Press Briefing by George Stephanopolous
The Briefing Room
10:10 A.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President is soon to be on his way, on Amtrack to Camden Yards. He'll be throwing out the first pitch.
Q: It's MARC, the Maryland Area Transit, it's not Amtrack.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, it's not Amtrack? Well, he's going from Union Station, you're right. Excuse me.
Q: George, what exactly are you prepared to do to break the logjam with ??? Senate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, there are discussions between Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole this morning, and I think that the President is going to continue to make the point that he believes that our investment package, our jobs package needs to be passed as quickly as possible. We need this investment for summer jobs, for immunization, for highway construction, for the important programs that will put people back to work right away this summer. And the President continues to believe his program should be passed.
Q: Will he compromise, that's the question?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the discussions are going on this morning in the Senate betwen Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole, let's see what they come up with. But the President believes his jobs program should go forward.
Q: George, would the President be willing to accept $8 billion for one year, which apparently appears to be the compromise being offered by --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know what is being offered by either side. The Senate discussions are going on right now, let's see what happens today.
Q: Would he go that far -- no matter what the Republicans have offered so far, would he go that far, $8 billion per year?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President believes that his program should be passed at this time. Clearly, we're going to be willing to listen to what the Senators might or might not be able to come up with, but I'm not going to get into figures right now. Let's see what happens.
Q: It's reasonable to assume, isn't it, from what has happened so far that a compromise is going to be necessary in order to get a vote?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Republicans seem more intrested in stopping progress on the President's jobs bill, than in doing something to create -- MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Republicans seem more interested in stopping progress on the President's jobs bill than in doing something to create real action, real jobs this summer for the American people. I think there's no question about that. There's been some frustration of legislative activity over the last few days.
Q: So, you'll need to compromise to get your package through?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll see what happens with the conversations between Senator Mitchell and Senator Dole this morning.
Q: prepared to compromise --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's prepared to listen to what Senator Mitchell has to say this morning after his meeting with Senator Dole.
Q: Does he feel that he has been defeated in his --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in the least. In fact, he's been very successful so far in the beginning of his term.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He passed his budget in record time, in six weeks, and it's a budget which reduces the deficit by $500 billion over five years. And it's a budget which provides for important investments in our future. Right now we've also had strong passage of his jobs program through the House. Simply because a minority of Republicans in the Senate choose to perpetuate gridlock and hold up action on the President's jobs program is not a sign that he is not succeeding overall.
Q: He can't beat this, can he?
Q: The fact is they can do that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Republicans can stop action. There's no question about that.
Q: What are you going to do about it?
Q: George, what do you know about these alleged notes taken by Boris Yeltsin during one of the meetings in which it appears that the President told Boris Yeltsin not to trust the Japanese; that when they say yes they mean no?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's a complete misreading of what happened at the meeting. The context of the conversation was that President Clinton was actually reassuring President Yeltsin at the time about his conversations with Prime Minister Miyazawa over the Kuril Islands and the Prime Minister's belief that Japan would play a constructive role in the G-7 process. I mean this was a casual comment about Japanese courtesy and etiquette but overall it was in the context of a conversation where he was reassuring President Yeltsin that he believed the Japanese were serious about their commitment to the G-7 process.
Q: Are you saying that the President said that when the Japanese say yes they mean no?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not -- I don't know the exact words and there was a much longer discussion about he did say something along the lines that he believes that on this issue Prime Minister Miyazawa intends to really go forward with the G-7 process.
Q: Have there been any attempts to explain this to the Japanese because apparently the Japanese press has picked this up and there appears to be --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I've seen the reports in the Japanese press and it actually does put the situation in context. It does talk about the Japanese -- understanding the Japanese points of view. I don't think it's going to be a problem. I believe that there may have been some diplomatic context just to clear things up but I'm not positive.
Q: George, was the specific comment that was made specific to the Kuril Island situation or was it a general observation on Japanese etiquette?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The discussion was about --
Q: The specific comment is what I'm asking about that has alleged to have been translated from the Russian notes, "when the Japanese say yes they mean no."
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it was a combination. I mean I don't think that's the whole sentence. I think that the specific comment was a broad, general observation followed up by a specific finish to the sentence where he said in this case he believes that Prime Minister Miyazawa means to keep the commitment.
Q: Was he saying it facetiously first?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was just a casual observation.
Q: And then you say diplomatic contacts were made to clear it up. Has the President sent a message?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I don't think the President spoke; I believe that Secretary Christopher has made some calls but I'm not sure exactly how many.
Q: Well, this obviously is a bigger deal than you're making it out to be if Christopher has had to make some calls.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no. It was just that we got the reports in Vancouver and the Secretary wanted to make sure that it was understood and make sure there was absolutely no
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- reports in Vancouver, and the Secretary wanted to make sure that it was understood, and make sure there is absolutely no misunderstanding, and I don't believe there is on.
Q: What is our position about the Japanese? That they may have to say one thing, but actualy mean another?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. The position on the Japanese is as the President stated to President Yeltsin throughout the two days. He said that he had had a good conversation with Prime Minister Miazawa prior to the Summit. He reiterated the U.S. position, the long-standing support for the Japanese position on the Kuril Islands, but also reiterated Prime Minister Miazawa's commitment to move forward on the G-7 process and to play a constructive role. And I think President Yeltsin was very glad to hear that.
Q: After listening to Secretary Christopher on Iraq for the last few days, I'm a little confused. What is the U.S. policy? Do you want to see Saddam Hussein overturned?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the same policy that Secretary Christopher has reiterated, and all of the U.S officials have reiterated. We expect full and complete and unequivocal compliance with all U.N. resolutions. Right now we do not have that compliance.
Q: throwing it out further that if Iraq complies, Saddam can't stay in office?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. I think that that's -- our judgment is that it is not possible for Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions and stay in power. But the important point is that we expect compliance by Iraq with all U.N. resolutions, and we will continue to demand it.
Q: And are you concerned the Iran will become the dominant power in the area --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Christopher has also spoken to Iran over the last several days, and he says we also expect full Iranian compliance with all international norms, and stopping support of terrorism.
Q: That's a very glib statement that he won't stay in power if he complies with U.N. resolutions. On what logic do you base that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right now Saddam Hussein is not complying with the U.N. resolutions at all. He is not respecting the rights of his people, as is required by the U.N. resolution. He is not fully complying with all the resolutions regarding inspections. He is not fully complying with all the resolutions regarding armaments.
Q: Well, when do you think that if he did comply he would be out of power?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, right now his power rests on the repression of his people. If he stopped doing that it would make it more difficult for him to stay in power.
Q: George, back on the stimulus package, why is it that you and the President accuse the Republicans of playing pure politics and perpetuating gridlock? Why is it that -- what evidence do you have that they just don't have a genuine idealogical difference with you that's in good faith?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the fact that several times in the past the Republicans, many of the ones who are now leading the fight for the filibuster, have supported the very funding they now seek to stop, most especially, the highway funding.
Q: George, in regards to that, some of the moderate Republicans said that the White House erred by not being more open to them during the -- while the plan was put together, that they had one, sort of, proforma meeting between the White House and the Senate Republicans, and that was it. Does the Administration look back and thinks perhaps it could have done a better job of working with some - -
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I'm not sure that it's true that there was only one meeting. I mean, the President met with the Republican leadership on at least two occasions before the introduction of his package. He met with the entire Senate Republican Caucus also for lunch, and went up there. We are continually in contact with as many Republicans as we can find who have an interest in the President's package. We are interested in what they have to say, as well. But we believe that this program is important, and we're going to continue to fight for it.
Q: your all or nothing, do it with the Democrats alone strategy, did you maybe miscalculate the ability to get it through?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean, I think that there is no question that under the Senate rules a determined minority can frustrate activity. I mean, there is just no question about that. You only need 40 plus one to keep going. 40 plus one to keep going and to stop any action, and that's what the Republicans are doing.
Q: going to rethink the way you attempt to get other things passed as you go through this process for the rest of the summer?
Q: work with Republicans and try to woo some Republicans into your camp?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we're going to continue to look for the support of Republicans whenever we can get it on the President's intiatives?
Q: But on this one -- how are you going to do it differently than you did it on this one because on this one you really did stiff the Republicans from the beginning and made it clear that it was a Democratic majority that would get this through and could get it through and you really didn't need Republican votes? Are you going to take a different tack when you have to go for particular votes? When you have to go through --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't see into the future and understand every possible turn in the legislative road. Clearly the President's going to continue to reach out when he can.
Q: You don't have any regrets then about the way you have handled it up to now and you don't plan any changes in your approach in dealing with the Republicans in Congress based on this experience?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Obviously the President would like his package passed as quickly as possible and he's going to continue to press for that. We will continue to reach out to Republicans, there's not question about that. And we'll continue to reason with them and try and find appropriate avenues for cooperation. In this case the Republicans have chosen to unify around a filibuster, around a plan to frustrate action not a plan to move forward.
Q: They're being denied any other legislative means of putting their proposals forward.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they're being --
Q: any ideas.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think their amendments are being defeated; I don't know that they're being denied.
Q: to present them.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not exactly true. I mean they get the votes --
Q: that theirs can be passed though by the parliamentary rules under which they're playing.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Unless they get a majority in support all the way around, no, that's not exactly true.
Q: George, one more on Iraq. Is the administration backing any of the Iraqi opposition? Grooming any new leadership?
Q: backing any of the Iraqi -- leadership?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I -- again, we're pressing for Iraqi compliance. I don't know if we can get into the business of grooming leadership. I believe there have been some contacts, at some levels, with Iraqi opposition groups. I don't know about anything recently.
Q: Jesse Jackson, who, of course, is not the President's best friend, has, however, been told that there is to be some kind of town meeting, or some kind of involvement by the President, pre-empted the ball game -- Los Angeles. Will he consider something like that, or any other kind of intervention there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the President appointed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, about 10 days ago, to be a special envoy to California, and coordiante cabinet activities around the California economic situation, including the situation in Los Angeles.
I believe there will also be visits out to Los Angeles by the Education -- or have been visits by the Education Secretary, Mr. Riley. I believe that Transportation Secretary Pena and HUD Secretary Cisneros are also going out. And there may be other visits by Cabinet officials over the next several days and weeks. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a visit by President Clinton to California. Obviously, he is following the situation closely, and is concerned about making sure that we make the right long term policy decisions that will help create the kind of economic opportunities which help prevent disturbances. But we're going to continue to watch it.
Q: George, as a follow-up, Reverend Jackson is also supposed to be outside the ball park today, in Baltimore, with a group of supporters protesting the lack of minorities in baseball management. Does the President have a position on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has received correspondence from Reverend Jackson. I know that Reverend Jackson has also spoken with the White House Chief of Staff, Mack McLarty. He clearly raises serious questions. There has been some progress in baseball over the last several years, but still not enough. But the President intends to continue to go to the ball game.
Q: Is he going to say anything about it today, or see Reverend Jackson while he's out there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if he is going to see them, but as I said, the President believes that Reverend Jackson has raised some serious questions, and it's something that, as I said, even though there has been progress, it's clearly not enough.
Q: Did Reverend Jackson ask him not to go to the ball game?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure about that. I believe the characterization the Reverend Jackson is talking about is an informational pickett. I don't know that he asked him not to go to the ball game, but he sent a long, detailed, formal letter outlining his concerns with the situation in major league baseball and the President read it.
Q: George, the Orioles are playing the Rangers, the managing partner of the Rangers is George W. Bush. Is he going to be there, and is he going to meet with the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know.
Q: What is the Mubarak schedule?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that President Mubarak is coming tomorrow morning for a working meeting, they will have a lunch, and I believe that he is having dinner tonight with Vice President Gore.
Q: And joint statements tomorrow --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe so, yes. At the end, yes.
Q: Is there evidence, George, that the Egyptians did warn the U.S. about a potential terrorist bombing -- terrorist activities?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As reported in The New York Times, I mean, I think that President Mubarak did say that there has been general conversations with the Egyptians, as there have been for a long period of time. We do have general intelligence sharing, I mean. But President Mubarak was very careful to point out that there was no specific information on this visit that was passed forward. The President will continue to investigate the situation, but he also reiterates his belief that we cannot tolerate terrorism of any kind.
Q: George, he did make specific -- or the Egyptians, apparently, did issue specific warnings about this individual who, forgive me --this individual who, forgive me the name escapes me at the moment, and said the Egyptians were more or less rebuffed in their attempts to get some kind of action.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know if I would agree with your characterization of the Mubarak interview. He did say that they gave general warnings about the possibility of a network in the United States and upon which we took appropriate action. But there was no specific information on this specific operation at all.
Q: So, the White House doesn't feel that any of the law enforcement agencies whether it be the CIA or FBI who would have received this kind of information was lax or derelict in its duty in not pursuing some kind of --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, not at all.
Q: What's next with Serbia? It got only a passing mention in the news conference yesterday --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't get to ask your question.
Q: Yes, exactly. Was there any agreement on concerted action between the two countries? And even if there wasn't, what does the U.S. do next?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the U.S. is clearly going to move forward in the U.N. today continuing discussions with our allies on a sanctions resolution and we'll continue to look for ways to press the Serbians to come to the negotiating table and sign an agreement.
Q: George, why do you think sanctions is still an option? I mean the Serbians make it clear that at least the leadership is surviving just fine and they feel like they can wait you out and even the administration officials we had in the other day said there's no evidence that they're going to have an effect any time soon. The Bosnian Serbs have said no to the peace plan. When does no mean no and you have to do something different?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean we are doing something different. We're moving forward on further sanctions through the U.N. and those discussions will continue. We're going to continue to try and tighten the noose on Serbia, and I think that every opportunity we have to do that will have an effect over time.
Q: Are we looking again at lifting the arms embargo? MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has said that this is something that is under consideration.
Q: George, do you have any more on Hugh Rodham's condition, how he's doing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As far as I know nothing's changed.
Q: George, -- week after Mr. Mubarak?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a little unclear. I think we'll be able to get you more either tonight or tomorrow morning after the Mubarak visit.
Q: Is he going somewhere for Easter?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q: What more can you tell us about the additional aid to Russia that the President plans to ask Congress about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to be consulting with the Congress and with our G-7 partners over the next couple of weeks. I know that he spoke last evening with Congressman Gephardt and their delegation before the -- the congressional delegation meets with the Russians this week and those consultations will continue over the next several weeks.
Q: Do you expect that package to be of the magnitude of the one announced Sunday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to discuss the magnitude.
Q: How about the list of Cold War restrictions, where do you stand on that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As the President said yesterday, he's going to be looking for that list from the Congress this week and reviewing it. He believes -- he's going to try and get it this week and he's going to review the list, and we're going to take a hard look at it.
Q: But they're making it up? I mean it's no White House involvement, Congress is compiling this list?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he's going to talk to the congressional leaders about compiling the list but I'm certain we'll be able to get our own researchers working as well.
Q: George, isn't lifting the arms embargo more of a probability than a possibility?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's something that's under discussion.
Q: Secretary Christopher has said that it's a matter of time and -- for months before that happens.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, all I can say is that it's something that the President is reviewing. Right now we're working with our allies in the U.N on a sanctions resolution, and we'll continue to review other matters.
Q: George, can you tell us anything about the schedule this week? Any travel?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They just asked about that. I don't have anything more beyond tomorrow's visit with Mubarak right now.
Q: Are there consultations, George, with any Jewish American organizations concerning Jackson-Vanick?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know the National Conference of Soviet Jewry has a list of, I believe,
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- as you know, the National Conference of Soviet Jewry has a list of, I believe, 200 Refuseniks. We'll certainly take a look at that and continue appropriate discussions.
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by George Stephanopolous Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269296