Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:50 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: There's no changes in the schedule. As you know, the President -- 11:00 a.m. ceremony for the Small Businesspersons of the Year in the Rose Garden. The President will leave here at about 12:30 p.m., arrive in New York, speak at 2:45 p.m. at the Great Hall at Cooper Union, work the ropeline outside, then he has several hours of down time.
Then at 7:30 p.m. he will go to the dinner. At about 9:30 p.m. he'll leave there, arriving back at the White House around 11:30 p.m.
Q: Does he go to Fordham?
MS. MYERS: He's at Fordham for down time. And then he goes to the Lincoln Center about --
Q: Does nothing there, though?
MS. MYERS: Well, he does. Actually, he does. He has a radio interview with a Des Moines radio station and a conference call with some Indiana radio stations. And then he has a meeting with business leaders there.
Q: How come you didn't announce it?
MS. MYERS: I skipped over it because it was the wrong schedule without my highlights. I'm crippled without my notes.
Q: Can you explain what the business leaders are? Are they people that he wants to talk to about his economic plan?
MS. MYERS: They are business leaders. I don't have the full list yet, but we'll be able to provide that for you later. But it's just a number of business leaders from New York, different sectors of the business community to talk about what's in the plan, to talk about his progress on the plan to get their feedback on it.
Q: No plan to see Ghali?
MS. MYERS: Six o'clock p.m.
Q: You don't plan to see any U.N. people?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: What time to you realistically --
MS. MYERS: Six o'clock p.m. at Fordham.
Q: expect him to arrive at Fordham?
MS. MYERS: As soon as he's done with the other event. On the schedule --
Q: No, not on the schedule. Realistically.
MS. MYERS: Well, it depends on how long -- on the schedule he arrives there about 4:15 p.m. Realistically, he'll probably spend more time outside Cooper Union with the crowd. It's impossible to gauge exactly how late he'll be, but maybe 15 minutes, 30 minutes.
Q: You haven't scrubbed the street walk on the Lower East Side, have you?
MS. MYERS: No.
Do you guys have the details on that?
Q: Is there a street walk on the Lower East Side?
MS. MYERS: He's going outside of Cooper Union.
Q: That's essentially the ropeline thing, isn't it?
MS. MYERS: Correct. And how long that takes depends on how many people are there.
Q: Is he going to see Christopher while he's in New York?
MS. MYERS: No, he's not scheduled to.
Q: No, you don't think --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: The time of the nighttime speech, once more?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what time the remarks -- he's at the fundraiser from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. He'll speak sometime after 8:30 p.m.
Q: He sounded today like he had reached a decision to send troops to Macedonia.
MS. MYERS: No, that decision has not been made. What he said yesterday remains active, that it's something that's been considered as a way to keep the conflict in Bosnia from spilling over. It is one of a number of options on the table, but no final decisions have been made.
Q: He said that in the coming days he expected that we would see steps that would make confining the conflict more likely and peace more likely. Can we assume that the decision on Macedonia will come in the next couple of days? And what other additional things could he have been talking about?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't count on that. I think we're going to continue to consult with the allies, as we have throughout this week. As you know, a number of them are waiting to see what happens in the referendum over the course of the weekend. Also, waiting to see what happens with the Serbian Serbs' announced decision to stop sending tactical and weapon support to the Bosnian Serbs. We'll be monitoring those things.
In the meantime, the President's going to push forward toward additional action, but I can't talk about the specifics on that.
Q: So you wouldn't count on what? Seeing it the next few days? Is that what you're answering?
MS. MYERS: I'm just saying I wouldn't look for a particular timetable on a decision to send troops to Macedonia.
Q: What about the Serbian Serbs' decision to cut off supplies? What are your monitors telling you about whether that's happening or not?
MS. MYERS: I can't say with absolute certainty. It appears that they're serious. Milosevic, as you know, called for a meeting with the Pan-Serbian leaders. The Bosnian Serbs rejected that offer, but it's clear that the Bosnian Serbs are increasingly isolated, entirely isolated now, even among the Serbian community, and we believe that that is a result of additional actions for -- at least partly a result of additional actions forced by the U.S., including stiffening of sanctions and the U.S. resolve to use additional measures to stop the Bosnian Serb aggression.
Q: Do you believe that they're serious? This is not what has been said from this podium or on background.
MS. MYERS: No. What's been said both from this podium and on background is that we welcome their commitment to do so. We will be watching their actions.
Q: No, what's been said on background is that this is regarded as a delaying tactic and don't trust it at all.
MS. MYERS: What we've said, both on background is that we welcome it and that we'll watch their actions to see whether or not they're serious about it.
Q: Well, you're now saying that you believe they're serious?
MS. MYERS: We're saying that we hope that they're serious and we'll watch their actions.
Q: That's not what you said. You said you believe -
MS. MYERS: We believe -- it's very clear that the Bosnian Serbs are increasingly isolated, both in the international community and among the Serbians, both in the former Yugoslavia and in former Yugoslavia. I think that is increasingly clear.
Now, whether or not the Serbian Serbs will honor their alleged commitment to stop sending arms and other tactical support to the Bosnian Serbs is something that only time will tell.
Q: Do you have any intelligence as to that?
MS. MYERS: I don't have any specifics on that this morning.
Q: The senators made a big deal of that yesterday, that the real American presence over there is the intelligence and there have been some reports that show that a lot of oil and tankers and all are getting through. The President said yesterday that he wasn't satisfied that the sanctions were working quickly enough. When you talk about action in the next few days, is there something on sanctions you're planning? During the weekend, even before the referendum or during the referendum?
MS. MYERS: No. I believe the sanctions -- the President was asked a question on the ropeline about sanctions, which I think the questioner was asking about the broad sanctions against Serbia and Macedonia from the international community, not about -- I believe that was the question that the President answered, that he thought that the sanctions that the U.N. had imposed on Serbia and Macedonia were having an effect, but that wasn't enough. That's why the President made a decision a week ago to press for further action, which we're continuing to do.
Q: And when the senators talked about the importance of the American intelligence there, what are you seeing in terms of the kind of aid from Serbia still getting into Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I don't have any details on that yet this morning.
Q: Dee Dee, did you say the --
Q: Speaking of delaying tactics, you refer to the referendum, and the President has called that a delaying tactic. Has his view changed on that in recent days after the consultations?
MS. MYERS: No. We're going to continue to consult. I think it's clear that some of our allies are determined to wait until -- oh, the street walk has been cancelled, this just in. So it's just the ropeline outside of Cooper Union. I think it's more for time reasons. The President wanted some time this afternoon to make some phone calls, do to these radio calls and to meet with the business leaders.
Q: And he'll do the ropeline outside of Cooper Union?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: The President today mentioned that he needed to get the focus back on -- I'm not sure what, this economic program -- but he said he just needed to get more focus, and the way to do that is to be out in the country more. Can you tell us about what his plan for the coming weeks in the way of getting out in the country more?
MS. MYERS: I think you'll see increased travel. I think we'll be out -- back to the sort of roughly once a week, so it'll be a day or a day and a half a week out traveling. We will probably travel the early part of next week, and we should have details on that by tomorrow.
Q: West coast?
MS. MYERS: Very likely.
Q: As long as you're doing this, can you tell us what's ahead for Thursday and Friday?
MS. MYERS: I don't have it in front of me. We're still working on the details of that. Thursday -- I just don't have them in front of me.
Do you want to see if you can grab it?
Q: Dee Dee, back to Bosnia, if I could ask a Bosnia question. Last night, after meeting with the President, Senator Warner said the policy now appears to be one of containment. Now, that suggests sort of encircling Bosnia, forgetting about what's happening inside Bosnia and just preventing the whole thing from spreading. Is that the direction that the White House is headed in?
MS. MYERS: No, I think the President made clear yesterday that we have two objectives there: one is to contain the conflict to keep it from spilling over into other regions, and the other is to stop Serbian aggression and the policy of ethnic cleansing. Obviously, we've undertaken a number of measures already to try to achieve that objective. It's having some effect, certainly among the Bosnian Serbs' allies. But the President has said repeatedly that he's committed to taking additional action to stop Serbian aggression. We're continuing the press the allies to see what kind of consensus we can reach on that.
Q: Dee Dee, what sense did the President come back from his trip with of the public's views on Bosnia, whether the United States needs to be more actively involved?
MS. MYERS: I think it's clear that it's something that people are starting to ask questions about, and the President got a number of questions about it, although -- the preponderance of questions were still about the economy and health care. But there was some concern -- I think people were interested in knowing what the situation was and what the President's intentions were about Bosnia. They were concerned -- I think there was a lot of different opinions expressed. Some of it reflected the ethnic diversity of the cities we visited.
Q: Along those lines, there is no great upsurge or popular opinion demanding that we get the ball rolling in Bosnia. There are, at best, mixed signals coming out of the Congress about getting involved. The Europeans definitely do not want us to get involved, at least in terms of what we have proposed to this date. Why is the President continuing along this course? Why doesn't he just drop it?
MS. MYERS: Because the President believes that, as the only superpower left in the world, that the United States has a responsibility to lead, not just to stand by. The United States -- the world community cannot stand by in the face of ethnic cleansing in an ethnic conflict like this and allow it to happen without registering a protest and doing something to try to stop it. We've already taken a number of measures in conjunction with our allies to try to stop the aggression and the ethnic cleansing. They've had some effect. The President doesn't believe that they've had enough effect, so he's considering additional action. The President believes that it is his responsibility to lead on this, and that's what he's doing.
Q: Is there someplace that he could point to that will say the American people want to be this world power that intervenes overseas?
MS. MYERS: I think that that is an enduring value of the American people, and particularly now in the wake of the Cold War where there is only one superpower left. It has always been a pillar of American foreign policy that we have a special role in the world. The President believes that, as he said on a number of occasions.
Q: But it doesn't show anywhere. It doesn't show in the Congress, it doesn't show in polls.
MS. MYERS: I think that part of being a leader is building a consensus for action, both among our allies, among the members of Congress and among the American people. The President has said that before he takes any action, he will certainly discuss that with the American people. But that's part of what leadership is --is building a consensus for action.
Q: I'm confused by the variety of administration positions on the referendum this weekend. Do you all now consider it a valid measure, something to watch? Or is it a stalling tactic?
MS. MYERS: No. I don't think there's been any change in the administration's position. We believe this is a delaying tactic. It is --
Q: So why even watch or bother to make this an element --
MS. MYERS: I think all we said is that there are many of our allies who have -- who are very committed to waiting to see what the results of the referendum are. In the meantime, we're continuing to press forward to discuss various options with the allies to try to reach a consensus. That has not changed. But I think they've made clear that they'd like to wait and see what happens this weekend.
Q: Dee Dee, is the President meeting with his --
Q: Following up on the questions about the public concern over Bosnia, the President again wanted focus, and yet to what degree does he get focus when he talks to -- or goes out into the country, if, in fact, so many issues are brought before them? Almost every issue that he had here is out there. He's asked questions about his lack of focus. And, in fact, what evidence is there that he has in any way moved toward that goal -- with the last couple of days.
MS. MYERS: I think if you go back and look at Monday and Tuesday that there were certainly questions about a number of issues, but the majority of questions were about the economy, about health care, about things that the President is doing or can do that directly affect and shape people's lives. I think that was always -- that was true throughout the campaign and throughout the transition.
When President Clinton would travel, people -- the things that they wanted to talk about were slightly different than the things that sometimes get discussed here in Washington; although there was a broad range of questions. I think clearly people are concerned. They want this President to succeed. They want an economic plan that will create jobs, reorient our spending priorities as a country, bring the deficit down. There's certainly awareness about the deficit.
Q: Does he think he did succeed in -- with the two-day trip?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely. I don't think you can do it all -- I don't think we ever expected that we'd do it all overnight or in one two-day trip. This is an ongoing process. The objective here is to let the American people know what the President's priorities are and what he's working. I think he had a good opportunity to talk about his economic plan. It is not a simple plan. Turning the economy around is not simple. It does not lend itself to a fiveminute series of platitudes. And so he talked in some detail about what's in the plan.
I think the American people understand that there are a number of components to this. You have to have new investment, you have to have spending cuts that will reduce the deficit, you have to have changes in priorities. He talked a little bit about his national service plan, the direct loan program which will not only save money, but open up college opportunity to millions of Americans in a way that they can afford to pay back. So I think it is successful. I think the President feels very good about the trip, and I think he did have an opportunity to talk about issues that he believes he was elected to address.
Q: to get his own spirits up? Is this -- does this --
MS. MYERS: I think it has that benefit, but I don't think that's the objective. I mean, the objective is to go out and talk to the American people about what the President is doing. I think he feels that that is the most effective way -- it's like shareholders. And they have a right to a report on the President's progress and that that's an important part of his function -- is to not only -- to communicate with them about what he's doing, but to hear back from them about how they think he's doing. And I think that the message is clear. They want him to focus on the economy, they want him to reform health care, they want him to create jobs, they want him to continue to take on the entrenched interests in Congress. And --
Q: Do they see any irony with his having proposed a major reform in political financing and his going tonight to a huge fundraiser where -- I don't know -- you expect what -- how much do you expect, $1 million from this?
MS. MYERS: You know, I don't know. It's the DNC fundraiser. But, no, I think that the President has taken dramatic steps to change the way campaign money is raised. In fact, he proposed eliminating soft money. It's something we'll press very hard to get through Congress. He also proposed limiting the amount of money that members of Congress spend on their races, using public financing to do that. I think that if the President's package is passed, it will have a dramatic impact on how money is raised. And the President is committed to it.
Q: Dee Dee, any deal on the corporate tax rate yet with the Ways and Means Committee?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to talk with them about that. They had some concerns about that. The President is still committed to overall tax fairness, to raising revenue on people who made the most in the 1980s, which would be the wealthy individuals and corporations. And we're working out the details with members. Also providing incentives for small business, as well as some incentives for big business. And we're very optimistic about the plan as it works its way through Ways and Means.
Q: If the long-range math -- if the bottom-line math is equal or real close to yours, though, the administration would not object to coming down from 36 percent?
MS. MYERS: We're open to discussion on it.
Q: Dee Dee, are the principals meeting either today, tomorrow or this weekend on Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: None scheduled that includes the President. And I'll have to double-check if there's one scheduled where he's not scheduled to attend. But he's continuing to get regular briefings from national security advisors, but is not scheduled in the next three days to meet with the principals.
Q: Any phone calls overseas?
MS. MYERS: None scheduled.
Q: Dee Dee, the President said the other day that he was waiting for confirmation from his people on the ground in Kuwait about some Iraqi government involvement in the Bush business. Has that confirmation come?
MS. MYERS: No. The investigation is ongoing.
Q: Do you know how long it's going to take? Is there any --
MS. MYERS: No, I don't have a timetable for it.
Q: This business group tonight, is this big businessmen who are going to get their taxes raised, is this small businessmen who are going to get some incentives?
MS. MYERS: It's mostly big business people. It's sort of corporate leader types.
Q: Any decision on whether to bring up summer jobs and immunization before you go to any other part of the stimulus bill?
MS. MYERS: Discussion ongoing on that today.
MS. MYERS: On the Hill and here between the White House and members.
Q: Obviously, you'll never get summer jobs if you wait for the economic package.
MS. MYERS: Right, right. A final decision has not been made yet on whether to go back with some kind of a jobs bill.
Q: Is he leaning towards that? I mean, a summer jobs bill?
MS. MYERS: We're working on it now, see if we can work out something that the President believes would have the effect of creating jobs. I mean, clearly he's committed to doing anything he can to create jobs, but it has to be the right package.
Q: Is he wondering whether he can get it through, or what's the -- if he believes in it?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it has to be something that meets his objectives that Congress is willing to pass.
Q: Do you have any feelers, whether it would -- the $4 billion would pass?
MS. MYERS: That's what we're working to find out, whether we can put the kinds of provisions the President believes will create jobs right away, as well as get through Congress and be within the parameters of his economic plan.
Q: Along those lines, Republicans are introducing their own jobs program right now. Would he seriously consider any of that? Is the blood bad between the GOP and the Senate side and the White House here? Or, will he be looking for something --
MS. MYERS: No, I mean, we'll take a look at it. I don't know what's in it, but I would just point out no one's asked me about the Motor Voter bill and the fact that six Republican Senators broke ranks yesterday and voted for cloture and voted for the Motor Voter bill. We're very happy about that today. So we think that there's clearly room to work with Republicans in the Senate.
Q: Will they be advised of the signing?
Q: Give them a --
MS. MYERS: I think they might be just --
Q: White House passes for their constituents?
Q: When's he going to decide?
MS. MYERS: Probably next week.
Q: How about cuff links, Reagan and Bush gave a lot of cuff links.
MS. MYERS: Really, we should -- do you think that would help us to build a Republican consensus?
Q: Tie bars.
MS. MYERS: Tie bars?
Q: Do you expect to have something out of Ways and Means at the end of the week?
MS. MYERS: Ways and Means, we believe we'll probably pass out the President's plan either tomorrow or Friday.
Q: On the jobs thing. The Congress takes off for Memorial Day recess in 10 days or so. If you're going to do summer jobs, would it have to go through before that?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's one of the factors being considered in. Obviously, it's timely. If you're going to create summer jobs, you need to do it relatively soon.
Q: Before summer -- (laughter) --
MS. MYERS: Before the end of the summer. (Laughter.) You want to leave a little flexibility there.
Q: Dee Dee --
Q: on Macedonia?
Q: Dee Dee, do you have any --
Q: On Macedonia. If the decision is made to put U.S. troops in Macedonia, would the purpose be -- you've said the purpose is to prevent the war from spilling over -- would those troops be there as a trip wire?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly how it would be structured. You mean, if somebody did something along the border, would that trip wire the infusion of additional troops or air strikes?
MS. MYERS: I don't think any decision like that has been made. We're not ready to discuss it. Basically, they'll be there to monitor and to dissuade the Serbs from any ideas of crossing over the border or to keep things --
Q: Yes, but if they did cross the border, then something terrible would happen, right?
MS. MYERS: Well, there is no final decision yet to put troops in Macedonia. And I think these -- there is no decision --
Q: How many?
MS. MYERS: There will be 16 leaving here on Thursday afternoon. (Laughter.) Beyond that, I can't say.
Q: But if --
MS. MYERS: I can't talk about what their mission or what the -- first the -- other than to say that it is being considered among a number of options would be multilateral action. And beyond that, exactly what the structure of it was and what their mission would be is something that is not resolved.
Q: Would you consider having them respond to an across the border --
MS. MYERS: I can't address that.
Q: crossing the border with an attack on them?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into that.
Q: Where did the sudden danger of the Serbs crossing the border come from, given that you just expressed optimism that they are blockading their Serbian brothers inside Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I think it's always been a concern. It has always been a concern that the ethnic -- that other similar ethnic conflicts could erupt in different parts of the region. I think that has always been a concern. And one of the reasons that we're committed to trying to contain this conflict in Bosnia and to let the Serbs and the rest of the world know that ethnic cleansing and ethnic aggression is just not tolerable.
Q: So is it an internal dispute within Macedonia that you'd be worried about or is it --
MS. MYERS: I think it's a number of things. And any tension in Kosovo from spilling over into Macedonia.
Q: There seem to be some contradictions as to whether air strikes and lifting the arms embargo are still on the table.
MS. MYERS: I think everything is still on the table. And I think what the allies said on Monday after the foreign ministers met was that there were a number of things that were still -- and they hadn't ruled anything out.
Q: The Serbian Serbs are serious about cutting off arms to the Bosnian Serbs; doesn't that sort of preclude the option of rearming the Bosnian Muslims?
MS. MYERS: I think that if the Serbian Serbs prove true to their claim, that we will evaluate that as we move forward in the decision-making process.
Q: Dee Dee, on the jobs bill, do these discussions go beyond summer jobs? Because Clinton seemed to say pretty definitively in Cleveland that that was the only thing he would consider submitting before the budget is passed.
MS. MYERS: Oh, there might be something else in the package, depending on what we would work out with Congress. But it would be jobs-oriented.
Q: Dee Dee, on the economy, there was a huge increase in the PPI today. Do you have anything to say on that? Is there any concern about inflation taking off?
MS. MYERS: There hasn't been. I haven't seen that. But Dr. Greenspan and others continue to say they don't believe there are any inflationary pressures --
Q: They might change their mind after today.
MS. MYERS: I haven't seen it, so I'll have to get back to you on that. But so far the news on inflation has been good.
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/272270