Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:16 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Quick announcement. President Clinton spoke with Prime Minister Hosokawa last evening and offered him his congratulations on achieving political reform in Japan. The President also urged progress in the United States-Japan economic framework talks.
The President is sending United States Trade Rep Mickey Kantor, and Bo Cutter, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, to Tokyo for consultations to seek mutually-agreeable resolutions to the issues being discussed under the framework. The President and Prime Minister Hosokawa are scheduled to meet in Washington on February 11.
Q: When is Kantor going?
MS. MYERS: They left -- Kantor and Bo Cutter left this morning.
Q: The Secretary of State made some comments today about possible U.S. or United Nations intervention in Bosnia based on a report that Boutros Boutros-Ghali received. Can you clarify that at all for us?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure which report you're speaking about.
Q: He said over the weekend there was a new report that the Secretary General received about -- which seemed to indicate and the Secretary seemed to say in the meeting that reporters observed that the U.S. was a little bit closer to supporting air strikes and for rotating Canadian troops.
MS. MYERS: I think what you may be referring to -- I'm not aware of any particular report -- the Secretary General received a report from his person in Yugoslavia with a plan for both opening the airstrip in Tuzla to humanitarian air deliveries and to rotating the troops in Srebrenica. That included a number of options including the use of force, close cover air strikes. I think what Boutros-Ghali then said was that he had basically approved the plan, including the possible use of force, but he was hopeful that that could be achieved -- the opening of the airstrip and the rotating of the troops -- without the use of force.
Q: The U.S. position right now is we're just going to leave it up to him to tell us what --
MS. MYERS: Our position has been that we would use force in those circumstances if it was required.
Q: Does the President intend to use this luncheon with Helmut Kohl to put more pressure on the other NATO allies such as Germany to agree to the use of force?
MS. MYERS: I think that there's been no change in NATO's position or in the U.S. position regarding the use of force in Bosnia. I think certainly the President and Chancellor Kohl will discuss it this afternoon, but I don't think that the President is looking for a specific timetable on this.
Q: Will the President and Chancellor Kohl try to work to advance the withdrawal of the Canadian troops and renew the threat of use of force if necessary? Are they going to try to push this forward at all?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that the result of the weekend's events is that we expect those two things to go forward -- to go forward with the rotation of troops, to go forward with the opening of the airstrip. And based on what Boutros-Ghali said over the weekend, he has basically --
Q: On what do you base your optimism?
Q: How do you expect it to go forward? I don't understand.
Q: I don't understand what you're basing that on.
Q: Based on what?
MS. MYERS: Based on the plan that was put forward by Boutros-Ghali's representative in Bosnia last week. Basically, it outlined a plan for doing those two things. I haven't seen the plan; I'm not sure what's in it. I'm not sure what the question is.
Q: They haven't been able to go forward because they haven't been allowed to leave the area. So do you suddenly have some indication that they're going to say, okay, you guys, you can leave?
Q: Peacefully? And the Canadians --
MS. MYERS: I think they're going to continue to press to try to rotate the troops and to try to open the airstrip. I don't think that there's anything dramatically changed in --
Q: I asked are the President and the Chancellor going to try and do anything to drive this forward?
MS. MYERS: No, I think they're going to discuss Bosnia, generally. They don't have a specific timetable in mind. And they're going to, hopefully, have a nice meal.
Q: Warren Christopher sounded today, at least from our reporter's information, that he at least seemed to think that air strikes would be necessary, not the reverse. I'm a little confused. Maybe he didn't understand it, but that was the report that we got out of him this morning.
MS. MYERS: I think that, based on what happened at the NATO Conference and subsequent events, that air strikes have always been a possibility -- one in a number of options of now to achieve those results. I think Secretary General Boutros-Ghali said he was hopeful that those results could be achieved without the use of air cover, but that NATO stands ready to use air cover if it becomes necessary. And that's not a new policy.
Q: Has there been any contact with Boutros-Ghali since he approved the plan?
MS. MYERS: I would imagine at the U.N. level, but I don't know of any -- certainly not between the President and the Secretary General.
Q: How is the President going to work to narrow the three strikes and you're out provision so that it's acceptable, so that it's not so scattershot?
MS. MYERS: What the President did in the State of the Union was essentially endorse the concept that -- of life imprisonment for a third violent felony. Certainly, the federal legislation can only address federal crimes if the third crime was a federal offense, a federal felony, it would apply based on federal law. He's also asked the governors, as you saw this morning, to pass similar initiatives that would make life imprisonment mandatory for a third violent offense. Now, it's up to the states to pass specific legislation, but I think there are ways to focus it and limit it to certain violent crimes.
Q: The governors were concerned that a lot of things in the crime bill, at least the Senate version, would place mandates on them and would not be helpful. They want more on restrictive use of money. What was the President's response to them?
MS. MYERS: The President's response was that he asked Governor Campbell and Governor Dean to appoint a couple of representatives from the NGA to work with him and work with the White House to pass the crime legislation as quickly as possible, and to make sure that the governors' concerns are addressed to the process. I think he's certainly sensitive to that as a governor.
Q: Is that only regarding crime? I mean, the one theme of this whole governors conference has been unfunded mandates, not just in crime.
MS. MYERS: The President signed an executive order to that end, I would remind you, that basically said the government wouldn't impose unfunded mandates on the states.
Q: Is that a blanket guarantee that none of this will come up in terms of welfare reform, health care, or any of the President's proposals?
MS. MYERS: Yes, both health care reform has a financing mechanism, welfare reform will be revenue-neutral -- that's the objective.
Q: Executive or is a flat promise that it will not --
MS. MYERS: It's required. I mean, the President signed an executive order which basically said we will not impose unfunded mandates on the states. That is a commitment that he takes very seriously.
Q: He has suggested that welfare reform as a program is revenue neutral because they've been talking about $10 billion.
MS. MYERS: No, but what we said is it will be funded from other cuts and other programs. I'm not saying it won't cost anything, but it will not add to the budget deficit.
Q: On welfare reform, the governors are concerned that the public service jobs part of that, that they will be required to come up with some certain large percentage of and pay for those public service jobs, that is 70 clerks in every municipal office or something. You are saying, in effect, that that won't happen under welfare reform? Because that's an unfunded federal mandate.
MS. MYERS: Right. What I'm saying is that the details of the welfare reform plan have not been entirely worked out. It's something that we'll work with the states on, but that the President signed an executive order which said that the federal government will not impose unfunded mandates on the states. And I think that is across the board. Now, how exactly we'll go about working out the details of how these jobs will be created and applied I think remains to be seen, along with a number of those jobs.
Q: Didn't the President -- and I may be -- haven't there been -- they have been complaining the last five days of at least four or five mandates that have occurred since Clinton's been in office.
MS. MYERS: I am not sure -- I think some of them are -- there are additional costs to states in some instances, and I'm not sure exactly what four or five you're talking about. But there have not been any unfunded mandates forced on the states since Clinton's been President.
Q: Dee Dee, back to the crime bill for a second. One of the provisions the Republicans in the Senate put in was for regional prisons funded by -- construction thereof to be funded by the federal government. In order for states to put their prisoners into those states, they would have to comply with certain federal sentencing guidelines that the bill would specify. Several of the governors said those kinds of mandates, forcing states to redo their whole sentencing requirements, were especially onerous. Does the President support or oppose that provision of the bill?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think he's taken a position on the regional prison portion of the bill. There is money in the bill, I believe $6 billion, for the construction of additional prisons and I believe about half of that is for state prisons as opposed to federal prisons, which I think the President looks favorably on. But in terms of regional federal prisons, I don't think he's taken a position on it.
Q: But this is the requirement that they serve, for instance, 85 percent of their time. Some of the governors said that would totally screw up their prison systems.
MS. MYERS: Right. The federal system already achieves that and so, in terms of the specific federal legislation, it's not a part of the federal part of the crime bill. And I don't know that the President -- I can take this -- I don't think he's taken a position on federal regional prisons or specific requirements for prisoners in order to get that funding.
Q: How does a short-term rise in the interest rates effect your budget deficit projections and the spending that you --
MS. MYERS: Well, we're hopeful that there won't be a rise in interest rates. We think that there is no inflationary pressure within the economy now. I think the President pointed that out. We don't see any need for rising interest rates. What the President did say a little while ago, was that he hoped if there was an increase in short-term interest rates that it wouldn't affect long-term interest rates, but he didn't think that increased interest rates were necessary.
Q: So he disagrees with Chairman Greenspan's assessment?
MS. MYERS: Well, what the Chairman said, if I read his comments properly, was that it was something that may happen
eventually. I don't know if he was specifically calling for it in the near-term. But just to go back to what the President's view is, is that -- and Dr. Tyson and others in the administration -- that there is no inflationary pressure within the economy at this point, that we don't see a need for an increase in interest rates and we're hopeful that interest rates and inflation will remain low and growth high -- higher.
Q: Has the President decided to deploy the Patriot battery to South Korea?
MS. MYERS: There's been no change in that. We're looking favorably at it, but --
Q: How about the redeployment of the Patriot battery from Germany to South Korea?
MS. MYERS: The deployment decisions still haven't been made. Specifically, where, how, those details have yet to be decided.
Q: Is this one of the agenda of today's meeting with Chancellor Kohl?
MS. MYERS: I think they're there to discuss a number of things. I don't think that Korea was specifically on the agenda, but it may come up.
Q: Civil rights tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Possible.
MS. MYERS: Possible.
Q: Working toward it, trying to make it happen?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Soon as possible.
Q: Nanny problems?
MS. MYERS: No, not that I know of.
Q: What was the question?
MS. MYERS: The question was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights tomorrow, and the answer was, possible.
Q: How about a Deputy Attorney General?
MS. MYERS: I know that the Attorney General is working on that. I don't have a time line for you.
Q: About Kantor going to Japan, do you have any idea how long he's going to be there and who he's going to meet with? Is he going to meet with Hosokawa?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I think this was something that was decided yesterday and they left this morning. Probably the details of their itineraries are still being worked out. But, obviously, they're there to press forward with some agreements under the framework before the February 11th meeting between the Prime Minister and the President.
Q: How does the President view the success of the reform package, its impact on the negotiations, and some of the
economic measures that the U.S. administration has been encouraging Japan to take?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President thinks it's a good step that the government was able to resolve this and move forward now to focusing on economic issues. We' re hopeful that progress can be made on the framework between now and February 11th. It's important to work with Japan to open the markets and to get progress on those agreements before Prime Minister Hosokawa comes here.
Q: On Whitewater, what about McDougall's latest charges that the President didn't tell the truth about how much he lost?
MS. MYERS: It's being investigated, looked into by the special counsel and I have no comment on that.
Q: Has the President been talking at all to Arafat or to Peres, or do you have any comments on the Middle East talks at this stage?
MS. MYERS: No, the President hasn't spoken directly to anyone. The talks are continuing here. Obviously, we're encouraged by the progress. We'll continue to monitor it and to do what we can to encourage them to move forward.
Prime Minister Peres -- Foreign Minister Peres will be here this week in the United States.
Q: He's coming to Washington?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Will he meet with the President?
MS. MYERS: He will not meet with the President, he'll meet with the Secretary of State and with Tony Lake.
Q: Did he already come?
MS. MYERS: I think tomorrow and Wednesday.
Q: When is he coming over here?
MS. MYERS: I believe that's Wednesday.
Q: On health care, when is the White House putting out this 11-point rebuttal that was written about this weekend -- an 11- point rebuttal to the New Republic's charges about the health plan?
MS. MYERS: I will have to take that. I'm not sure what the timing is or where that is exactly. I believe it's work in progress. We'll see.
Q: A while ago, last year it was widely reported that Charles Ruff was ruled out for deputy attorney general because of nannygate problems. In view of the issue that arose over Admiral Inman, do you now believe that that would not be a disqualifying issue for somebody in the Justice Department?
MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, I'm not sure I accept your premise that that's why Charles Ruff wasn't offered the job earlier. But we've always said that we would look at -- we don't think that necessarily having not paid Social Security taxes on domestic help was disqualifying, depending on the circumstances. And I think we look at each case individually as it comes up.
Q: But in the past, the position has been that because the Justice Department is in charge of enforcing the law, that it is in a special circumstance, and that the standards would be higher for someone at the Justice Department. Would that also follow --
MS. MYERS: No, I think every case is -- we look at each case individually depending on circumstances. I think, depending on the role and circumstances of the individuals -- certainly, with the Attorney General it was a particularly thorny issue for a number of reasons. But I think since then our position has been that it's not necessarily disqualifying in any department. It would depend on the responsibilities and circumstances of any particular nominee.
Q: Is the President going to describe the details of the reemployment program on Wednesday at Reich's conference? And if not then, when would he unveil it?
MS. MYERS: No, I think that he'll talk generally about it. I think the details will come later.
Q: But it's supposed to be appropriated into the budget in some detail -- is that --
MS. MYERS: Correct. We're working with Secretary Reich and others at Labor to determine exactly when the details of the plan will be outlined.
Q: shortly after the budget is out?
MS. MYERS: I'm just not sure when that is. I think it's a little bit later. My last discussion with them, I think it was a couple weeks down the line for the actual unveiling of all the details. But I can certainly take that and see where it is.
Q: To follow on that, the budget is sent out next Monday?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: What kind of briefings are we going to have for that since the weekend --
MS. MYERS: On Monday, Budget Director --
Q: Will they brief in Houston for the rest of us?
Q: No, don't do that.
MS. MYERS: We have -- probably not. The way it's worked out at this point is that -- (laughter.)
Q: Excuse me. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think I'll let your colleagues take care of you on that question. Leon Panetta will brief here on Monday, February 7th --
MS. MYERS: Here in this briefing -- from this podium, right here, sometime --
Q: So the only way to cover the story is to be here, right? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I know it's a heartbreaker.
Q: You're going to have to order a bigger plane.
MS. MYERS: It's tough to choose between the budget and Houston.
Q: I know, but the budget from Houston is the worst of all nightmares --
MS. MYERS: Right, we're not going to do that. So we have Director Panetta here. You guys aren't paying attention here. You're going to need this information. You'll have Panetta here on Monday; also from here, from the White House, Dr. Tyson and maybe Secretary Bentsen. And then each of the other departments will brief later in the day from their individual departments.
The President will -- we're still working out the details. The President will probably speak about the budget in broad terms in a speech to some kind of business group or some other appropriate organization in Houston on Monday morning.
Q: So that is not health care now, that is budget?
MS. MYERS: It is probably going to be budget.
Q: What time will he --
MS. MYERS: A budget story from Houston to reinforce the fabulous briefings that will be going on here.
Q: The only way to cover the budget will be to be in Houston -- (laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The only way to cover the President's comments on the budget will be from Houston.
Q: And where does he end the day?
Q: Will that be piped in here?
MS. MYERS: Always.
Q: So here you can hear the President and the briefing, but if you're there you can only hear the President?
MS. MYERS: That's right.
Q: Well, that settles it.
Q: Dee Dee, do you have a time?
MS. MYERS: We're still working that out. I think we're looking at sometime mid-morning for Leon's briefing here. As soon as they have a specific time, they'll tell you when the budget document will be available at the GPO, sometime Monday morning.
Q: If tradition follows, the budget document will be printed in some newspaper on Friday or Saturday. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: You're asking that it be The Washington Post? (Laughter.)
Q: Hell, no. I'm just saying that -- then at which point do you then advance all the briefings? Are there going to be people around here on Friday? Because it's happened about 20 times.
MS. MYERS: Is that right? Everyone will be here on Friday. I don't have --
Q: Maybe we could just get this all over with on Friday.
Q: I'm taking the --
MS. MYERS: Yes, taking the initiative. I can't speak to that. I mean, our hope is that it will not be released until Monday. I don't know what's happened in previous years.
Q: Give it to the Houston papers.
Q: Are you still trying to plan a health care event?
MS. MYERS: Just to go to Andrea's question about the schedule. Monday is unclear. It is possible that we will go someplace else in the country, possibly the Southeast, on Monday afternoon.
Q: It's a domestic trip, right?
MS. MYERS: We might decide to go to Mexico or the Caribbean. No, somewhere else, probably in the Southeast. It's possible that we'll go there Monday afternoon and possibly spend Monday night someplace outside of Washington. That is still under discussion.
Q: And would that be a health care event?
MS. MYERS: Then we would probably do a health care event.
Q: And you'd do a Tuesday morning event?
MS. MYERS: Tuesday morning.
Q: Can you walk us through the weekend and what you know --
Saturday, you have the radio address live, and it is possible that he will then -- now, this is for planning purposes only -- it's possible that he will then go to Arkansas to visit family and friends, spend Saturday night in Arkansas, and then leave from Arkansas on Sunday.
Q: Will the press plane, for planning purposes, go to Arkansas?
MS. MYERS: No. We would take only the -- probably the family pool or the travel pool to Arkansas. He won't have any public events in Arkansas. It will be strictly personal time. And then we would probably take the press plane directly from Washington to Houston Sunday afternoon.
Q: The Houston event is a fundraiser Sunday, right?
MS. MYERS: DNC fundraiser.
Q: Is that open?
Q: What's the first event on Monday?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. The event on Monday will be a budget speech to an appropriate group. We haven't --
Q: In the morning, afternoon?
MS. MYERS: The morning.
Q: Does he have any open --
Q: Is the DNC speech open, or not?
MS. MYERS: I don't know, I haven't checked. I'll have to check. I would imagine that the remarks portion of it, at a minimum, would be open.
Q: Is there any other event on Sunday, or is it just a fundraiser?
MS. MYERS: There might be some meeting with supporters or something, but no other news -- possibly another photo op, but no other major news event.
Q: On Greenspan and interest rates -- Greenspan said this morning that later this week the open market committee of the Fed would consider this issue. A lot of the impetus behind the talk for higher short-term rates came last week with the fourth quarter GDP figures of 5.9 percent, and there are a lot of economists outside the administration as well as inside the administration who consider that figure an aberration an think it will go back to about three percent in the first few quarters. My question is, does the White House feel that the Fed ought to hold off at least until the end of the first quarter this year before making any moves on interest rates and not base the decision on this fourth quarter figure?
MS. MYERS: I'll take your question in a couple of parts. First of all, Dr. Tyson was in here on Friday afternoon, and she basically, I think, talked about what the administration's expectations were for growth in the coming year, which I think both economists inside and outside the administration agree that it will be much lower than the 5.9 fourth quarter figure. At the same time, she said she saw no inflationary pressure in the economy, didn't think there was any need to raise interest rates.
Now, obviously the Fed is independent, and they will make their own determination. But it is the view of the President and the administration's economists that there is no inflationary pressure in the economy, and we'd like to see interest rates stay where they are. Stay low, I should say.
Q: Is it the view of the President and the White House that if you wait for the first quarter figures that that would be even more corroborated that we're not in an economy that's heating up?
MS. MYERS: Well, when the first quarter figures come in, we'll see what they are. But certainly the Fed will determine how and when it's going to take action.
Q: Would it be -- my question basically is one on timing. Would it be a mistake for the Fed to act in the first quarter --
MS. MYERS: All I can tell you is that we see no inflationary pressure in the economy, and we'd like to see interest rates stay low, inflation stay low in order to keep --
Q: Short and long?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President said that -- long-term interest rates. I think we prefer to see all interest
rates stay as low as possible, but that he -- the President I think spoke to that a little while ago.
Q: Well, is it clear now that you all have taken an real inventory on his appearances outside the White House without the pool --
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: and they come to one?
MS. MYERS: No, I think what the President was -- when looking back -- I mean, the President's view generally is that he has accepted without embracing the notion that he doesn't leave the White House without taking the pool, there have been a number of instances where, for one reason or another, that he's left without the pool. For example --
Q: A number? What number?
Q: How many?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's gone jogging a couple of times or he's left and the pool has then caught up with him -- like once he went bike riding. But we could think of no instance collectively where the President left the White House and the pool either didn't catch up with him or was not notified.
Q: What about the night that Vince Foster died?
MS. MYERS: We then -- we told you that he had gone. And I think some people staked him out unilaterally. But I just say there isn't any -- we could not collectively think of a single instance where the President had left that you either weren't with him or weren't notified.
Q: But he never ditched the pool completely.
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Dee Dee, would you know about it?
MS. MYERS: The President would know about it, and I think -- I talked at length with him about that --
Q: When you say collectively, you mean you discussed this with him?
MS. MYERS: But we all thought through, because sometimes the President is less aware of whether the pool's -- if he ditches the pool on a jog or something. I mean, he doesn't intentionally set out to do that, but sometimes he gets impatient and he'll leave and the pool's not rounded up.
Q: Well, the implication of the piece was that he simply goes out when he wants to.
MS. MYERS: It's just wrong. It's simply wrong. There just isn't any instance that we could think of where the President had left --
Q: Well, how about the First Lady dressing in disguise? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Again, I think --
Q: Yes, what color is the wig?
Q: Wait a minute, is this true?
MS. MYERS: No, no.
Q: This is part of the same piece, Brit.
Q: I know that.
MS. MYERS: As far as I -- first of all, the First Lady has a completely different set of circumstances. I don't think the pool expects to accompany her or know every time she leaves the White House.
Q: This wasn't a pool question, this was is she wandering around wearing disguises.
MS. MYERS: No, I -- not that I know of. I think occasionally she wears sunglasses, which you've all seen, but beyond that I think it's been fairly straightforward -- and a hat.
Q: The President said this morning that as far as he knows, no other President -- maybe President Bush had the same sort of understanding when the press went everywhere. I stand to be corrected, if wrong, however, it is my understanding that this has applied to every recent president, certainly back through Gerald Ford, and probably through Kennedy. Just for the record.
MS. MYERS: Nonetheless, regardless --
Q: I don't wish to debate, only to offer.
MS. MYERS: -- of the historic precedent, I think his view is that he has accepted the deal that he doesn't leave here without at least taking a travel pool. And I think we've been as faithful to that as we can with a few slip-ups that we've then told you about. Very few.
Q: For the record, should the President be advised that that has been an historic -- this is not some --
MS. MYERS: I would be certainly happy to convey that to him that this was not foisted on him.
Q: They all do it.
MS. MYERS: And they all love it with equal fervor, I'm sure, thinking that it's a wonderful way to live.
Q: The bottom line is you're saying The Times story is wrong?
MS. MYERS: I'm saying The Times story is wrong, correct.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:42 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/269681