Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:36 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: We have no announcements today, so if you all have any questions.
Do you want me to go through the schedule?
Q: Can we do that at the end?
MS. MYERS: Okay, Wolf, for you.
Q: The first five minutes are on camera --
Q: How much division is there within the White House over which issues to -- the President should be promoting at this time -- health care versus welfare reform, versus crime? How much of a split is there?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's any division. I think the President outlined his agenda for the coming year and beyond at the State of the Union. I think we'll build on that throughout the year. Clearly, health care is the centerpiece of our domestic agenda. That is something that we've met with congressional leaders with this week. We'll be doing more meetings and, certainly, the President will be talking about it. Today, he's meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to talk about crime.
Monday he'll be meeting with the National Governors Association to talk about crime. Certainly the welfare reform proposal is being finalized by the Domestic Policy Council here. So I think we'll move forward on a number of fronts, including the worker training program, which Secretary Reich spoke about yesterday. So I think there is a commitment here to move forward on a number of fronts. I think those policies all work together in terms of strengthening the economy and furthering the President's agenda.
Q: How's his voice? Is he speaking now? Is he audible?
MS. MYERS: His voice is pretty good today. He's speaking; he's audible. He's gone up to Piney Point to address the Democratic members of Congress there -- House members. And he's feeling pretty good.
Q: There's a lot of complaints in the House that the President isn't showing enough leadership. The House bill is in a lot of different pieces on crime, and it looks like it might not get passed until maybe even March, even though the President talks about it as if it is a done deal. What is he doing to try to get this thing through?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think certainly the first thing he's done is made it a centerpiece of his agenda. He talked about it eloquently and movingly in the State of the Union address. Again, he's meeting with the mayors today about it and the governors tomorrow about it. I think he's outlined the major principles that he'd like to see in the crime bill --
Q: But mayors don't have a vote in Congress.
MS. MYERS: No, but I think certainly this is something that the American people are concerned about. And I think that sentiment is going to work its way up, and I think members of Congress are going to respond to mayors in their district, to constituents in their district, to people who have genuine fears about crime and want to see this government take more action.
So the President -- the first thing he's going to do is what he's been doing, which is to speak out on it, to begin a dialogue and to create a consensus for more action. I think he's done that very effectively and will continue to do that. The second thing he is going to do is work with members of Congress. Again, he's outlined the things he'd like to see contained in the bill. He's made it clear he'd like to see a crime bill passed by both Houses and brought to his desk soon, early this year, and will continue to do all we can to move the process forward.
Q: So you have two centerpieces.
MS. MYERS: Well, no, I think health care is the centerpiece of the President's domestic agenda, but crime is something that is -- I think affects almost every other issue. It certainly affects health care. It affects welfare reform. It affects the state of the economy. It is both a legislative issue and an issue of the country's spirit as the President said. It's an issue of whether we come together as a community and how we do that. And the President will be addressing --
Q: Can he push both of them at the same time?
MS. MYERS: Sure. And, as the President said, he'd like to see welfare reform introduced this year and passed.
Q: Have you lost any momentum by virtue of him being down for two days?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. Certainly, he would have done a number of events and talked about these issues had his voice been healthy. But I think he'll be back at it starting today. I think there's been a lot of discussion about it on the Hill. The Vice President went to the high school yesterday where gunshots were fired the day before. I think there's been a lot of discussion by members of the administration about both crime and health care over the last few days and welfare reform. And I think you can expect to see that the administration will be firing on all cylinders. It will be the President, backed up by the entire administration.
Q: How moved are you, were you, by the Senate resolution on normalizing relations with Vietnam?
MS. MYERS: Well, we certainly welcome their expression on that. I think the President's made clear what his criteria is. We need to be assured that the Vietnamese are doing all they can on POW-MIA issues. We're continuing to review it. I don't have any decision on that yet.
Q: Even if you do have a decision that -- to go forward and to normalize relations, would Clinton consider going there, or would he definitely go there or what's the possibility?
MS. MYERS: I think it's too soon to say. I think we're still reviewing the facts as to POW and MIA progress.
Q: How much time do you think is needed at this point?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have a timeline on it. I think there have been a number of good trips there recently. There's certainly been some progress on the issues the President laid out that are of particular concern to him -- discrepancy cases, remains, documents, cooperation with Laos. But we just don't have a timeline for a decision.
Q: Is this being discussed, that the President might go to Vietnam?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. It's just too soon to even discuss it.
Q: What do you need to finish the review? This has been going on for --
MS. MYERS: Well, I just think we need as much information as we can to be certain that the Vietnamese are doing all they can.
Q: Is there something specific we've asked for to get that we haven't gotten?
MS. MYERS: No, I think it's just progress on those four specific aspects that the President laid out.
Q: How about Gerry Adams?
MS. MYERS: Gerry Adams met with our counsel general in Belfast today to discuss his views of violence and of the joint partnership agreement reached between the British and the Irish. We will review his responses on those questions and make a decision in light of that.
Q: Have you required him just to make certain statements against violence as a precondition of getting a visa?
MS. MYERS: No, but we've said his views on those two subjects are important in our decision-making. So once we've -- I don't know that we've gotten a report back yet today.
Q: Well, you have to make a decision pretty soon, don't you, because he's coming.
MS. MYERS: Yes, the conference is Tuesday.
Q: Dee Dee, in Japan there's been a compromise saving the Hosokawa coalition. What will the effect be on the framework talks that are ongoing and also on the February 11th meeting?
MS. MYERS: I think it's too soon to say what effect it will have. I think on the framework talks we are going to move forward or try to move forward under any circumstances. But we'll certainly be watching developments in Japan closely over the next 36 or so hours and see what happens after that.
Q: Dee Dee, to what extent -- slipping human rights considerations into the decision of the President to -- towards Hanoi because, as far as I know it is still a communist regime.
MS. MYERS: Right. Certainly, we're concerned about human rights in Vietnam, and we're -- we have an ongoing dialogue with the Vietnamese about human rights issues. But the trade embargo is linked specifically to progress on MIA and POW issues. But that doesn't mean we won't continue to try to make progress on human rights issues as well.
Q: Dee Dee, what's the story on the Interior Department, and are you in fact transferring a key official out of the area where he would make decisions on grazing fees and environmental matters?
MS. MYERS: No, I think quite the contrary. Mr. Baca has been, it's something that's being worked on within the Interior Department, and I'd refer you there for more details. But he's been offered, essentially, a post that would oversee a number of other -- including the Bureau of Land Management, but a number of divisions within the department I think with an eye toward better coordination on mining and grazing policies.
Q: So you're denying that he's being eased out of the environmental aspect?
MS. MYERS: Correct. The job that he's been offered actually would oversee a number of departments and seek better coordination on those issues.
Q: But he doesn't seem to see it that way.
MS. MYERS: The decision is his. I don't think he's reached a decision yet. But again, that job has been offered to him.
Q: How do you assess the position of the Prime Minister Hosokawa's -- for example, are they weaker stronger than before? Do you have any assessment?
MS. MYERS: No. At this point, again, we are watching the developments there with great interest, and we'll see what happens before the Diet recesses on Saturday night.
Q: What is the latest administration opinion on Bosnia, and what's your assessment of where it is right now?
MS. MYERS: Essentially there has been no change in our position. I think the, at the NATO summit we requested -- the communique requested that the U.N. review the situation with respect to possible steps that could be taken to open the airport at Tuzla and to secure troop rotation at Srebrenica. That report has been completed now and has been forwarded, and I think that's under review. Other than that, I don't think there's been much change in the situation.
Let me look ahead and give you guys the week. I actually have quite a few details, if I can find them. Saturday the only -- again there's been no change in that. The President will give the radio address live and then the rest of the day is down. Actually, he'll go out tomorrow night probably -- personal, but it'll be travel pool only. And then on Sunday he'll watch the football game with a group of governors who were here for the NGA dinner. I don't know who they all are. I think Governor Miller of Nevada is one of them and there will be several others. And then they'll do the dinner at the White House, which I think you guys have gotten the
pool assignments on -- or actually what the specific opportunities are.
On Monday at 9:30 a.m., he'll address the NGA crime -- he'll host a NGA crime and violence discussion here at the White House. Then at noon he'll go to the restaurant Filomena's with Chancellor Kohl. They will discuss --
Q: He loves that place, doesn't he -- Kohl.
MS. MYERS: He -- I think the both of them -- it must be a sumo wrestling hangout. (Laughter.)
Q: The portions are up to it.
MS. MYERS: Is that right?
Q: Do you go there a lot, Brit?
MS. MYERS: I can't say that I've eaten there, but -- they'll just discuss a number of bilateral and regional issues following up on the NATO meeting -- Partners For Peace, things like that. Then at 8:30 p.m., he'll attend the DGA dinner at the Omni Hotel.
On Tuesday --
Q: is there any kind of statements or something -- toast?
MS. MYERS: No, he's actually here to address the National Governors Association conference, and it was an opportunity for the President and the Chancellor to sit down and follow up on their conversations in Europe last -- a couple of weeks ago.
Q: So their only conversation will be at Filomena's and there will be nothing here?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Who suggested Filomena's?
MS. MYERS: I think they both like the restaurant and decided that it would be fun to have lunch off campus. So there they go. I don't know that there will be any formal statements. There will probably be some kind of a pool spray.
Q: A spray on the street?
Q: Does he have any desire to discuss with Kohl, since --
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: since Kohl is saying over there, the apparently deteriorating situation with Russia? I mean, is there any sense not of urgency, but of desire to have a conversation with someone about that?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I think a number of things are likely to come up. I think it's entirely possible that they'll discuss Russia.
Q: Is the President having any additional or longer consultations on that issue these days?
MS. MYERS: Certainly. I think his advisors -- he's had conversations with his advisors and I think he plans some longer discussions in the coming days.
Q: With whom, and when?
MS. MYERS: Well, the schedule's been in flux a little bit because of his -- because we had to cancel a number of events. But I think within the coming week certainly he'll have longer discussions with a number of his key foreign policy advisors.
Q: Has he called any meetings at the White House among senior advisors from the various agencies to discuss these problems?
MS. MYERS: None have been scheduled yet, but I think it's in the process. We're working it out.
Q: Any reaction to Stanislov Shushkevich's fall from power?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he was a reformer and was committed to both economic reform and denuclearization. I think that the Belarussians had some comments about that yesterday; that they remain committed. The foreign minister said they remain committed to denuclearization and to economic reform and we certainly are interested in seeing them pursue those courses.
QQ: Isn't he a little disappointed that after having given him what was obviously intended as a bit of a political boost by making the stop there that the guy is then ceremonious ousted soon after Mr. Clinton leaves? Does that trouble anybody around here?
MS. MYERS: We -- again, we -- I think the President had a good relationship with him. He met with both Shushkevich and Kebich while he was there, and we would have liked -- want to see the reforms continue.
Q: Any more on the new guy, Mr. Grib?
MS. MYERS: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q: Kebich indicated today also that there would be a major house-cleaning. In the discussions that they had in Minsk, was there any hint that this was about to come down?
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly we knew that the vote was coming up and that this was a possibility. I think, certainly, Shushkevich understood that he was going to have to stand up and face a vote of the Supreme Soviet.
Q: But did Kebich give President Clinton any kind of indication, any kind of assurances as to what a Kevich-backed government would look like?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I can take that question. I don't know whether they discussed specifically what might happen if Shushkevich was ousted. But certainly we're very interested in seeing the denuclearization program go forward. I think the Belarussians have -- there seems to be a national consensus for that. And we're hopeful that that will move forward. And, again, the Foreign Minister commented on it yesterday saying that they remain committed to reform. We'll have to see what happens.
Q: Does the U.S. believe Russia and Belarus are really going to continue on reform when the hard-liners, the communists, are back in power?
MS. MYERS: We're going to do what we can to move them in that direction. Certainly we don't have any guarantees of anything. But it's in our interest to see certainly Russia and the other former republics of the Soviet Union --
Q: But do we have any leverage to keep them on the move --
MS. MYERS: Well, we have financial incentives, which we've been trying to use both in Russia and in other countries. I mean, for example, the denuclearlization agreement includes $12 billion in funds that will be distributed to the former nuclear republics and Russia -- I mean, the former republics who were nuclear and Russia. And that is a tremendous financial incentive for countries like Belarus and Ukraine. There are other financial incentives that we're working on -- everything from Nunn-Lugar money to private investment that will be contingent on their progress toward reform. It is certainly in our interest, and we'll do what we can to try to move the progress forward. We have no guarantees, but that -- I think our policy is going to continue to do everything we can and move them in that direction.
Q: But you grant that it is becoming much more conservative and going back to a much more dogmatic political --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think the -- I don't think anybody ever thought that the Belarussian government was one that was full of reformers. It's always been a difficult situation. Shushkevich was committed to reform, he was not a communist. We supported him. He's no longer there. We'll work with the Kebich government and try to move them in the direction of reform as well.
This is not -- this is a long-term policy for the United States. It's something that we're going to be working on for the decade -- next several decades as these countries try to transition their economies.
Q: But you won't be able to give money to those countries if they persist in this direction.
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly aid is going to be tied to progress on reform. I mean, I think we've made that clear. Both our bilateral assistance and certainly the multilateral assistance.
Q: But things are falling apart pretty fast since the President left Moscow. Now, to what extent is the President concerned about it? Is there a time to redefine -- politics?
MS. MYERS: We remain concerned about it. We'll continue to follow events there. I'm not sure I would -- I'm not sure it's falling apart, but I think we remain concerned about events and I really don't have anything more to add to what we've said over the course of the last week.
Q: Is the President --
MS. MYERS: Tuesday, let's go back. (Laughter.) Thank you.
Q: If it's Tuesday it must by Bosnia.
MS. MYERS: No, this is Russia week. Ten o'clock a.m., he speaks to the American Hospital Association. Then at 11:30 a.m., he speaks --
Q: Here at the White House?
MS. MYERS: No, these are -- I'm not sure what that is -- it's off -- both these events are off-campus. At 11:30 a.m. he speaks to the National Governors Association -- I believe that's at the Omni, and the subject of that is welfare and health care.
Q: Will he go from one place to the other?
MS. MYERS: Probably. Then Wednesday -- that's it for public events on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he'll have a meeting with the joint congressional leaders in the morning. Then he will --
Q: When you say "joint congressional," what does that mean?
MS. MYERS: Members of both Houses.
Q: Does it mean bipartisan, or does it mean just --
Q: What time is it?
MS. MYERS: I think it's bipartisan, yes. As opposed to -- it's at 10:00. I think it's bipartisan, but it could be committee chairs. So I'll have to double-check that. Which will be from both houses -- the House and Senate, but not necessarily bipartisan.
At 1:30 p.m. he's speaking at a Reich conference, called "What's Working." It's a jobs conference that Secretary Reich is hosting. And I'm sure he'll talk there about worker training.
Q: Where is that?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a location. That's something that's hosted by Secretary Reich. Thursday, he starts the day with a prayer breakfast. Mother Teresa will attend that.
MS. MYERS: It's here at the White House. But I believe -- these are generally closed. But he does this periodically.
Q: Are you sure it's here?
MS. MYERS: No, I'm not positive, no.
Q: No, it's at a hotel, always. National Prayers -- (laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Are you guys making jokes about Mother Teresa back there?
Q: She's coming to the stakeout. (Laughter.)
Q: She's come to the stakeout before.
MS. MYERS: Has she?
Q: That's right, she has.
MS. MYERS: Helen points out that the National Prayer Breakfast is not here, that it might be someplace else.
Q: It's usually at a hotel.
MS. MYERS: I don't have a site, so -- that's 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. At 10:30 a.m. he'll go to Kramer Junior High
School to make up for the event that he missed. Friday, as of right now there are no public events. Saturday he'll do the radio address live.
Sunday he'll be in Houston for a DNC event. We will overnight in Houston. Events on Monday and beyond are still under discussion. So I have no -- but we'll definitely overnight in Houston and possibly go someplace else in the Southeast --
Q: Is he going to Arkansas on the way to Houston?
MS. MYERS: It's possible. But I don't know yet.
Q: That would be on Sunday?
MS. MYERS: No, it might be before that. Could be.
MS. MYERS: But I think, just for planning purposes only, no final decisions have been made on that.
Q: He might leave Saturday, stay overnight in Arkansas Saturday?
MS. MYERS: That's possible.
Q: And we would all go with him?
MS. MYERS: No, that would probably just be the family pool for the Arkansas portion.
Q: Is there a basketball game or something?
MS. MYERS: No, he just wants to -- might spend some time with his family there.
Q: Have you all made any sort of logistical arrangements yet for that Monday and the budget briefings?
Q: Yes, we'll be on the road when the budget --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: Budget Monday?
MS. MYERS: February 7th.
Q: So he'll be on the road when the budget comes out?
MS. MYERS: That is the plan, yes.
Q: What a relief
Q: I mean, you guys really want to come to that? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: When we have -- I'm sure we can provide you administration officials galore to talk about the budget, but probably not on the road, so we'll be doing health care and other things like that out there.
Q: You'll be doing health care while the budget's being done here?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Will he give a budget-related speech on the day that the budget comes out?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I mean, it'll be -- yes, in the respect that we might talk about some of the things -- break out pieces that are in the budget, but not do something that is an overview of the budget. That will probably be done separately.
Q: Would you figure that your main briefing was going to be here, or elsewhere?
MS. MYERS: I would think it would be here. I mean, we won't try to do that on the road. We'll get more --
Q: I mean, elsewhere around town.
MS. MYERS: Don't know. I think we may probably do a couple of different things. We'll have a better schedule on that next week.
Q: When is the civil rights announcement?
MS. MYERS: It will not happen today or over the weekend. It could come as early as sometime next week. I don't think it'll happen in the first half of the week. Not the first couple of weeks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:56 P.M. EST
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/269679