Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
10:35 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: At 1:00 p.m., we're having a press conference, Bill, in the East Room. And then Saturday the President will leave here at roughly 8:00 a.m. and fly down to Jamestown. He will spend the day there, overnight at Camp David.
On Sunday, it's unclear exactly what time he'll leave Camp David and fly to Boston. He'll leave from Hagerstown. The press plane will leave from Washington.
He will meet with some --
Q: What kind of a plane is that he's taking?
MS. MYERS: That he's taking? He'll probably take a C- 20.
Q: From Hagerstown?
MS. MYERS: From Hagerstown. Air Force One doesn't fly out of Hagerstown, apparently.
Q: How will the pool travel?
MS. MYERS: The pool will have to meet him ahead of time. So I guess the pool will travel with the press plane and wait for him at the airport. There is currently no provision -- and I'll double-check, because there's currently no provision -- I think that's standard operating practice.
Q: The pool is not going to meet him and watch him get on the plane at Hagerstown?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.
Q: What time does he have to be in Boston?
MS. MYERS: He's going to meet there with a group of citizens, mostly people who supported us during the campaign, at around 1:30 p.m. We're still working out the final times.
Q: At the airport? MS. MYERS: No, it will be at the Boston Harbor Hotel. And then he will also meet with some -- a youth group
that authored something called Project 21. The speech to the publishers is actually at 3:15 p.m. It will be followed by Q&A. And then after the speech and Q&A, he'll attend a reception with the publishers, and then return to Washington from Boston. And that's it for the weekend.
Q: Has the President seen the report from -- or the letter, communication from the foreign service officers; also, obviously, the communication from Madeleine Albright? And what is his reaction to their call on him?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, the letter was written to Secretary Christopher. I believe Secretary Christopher received the letter on Saturday. He reviewed it and met with the authors on Monday to discuss their views. He believes it's an important part of the policy-making process and is taking their views into account as we go forward in the development of the Bosnia policy.
Q: What is the President's reaction?
MS. MYERS: The President hasn't seen the letter. It was something that was directed towards Secretary Christopher. In terms of -- he hasn't seen specifically the letter, but in terms of their concerns generally, what the President has said is that there are a lot of options on the table now, including ones that weren't there before. And I think he's, as is everybody, gravely concerned about the situation in Bosnia.
Q: Is he influenced by that? I mean, how does he feel about the fact that all of the specialists in that area -- those desk officers --
MS. MYERS: Many of the specialists in that area -- I think that that is clearly part of the process. It's something -- their views will clearly be considered. I think Secretary Christopher met with the group immediately to discuss their views. I think he believes that there ought to be room for opinions and that those opinions ought to be considered, particularly from people who work closely on the issues.
Q: What do you mean, there are options on the table that weren't there before?
MS. MYERS: I think the President said last week that there were options, such as lifting the arms embargo to the Bosnian Muslims, that had been previously off the table that are now being considered.
Q: Dee Dee, in terms of those options, Madeleine Albright is saying that potentially there could be unilateral action by the U.S. if the Europeans did not go along. Is that on the table?
MS. MYERS: Well, I can't discuss anything that would -- any conversations that would have happened between Ambassador Albright and the President. But I think the President has said he would certainly -- is working with our European allies. He's had a number of conversations with European leaders and is trying to build some consensus there.
Q: Will he reach a decision -- will he have anything specific to say today?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, in term of there will be no new announcement of policy today.
Q: Does your statement mean he has ruled out unilateral action?
MS. MYERS: He's continuing to consult with our allies at this point. He has said -- I think he's been fairly clear about it, that the he believes that the U.S. needs to act in concert with its allies on this.
Q: On that point, does he believe that the U.S., though, does have built-in authority from the United Nations already to take unilateral action?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the U.N. Resolution 770 makes it clear that you can act unilaterally in support of any humanitarian relief effort. I think the broader point is that anything we do, any options that we decide to pursue we will make sure that it is consistent with U.N. authority, and if it's not, we'll work with our allies to make sure that we get it.
Q: Dee Dee, then how does the White House someone as distinguished as Elie Wiesel, who says that not enough is being done to stop the atrocities going on in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's why we're considering additional options. I think that Mr. Wiesel's comments yesterday were quite compelling. The situation in Bosnia is tragic. The President is very concerned about it. He has -- I think President Clinton has worked very hard to take further actions to continue to isolate Serbia in the world community. Clearly, we're considering other options because the President is concerned that perhaps it's not enough.
Q: In terms of what you were just talking about, it sounds like Resolution 770 justifies unilateral action by the U.S. to protect humanitarian --
MS. MYERS: I don't think it -- I wouldn't use the word justify. It permits unilateral action by any country in protecting the delivery of humanitarian relief. But I think that's just an explanation of the resolution. I think any action that we take will be consistent with U.N. resolutions or we'll work with our allies to make sure that it is permissible or we'll get further action.
Q: The President and other officials have ruled out unilateral U.S. action in Bosnia in the past. You're declining to do that this morning.
MS. MYERS: No, I said the President has said repeatedly that he wants to act in concert with our allies on this.
Q: That doesn't mean that he won't act alone, which has been said before explicitly.
MS. MYERS: I don't mean to imply a change in policy. The President has said all along that he wants to act in concert with our allies on this.
Q: One other little question. Did he know about this letter from the foreign service officers before it hit the papers?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so. Secretary Christopher -- they may have had a private conversation about it. The President has not seen it.
Q: They met on Monday, right? Christopher met -- surely, he must have brought that up --
MS. MYERS: Again, they may have talked privately about it, but --
Q: Dee Dee, what you're saying is that the Albright recommendation has been rejected, is that correct?
MS. MYERS: No, I didn't say that at all. I said I won't -- I said I wouldn't comment on any conversations or communications.
Q: She's advocating unilateral action and you're saying, in effect, that we will not take unilateral action.
MS. MYERS: I am not confirming anything that Madeleine Albright may or may not have recommended.
Q: Given the sometimes delicate, complicated and frustrating nature of negotiations with the allies on this issue, does the President find this kind of letter from 12 foreign service officers of the State Department helpful to that process, hurtful to that?
MS. MYERS: I think that their views are obviously being considered. The Secretary received that memo on Saturday and two days later he met with them in order to have a more thorough airing of their views, of the basis for their views, to discuss in greater detail the options that they had presented in the letter.
Q: Doesn't it put some kind of pressure on -- additional pressure on him now from within his own administration to act regardless of what the allies may or may not do?
MS. MYERS: I think clearly there's a broad policy review underway now. And the President and his advisors are considering a number of options, including some of those outlined in the letter from the folks over at the State Department. Now, no decisions have been made on that yet, but I think that there is a through review underway, and that their opinions are being very seriously considered.
Q: If I can just follow up, I guess what I'm looking for is what was his reaction to this letter? Did he say, good, this bolsters my position? Or did he say, damn, this is just what I don't need right now?
MS. MYERS: I think he said this helps contribute substantively to the debate. It's important that all views be considered and aired thoroughly, that before he makes a decision he wants to have the best possible advice and information possible, and this, I think in many ways, furthers that goal.
Q: So internal advice to a Cabinet official or the President -- it's all open now, and you wouldn't take any umbrage or say that they were out of line?
MS. MYERS: I think that the fact that Secretary Christopher met with them to discuss their views and make sure they had an opportunity to have a more complete conversation about it is conclusive evidence that their views are welcome.
Q: Does the policy review include what Madeleine Albright has suggested, and what Joe Biden and others have suggested, which is that the previous U.N. resolutions authorize unilateral action -- military action -- for the delivery of humanitarian --
MS. MYERS: I think all options are on the table.
Q: The unilateral option is on the table?
MS. MYERS: I think all options are on the table.
Q: We've had two different --
Q: Isn't that a change, Dee Dee?
Q: That would be a change of policy.
Q: Particularly if it includes ground troops, which has been specifically ruled out.
MS. MYERS: I think the President has been -- well, no. I don't -- that is not --
Q: Are you talking about all options?
MS. MYERS: All options -- I think the President has been fairly clear about that. So let me just review again what he has said. He has said that -- the President has said all options are on the table, with the exception of the introduction of ground troops, which he has never suggested. He has ruled that out from the beginning.
Q: Hasn't he ruled out unilateral action of any sort?
MS. MYERS: He has said that he doesn't believe the U.S. can solve the problems in the former Yugoslavia by itself. I think that there are a number of very complicated options on the table right now. I don't think that -- again, I don't want to comment on specific options that are being considered other than in the broad categories that we've already said -- things like lifting the arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims, things that I think we've talked about in broad terms. This is a very complicated situation. The options being presented and considered are very complicated.
Q: Air strikes on the table?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think that's been fairly clearly pointed out that that's something that's being discussed.
Q: Dee Dee, are ground troops on the --
MS. MYERS: No, ground troops are not being considered.
Q: You said there was not going to be -- you said you were not announcing a change of policy. Then you said everything is on the table. We're confused. Are unilateral actions on the table?
MS. MYERS: All I can tell you is what the President has said -- that he doesn't believe -- that he wants to act in concert with the allies on this.
Q: Wants to, but he's willing to -- I mean, if they don't go along --
MS. MYERS: He's continuing to consult with our allies on this. He's continuing to have discussions. He's continuing to press them for further action. And I think that's clear. The conversation is ongoing. We're going to continue to work with them to find the best possible solution and next step on this.
Q: Dee Dee, the allies have taken the position that to conduct any kind of air strikes in Bosnia would have the opposite effect of ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid; that they feel that their troops on the ground monitoring the delivery of that aid would become vulnerable and the Bosnians --
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that's the consistent -- I mean, I'm not sure who you're referring to.
Q: The British and the French.
Q: Yes, the British and French. They've taken the position that the delivery of humanitarian aid would be jeopardized by any kind of air strikes against the Bosnian military. Does the U.S. believe differently from that?
MS. MYERS: The President has had conversations with both Mitterrand and Major, as you know. I think that there is a thorough review of policy going on in those countries as well. And I don't want to comment on the nature of the President's discussions other than to say that he's continuing to consult with our allies as we move forward and he's continuing to press them for further action. And I think that process is ongoing.
Q: the other day voted against any military intervention yesterday. Does the President regard that as the end of the line or does he does still hold out some possibility of unilateral action? The allies have been very, very plain that they do not want to do anything.
MS. MYERS: The consultations are ongoing. That's all I can tell you at this point.
Q: Are you saying that there won't be any announcement on Bosnia today in the press conference?
MS. MYERS: No, that is not the intention of the press conference.
Q: What is the intention?
MS. MYERS: It's an opportunity to take questions. He may have a brief -- I'm sure he'll have a brief opening statement, but it is not an opportunity to outline a new policy on Bosnia. That will not happen.
Q: Can you tell us what the subject of the opening statement is?
MS. MYERS: It's sort of a general statement of where we are.
Q: After the first hundred days, you mean?
MS. MYERS: It's not a long statement. I mean, this is just generally. Don't look for any major policy pronouncements.
Q: Do you know what the opening statement is?
MS. MYERS: But it's -- perhaps later today I'll be able to tell you with more certainty -- I think that's still under review. But the overriding purpose of this -- it's not a mystery; it's not meant to be. It's just to take questions.
Q: It would be helpful to know whether -- what the opening statement is on.
MS. MYERS: Since the major purpose here is just to take questions, it's not completely resolved yet.
Q: Dee Dee, one policy that was expected last week and that the White House, you and George seemed to indicate we might get, would be an AIDS czar. Will he announce that today? And what's the delay on that?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we meant to imply -- I think we said it would happen soon. I don't think we meant to imply with any certainty that it would be this week. It is coming soon. I don't anticipate that happening today.
Q: What's the delay? Isn't this the perfect time to announce an AIDS czar?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that it's a delay. I think the process is ongoing to find the best possible person and to go through the necessary background checks, and to make sure that we've crossed the t's and dotted the i's before we make an announcement.
Q: Dee Dee, what are Zoe Baird's qualifications for the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board? And why wasn't her appointment announced here?
MS. MYERS: The qualifications -- I don't know if there's a specific list; I'll have to check and see. I think there are a number of people there on the board with different backgrounds. Many of them have long histories in intelligence or other government service. I think there's a broad variety of views across political spectrum and across backgrounds that are represented there. We never made a formal announcement other than the Chairman of the Board, which is Admiral William Crowe.
Q: Why would he appoint her, though, if the American people and many in the Senate rejected her for another government job?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe that the American people ever had -- voted on her. And I certainly -- she was never rejected in the Senate. She never went up there for a hearing. But the President believes she's a very competent person. He's said that -- Zoe Baird -- do you understand what the question is? Zoe Baird is on the President's Foreign Intelligence --
Q: You said she never went up there for a hearing?
Q: Her nomination was withdrawn after public outrage over violating federal laws?
MS. MYERS: Right, she never -- she was never -- but you said she was rejected by the Senate. I was just simply trying to point out that she was never voted on by the Senate.
Q: So you don't think that is any problem?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's any problem.
Q: She has been appointed to this board, is that a fact?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Does she need confirmation for this? Does she need confirmation to be a member of the --
MS. MYERS: No. It's a presidential appointment.
Q: Usually, announcements are made here at the White House. Was there a decision not to announce her publicly?
MS. MYERS: We didn't make an announcement. People who asked were told who the members of the board were. We didn't make an official announcement. If anybody's interested in that we can certainly put out the list of names.
Q: I'd like to know.
Q: Don't such board members -- don't you normally as a matter of -- routinely put out releases on all these boards and presidential appointment regardless of their dimension?
MS. MYERS: Not always. But, again, I'm happy to put this out.
Q: Isn't that the standard practice?
Q: That was past practice.
MS. MYERS: Again, I'm happy to put it out. We'll put out a list of the members of the board today.
Q: Dee Dee, I don't want to try to fail to let you get out of this swamp but -- (laughter) -- all I really want to know is hasn't it been the practice in this administration for such announcements to be made routinely?
MS. MYERS: I think generally but not always. And we're happy to put that out today.
Q: What is the board, what is her title, what is the size of the board?
MS. MYERS: There is roughly a dozen members on the board. It is a civilian board, although their are some, obviously, retired military personnel on the board that provide input into intelligence policy for the President. Again, the chairman of that board is Admiral William Crowe.
Q: And did he recommend Baird?
Q: What's the name of the board?
MS. MYERS: It's the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, PFIAB.
Q: What's her qualification -- that she had employed an illegal alien? Is that -- (laughter) --
MS. MYERS: Do you want an answer to the question or you just want to make a joke?
Q: Let me phrase it another way. Why shouldn't this appointment be viewed as a pay-back for the difficulty she had a couple of months ago?
MS. MYERS: Because it's not.
Q: What's her experience in foreign intelligence?
MS. MYERS: She's an experienced attorney, someone who the President believes is very competent and qualified. And I think part of the mission of this board is to provide civilian input. Not everybody on the board is supposed to be an intelligence expert; that is not the board's mission. It is to provide civilian input for the President as he makes decisions regarding intelligence matters. He believes she's very qualified, very competent person, enormously talented and has said that throughout.
Q: Is this just a figment of my overactive imagination, or was there discussion early on about abolishing the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. On December 24th, when he announced all of his foreign policy advisors he announced that he would -- had appointed Admiral Crowe as the head of the board. So I don't believe there's ever been any --
Q: Earlier than that, during the transition.
MS. MYERS: No, I don't believe so. It was announced, again, on December 24th. Admiral Crowe couldn't be there, but it was announced.
Q: Are members paid?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so, but I'll double-check.
Q: On another subject, on Waco, how do you explain the discrepancy between the federal reports of the autopsies of the bodies that are coming out of Waco and the state? I guess it's the Texas Ranger reports.
MS. MYERS: Most of the information is coming -- the federal information is coming from the site. Clearly, there's been some discrepancies and the Justice Department is looking into it. Officials in the Justice Department were told, I believe the day before yesterday, that there were several bodies found with bullet holes. I think there's some discrepancy about that, and the Justice Department is looking into it.
Q: Is the President going to get involved in trying to sort out what seems to be becoming a jurisdictional morass down there, with some people withdrawing, others saying they're in charge, but others -- Justice, FBI, Texas Rangers -- all grabbing a piece of this?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that he's going to try to mediate the dispute. I mean, I'll let you know if there's anything he intends to do about it. But as you know, there are several levels of investigation ongoing, and we're hopeful that they can work together.
Q: Is there any one agency or official down there in charge of everything?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q: What is the subject matter of Sunday's speech?
MS. MYERS: It's going to be fairly general. I don't think it's going to be any specific announcements. I think it's going to be sort of a --
Q: Does he have a topic that he's going to talk about?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on it. But I wouldn't look for any announcements of, like, the drug czar or something like that.
Q: Is it sort of a 100 days speech, sort of "my excellent adventure for 100 days"? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Not exactly, but I think he'll take a little bit broader look about what's happened in the last --
Q: Foreign, domestic?
MS. MYERS: A little bit of both, but I think a lot of domestic.
Q: And overview.
MS. MYERS: Yes, more of an overview than a specific policy announcement.
Q: Has there been an agreement yet on a forum by which the President will address the gay rights march on Sunday?
MS. MYERS: It will be a letter read to the crowd by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
Q: Is that available?
MS. MYERS: Not yet, but it will be. Sure.
Q: Are you going to put it out here or --
MS. MYERS: We'll probably put it out here on Sunday.
Q: Travel next week?
MS. MYERS: Unclear.
Q: What was the question?
MS. MYERS: I don't --
Q: Likely? Possible?
MS. MYERS: Possible.
Q: What's possible?
MS. MYERS: Travel.
Q: George mentioned yesterday campaign finance reform and national service legislative proposals next week. Do you have days yet for them?
MS. MYERS: Not yet.
Q: Can you tell us which order?
MS. MYERS: Campaign finance reform first; national service later in the week.
Q: Is there any coverage tomorrow in Williamsburg?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: And any report in the aftermath of the day?
MS. MYERS: Any readout from the day?
MS. MYERS: It's possible. Jeff Eller will be down there. I think he can go through what the President did during the day. We don't expect any photo op or anything, other than departure here in the morning.
Q: Dee Dee, the President has not made a regular practice, as some of his predecessors have, of going to Camp David. In fact, he's been there -- what -- once or twice?
MS. MYERS: Twice.
Q: Why this weekend?
MS. MYERS: He went two weekends ago, as you know, on the way home from his father-in-law's funeral. I think that they found it to be a good experience and a nice way for them to spend some time together as a family. And this is just an opportunity to do the same.
Q: There's no march there.
Q: It has nothing to do with the march here?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Since he's going to be in town Sunday morning now instead of in Jamestown, have you thought about him making a quick pass-by, fly-over -- (laughter) --
MS. MYERS: He'll fly straight to Boston.
Q: Flying straight did you say? (Laughter.)
Q: George took a question yesterday on Waco. The President had said on Tuesday in the Rose Garden that there was a minor disagreement on tactics between the military advisors and the FBI. And the question was whether you knew exactly what that was and whether it related to the use of the particular kind of tear gas. Do you have an answer on that?
MS. MYERS: I don't. I'll check.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:59 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/272245