, I'm just saying that obviously we're watching events in Srebrenica very closely. It's deplorable what's happening, and we'll continue to watch it, but there's been no change in policy at this point.
Q: Dee Dee, this delay to accommodate Yeltsin's referendum, do you see that as an accomplice to this deplorable turn -- that the United States was willing to delay upping -- you know, ratcheting up the sanctions in order to help Yeltsin in his referendum?
MS. MYERS: Well, I remind you that the sanctions weren't scheduled to take effect until two weeks after they were passed anyway. There's been no practical effect of moving that date. We're still committed to the omnibus resolution to continuing to isolate Serbia in the international community, to continuing to increase pressure on them, and we will continue to do that.
Q: My understanding is that if Srebrenica falls, then the U.N. would go into some type of increased sanctions and not wait until the 26th. Is that the White House understanding and if so do you push for that -- are you supporting that?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to wait and see what happens in the U.N.
Q: Can I ask a clarification on the policy that the President and you have talked about in case of a settlement in Bosnia and that you would use forces to enforce it. Does that mean that you would use U.S. military forces to actively roll back Serbian gains to meet the targets in the agreement?
MS. MYERS: No, what we have said is that if there is a plan or a settlement agreed upon by all parties, we would help to implement and enforce that. We would use force in that sense; we've never said specifically what.
Q: On one of the -- a follow-on question -- one of the widely accepted theories of what's going on is that the Serbians having taken Srebrenica can move on to -- and a couple of other towns; and then having gained the territory they want, then they will say, okay, we're ready for peace. Is peace on those terms acceptable to the United States?
MS. MYERS: Well, I that's a hypothetical. We'll wait and see. I mean, we're still hopeful that the Serbs will come back to the negotiating table. We'll continue to press for that. And we'll see --
Q: to ask if the United States will let Serbia stay on the lands that it now occupies.
MS. MYERS: I think it is hypothetical to suggest what we would do in the event some kind of an agreement was signed without being able to know what that agreement is.
Q: We're not talking about an agreement being signed, we're talking about the Serbs suing for peace on what would essentially be their terms. Would you accept their terms?
MS. MYERS: Again, I can't comment on that until they make such a proposal.
Q: Why are we hopeful?
MS. MYERS: Hopeful?
Q: Right, you said we're hopeful that the -- what is it we are seeing here that encourages us?
MS. MYERS: We will -- I mean, it is a dire situation. I don't want to suggest that it's not, but we'll continue to press for some kind of a peaceful resolution of this crisis.
Q: Has the President read the report that was made public about safe havens --
MS. MYERS: He's aware of it. I don't know that he's read the executive summary, which is the only thing that's available at this point.
Q: Why wouldn't he read it?
MS. MYERS: I just said I don't know that he -- I know that he's aware of it, I just don't know whether or not he's read it. I think he knows what's in it.
Q: Dee Dee, yesterday in yesterday morning's briefing you promised to bring forth whatever evidence you had that sanctions in Yugoslavia are having any effect in Bosnia on the fighting itself. Have you got that?
MS. MYERS: I said I'd make someone available. I didn't -- I wasn't sure that you were seriously interested, so -- but we can talk about it afterwards if you care to.
Q: Considering that the questions have come from any one of a number of reporters, I'd say there's some serious interest, wouldn't you?
MS. MYERS: I'm just talking specifically about your question yesterday, and if you would like to talk to me about it afterward I'd be happy to.
Q: Can we all request that?
Q: I mean, we're all interested in --
Q: It's a question of general interest. You all have come out and talked about -- and we all reported it -- you backed up the sanctions on the
MS. MYERS: Correction.
Q: Serbian economy, the banking system, and so on and so forth; but none of that has seemed to have any sort of effect from what we're able to gage from reporting, from the scene and from other people, on the fighting itself in Bosnia.
MS. MYERS: And, well, my point was --
Q: And what I've asked you for is for some sort of indication --
MS. MYERS: Okay, my point was that I could make somebody available to discuss with you the impact of sanctions. And if you're interested I'm happy to do that. It's been done before and I -- if you're interested in talking further about that, I'm happy to try to provide somebody.
Q: Wonderful, on the understanding that we're talking about impact in Bosnia.
MS. MYERS: I understand that.
Q? We tried asking about that with briefers who came out earlier to talk about the impact of the sanctions in Yugoslavia and they refused to discuss the impact of the sanctions in Bosnia, said they couldn't get into that. It's the fighting that we're interested in. That's what you're trying to stop, is it not?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's what we're trying to sell you -- I don't think we're trying to sell you anything. But --
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. Yes, we're trying to stop the fighting in Bosnia -- well, that's the object of the policy, clearly. I will look into it.
Q: Does the President have any plan to see Owen and Vance at all?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: The Palestinians this morning asked for the peace talks to be postponed. What's your position on that?
MS. MYERS: I'm unaware of that request. I'll take the question.
Q: Dee Dee, what is the White House response to, or what is the thinking about Tony Hall's, I guess you call it a hunger strike, his fast? Do you think that's a good idea, and is it a --
MS. MYERS: He's certainly entitled to that. I don't have any comment on that.
Q: What about the -- anything more about the Hunger Committee itself?
MS. MYERS: That's an internal matter for Congress to consider.
Q: Would the President consider some kind of conference on hunger, some kind of an international effort to --
MS. MYERS: There's no specific proposal that I'm aware of.
Q: Dee Dee, the President is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Miyazawa shortly. The Commerce Department just announced an increase in the trade deficit with Japan and the '92 surplus for Japan rose to record amounts. Can you tell me if there's any concrete proposals that the President plans to discuss with Prime Minister Miyazawa in an attempt to bring down their surplus and our deficit?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously bilateral trade issues will be discussed. We'll have somebody available after the meeting to talk specifically about what was discussed. I don't want to get into that now. The press conference should end sometime between 2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., and probably 3:00 p.m., give or take a few minutes, they'll be senior White House and State Department officials available.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the trade deficit numbers?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're continuing to be concerned about it, obviously. I think the President has made clear his concerns and it's something he'll certainly discuss with Prime Minister Miyazawa.
Q: Did Mickey Kantor bring his report to the President last night -- conclusion of -- his analysis --
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I know that he briefed the President and they've spoken about it. I don't know if Mickey presented the report or not. I can take that question.
Q: Were any decisions made at the health care meeting last night?
MS. MYERS: If there were, I wouldn't be prepared to discuss them.
Q: Dee Dee, is it correct that before any final military action or any action could be taken in the Waco standoff, that the White House has to approve that?
MS. MYERS: Again, I can't talk about what the process might be for approving such a mission. But the President is kept aware of the situation, and that's all I'm really prepared to say about it.
Q: Why would that White House want to get its hand in it --
MS. MYERS: I just am not going to comment on it.
Q: Several days ago you said that the people in the field were responsible for the whole thing --
MS. MYERS: Well, they're the ones that are certainly coming up the plans, but again, I'm not going to comment on the specific decision-making process.
Q: Dee Dee, could you review for us the President's position on gay rights and what issues he thinks are of most concern, vis-a-vis the gay community, as he prepares for this meeting?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that clearly the President believes that human rights are fundamental, that we don't have a person to waste in this country, and that we ought to look for ways to use the resources and talents of all of our people. That's a position that is long held. Clearly, throughout the campaign he talked about increasing funding for the fight against AIDS -- he's done that. He talked about appointing openly gay people to his administration -- he's done that. He talked about continuing the fight against AIDS and other diseases, and I think that he'll continue to discuss a number of issues with the community today when they meet.
Q: So you think there's a role for -- an active role -- for the government to play in addressing some of these concerns?
MS. MYERS: Obviously. I mean, for example, again the President proposed full funding of Ryan White in his first fiscal year budget as he said he would do.
Q: I was thinking more of the discrimination issues or the gay-oriented reading books in the schools and so on.
MS. MYERS: Gay oriented --
Q: Books in the schools.
MS. MYERS: I think that the President believes that is an issue of local concern and that local communities have to make decisions about -- the govern things like schools and the kind of reading materials that might be in libraries. I think the President believes he can play a role by setting an example. He believes that there isn't a person to waste in this country, that we ought to create opportunities for everybody to participate and to contribute. I think he's tried to do that throughout his campaign, during his tenure as Governor of Arkansas, now in his tenure as President, continue to do that.
Q: How is that setting an example to be out of town on the day of the march?
MS. MYERS: I think that again, he's working hard on a number of fronts, and I don't think that that's necessarily a reflection of his attitudes.
Q: Dee Dee, just to follow up on Jill's question. On Tuesday, George was asked whether the White House was calling the shots in Waco, and you said it's not true. Do you have any reason to differ with that --
MS. MYERS: No, I'm just not going to comment on the decision-making process.
Q: Dee Dee, does the President support Congressman Waxman's bill to end discrimination against gays and employment, public accommodations and housing?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I haven't seen the specific bill, but I'll get back to you on that.
Q: Dee Dee, affiliates of the various television networks pay their networks for the services that they get via satellite. Does the White House have any compunction about taking that material without paying for it?
MS. MYERS: We don't take it, and we don't use it, we simply view it.
Q: admitted that you took it.
MS. MYERS: We take it. We don't take it for any kind of use for commercial purpose. It is available to anybody who has a satellite dish, who can pull down the coordinates. The signals are unscrambled and --
Q: There are some outstanding copyright issues on whether or not it should be legal to view satellite transmitted materials. Does this mean that the White House believes that there are no restrictions that are or should be on that material, and that anybody should be able to take anything that anybody puts up on satellite?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, it is are our intention to comply with the law. I don't know of any law that this violates. Again, anybody with a satellite dish can pull down an available and unscrambled message. We do not use it for any commercial purpose. We view it occasionally. It's nothing different than what we see at the various events. People who aren't at the events occasionally watch what might be transmitted, but again, we don't use it for any commercial purposes. I don't believe there's a problem.
Q: What high level appointments of gays have there been, except for the woman at HUD?
MS. MYERS: Roberta Achtenberg, obviously, and Bob Hattoy, who is a senior advisor here. And there a couple of other mid-level people in the administration.
Q: There are? Do you know how many there are, because I'm not sure that there -- at this point -- that there are -- I mean, how many do you think there are?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly.
Q: Are you just saying this off the top of your head? Do you actually have a list of --
MS. MYERS: No, I know that there are others.
Q: Because there's been a lot of complaining that there have, in fact, haven't been as many as were expected.
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know what the expectation was. I certainly can't comment on expectations. But clearly there are openly gay members of this administration.
Q: Is there a process involved here? I mean, does -- as in the search for Attorney General, it was clear that the administration wanted a woman. Do you pick a position and say that we want a gay person for this position?
MS. MYERS: No. No, but --
Q: Well then, how does it work. I mean, how do you find --
MS. MYERS: How does it work? Because if you don't -- how do you -- I don't mean to shock you here, but if you look for talented people, some of them will happen to be gay. I think Roberta Achtenberg is an excellent example of that. She was County Supervisor from San Francisco, very accomplished in a number of fields, and has been appointed to a position at HUD.
Q: I guess, I mean, is there a concerted campaign to fill a certain number of positions --
MS. MYERS: There's a concerted campaign not to discriminate against people in appointments on the basis of sexual orientation, and that means some openly gay people, who are highly qualified will be appointed as there are of people from different parts of the country, of different genders, of different racial and religious backgrounds.
Q: The question, again, as in the case of the Attorney General, you actively sought a woman. Are you actively seeking gays for any particular positions --
MS. MYERS: We are considering a broad cross section of people, including gays, for a number of the positions. We're not seeking them for any particular positions, but there are a number of people who are qualified for a number of positions who happen to be gay.
Q: How do you know?
Q: Will this be a regularly scheduled -- is this going to be a regular meeting that he'll have periodically with gay groups, or this a one-shot deal?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's any regularly scheduled meeting, but I think as we deem it necessary or appropriate, we'll meet with members of the gay community.
Q: How do you know they're gay?
MS. MYERS: Because they're open -- because they head --
Q: They announce it, you mean?
MS. MYERS: How do we know who's gay?
Q: The ones you're going to appoint or --
MS. MYERS: Well, some of them -- some of them are openly gay. We certainly don't ask any questions about it.
Q: Is it the President's view that one's sexual preference should not be an issue in foreign service appointments, in background checks involving CIA positions, foreign service positions? I know where he stands on the military, but I'm not sure where he stands on the State Department and other departments where this had been an issue previously on promotions.
MS. MYERS: I don't believe -- I mean, he's said very clearly that status alone should not be the basis for discrimination. I think he's been fairly clear.
Q: That would apply to the foreign service, it would apply -- would it apply to the --
MS. MYERS: I don't know that there's any stated prohibitions in any of those areas.
Q: There are no stated prohibitions --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: but there have been -- it has been an impossible situation for people to ever get advanced --
MS. MYERS: Right, I think that the President believes that there ought not to be discrimination on the basis of status, period.
Q: Then why won't he sign an executive order to that effect? We were told yesterday he wasn't going to do that.
MS. MYERS: No, I think you were told yesterday that there's none prepared.
Q: That doesn't mean he won't do it in the future?
Q: Then he may do that, you mean?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I mean, I wouldn't say that he said that he would never sign it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:10 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/272226