Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:52 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: This morning at 10:15 a.m. the President will meet with Governor Chris Patton of Hong Kong. At 5:30 p.m. he'll sign a proclamation declaring Asian Pacific American Heritage Awareness Month.
Q: They all came through the gate -- why? Already.
MS. MYERS: There must be some other meetings and activities here.
A look at the rest of the week. Tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. --
Q: The Post alludes today to a meeting on Bosnia.
MS. MYERS: The principals are meeting on Bosnia.
Q: I'm sorry?
MS. MYERS: The principals are meeting. The same group of advisors.
Q: Right now --
MS. MYERS: No, they'll meet this afternoon at 2:00 p.m.
Q: With the President?
Q: With Congress and senators?
MS. MYERS: No, there's no meetings today scheduled with Congress. This is just the principals, which include the usual -- Tony Lake, General Powell --
Q: Why? Why today?
Q: What would be the point?
MS. MYERS: To continue to evaluate the situation. I think there's ongoing developments there. They've been in touch with Secretary Christopher and others and they'll continue to discuss -- the President is not scheduled to participate in that meeting.
Q: Who chairs that meeting?
MS. MYERS: I believe Tony Lake, but I'll have to double-check.
Q: Will Aspin come over?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: And Colin Powell and Gore -- will Gore also be there?
MS. MYERS: I believe so. Those are all people who normally attend these things, and it depends on their own schedules but I would expect -- I don't know that Gore is going to be here. He's scheduled to go to New Jersey.
Q: Why wouldn't the President attend?
MS. MYERS: Because the principals meet -- advisors meet often without the President.
Q: What about Woolsey? Will Woolsey be there?
MS. MYERS: He's part of the group. I don't know who is confirmed to be there, other than the general meeting has been called and they've all been invited. It's the same group that met on Saturday without the President.
Q: Do you know when Christopher is coming back?
MS. MYERS: He's scheduled to come back Friday. But I believe he's going to Rome as well now, so --
Q: Not until Friday he doesn't get back?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Not to jump too far ahead into the week ahead, but are there any meetings scheduled with members of Congress on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: There's a bipartisan leadership meeting tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., which I'm sure the primary topic will be Bosnia. And then there may be other conversations about it throughout the week. There are no other meetings scheduled specifically on that topic this week.
Q: Have there been specific notifications of the plan or discussions of the plan to committee leaders or any leaders yet?
MS. MYERS: Yes, there have been a number of conversations. The President has talked with, I believe, Senator Dole. He tried to reach Senator Mitchell, and I believe Tony Lake ended up speaking with Senator Mitchell. The President also spoke to, I believe to Congressman Foley. And then there have been contacts with a number of other members of the House and Senate about it.
Q: How about foreign leaders?
MS. MYERS: The President talked with a number of foreign leaders over the weekend including Kohl, Mitterrand, Major, Mulroney. Who am I forgetting? Yeltsin.
Q: Does everything depend now on the assembly meeting of the Bosnians on Wednesday?
MS. MYERS: I think everything depends on the Serbs, the Bosnian Serbs taking actions that back up their words. Obviously, we'll watch closely what happens there in Serbia or in Bosnia on Wednesday when the self-styled Bosnian Serbian parliament meets. As you know, they rejected the peace plan just a week or so ago, and they're taking it back to the table. But in the meantime, we're looking for action.
Q: What kind of action?
MS. MYERS: Well, the Serbs know what they have to do. But, for example, they have to agree to a cease-fire, they need to stop the siege of cities like Sarajevo, they need to let the humanitarian deliveries through. So there's a number of steps that they need to take on the ground to back up their words.
Q: Do you expect them to stop the shelling prior to the Wednesday vote?
MS. MYERS: We're anxious for them to stop the shelling. I don't know what they'll do.
Q: You can say they've already gone back on their word by lobbing shells at Sarajevo, just a couple of hours after they signed an agreement violate the word already.
MS. MYERS: I think that's exactly why we're looking for concrete action on the ground, not just a signature on a piece of paper. As you know, the shelling is ongoing and sometimes I think when agreements like this are signed or a cease-fire approaches, sometimes activity actually intensifies. But we are looking for actions to back up their words, and in the meantime we'll continue to move forward with consultations with our allies.
Q: Are we willing to implement the peace treaty with ground troops?
MS. MYERS: Our position hasn't changed on that. We've said that if all sides agree to a plan, then we will work with our allies in a multilateral fashion to implement and enforce it. We haven't said specifically what form that will take. NATO continues to move forward in the development of an implementation plan. We'll continue in our discussions with them, but no specific decisions have been made.
Q: On Saturday, Christopher said the U.S. wouldn't make any large number of U.S. ground troops. And I thought he said that they would participate in --
MS. MYERS: No, what he said was that ground troops, period, have not been contemplated in any form, except for the implementation. But we haven't committed to ground troops, even in implementation, although it's the only area in which it's even been contemplated.
Q: Implementation and monitoring are two different things. What's your definition of implementation when you say that we would be willing to do that?
MS. MYERS: We've said all along that we would work to implement, and I think again that's something that's going to have to be worked at in the process of exactly what peace plan people agree to, what form it takes, and what NATO and our allies work out in terms of how to implement it. But, again, that's something that's too soon to say exactly what form that would take.
Q: Dee Dee, since the signing of the peace accord on Sunday there have been a lot of incidents by the Bosnian Serbs, a lot of bloodshed, and there's been no condemnation or overt criticism from the White House. Can you say to us that you are displeased with what's happened since --
MS. MYERS: I think we have been very direct in our comments about it, and it's consistent with what we've said all along. The Serbians have to stop their aggression, they have to stop their campaign of ethnic cleansing. Their signature on a piece of paper is not enough. We expect deeds to back up their words. That has not happened yet, and I think we've been very, very clear about that.
Q: Dee Dee, what you haven't done is taken a step further and say the deeds since the piece of paper belie their words. And I'm wondering whether you're prepared to say that or not.
MS. MYERS: I think that's a given. That's why we've insisted on action and not just a signature. It is not enough for them to say that they intend to comply with the terms of the VanceOwen agreement; they must demonstrate that by stopping the shelling, by letting the humanitarian assistance pass, by signing onto a ceasefire and honoring it. And I think that until we see those kinds of actions, we're going to continue to move forward in consultations with our allies toward further action.
Q: Do you have any kind of rough timetable for how things happen, supposing the Bosnian Parliament, Serbian Parliament on Wednesday approves this? How fast would U.S. troops be involved in any peacekeeping effort? What happens after that?
MS. MYERS: That's a triple hypothetical. But what we're doing now is, NATO is in the process of developing some plans for implementation of an agreement, should that happen. Obviously we'll consult with our allies should the Bosnian Serb parliament ratify the peace agreement. We'll have to wait and see what happens. But there are conversations ongoing as to how that might unfold. Just no final decisions.
Q: Are we talking days or weeks or --
MS. MYERS: No final decisions.
Q: Dee Dee, what kind of read has the White House gotten on Christopher's meeting with the Brits? After the meeting Sunday the Brits sounded cold to any kind of military intervention, and as of this morning they appear to be at least a little lukewarm. What do you know about it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that it was a good meeting, productive meeting; that we are committed to working with them to come up with some kind of joint act we can take. I think everybody is waiting -- perhaps waiting to see what happens on Wednesday. But we are committed to moving forward and continuing our consultations with our allies to reach some kind of mutually agreed upon action.
Q: Did the Brits say that they wouldn't sign on on any plan until they see what happens Wednesday -- is that what Christopher was doing?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that that was exactly what they said. I think the consultations are ongoing throughout this week anyway.
Q: And did you get a sense that the Brits necessarily wouldn't sign on to a plan but wouldn't stand in the way of any kind of plan?
MS. MYERS: I think we will continue to work with them to develop a plan that is mutually acceptable.
Q: To what extent is the White House working with Vance and Owen themselves in moving this process forward?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know, Reg Bartholomew was in Athens over the weekend. He's not joined the Christopher delegation. There's been conversations, obviously, between Bartholomew and Vance and Owen in Athens. I don't know what the exact form ongoing communications will take, but we have throughout this process been in touch with them.
Q: Is it the White House sense that the threat of military steps against the Bosnian Serbs induced Karadzic to sign the treaty?
MS. MYERS: We hope so. I mean, the campaign of ethnic cleansing, the violence has to stop. The U.S. is prepared to take additional action to see that that happens. And if that has some other results, then all the better.
Q: Is this delaying Vance's departure? Wasn't he supposed to leave and is there another special envoy that you're looking at?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that; I'll have to check.
Q: I think I missed something. What's the President's view about the use of American ground forces in a force that would implement any peace agreement?
MS. MYERS: What we have said is that we've ruled out U.S. ground troops under any circumstance except perhaps in implementation of a mutually agreed upon treaty. We haven't agreed to or decided on any particular course of action should all the sides agree to the Vance-Owen process or Vance-Owen agreement, but that's a decision that will have to be ongoing. So in other words, the only area in which ground forces would be contemplated at all would be to implement a peace treaty.
Q: Can you explain to us how U.S. troops would be used under that type of scenario? What do you mean?
MS. MYERS: That's something that's being worked out now.
Q: Like guarding convoys and that kind of stuff?
MS. MYERS: It's too soon to say. NATO is now working on a variety of scenarios, how to implement the plan should the sides agree. We'll continue to work with them as they develop that.
Q: Would that be part of a NATO-U.N. or a NATO or a U.N. -- who would be the commander of that kind of implementing peacekeeping force?
MS. MYERS: It's something that NATO is working on under the auspices of the U.N. Exactly how it's to be structured is, I think, unclear.
Q: This would be the first time the United States would be part of the U.N. type of peacekeeping?
MS. MYERS: In Somalia. This is happening in Somalia right now.
Q: Are we willing to place troops in Bosnia under the command of a foreign general?
MS. MYERS: Exactly how that is structured is something that's currently under discussion. So no final decisions have been made.
Q: So you're open to that possibility?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to rule it in or out. The discussions are ongoing right now. We'll see what happens.
Q: But you're talking about a NATO force really, not a -- I mean, this would be like a joint force?
MS. MYERS: Well, what the U.N. has said is that they don't have the resources to lead such a force and that NATO would actually organize it but it would be under the broader auspices of the U.N.
Q: This is something that NATO has wanted to do.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: How long does U.S. patience hold out waiting for some action instead of just words or signature on a --
MS. MYERS: I don't think we're waiting at all. Consultations are ongoing this week. The President made clear on Saturday that he's decided to take further action. We'll consult with our allies, we'll consult with Congress. But we're moving forward --
Q: Presumably he wouldn't do that during this week while Christopher is gone and while you're waiting for that parliament to take some action.
MS. MYERS: The consultations are ongoing. We won't finish the consultation process this week under any circumstances, so --
Q: Is there some time period in the President's mind beyond that? He is the one who said, look, they've stalled before. Couldn't this just be stalling again?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely, which is why we've made clear that we're moving forward with this process. The consultation process, as you know, will last through this week, and then we'll see what the results are, including what the Bosnian Serbian parliament decides on Wednesday. So we're moving forward on our schedule. It hasn't been altered by events in Athens. We'll see what happens this week.
Q: Is that the weekend? Would the President be --
MS. MYERS: I don't want to -- there's no particular timetable, other than to say we're moving quickly on this. The President wants to move forward now, which is what we're doing.
Q: So some sort of follow-up announcement would then come this weekend?
MS. MYERS: I can't speak to the timing yet. We'll see what happens.
Q: So you say you're on schedule, but we need to know -- we're asking when is the -- when would the schedule call for either action by the U.S. -- for the U.S. to follow up on its threats or --
MS. MYERS: There's no specific timetable, other than, as you know, Secretary Christopher is in Europe. He's planning to return Friday or perhaps Saturday. He will meet with the President at that time -- I don't know what the exact meeting schedule is, but we'll see. But this is the schedule that we adopted on Saturday before the Bosnian Serbs sign on the peace accord and we've moving forward as planned.
Q: When was he supposed to take his action, whatever his action is?
MS. MYERS: It depends on what comes out of our consultations with our allies.
Q: Dee Dee, can you give us the schedule for the rest of the week?
MS. MYERS: Sure. Tomorrow, again, 10:00 a.m. he meets with the congressional bipartisan leadership here. Tomorrow night he will attend the DCCC-DSCC dinner.
Q: The what?
MS. MYERS: It's the Democratic congressional dinner.
Q: What time?
MS. MYERS: That's at 7:45 p.m. I don't know where it is. I think it is that the Hilton. It's their annual dinner. Wednesday morning --
Q: Does he speak at that? Is it open?
MS. MYERS: I believe so. I believe it is open, but I'll have to double-check on that. It might be pooled. Would you guys -- anyone know?
Okay, then Wednesday morning he will welcome home U.S. troops from Somalia. It's a small group, probably about 40 or 50, and they will probably come here to the White House. The final details are still being worked out. Then at noon, he'll have a health care lunch to discuss health care with a group of Democratic senators. On Wednesday evening he'll attend the Fulbright Dinner honoring Senator Fulbright. On Thursday --
Q: Do you know what time that is?
MS. MYERS: I don't.
Q: Do you know what time Somalia and the dinner is?
MS. MYERS: Early. The Somalia event is at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Q: Wednesday morning.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, Wednesday morning. And the Fulbright dinner is on his schedule from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Q: Remarks for the morning at 8:30 a.m.?
MS. MYERS: Sure, yes. It will be outside either -- weather permitting, either in the Rose Garden -- probably in the Rose Garden, if it's here.
Q: But the Fulbright dinner is at a hotel?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Is he giving a speech at the Fulbright dinner?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure he is.
Q: Are these substantive or just remarks or what?
MS. MYERS: No, the Fulbright speech will about Senator Fulbright. He is obviously someone who has had great impact on President Clinton and someone he admires.
Q: What about tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow, I think he's making brief remarks. I don't know exactly what the topic will be.
Q: How many Democratic senators will be at the lunch, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
MS. MYERS: Wednesday we have the welcome home event, the health care lunch with Democratic senators, the Fulbright Dinner. Thursday --
Q: Will Mrs. Clinton participate in that luncheon, also, on health care?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: Will that be here?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's here. Thursday in the morning he'll attend an Export-Import Bank conference. I don't know where. At noon he'll have the Republicans in for a congressional health care lunch. And I believe that's both House and Senate. And then Friday he will meet with Jacques Delors from the EC, and that's it, confirmed, for the moment.
Saturday, the radio address. Sunday, probably no schedule.
Q: What is he doing all afternoon? He's got a big gap between the 10:00 a.m. and the 5:00 p.m.
MS. MYERS: Office time and meetings.
Q: Dee Dee, no travel into the next weekend?
MS. MYERS: No travel scheduled this week.
Q: On Bosnia again. Should it be a working assumption of the Serbs that your time line would be such that nothing is happening while Christopher is out of town, but then the possibility of action starts as soon as he gets back? Do you want to leave them the impression that there is no timetable for action?
MS. MYERS: I think that what we've said is that our process is moving forward exactly as we outlined on Saturday. The President made a decision to take further action and we're now consulting with our European allies, with members of Congress. The Secretary of State will return at the end of the week, and we're moving forward.
Q: Dee Dee, you've said that there is no -- that nothing is going to happen this week.
MS. MYERS: Right. But I have said I don't have any specific time line, but our process is moving forward exactly as we outlined.
Q: Not to belabor this point, but we've known all along that when the President ruled out ground troops, he did not rule out U.S. ground force operating in conjunction with allies to, whatever you call it, enforce, monitor a peace agreement. Today, you used the term "implement."
MS. MYERS: We've always said implement and enforce.
Q: You're not signaling any change in our position on that?
MS. MYERS: No, absolutely not. This has always been our position.
Q: Does the plan that Christopher is carrying with him call for participation of personnel by other countries as well as the United States?
MS. MYERS: I can't speak to the specifics of that.
Q: Apart from what they're going to do, is it broader than simply, this is United States' action, we want to consult with you to get your acquiescence?
MS. MYERS: It's always been our intention that this would be multilateral. This is what the President would like to do. It's the President's decision to move forward.
Q: In implementation as well as general agreement on the principles?
MS. MYERS: Yes, this is a specific plan of action that the President wants to receive input from -- I'm not sure I understand the question.
Q: I'm talking about personnel from other countries participating in whatever military action might ultimately be taken. Is what Christopher is talking about -- does it go beyond simply saying this is what we want to do, we'd like your acquiescence and support, to saying, x-troops will come from Germany, et cetera?
MS. MYERS: We've always envisioned -- I don't know how specific it is and I don't want to get into the details of it, but we've always envisioned that this would be a multilateral plan, not a unilateral plan.
Q: But that's the definition of multilateral, is that they would also participate in the military action?
MS. MYERS: Right. There will be some form of participation, as well as agreement on principles by our allies.
Q: You said a few minutes ago that sometimes at points like these, the fighting intensifies. Do you see a concerted strategy by the Serbs to gobble up as much territory as they can get, and to wreak as much havoc as they can?
MS. MYERS: I think that's been their concerted strategy for sometime now.
Q: Do you see them taking advantage of this particular period to get as much territory as they can before --
MS. MYERS: I think it's something that we're concerned about and will be watching closely.
Q: Dee Dee, is the President contemplating any sort of address to the nation in the near future?
MS. MYERS: No specific plans. But it will depend on the results of this week.
Q: You said he's got office time and meetings today. Who is the meeting with?
MS. MYERS: Mostly inter-office stuff -- stuff -- very specific topic. I think he may have a meeting on health care. He's meeting with other members of the staff on a variety of different things.
Q: Nothing Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: Nothing Bosnia, although obviously he has his daily security and intelligence briefings. He's meeting with Tony Lake.
Q: Are you still shooting for May 17th for the health care plan?
MS. MYERS: The health care task force will finish its work in May, and we're moving forward on that time line.
Q: Is a Supreme Court nominee imminent?
MS. MYERS: There's no timetable for it.
Q: Has he talked to Christopher today?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q: Dee Dee, your reaction to the media coverage after the first 100 days that you've been assessing?
MS. MYERS: Hopefully it will stop now.
MS. MYERS: The media coverage of the 100 days? No, no. Hundred days.
Q: And are you regrouping internally to try to, as some analysts have said, refocus your attention on the key issues?
MS. MYERS: I think that the desire to remain focused on the most important issues is something that is ongoing. I think that the 100 days was more of a snapshot of a 10-day period than it was, in many ways, an evaluation of the overall 100-day period. But I think we've learned --
Q: Which 10 days would that be?
MS. MYERS: Just pick them. The worst 10 days out of the entire 100.
Q: set that marker?
Q: Campaign finance reform this week?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think so.
Q: Have some regrets about it?
MS. MYERS: Just keep moving forward. I think everybody will be glad to move on to other topics other than analysis of the first 100 days.
Q: I thought campaign finance reform -- we did, according to our little guidebook last week. Are we going to do that this week?
MS. MYERS: I think that there is a good chance it will happen this week.
Q: What day?
Q: Hasn't it already happened? I thought it happened last Tuesday. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Did you guys miss that? Unbelievable. If it happens, it will be -- right, later in the week.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:15 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/272262