Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:43 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Just before we get started here, as the President announced earlier today, obviously, the conference reported out a crime bill today. And the President said, it's one of the reasons that I ran for office. So I thought you would all be very interested in going back, since you guys like to go back to promises, going back to Putting People First. And I just happened to have it right here in front of me.
Q: What page?
MS. MYERS: It would be page 72 and page 73. And if you go back and look at that, a few of the things that are mentioned that the President talked about consistently throughout his campaign for president was --
Q: Did you start the five minutes?
MS. MYERS: I'm going to go on a good 10 minutes, and then we'll take a couple of questions after that. So just bear with me here, Bill. I listen to you guys' questions; today you get to listen to me.
But he called for putting 100,000 new police officers on the street.
Q: Is that in the crime bill that passed the conference?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it is, as a matter of fact. I'm just going to point out the consistencies between --
Q: Ten minutes for Dee Dee's briefing. (Laughter.)
Q: Republicans can use this --
MS. MYERS: You can have it your way, but I'm just going to keep going on longer and longer if you guys don't behave yourselves. (Laughter.)
Q: too late.
MS. MYERS: That's right. (Laughter.) Don't you hate this when we do this? Now, you're going to have to listen to me or I'm never going to take any questions.
Q: When was the last time it happened.
MS. MYERS: I'm glad you asked that, because I'm going to go through that as well.
Q: When was the last time he kept a campaign promise? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Since you asked -- since you asked -- okay, we're going to go through this -- 100,000 police officers on the street, additional support for community-based policing, expanded --
Q: What are you reading?
MS. MYERS: I'm reading from Putting People First -- expanded treatment for drug addiction, pass the Brady Bill. He called for banning assault weapons and he even called for giving residents of public housing the chance to organize themselves to eliminate the drugs and weapons from public housing, which is something we did earlier this year.
So while we're on the subject of things that we've done, since, Andrea, you asked, I'm going to talk about a few of the other things that we have done -- so I will not go through every single one of the commitments that the President has kept because that would take us all afternoon. But I will point out a few of the highlights, starting with passing the economic package last year, which, as you know, has led to 3.8 million new jobs and the largest deficit-cutting plan in history, almost $700 billion over five years. We are on track for three consecutive years of deficit reduction in a row, which would be the first time since which president?
MS. MYERS: Thank you -- Harry Truman. (Laughter.)
Q: What do we have for our winner? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: We have a few more things we want to point out here.
Q: Can you make the next one multiple choice? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: We can do that. The President signed the Student Loan Reform Act; the National Service Act; Goals 2000 Educate America Act; School To Work; increased funding for Head Start by $550 million, introduced the Reemployment Act, which we're working on; assigned NAFTA. We negotiated a successful conclusion to GATT. We're working on the implementing legislation, as you know. Developed the national export strategy, eliminating some $37 billion in -- or controls on $37 billion in exports. We expanded the earned income tax credit by over $21 billion; created nine economic empowerment zones and 95 enterprise communities; instituted the Defense Reinvestment and Conversion Initiative; conducted a national performance review, which you know is part of the reduction in the federal work force -- 252,000 people -- which will actually pay for the fabulous crime bill that we passed today -- or got out of conference today.
And I could go on, but I won't.
Q: Go on --
Q: The Russian troops are out of Estonia by August 31st.
MS. MYERS: Well, I can keep going if you want. It is true that by August 31st, Russian troops will be out of Estonia and Latvia, making -- we could do a fill in the blank here. This is the first time since what year Russian troops were out of --
MS. MYERS: Thank you. Very good. So on that note -- (laughter) -- just glad to know you're all paying attention.
Ann, do you have a question? Did I leave something out?
Q: Clearly, this message has not gotten out to the public, or you wouldn't have felt the need to repeat all the President's accomplishments. Is that why you're doing that today, because Americans don't seem to have noticed these things?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think certainly there hasn't been as much attention paid to some of the successes as there have been to some of the things we have not yet accomplished. I don't think there's any question about that. I think today, though, with the passage by the conference of a crime bill that's very close to the things that the President has been calling for for the last several years, I think it's a good opportunity to talk about many of the things that have been accomplished including this crime bill which, as you know, has been languishing in Congress for more than six years. The President's fought very hard for it over the course of this year and last year, and I think everybody here feels very good about the fact that we're able to get it this far, and we expect its swift passage in both the House and the Senate.
But I think you can expect that we'll continue to talk about the President's accomplishments and the accomplishments of this Congress over the course of the last 18 months.
Q: Senator Hatch and Congressman Hyde and other Republicans were very critical of this bill today in the conference, and called it "pork-laden, not a crime bill, not an anticrime bill." Do you fear a filibuster, or do you fear Republican opposition on the floor?
MS. MYERS: I think it'll pass both Houses swiftly. I think if you look at what law enforcement officials are saying, including those that were at the event today, people who need those additional cops who -- I understand that 100,000 additional police officers on the street will make a big difference in helping to reduce crime, that moving to community policing will make a big difference in helping to reduce crime, that investment in our cities to help give kids something to say yes to as opposed to simply something to say no to will have an impact on crime. And I would point out that there is almost universal support in the law enforcement community for those investments in programs that will reduce crime.
This is a good bill, it's something that has broad bipartisan support, it's something that both Houses have been fighting for now more than six years, and I think the President is thrilled that the conference actually passed a version today, and we expect against that it will pass quickly, and the President looks forward to signing it.
Q: How, after all, do you think it will affect the prospects of the health care bill that the President can sign --
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously the two aren't directly related, but I think certainly this is good news for the President today.
Q: Dee Dee, how concerned is the President over the tensions of the Department of the Treasury as a result of different recollections over the Whitewater business?
MS. MYERS: I think all of this will get resolved through the course of these hearings. Certainly, the Treasury Department has done an excellent job throughout, there's an excellent team in place there, led by the Secretary of the Treasury. I think the President has great confidence in the Department and the job that they've done, and expects that that will continue.
Q: Can the Department at the highest levels work if there is that kind of trust among three senior officials that we're hearing about?
MS. MYERS: I think there's a great deal of trust among officials at the Treasury Department, again led by the very astute leadership of Secretary Bentsen. The President has great confidence in them. That department functions very well, and the President expects it will continue to. I just wouldn't believe everything I read.
Q: Specifically, how about Altman? And what kind of rules are there now with the Treasury Department about consultations on issues involving Whitewater?
MS. MYERS: Well, for people who are -- I think there are no consultations on issues involving Whitewater. As you know, Mr. Cutler issued additional guidelines, reissued some guidelines, issued additional guidelines for members of the White House Staff, which I think people have been very careful to follow. Beyond that, I think I don't have much to add.
Q: What about Altman? I asked you for a comment specifically on Roger.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, what about him?
Q: On Altman's future?
MS. MYERS: As the President said on Monday, he thinks he's done an excellent job as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and he expects it to continue in that capacity.
Q: With 10 of the President's top aides expected to go up to the Hill today, has the President talked with any of them about their testimony or about what he wants them to do, or how he wants them to react when he's on the Hill? Has he told them that he hopes that they'll be forthcoming or --
MS. MYERS: Certainly, that's the message that he put forward a while ago, that he expects the entire staff to cooperate completely with the congressional inquiry, with Mr. Fiske's inquiry and with the Treasury and OGE Inspector General's inquiries, which we've been doing.
Q: Well, has he had any remarks to any of them as they're going up there, like, bye, George, do good, or anything like that? (Laughter.)
Q: Tell the truth?
MS. MYERS: Not in any -- certainly, they have not discussed the substance of testimony in any way; that would be inappropriate. I don't know whether the President has patted people on the back and said, you know, hang in there.
Q: Could you ask if he has talked to any of them about it for us? Could you take that question?
MS. MYERS: I think that'll be under the broad heading of personal conversations. I don't think we're going to talk about it, but I will say that he certainly hasn't talked to them about any substantive issues.
Q: How does he feel about Nussbaum's testimony today?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that he's had any time to watch it; I don't think he has.
Q: Has he watched any of it?
MS. MYERS: He didn't during the day, except perhaps in passing. I don't know if he looked at the television when he walked sort of in or out of his office. And so far this morning he's been in meetings. Then to the Justice Department. Had lunch today with the Vice President. And now he will be doing a drop-by. He was about to go in as I walked out here. There is a group of NGOs here on Rwanda meeting with Tony Lake. I believe Secretary Perry is here, Brian Atwood, General Shalikashvili and Tim Wirth, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, to discuss the administration's efforts so far on humanitarian relief there.
I believe that a few of them will probably be at the stakeout in a little while.
Q: We asked for a photo op of that.
MS. MYERS: We will do a White House photo release, but no photo op.
Q: And has the White House and the Defense Department straightened out their stories yet on whether or not troops are going into Rwanda?
MS. MYERS: Sure, I think that's fairly clear. Certainly, no decision has been made on that yet. There is an assessment team on the ground in Kigali today, 52 individuals led by General Schroeder. They're looking at the airport there to determine what would need to be done if it was to be used as a sort of an air hub.
In the meantime, supplies continue to be flown into Entebbe, and then on to the airport at Goma, which is open. We're continuing to fly in things like water purification equipment. We're up to a little over 90,000 gallons a day. Today, within the next few days, we expect to reach over a million gallons a day, which should meet many of the needs, although perhaps not all, at that refugee camp there.
Q: When will you make a decision as to whether the 2,000 troops will be going into Rwanda?
MS. MYERS: I think Secretary Perry was careful not to attach any particular number to it. I'm not sure all of the logistical decisions have been made. The Secretary leaves Saturday, will return sometime early on Monday. I don't know that it will necessarily wait, but it could wait for his return. I think there are a number of questions that are in the process of being answered.
Q: Under any circumstance will the administration drop its demand that Aristide be returned to power?
MS. MYERS: No, our position has not changed. The President continues to believe that we need to restore democracy and return President Aristide, who is the duly elected leader of Haiti. He was elected by 67 percent of the Haitian people in elections that were recognized by the international community as fair and free.
Q: What happens after his term expires at the end of the year?
MS. MYERS: I believe it expires in -- yes, a year from now, December of '95. I think, hopefully, he'll be reinstated there, and we'll have a reelection, or another election campaign.
Q: Dee Dee, apart from the press reports today and yesterday, has the administration received any separate contact outlining that plan for Cedras to step down?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that there's any kind of a formal plan. Certainly, I think it's a sign of increasing pressure, and the effect of sanctions. But I think our view on this is clear. First of all, we wouldn't recognize elections by the de facto government. They would not be carried out in an environment that's conducive to free and fair elections. Certainly, an environment where human rights abuses are occurring routinely, is not conducive to free and fair elections. We don't recognize that government. President Aristide is the duly-elected leader of that country, continues to be the president.
Q: But apart from press reports has anyone in Haiti used other channels to present that idea?
MS. MYERS: I could take that. Not that I know of.
Q: Dee Dee, yesterday the question was raised about what our government knew about what Mr. Kang was saying and whether we had advance knowledge before yesterday that he was making a claim about the warheads. Found anything more?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Actually, there was -- a high-level South Korean official issued a statement today, which I don't know if you all have had a chance to see. He said, essentially, the assertion which Kang Myong-do made yesterday with regard to the North Korean nuclear issue was based on hearsay North Korean intelligence information, which Kang heard in North Korea. Kang did not have any evidence to support his allegations. The Republic of Korea government does not have any concrete evidence to suggest that North Korea already possesses nuclear weapons. Therefore, there is no change in the Republic of Korea government's previous position regarding the nuclear issue.
So with respect to what we knew about his -- we don't discuss those kind of intelligence issues.
Q: Can you tell us when you knew he had defected?
MS. MYERS: No, I cannot.
Q: Dee Dee, has Ambassador Kantor yet submitted his recommendations to the President on how the United States should act with regard to the Canada wheat situation?
MS. MYERS: As we've said all along, this is something that we hope and prefer to resolve the negotiations, and negotiations are ongoing.
Q: Can you give us any heads-up on what subsequent steps will be taken after the Kantor-Canadian meeting yesterday -- what new meetings we'll have?
MS. MYERS: As you know, yesterday afternoon there continued to be discussions between the Canadians and the Americans on those issues. Again, it's something that we hope to resolve through negotiations, and we haven't given up on that process.
Q: Will the Bosnian Serbs be made to pay in any way for their attack on the British peacekeepers yesterday and subsequent firing on the French who were trying to rescue those vehicles?
MS. MYERS: There was no call for close air support as you know yesterday, but we condemned their attack on the peacekeepers and on the French battalion that went in there to try to aid the convoy. I think generally their actions, closing they road, their attacks on the U.N. convoy yesterday, and their refusal as of yet to sign on to the Contact Group's plan -- those are all disturbing events and things that will be discussed on Saturday by the ministers of the Contact Group.
As you know, Secretary Christopher will leave tomorrow morning for Geneva to attend that. I think we've made it very clear that there will be consequences if the parties fail to sign on. There will -- there are disincentives and the international community stands prepared to carry forward those disincentives.
Q: Do we have any independent knowledge that the Serbs have given the Russians some sort of qualified yes?
MS. MYERS: We've seen reports to that. I don't have much beyond what's been reported.
Q: Do we have any indication if the Serbs care whether there are consequences?
MS. MYERS: I think they clearly do care. I think the fact that they're continuing their discussions with the Russians is evidence of that. But whether or not -- it depends on what they do. They have to sign on to the Contact Group's plan. And if they don't, the Contact Group stands ready to carry forward with the disincentives that we've talked about.
Q: Just trying to digest that statement. The implication seems to be that the hearsay from North Korean intelligence sources was not from his father-in-law, but is that any less valid? Would North Korean sources not have some inkling of what was going on there?
MS. MYERS: I think the point is that they don't believe -- they say Kang did not have any evidence to support his allegations.
Q: Right, he's just passing on what North Korean intelligence is saying. But is that not considered -- did he not say North Korean intelligence?
MS. MYERS: He did. But I would just emphasize again the South Korean official's statements, he did not have any evidence. I think our assessment has not changed. It is our view that North Korea has enough --
Q: We don't believe him.
MS. MYERS: Well, it's not my statement, but they have enough nuclear material, enough plutonium to make one, perhaps two bombs. And that has not changed.
Q: Do we have any concerns that the South Koreans made Kang available at this time in order to undermine the resumption of the North-South talks?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that's something that you'd have to talk to them about. I'm certainly not going to make --
Q: I'm asking about what your concerns are.
MS. MYERS: And I'm not going to pass any judgment on the timing of that.
Q: A couple of days ago there was a rather extraordinary action off Canada. Two Canadian warships seized some U.S. fishing boats even though they were in international waters, and the State Department yesterday demanded the return of these boats. Has Clinton called the Canadian Prime Minister? Or has anything happened at this level about this?
MS. MYERS: I believe it's being handled through channels. The President has not made any phone calls on it. I don't have any additional guidance on that for you today. I can check and see if there's anything new, but I -- the President hasn't made any calls on it.
Q: Is he aware of it?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure he's been informed of it, but I'll double-check and take that.
Q: Has the President been offered any options on ways to solve the impasse about exporting Alaskan crude from the North Slope yet? Has he made a decision on that yet?
MS. MYERS: I think we're entering the final phase of the decision-making process. I don't know whether a formal decision memo has gone to him. He's certainly aware of the issue and some of the options that are before him.
Q: On Rwanda, are there any more talks scheduled in the next few days between Rawson and the new government there? And do we have any more insight into what the conditions might be for us to recognize that new government?
MS. MYERS: Ambassador Rawson is still in the region, and he continues to have meetings. I don't -- he's had them fairly regularly over the last couple of days. I expect that that will continue. I think our view is that at this point we're focusing on the humanitarian mission and not on issues of recognition. We expect that we'll do that -- we'll get to that eventually. But at this point, we're focusing on the humanitarian mission.
Q: How close is Panetta to giving the President a report on reorganizing the White House?
MS. MYERS: That's something I think you are best to take up with Panetta. I don't know that he's -- I just don't know what his timing is on that. He didn't have any specific time line. I don't know if he's preparing a formal report or he's going to talk the President or exactly how he plans to handle that. He's not made a statement about that.
Q: Can we have a readout after this Rwanda meeting?
MS. MYERS: The meeting was with Tony Lake, Secretary Perry, General Shalikashvili, Brian Atwood and Tim Worth. The President dropped by for about 10 or 15 minutes, I think during what was scheduled to be the Q: & A portion of the meeting. That meeting is now over, and I think that some of the people who were there -- there was about two dozen nongovernment organizations including CARE and AfriCare and some of the others that have been really working to provide humanitarian relief in Rwanda.
Q: On GATT financing, Senator Moynihan doesn't seem to think that the latest list of options that the administration presented last night adds up to the $12 billion that you would need. Are you planning to go back to the drawing board? Do you stand by the package of options?
MS. MYERS: Well, no, I think we're still in discussion. We have been working back and forth with both of the tax writing committees on this. I think we've made good progress. I think Senator Moynihan and Senator Packwood, after meeting with the President last week, said they were optimistic about this and we'll continue to work on it until we reach something that's acceptable to all the parties. But I think we're making very good progress on the financing issue.
Q: It's been dismissed --
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's been dismissed. It may not be a final version, but it certainly hasn't been dismissed.
Q: the fact it was supposed to be addressed today at the markup and Moynihan dismissed it.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we're moving forward in the process, and again, I think we're making very good progress. And I think the President's hopeful that we'll get this wrapped up soon.
Q: Did Gephardt confirm to you all that he will have a bill ready to go tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I think that's something that he's working on today. I don't know that we've gotten -- I don't think we've gotten any final word from him. Certainly, it's his timetable, not something that we've set forward. But as you know, they have sort of a working memo that they've been circulating. I think the leader is going to meet with a number of members today, and I would just sort of direct you up there to find out what the progress has been like.
Q: Do expect him here at all to go over any final --
MS. MYERS: Not scheduled.
Q: What did the President tell the leaders when they came in about health last Thursday night and they said they would have their own bills out the end of this week? Did he say that he would reserve any judgment and wouldn't endorse, wouldn't necessarily endorse the final products that Mitchell and Gephardt came up with?
MS. MYERS: No, I think what the leaders did was give him sort of a status report of where they thought things stood. And they agreed at that meeting on what the sort of broad goals of any legislation would be. Certainly I think -- which include universal care, cost containment, ongoing sort of maintenance of quality and of choice.
Q: Mrs. Clinton was on the Hill this morning already meeting with those who are not satisfied with what they think Mitchell is coming out with and already plotting their strategy for how they will offer their own amendments next week. What will the President do, step back and just let the process work out? Or will he weigh in when he sees the versions that Mitchell and Gephardt produce?
MS. MYERS: I assume that both the House and Senate versions of the bill will meet the President's bottom line, that is universal coverage. That was a commitment that the leaders did make. Senator Mitchell issued a statement; I think Congressman Gephardt and the Speaker talked about it outside. Certainly, we'll look at the details. The President has always said it has to be a plan that works. But based on his conversations with the leadership in both Houses, I think he's confident and hopeful that they will produce bills that he can support.
Now, I think certainly the President will leave open that members of Congress will have to continue to work through this in their respective Houses but I think, generally, there will be bills in both Houses some time very shortly. I think the President will go out and work to help guarantee the passage of those.
Q: And if they come in with a phased in period that was longer than one he liked, if they come in with a 50-50 mix on employer mandates or a later trigger date for employer mandates, the President will consider supporting those?
MS. MYERS: Sure. I mean, he's said he's flexible on exactly how and when you get there. But I think he'd certainly be willing to look at those things. I think the one test is does it get you to universal and does it work. And if he believes that it gets you there in a reasonable amount of time by a date certain and that it will work and that it will provide health insurance for all Americans, I think he'll support it.
Q: Is the President being informed exactly of how the bill is being written, what's in it? Or is he going to wait and see exactly what it is and then respond to it?
MS. MYERS: I think, generally, he knows what the outlines are. I think that's fairly clear.
Q: But the details make all the difference. I mean, I know what you said, they agree on broad principles. But we all know when you sit down and look at the bill, that's what makes the difference.
MS. MYERS: Well, sure, and I think, of course, we'll do that once the bills are finally drafted. But I think, generally, the President knows what's in those bills. The White House has a sense of what those bills look like. We don't know the detail s and they've yet to be worked out in either House. But generally we know what those bills are going to include, and certainly we'll look at them when they get here and we're hopeful that that will be soon.
Q: Are there any increased security measures being taken around the White House or these federal buildings in light of the attacks on the Jewish targets?
MS. MYERS: Generally, that's not something that I can comment on, the security measures around the White House. I mean, clearly, there have been increases in security at some government buildings as a result of, I think, concern about terrorist attacks. And you'd have to contact the individual agencies to find out specifically what they are. But we generally do not talk about security here at the White House.
END 2:07 P.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/269605