Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:44 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Good morning. Scheduling information: As you know, the President put the winners of the Boston Marathon to shame in the morning jog this morning. (Laughter.)
He's currently meeting with General Vessey. Later this morning he will -- he leaves the White House at about 11:15 a.m. to go to the Botanical Gardens for the 11:30 a.m. Earth Day speech. He'll be back here around 12:25 p.m.
At 2:00 p.m., he meets with President Lech Walesa. At 3:30 p.m., he has a reception for the other heads of state who are here for the opening of the Holocaust Museum. At 5:00 p.m., he has yet another reception for the Holocaust Memorial Museum. And then at 6:30 p.m., he goes across the street to the Blair House for yet another reception for the organizers of the other receptions. (Laughter.)
Q: Very good.
MS. MYERS: It's complicated.
Q: What kind of reception will he get?
MS. MYERS: The only other announcement is that the President will nominated John Dalton as Secretary of the Navy. Mr. Dalton is the former Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. He also served as the President of the Government National Mortgage Association in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He is a long-time active businessman, mostly in Texas. He is currently with Stephens, Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a graduate with distinction of the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1964. He served as Deputy Brigade Commander, which is the Academy's number two ranking position; and was a finalist in the Rhodes scholarship competition. He is a native of New Orleans.
Q: Only the finest? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Nothing but the finest.
Q: Does the mean you're going to issue tailhook?
MS. MYERS: He was a finalist. Very honorable thing to have as part of your past.
Q: Does this now set the stage for the release of the tailhook report?
MS. MYERS: I think the tailhook report will be released soon.
Q: When will it be released?
MS. MYERS: Sometime in the very near future.
Q: This week maybe?
Q: Before he's confirmed, right?
MS. MYERS: Possibly. Before he's confirmed, correct.
Q: At the White House?
MS. MYERS: I think it will come out of the Department of Defense.
MS. MYERS: Not today.
Q: Dee Dee, wasn't Dalton a fundraiser?
MS. MYERS: He was living in San Antonio, Texas, and was part of the Finance Committee, yes.
Q: What's your view on the stimulus package? Do you think it will pass?
MS. MYERS: We're hopeful. The President is still committed to getting a jobs bill through the Senate. The conversation is ongoing. As the President indicated this morning, he's not ready to give up. We'll see how things go today.
Q: Why did you not have the leadership meeting --
MS. MYERS: Because there is a vote scheduled at 10:00 a.m.
Q: Not because you gave up?
MS. MYERS: No, no. Because there's a vote.
Q: I see.
MS. MYERS: We haven't given up.
Q: Is he confident that the Democratic leadership has not given up?
MS. MYERS: Yes, he's been in touch with them, and I think conversations are ongoing. It's not easy, but I mean, we continue to push.
Q: When you say you haven't given up, assuming that you don't prevail on cloture, which seems to be a logical assumption at this point, does that mean that another amendment might be crafted that went beyond unemployment extension, or what is the next step in not giving up?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we'll look at a number of options including another amendment and we'll see what we think is possible. We'll continue conversations and just see what we can achieve throughout the day or the next couple of days.
Q: Is just taking unemployment extension and voting on that an option?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think, again, we'll have to see what conversations with leadership produces. I think the President is committed to getting as much of that package through Congress as he can. He still believes the fundamental reasons for the jobs package haven't changed. It's a recovery without job growth, and he will continue to press for summer jobs program, immunization and other programs that he feels are important.
Q: Would he accept just the extension of unemployment?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to wait and see how things develop.
Q: What about the Chafee proposal? Have you spoken to that?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Something around $8 billion or $9 billion, but paying for $4 billion or $5 billion of it.
MS. MYERS: Again, I think we'll have to see what develops out of the conversations that we have today, what happens this morning, whether or not -- I mean, there are clearly some Republicans who would like to see some job creation measures, and we'll see what we can work out.
Q: Will this be a week without a meeting with Democrat leaders?
MS. MYERS: None has been rescheduled, and if that changes --
Q: A week without -- is like a day without sunshine.
MS. MYERS: I know that comes as a blow, a major disappointment to you.
Q: Maybe the weekend?
MS. MYERS: Well, maybe the entire weekend. We'll make up for it.
Q: Since their strategy has been working so well they don't need to --
MS. MYERS: Exactly.
Q: There seems to be some contradiction in what the evidence shows in terms of Koresh. I guess Sessions is saying one thing and George Stephanopoulos said that there's a preponderance. Is there some sort of -- is there a contradiction?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's a contradiction. I think that -- I don't think anyone meant to suggest that there was contemporaneous information. There wasn't a particular report, say, on Friday or Saturday, which is the point George made this morning. There wasn't any one incident that prompted the decision to go ahead and try to force the folks out of the compound in Waco. But there was a preponderance of evidence, and I think reason to be concerned both about the special FBI unit that was down there negotiating, about the health of the children, about their welfare. I think there are a number of factors that contributed to that. It was unsanitary conditions and reasons to be concerned about their health inside as well as reports of abuse by Koresh from people who came out of the compound. So I think there were a number of factors that contributed.
Q: Dee Dee, can I go back to the stimulus for a second? Yesterday, Senator Mitchell said that the Republicans are just out to embarrass the President, they weren't really serious in negotiating. What's your view?
MS. MYERS: I think it's unfortunate that the Republicans chose a jobs bill to take a political stand. There are -- the President has tried to make clear that there are a number of people out there who don't have jobs, and the people who have held this package up happen to be people with jobs. I don't want to characterize the motives of the Republicans; I'll leave that for Congress. But we're hopeful that we'll get some kind of a jobs package through the Senate, and we'll continue to work on that today and throughout the week.
Q: Would you object to a separate vote on extending --
MS. MYERS: We haven't reached that point yet. We'll see what comes out of our conversations today.
Q: Dee Dee, here on April 21st, isn't time just about out for creating a big massive summer jobs program --
MS. MYERS: I think the clock is clearly running. That's why we'd like to have some resolution of this as soon as possible. And we'll continue to move this week, continue to press and see if we can't get resolution.
Q: What would be the administration's absolute deadline to be able to mount a big summer jobs program like the one the President wants?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if there's a drop-dead date. I mean, there really isn't. But I think the closer you get to summer, I think the more difficult it becomes, which is why we're pressing for resolution now, this week.
Q: Has the President made a decision on global warming and on the Vice President's recommendations, and will that be announced today?
MS. MYERS: He will address that in his speech later today.
Q: In connection with the stimulus package and the jobs bill, the head of the NAACP is saying that he believes that there's a danger that there could be danger in the streets with kids unemployed if they don't get these jobs, if the jobs package doesn't pass. Does the White House fear that there could be unrest on the streets if the jobs package doesn't pass?
MS. MYERS: I think -- obviously, we're concerned about summer jobs and believe that summer jobs is a better alternative than not producing those jobs, which is why the President proposed this package in the first place. I don't want to say that it will be a direct cause of unrest, but there's no question that 700,000 jobs is a better alternative than not producing those jobs this summer. And the President -- that's why the President continues to press on this program, on this jobs bill.
Q: Is there any feeling at the White House that in this you miscalculated in your strategy for getting this bill through Congress? That Bob Dole, even in the last day or two, said you didn't have the Republicans in on the takeoff, you can't expect them there for the landing. Have you learned any lessons from this on including the Republicans in drafting legislation that you'll send up there in the future?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's clear the Republicans --a minority of members of Republican members of the Senate can hold up any bill they so choose. I think that's always been the case. We don't control Senate rules. We have to operate within those parameters and it's not always easy. I'm not going to look back and second-guess decisions that we made along the way, but I do think, sure, I hope we learn some lessons from it. I hope we learn every day as we go through this process. But we will continue to try to work with members on both sides of the aisle on a number of different initiatives as we go through this process and hopefully things won't always be as complicated as they have in this particular round.
Q: Do you have a reaction to the Palestinians coming back to the peace talks next week?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, we're gratified by that. I think it's further evidence that, as the President said, there would be no break in the peace process, that it is the best way to achieve peace in the Middle East, through these talks. Secretary of State Christopher will have a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to go through the details on that. But obviously, we're very pleased that the Palestinians and the other Arab countries have agreed to come back to the table on April 27th.
Q: Dee Dee, you said Secretary Christopher is having a news conference --
MS. MYERS: At the State Department at 10:30 a.m.
Q: To announce the Middle East peace talks?
MS. MYERS: Correct. To talk about the structure of those talks.
Q: If, as some people think, the Republicans have some master plan to make it look as if the President has been ineffective during his first 100 days, do you have a counter plan, or are you keeping in mind that you have only another week or so to go to match FDR and Kennedy and LBJ and Ronald Reagan?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think President Clinton is going to compare himself to other Presidents, although I think the facts are on our side in this case. I think the first 100 days has been, as the President promised, a period of great activity. We've made terrific progress on an economic plan that will change the funding priorities of this country and reverse 12 years where the deficit went up and investment went down. As you know, we got the Budget Resolution through Congress in record time. We're making terrific progress on a health care reform package, something that's been stalled in Congress for years. We're making progress on a national service plan and on a political reform plan. Those were the priorities the President outlined.
I think in the next day or so, we'll also be able to talk in a little more detail about some of the promises that he's kept during the first 100 days -- or near 100 days of his administration.
Q: How are you going to do that?
MS. MYERS: We'll put something out on paper.
Q: Dee Dee, when is the campaign finance reform proposal -- when are they supposed to come forward?
MS. MYERS: Soon. I don't want to give a specific date, but --
Q: In the next few days?
MS. MYERS: Not this week.
Q: Next week?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out. We don't have a firm date on it, but it's getting close.
Q: If you're going to count the national service and the political reform proposals as accomplishments of the first 100 days, might you not want to show --
MS. MYERS: No. I said we're making progress on them.
Q: us some of the progress you're making? It's pretty much invisible to us.
MS. MYERS: I would just say I believe we're at day 86. Stay tuned.
Q: Dee Dee, you said the President doesn't want to compare himself to other Presidents, but he said he had the most ambitious first 100 days since FDR. So he's set the marker himself.
MS. MYERS: Again, I think -- as I pointed out, I think he's made great progress. But we're not going to have any kind of initiative-by-initiative comparison.
Q: But since he set the marker, is he ready to say he did?
MS. MYERS: I think he had a little help. But again, I mean, I think the marker is there regardless of who set it and --
Q: Yes, you'll find it in a book, actually.
MS. MYERS: So what's the question? What's the question?
Q: He is going to have -- we're in the last 13 days now. Will this be the most productive first 100 days since FDR, according to Bill Clinton?
MS. MYERS: I think it's been a very productive 100 days. And as I pointed out, we'll have more to say about some of the achievements that we've made. And I think we can point to good progress on the four priorities that he outlined at the beginning of his administration.
Q: So you don't want to say whether it's the most productive since FDR?
MS. MYERS: I think it's been very productive, very effective.
Q: He was willing to say that during the campaign.
MS. MYERS: I think there will be plenty of people to draw conclusions about it. We'll just put forward the facts and -- just the facts, ma'am.
Q: Dee Dee, when, according to the White House calculation, is the 100-day period over?
MS. MYERS: It's either the 29th or the 30th.
Q: We're having a hard time figuring it out, too.
Q: Whether you count Inauguration Day or not.
Q: That was day one.
MS. MYERS: Yes, it was day one. I think you have to count it. I think that makes it the 29th, right?
Q: You lose a day that way. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yes. Well, I think with -- give or take a day, I believe -- I mean, if you count Inauguration Day, which is clearly the first day of any new administration --
Q: Just say, who's counting?
MS. MYERS: Who's counting, Helen? Are you counting?
Q: Any decisions emerging from yesterday's meeting on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: No. The discussions are ongoing. The President is continuing to consult with allies. He talked with his advisors yesterday for about two hours, and he'll continue discussions, as will his Bosnia advisers throughout the week.
Q: Has he talked to anybody else besides Mitterrand?
MS. MYERS: Just Mitterrand and Major. No other -- and he did talk with Vaclav Havel yesterday, and he'll talk to Walesa about it some today. Obviously -- but his consultations are ongoing. And I don't know if he's scheduled to speak with any of the other European leaders.
Q: What's he encouraging them to do? What's he asking Mitterrand and Major to do?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think he's asking them do anything. I think he wants their input and is just trying to see if there's some -- he's trying to press them for further action and to see if there's some consensus out there.
Q: What action?
MS. MYERS: Well, I the President's made it clear that there are a number of options on the table. We're considering those options, particularly in the wake of recent events in and around Srebrenica. No final decisions have been made on that, but --
MS. MYERS: They're still dragging their feet and he wants to move with them behind him, right?
MS. MYERS: There's no consensus for action among the allies at this point. And as the President said, he doesn't want to act unilaterally on this, given Europeans' interest in it.
Q: Is he willing to lift the arms embargo?
MS. MYERS: That's one of the options on the table, but I don't -- again, there's a number of options on the table.
Q: How about the Vessey meeting? Are we going to get anything on that?
MS. MYERS: Yes. General Vessey will actually walk out of here when this is over and take some questions at the stakeout. This just in.
Q: When you say there's no consensus for action among the allies, should we draw the conclusion from that that we shouldn't expect anything to happen?
MS. MYERS: No, I think, one of the things the President will do is continue to press. No decisions have been made at this point.
Q: Go back, if we could, for a moment to the stimulus package. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are concerned that the President is losing momentum, that he's being bogged down here with the stimulus package and that he's got a larger economic program that he's got to get through up there. Is there concern in the White House that he's losing momentum up here? Is he bogged down with this?
MS. MYERS: I think everybody's ready for this chapter to be over, I think both on the Hill and here at the White House. And hopefully we'll have some resolution, conclusion, this week. I think that the President does have a larger economic agenda. Obviously, he's committed to the jobs bill, but that's just one component of his larger economic plan. And now the process has to begin of -- I guess testimony will start happening on the Hill in front of the various committees, and we have to work to get the various components of his budget through Congress. And that will be a very major effort, as will health care and the other initiatives that we've talked about. So I think people are ready to get on with it.
Q: Dee Dee, hasn't the outcome or the probable outcome killed his opportunity for bold, persistent experimentation that he talked about in the inaugural?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not. I think the bold, persistent experimentation is going to be ongoing throughout this administration. And I don't think -- first of all, I don't agree that the results of the jobs package are foregone. Second of all, I don't think that that $15 billion proposal, or $16 billion proposal in its original form was the be-all and end-all of the President's goal of bold, persistent experimentation.
Q: Whatever he does has to get passed these 43 people in the Senate now, right?
MS. MYERS: That's correct. We do have to work with Congress and I think we'll continue to do that. But we're going to press forward on a number of fronts --
Q: Congress has not been known for bold, persistent experimentation for the last dozen years. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Pardon me?
Q: Congress has not been known for bold, persistent experimentation for the last dozen years or so.
MS. MYERS: We will keep trying.
Q: How would you describe the President's attitude towards the Bosnia talks at this point? Is he frustrated by the lack of willingness by the Europeans?
MS. MYERS: I think he's clearly frustrated by the intractable nature of the situation. It's very complicated; all the options are difficult. The ongoing Serbian aggression has got to stop, and the President's going to continue to press for the Serbs to stop their aggression and to come back to the peace table or have some kind of a negotiated settlement to this problem.
I think that the process will go on. I mean, the President has clearly been spending time, as have his advisors, this week and over the weekend pressing forward and looking for -- considering other options.
Q: But he made a strong statement last week saying it was time to reconsider options that have been ruled out by the Europeans.
MS. MYERS: I think that's what this process is about.
Q: They don't seem to be too interested in doing that. So what's his feeling towards the allies at this point? Is he leaning toward going it alone maybe?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, he's considering his options and there just haven't been any decisions made. So we'll see what happens.
Q: Given the recalcitrance of the Europeans on this, is there anyway to get any kind of a timeline on this? Yesterday, you said it's obviously a serious situation.
MS. MYERS: Correct. No, we don't have a specific timeline on it, but I think -- obviously, the President has spent a great deal of time on it in recent days and we'll continue to move forward.
Q: Dee Dee, is it correct to assume that there will be no action until after the referendum in Russia?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that the two events are necessarily connected, but the President is continuing to consider his options this week. And I just don't know if there will be any kind of decision before Monday.
Q: Any response to Senator Biden's claim yesterday that Srebrenica is dead, basically because we haven't done a damn thing?
MS. MYERS: I disagree with the premise, I think we have done a lot. We've --
MS. MYERS: We've put more pressure -- we've stepped up pressure from the beginning of President Clinton's administration both through increasing sanctions, adding new sanctions to the omnibus resolution, enforcing the no-fly zone, dropping additional food and humanitarian supplies in Eastern Bosnia and continuing to try to isolate Serbia and the world community. Leon Fuerth, the Vice President's National Security Advisor, has gone to Europe to work with countries over there to tighten the sanctions and to implement the new sanctions and make sure that those are effective in isolating Serbia and we will continue to press.
Q: Dee Dee, I assume you would -- maybe you would -- would you argue with the suggestion that having done all that, and granted that you've done all that, you still have had no effect on what's going on in Bosnia. You have talked, you've applied pressure, you've applied sanctions, all those other things but you haven't affected anything.
MS. MYERS: Well, clearly the fighting has not stopped. Clearly, the danger to people living in Eastern Bosnia and other parts of that country has not been removed and the results are tragic and the President is very concerned about that. I don't think that we can claim that we have solved the problems in Bosnia, no. And that's why the President is now reevaluating options, looking at things that were previously off the table, continuing to press the allies for further action. And we'll see -- no decisions have been made but we'll have -- we'll continue to move forward on this.
Q: Do you expect he will make a decision?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: At some point soon?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what that decision will be, but, yes, at some point, sure.
Q: Dee Dee, one quick question on the gay march this weekend. There's going to be a letter from the President?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Physical letter?
MS. MYERS: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will read that on the President's behalf.
Q: At the march?
MS. MYERS: Pelosi. At the march, correct.
Q: And will it be put out in advance?
I don't know if it will be put out -- it will be put on sometime on Sunday, I would think. Perhaps Sunday morning. I don't think there's any -- it may be embargoed.
Q: At the White House here?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Will he attend any other events around this weekend? There's events starting, I think, tomorrow night through Monday when he is going to be in town. Does he have any plans to go to any of those things?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so. I'll double-check.
Q: Some people in Congress are saying that none of the President's $700-million food aid package to Russia might never get shipped. Do you know if the President is reviewing that program or looking at other options?
MS. MYERS: I know the discussions about it have been ongoing. I don't know what the status -- I haven't heard that claim that none of the $700 million in food aid will reach Russia. But I'll take the question and see if we have more to say about it.
Q: Did yesterday's meeting that the President had with his advisors on Bosnia clarify any issues for him?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if there was any particular result. I think that all of these conversations are productive and the situation is moving forward.
Q: Dee Dee, do we have diplomatic relations with Serbia?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll take that question.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:08 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/272236