Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:50 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: A couple of quick things. First of all, consider this for the networks the formal announcement of the Tokyo trip. We will travel to Tokyo for the G-7 summit July 7th, 8th, and 9th.
The details of the Friday trip are coming together. We will travel to New Orleans for the National Service College Opportunity Program announcement. The President will leave the White House at roughly 9:00 a.m. He will speak in New Orleans at roughly 11:00 a.m. Central time -- excuse me, noon Central time, and arrive back in the White House sometime around 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Q: The weekend?
MS. MYERS: The weekend at this point, the only things on are the radio address and the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Q: Who is going to go?
Q: I hate to be real picky about New Orleans here, but it's not in the same time zone. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I know. It's close, though.
Q: It may be for him. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Right, the operational time zone is Central time zone because Little Rock's in Central time.
And then as you know , at 12:00 noon today the President will announce -- appoint his drug czar.
Q: Is his name Brown?
MS. MYERS: I can't say that. At 12:30 p.m., you're eager to know, he'll have lunch with the Vice President in the Oval Office. George will brief at 1:00 p.m. At 4:15 p.m. he'll meet with the National Governors Association health care group in the State Dining Room. And then tonight at 8:00 p.m., he'll have a group of about six or eight Democratic members of the House over for dinner to discuss mostly health care.
Q: When's that -- tonight?
MS. MYERS: That's tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Q: Is there any coverage of that?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Is there any other travel associated with the trip to Japan?
MS. MYERS: At this point, too soon to say.
Q: Can you rule it out, or is it still --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: No -- and what a stupid question. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I just -- I don't think -- we're still working on Friday. July is a little off of our chart. (Laughter.)
Q: Now, is Japan in the same time zone? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: We may issue an executive order making it in the same time zone. The President's --
Q: Will he rest for a few days in Hawaii on the way to Japan? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think you guys can write letters to the President offering him your suggestions on the foreign travel schedule.
Q: There are many precedents for Hawaii.
MS. MYERS: Believe me, I'm for it.
Q: What about tonight, on this dinner tonight, just so we can convince our bosses not to try to cover it, will they be coming in the back door? In other words, will they be --
MS. MYERS: I have no idea where they'll be coming in. There are no plans now to do a stakeout or anything like that.
Q: Is it bipartisan?
MS. MYERS: No, it's Democratic members of the House.
Q: Can you now just -- maybe it's been gone over all week -- to make it definite there will be a health plan in May, midMay, and it will be a legislative thing in June -- is that the --
MS. MYERS: We're still on track. We're still moving toward the May deadline as we had outlined earlier.
Q: What's the next step in the process of consultation on Bosnia after yesterday's meeting with members of Congress?
MS. MYERS: He will continue to consult with our allies and with members of Congress. I don't expect any announcement this week, although it's coming soon.
Q: Is there a meeting of the NSC this week or today or tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: There's no formal meeting scheduled that I know of, but certainly the senior national security advisors are meeting on a regular basis and consulting on a regular basis and moving forward
Q: When you say consult with allies, has he directly talked
with anybody of late?
MS. MYERS: He hasn't spoken with anyone else this week, but there consultation going on at a number of levels. Tony Lake's talked to his counterparts, as have other people in the administration.
Q: He was supposed to talk to Mitterrand on Monday.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: Has he talked to him yet?
MS. MYERS: He hasn't.
Q: Why? What's the problem?
Q: Did he cancel that phone call?
MS. MYERS: It was something that was discussed. As you know, they spoke last week and agreed that they would be in touch this week. So they haven't spoken directly and I don't think there are any specific plans to, although I wouldn't rule it out. But there is consultation going on at a number of levels.
Q: Why did he change his mind between Monday and now?
MS. MYERS: Well, it just hasn't happened yet. I don't know that he's changed his --
Q: Is he avoiding him?
MS. MYERS: No, he's not avoiding him.
Q: He doesn't have to talk to him at that stage or it's too early?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, again, they spoke last week and there are consultations going on at a number of levels. People in the administration are talking to people throughout the French government, and we are in direct contact with them on this, as we are with a number of our other allies.
Q: So you're not going to talk to him until the two of them agree.
MS. MYERS: I don't know if that's exactly right, but there's nothing scheduled at this time.
Q: It's pretty close.
Q: When you say it's coming soon, what are you saying -- an announcement on where the U.S. is going next on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: The President will make a decision and we don't have any specific plans for how that would be announced yet, because we don't know what the decision is. But, yes, there will be something.
Q: A decision on which direction you will try to push the U.N.? Is that basically what the decision --
MS. MYERS: Well, yes, what the President has decided to do.
Q: Will that be sort of an Oval Office address?
MS. MYERS: Again, until we know what the decision is, I don't think we can discuss exactly how we might talk about it.
Q: Do you hope that this will be sort of a simultaneous announcement with other foreign leaders making similar statements the same day?
MS. MYERS: Again, I don't know exactly how we would announce it, but it's certainly something that we hope to do in concert with our allies. As the President has said, we don't expect to act alone on this.
Q: How far along is he actually? Can you give us an idea? Has he -- does he have the outlines of the policy? Is he still -- does he have to, when he's talking to the other leaders among Congress, is he still formulating that, or what?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I think -- as you know, he had a rather lengthy meeting with a group of members of Congress yesterday. Consultations are ongoing. I don't know that there's any particular -- I don't want to comment on specifically how he might formulate this, but I think he has certainly had a lot of conversations, both within the administration, with members of Congress, and with people -- foreign leaders. And I think that he's moving -- making progress.
Q: Is it complicated and maybe even held up by the decision this past weekend by the Europeans, the failure to agree on the air strike position? Has that held things up?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think that -- and I think that they're clearly going through the same process we are, a lot of our allies, as they reconsider what their options are and what their policy towards Bosnia is. And obviously, we're going to continue to press them on this and continue to try to work with them for further action. But I think that, clearly, the President is moving towards a decision.
Q: Is he concerned about the obvious lack of support in the American public for any involvement in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I mean, that's something that he has to consider, sure. And as he said the other day, he believes it's important. And I think Secretary Christopher pointed out yesterday that informing the American people and bringing them into this decision will be part of any policy that the President decides upon.
Q: To what extent is -- maybe to stop him from choosing some option that otherwise he would think are the best options?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think clearly he's already ruled out introducing ground troops into Bosnia, which I think would be something that the American people would object to. But the President's not considering that for a number of reasons.
I think any other decisions that he made, he clearly will want to talk to the American people about it. It's important, as the Secretary pointed out yesterday, that it be explained, that our objectives be clear, and that they be clearly explained to the American people.
Again, we haven't made any decisions about how we would talk about a Bosnia decision, but those are the things that are of concern.
Q: In what context is he doing all this consultation -- that is, Senator Biden came out last night and talked specifically about -- all of this depends on what our goal is. So what is the goal that he's striving to reach in this?
MS. MYERS: Well, that is clearly one of the key decisions as he moves forward. What the goal is and what action you take are inexorably linked, and that's -- so that will be the foundation of any decision that he makes as what are we trying to achieve.
Q: It's also the starting point. What is that? How is that defined now, in what way?
Q: But isn't it obvious --
MS. MYERS: We're just not ready to say. I mean, the goal, the obvious goals -- I mean, the broad goals are very obvious -- to stop the fighting and to move the parties toward some kind of a negotiated settlement so that the -- to stop ethnic cleansing --
Q: Well, stopping the fighting isn't necessarily -- I mean, those two things may be separable. That's --
MS. MYERS: Well, stopping ethnic cleansing and stopping Serbian aggression, which is -- I mean, broadly stopping the fighting on some level are clearly what we're seeking and have been seeking through a policy that includes sanctions and enforcing the no-fly zone and other actions that we've taken in Bosnia. I mean, clearly that's the objective here. Not just of the Americans, but of our allies as well.
Q: Dee Dee, when you talk about Serbian aggression, do you mean Bosnian Serbian aggression or the Serbian Yugoslavian --
MS. MYERS: I mean Bosnian Serbian.
Q: So you're ruling out the Yugoslav Republic, which is ruled by Serbia?
MS. MYERS: I'm not implicating -- I'm not discussing them, I'm talking about the Bosnian Serbs. And I would point out that there is some evidence of friction between the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian Serbs.
Q: That sounds like --
Q: We had an official here yesterday, the other day, say the address of the war is Belgrade. How could you rule out the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: I'm just -- he asked me if I was talking about them, which I'm not. When I said stopping Serbian aggression I was just talking about -- particularly -- about Bosnian Serbs. I don't want to get into a broader policy discussion of that.
Q: Then you're not saying that the Serbs in Serbia are not supplying the Serbs in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I'm not saying that.
Q: But all the sanctions are aimed against Serbia?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Any more guidance on a possible Christopher trip?
MS. MYERS: No. No specific decisions on that.
Q: Dee Dee, can you rule out that the decision will take place this week and this weekend?
MS. MYERS: I think it's unlikely that it'll happen this week, and beyond that I don't know. It just hasn't been decided yet.
Q: Is Secretary Aspin going to reverse policy on women in combat?
MS. MYERS: Well, I mean, clearly the President has said and said throughout the campaign that he supports expanded roles for women in the services, and I think Secretary Aspin will have more to say about that later.
Q: You're not denying that?
MS. MYERS: No, I mean, Secretary Aspin will have more to say about it. Again, but I would point out that it's something that the President did support during the campaign.
Q: There have to be some legislative changes to make some of this happen. Has the President gotten legislation ready to go?
MS. MYERS: Again, the Secretary will make an announcement on this and we can talk about the details later.
Q: When is he going to do that?
MS. MYERS: You'll have to talk to DOD about that.
Q: That's going to happen over there, it's not anything involving the President?
MS. MYERS: Other than the President -- I mean, the President's position on this, I think, has been clear. But I think before we discuss the details of the policy we will wait to see what the policy exactly is.
Q? What's the status of campaign finance reform? MS. MYERS: It will not happen this week. It's been -- Q: It was supposed to be Monday, then it was going to
be today; what happened?
MS. MYERS: It's just we're continuing to work with Congress to try to put together a package and the process is ongoing.
Q: Bob Dole said that he couldn't support your package and were you not ready for another one of these fights?
MS. MYERS: It's interesting that he says he can't support our package before he knows what's in our package, but --
Q: Well, it's been reported in The New York Times evidently.
MS. MYERS: Well, therefore ergo, why bother announcing it? Don't believe everything you read.
Q: What about what you see or hear?
MS. MYERS: Clearly, no. (Laughter.) Every day I see things on TV and I can't believe it.
Q: What kind of big celebration are you planning for tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: What big celebration are we planning for tomorrow?
Q: What is happening for tomorrow? That was the hole in the schedule.
MS. MYERS: Excellent question.
Q: Can we go to a picnic, or --
MS. MYERS: We could have a picnic for you all out by the fountain, if you'd like.
Q: We accept.
MS. MYERS: We can cancel the briefings in honor of the 100th day. I'd be for that. (Laughter.) No, we don't have any specific plans for a celebration of any kind.
Q: Do you have any plans at all? Anything?
Q: What is on the schedule?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to let you know more about tomorrow's schedule later today.
Q: Dee Dee, since the death of the stimulus package more than a week ago, we've heard you and George and the President say that individual pieces will be sent back up. Is any piece of that ready to go in legislative form to be sent back --
MS. MYERS: Not yet. We're still talking to our friends on Capitol Hill about how best to approach that.
Q: Dee Dee, on drugs, what is the official White House explanation for the fact that you supposedly want to pay more attention to the drug issue, but you are cutting back on funding and on personnel for that office?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we've cut back on funding for drug policy. I think there's been an increase --
Q: Actually, I think it's about the same as Bush, right?
MS. MYERS: About a seven percent increase, actually.
Q: Is it?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: I thought it was about the same.
MS. MYERS: No, it's about a seven percent increase.
Q: What's that figure? Do you know?
MS. MYERS: I don't have it in front of me. We'll certainly get it to you by sometime today.
First thing is, the President is going to elevate the head of the Office of Drug Policy to Cabinet status. And rather than having the Office of Drug Policy with a staff just in the White House, there are 30 different agencies and departments which handle -- which have drug-related responsibilities -- drug policyrelated responsibilities. All of those will be coordinated through the Office of Drug Policy through the new drug czar.
I think the President's intention is to have a very coordinated drug policy, one that focuses both on prevention on the street level through things like community policing and other things, as well as an increase in drug treatment. There's actually a much larger increase in drug treatment funding -- well, not much larger, but a larger increase in drug treatment funding in this year's drug budget than there is in enforcement. It's five percent versus 10 percent or something.
Q: This is basically the Bush budget.
MS. MYERS: Yes, because we don't have enforcement.
Q: The emphasis on law enforcement.
MS. MYERS: Right. And I think we have to have a new head of the Office of Drug Policy before we can completely overhaul the policy; but that will certainly happen.
Q: So you just kind of went with the status quo until you get somebody in --
MS. MYERS: Correct. We couldn't redo drug policy without having a head of the Office of Drug Policy --
Q: Are there drug tests given here?
MS. MYERS: Everybody had to take a drug test before they were officially hired, yes.
Q: Dee Dee, just how powerful will this job be?
Q: Did they pass?
MS. MYERS: As far as I know.
Q: the drug czar? When you say "coordinate," will that person have the final say in setting drug policy?
MS. MYERS: I think that that person will be responsible -- yes, for coordinating the resources of the government.
Q: Say you've got two or three conflicting views. Does the drug czar settle it?
MS. MYERS: The drug czar will be a Cabinet-level person who will be the person who reports directly to the President, and I think hopefully you can resolve a lot of those policy issues through negotiation and discussion, but ultimately the head of the Office of Drug Policy will set drug policy.
Q: If you wanted to change the direction of the drug policy, why would you appoint a law enforcement officer to be your drug czar?
MS. MYERS: We're going to appoint somebody who is very experience and capable, who has a number of qualifications and who will do a great job. How's that for an unexpected answer?
Q: Do you expect to be submitting some amendments to Congress in the drug area to change the status quo that you originally proposed?
MS. MYERS: I don't know how that will be done. I'm sure that's something that the new drug czar will have a chance to discuss and to figure out what the best approach is.
Q: What about the idea of treatment on demand that Clinton talked about so much during the campaign? Do you envision that coming as part of the health care reform plan or some sort of stand-alone program or, how are you going to go about it now?
MS. MYERS: I think clearly drug treatment is something that is being discussed as part of the health plan. It's also something that Clinton has said he would like to see be more of a focus of a drug policy. And I think you'll see all that reflected as the new drug czar comes in and starts to reshape policy.
Q: In which area, though? Health care reform or --
MS. MYERS: Well, again, in terms of what, treatment on demand? I think there will be, again, without -- since the final health care plan hasn't been either completed or announced, I think there will be coordination between the various aspects of the administration with drug-related responsibility. But I think the President is clearly committed to a more treatment and prevention orientation than perhaps the previous administration.
Q: I'd just like to clarify a little bit on campaign finance reform, because we got off of that real quick. You all had obviously planned to introduce it this week. You've gone so far as to print a brochure in which you named the today. So that obviously something has come up that has forced you all to put it off. I hate to assume, but my assumption is that you're having difficulties on the Hill with somebody or the other. Is there anything -- is that wrong?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to try to work with Congress on this. As you know, this is something that's been introduced before, something that we'd like to work with Congress on, something that we'd like to pass. The President's committed to it. Sometimes these things take longer than you had expected or hoped. But we do expect it to happen next week, and I think it'll be a significant campaign finance reform package.
Q: Are you doing it, as the story in the paper suggested this morning, trying to lure enough Republicans over to your side to make sure that Dole does not have the filibuster that was threatened on this as well?
MS. MYERS: Well, I mean, clearly we'd like this to get passed. We'd like to have bipartisan support for it. I think we'll do what we can up to a point. But the President is committed to campaign finance reform, and we do expect it to be ready next week.
Q: Did the White House either preview or approve Director Sessions's testimony on Waco up on the Hill today?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so. I will double-check, though -- take that question. I don't think so. We don't normally.
Q: If so, does the President share his view that it might have been wise to have used tear gas earlier?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll check.
Q: Any final thoughts on the Panetta flop?
MS. MYERS: I think that was -- I think we had plenty to say about that yesterday.
Q: Did the President do anything? Did he cheer him up this morning?
MS. MYERS: Don't tell him, I think the President's sending him balloons today. (Laughter.)
Q: I think that's what Panetta released. (Laughter.)
Q: When is he speaking to the Sperling Breakfast? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I don't believe --
Q: He's never speaking at one.
Q: Never again.
MS. MYERS: Right. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:06 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/272255