Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President is going to be meeting with Prime Minister Major this afternoon, and they'll be taking questions afterwards.
Do you have any questions?
Q: George, do you have any reaction to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's decision to step down?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President had a good meeting with him two weeks ago, and we've had a good relationship with the Prime Minister; and has had good relations with the United States over the last eight and a half years. And we look forward to continued good relationships with Canada. I believe the President will be speaking with the Prime Minister later this afternoon.
Q: He hasn't spoken to him already?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: Will he call him?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, they've set up a phone call.
Q: Do you know if the Prime Minister talked about his resignation to the President when they did meet two weeks ago?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe so.
Q: Can you tell us whether any countries have given any indication that they would like to join in this airlift?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The consultations are continuing right now. They have not yet been completed. When they're completed, we hope we'll have an announcement.
Q: What about the objection of some who believe that this will only exacerbate the problem? Can you speak to that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that so far the consultations are going quite well so far, and we expect them -- as I said, they're going to continue. And if they continue to go well,
we'll have an announcement soon.
Q: How soon? You're not talking about today, are you?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so.
Q: Can you explain the rationale for giving aid to the Serbs as well, given that we view the Serbs as the aggressors?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that we would be directly giving aid to the Serbs. If some of it happened to spill over and people are in trouble, we're not against that. The primary sense of the mission, the primary purpose of the mission is to make sure that we get humanitarian aid to the Bosnians.
Q: We're not also going to be dropping aid in areas that we --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it probably will spill over -- it's likely that it will spill over into areas where there are Serbs as well.
Q: Is that an accident, or --
Q: Is that -- not instrumental and they're more or less acquiescing to this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I can't get into the details of the drop right now beyond what we've already said. But we will have an announcement soon.
Q: George, various military experts say it's impossible to deliver supplies with any accuracy unless you have --with air drops, unless you have people on the ground directing them to do them from a fairly low level. Since that apparently is not going to be the case, if you don't want to put pilots at risk, what's the point of the exercise?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We think we're going to be able to do the drops if we decide to do them in an effective manner.
Q: Why, given all of the military evidence that from 10,000 feet you cannot have any kind of accuracy -- you can get within maybe five or ten miles.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you're making some assumptions now which may or may not be warranted. But why don't we wait for the announcement, wait for the details, and then I can just assure you now that if we go forward with this it will be an effective program.
Q: Are you leading us to believe that you won't be doing it when from high altitudes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I'm leading you to believe that it will be an effective program.
Q: To follow up on your previous answer to Susan's question, we were led to believe yesterday that there would be a deliberate policy of dropping food on Croatian and Bosnian Serbian villages, as well as on Bosnian Muslim villages. Is that not the case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't want to get into the details right now. I don't want to necessarily steer you away from that, but we'll be having an announcement we hope soon.
Q: What do call an effective manner here -- be a spillover of airdrops into Serbs area? How do you define an effective manner?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Effective means that we will be getting food and other supplies to those on the ground who need it.
Q: And even to those who maybe don't need it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we'll see. We're directing it to the people who need it.
Q: George, would the United States like to see other countries also provide aircraft for this, such as Britain maybe?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we're in the process of consulting other countries right now. And, as I said, those consultations aren't yet finished.
Q: Is that for the purpose of trying to bring in extra help or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're talking about the whole scope of the exercise.
Q: And would part of the reason, George, for allowing aid to spill over to Serb and Croat held areas or perhaps targeting aid to Serb and Croat areas, be to limit the chance the Serbs might shoot at planes headed for Muslim villages?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we want to do anything we can to protect the safety of any pilots who might be on such missions and to limit the risk of any pilots who are in such missions.
Q: So if we spread the aid around that depoliticizes the entire --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I assume that's one conclusion that could be drawn.
Q: Are you concerned that there will be backlash against the U.N. workers on the ground because of this airlift?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me?
Q: Are you concerned that there will be a backlash against the U.N. peacekeepers who are there on the ground, as many of the U.N. workers and General Morillon have suggested that there likely will be --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I certainly hope there wouldn't be. And we're going to be making sure we devise a policy that is designed to prevent that.
Q: Secretary Aspin apparently is more ill than originally thought. What kind of provisions are you making to fill in for him? Or how concerned are you about his being sidelined --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually, he had a very --Secretary Aspin's doctors say his condition continues to improve. He spent a restful night last night and was up and about this morning. They are giving him antibiotics to combat the bronchitis, but he is doing much better according to his doctors.
Q: So do you expect him to be fully engaged and -- go ahead with Bosnian air --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He met with his staff this morning. I think he had his daily meeting with Colin -- General Powell this morning as well. So his is up and about. He is working. He's doing much better.
Q: Can we go back to Bosnia for just a moment? How do you define effective? And what is the goal of this mission were you to pursue it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The goal of this mission is to make sure we get the humanitarian supplies to the people that need it in Bosnia; that we are -- these people right now are in trouble. They need medical supplies. They need food. And we're doing what we can to get them those supplies if we go forward.
Q: Do you think that this mission as it's conceived by the military planners will be effective, despite complaints about inefficiency?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If we go forward, we will go forward with an effective policy.
Q: What kind of consultations are underway, George, with the Serbs in an attempt to reduce the risk --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't speak to the specifics of any consultations. We're just consulting on a very wide basis right now.
Q: So we can assume at this point that consultations are under, because --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn't say that. I said I couldn't speak to it.
Q: But if we, in fact, had talked to the Serbs already about possible drops in the Serbian villages, it would make sense that you would be talking to them about safe passage for these aircraft. Is that not correct?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just can't comment on the consultations in any specific way.
Q: with regard to Congressman Harold Ford, did the President read the letter written to him by Congressman Mfume?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that he received the letter from Congressman Mfume.
Q: Do you want to finish Bosnia first, George, please?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure.
Q: If you're concerned about the safety of the pilots, could you explain the rationale for not using the conventional air cover with the unarmed planes, please?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we have not made any final decisions on how this mission, if it were to proceed, is to proceed. And I just don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that at this time.
Q: Did last night's meeting clear up any questions about who would command the U.S. forces and whether further authorization is needed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was fairly clear from
what the Secretary General said yesterday that we don't feel, and I think he agrees, we don't need any further authorization from the U.N. We have the authorization we need at this point. And that we're going to work in very close coordination with the U.N. on any possible mission.
Q: Are you trying to guide us away from the previous guidance that there would be no air cover on this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: You're not changing that guidance.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I'm just not commenting on it.
Q: Could we go back to the question of the letter? You say you don't know that he received the letter. Do you have any indication that he did not receive the letter or that it got --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I checked with the Counsel's Office. They know of no letter from Congressman Mfume. They're just not aware of any letter. We did receive inquiries about the Ford case and the White House Counsel simply turned that over to the Justice Department and said that these were to be handled in the appropriate, normal manner, and that was that.
Q: Turned over to whom at the Justice Department.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it was probably turned over to Webb Hubbel.
Q: And would it fair for us to assume, given the Justice Department is part of the same administration, that the President concurs with what another branch of the administration has decided in this case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This was a decision that the Attorney General took on his own and did not inform us of that.
Q: Right, I understand that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't talked to the President about it, but he -- we are not seeking to overturn it at this time.
Q: Why would the White House turn letters, congressional letters, over to the Justice Department about a case that's in progress? Couldn't that raise the impression in the Justice Department that there was political pressure in this --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, we were trying to do precisely the opposite and say we have received these inquiries, but you're to handle this in the normal manner.
Q: You don't think that is evidence of some pressure, or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. It's perfectly appropriate if the members of Congress turn this in, just to turn this over and say deal with it as you would, and that was it.
Q: George, can we go back to Mulroney just a minute? Doesn't his sudden resignation have an adverse impact on the timetable for the NAFTA treaty?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily. We've had good relationships with Canada. We expect to continue to have a good relationship with Canada; and I know that they're moving forward on
their own transition, and we don't expect any holdup at all.
Q: Can I just go back to the Ford thing for a moment? I'm not sure whether I heard you correctly. You say the Attorney General did not inform the White House ahead of time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right.
Q: So that the first you knew about it was when it was publicly --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: And in saying that you're not seeking to overturn it, it would be fair for us to take the implication that the White House is comfortable with the way the decision --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: George, on the Justice Department, can you say whether there is any possibility that Stuart Gerson will be asked to stay on in the Clinton administration in one position or another?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know anything about it. Don't know anything about that.
Q: There is some suggestions that he might be looking for a place to land in the administration. Do you expect that that might happen?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have never heard any discussion about it at all. We can try and get back to you. I've just never heard any discussion.
Q: One other Justice Department matter. Yesterday there was a question about what position the White House was going to take on the question of retroactivity of the civil rights --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Counsel's reviewing it.
Q: Still under review?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: same topic -- you said they would have been turned over to Webb Hubbel. Why would he have been chosen to do that if you were handling it through the normal channels?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a normal channel. He is working over at the Justice Department now. We just informed him he is a contact with the White House. We told him these letters, these inquiries have come in. Handle it as you will.
Q: He's the White House contact at Justice?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's generally been, yes.
Q: Do you know, did Webb Hubbel then turn those over to the appropriate people at the Attorney General's office with no comment, or was there a recommendation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd have to ask Justice. That's what I would expect, yes.
Q: Back to Bosnia. Have any of the allies that you have consulted expressed concern about a backlash against their peacekeepers on the grounds, specifically --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The consultations have gone quite well, but I can't get into any of the specific details.
Q: On Bosnia. Did Mr. Boutros-Ghali ask Mr. Clinton yesterday to grant immunity to the leader of the Bosnian Serbs to allow him to take part in the negotiation in New York? Was the subject raised yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't even know if it came up. I mean, I can check, but I'm not certain that it came up.
Q: What's the President's position on that subject?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We believe he should be allowed to participate in the negotiations. That doesn't suggest any further --
Q: But that would --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it doesn't suggest any further judgment on the war crimes.
Q: But would that imply a kind of safe conduct or a guarantee for his safety?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know the details of that, but it would just be -- if he were, it would be limited for the purpose of negotiation.
Q: Have you had any encouraging signs from the Bosnian Muslims that they have now prepared to come back to the negotiation table in New York?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing new, but we're continuing to work on it.
Q: A quick follow-up to David on retroactivity. What's your sense of a timetable on when you'll have something to say on that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm just not sure. The Counsel is reviewing it right now. We hope relatively soon, but I just don't have a firm date.
Q: George, I have a budget question. Can you confirm that the administration now plans a formal presentation of the budget, not March 23, but in early April?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if the firm date has been set now. We're working on the timetable right now. We know that we want to move on the budget resolution as quickly as possible, hopefully within the next few weeks in the House and the Senate.
Q: Didn't a memo go out last night, though, that April 5 is the new date?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I've seen, but I can check.
Q: How can you have a budget resolution without a budget? Don't you have to have the formal budget on the Hill before you can ask them to pass a budget resolution?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, not at all. But we're --
Q: Not as a matter of law, but as a matter of trying to get them to sign --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's plan and blueprint was made pretty clear; we've had a lot of detail out last week. We intend to continue consultation. I think we'll be able to prepare a solid budget resolution.
Q: George, is there anything about the President's economic program that rules out the addition of further spending in the so-called out-years of this budget cycle?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not certain I follow you.
Q: In other words -- well, the point is you're proposing spending levels of one kind or another, and that would cover this -- and you're proposing some new spending and some spending restraint. We start this whole exercise all over again next year with another five-year cycle or four-year cycle. Is the President committed to not adding new spending next year?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're committed to sticking with the caps that we set. And I think the precedent for that actually is the 1990 budget deal. The caps were set for several years and they were stuck.
Q: So that's the plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the plan, yes.
Q: George, if you were to delay the submission of the budget until April 5th, what would be the reason for doing that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it's just -- if it were to be done, it would be just for more agency contacts. But I don't have any details on that.
Q: George, back on the Representative Ford case. As we understand it, Representative Ford had a private meeting with Jesse Jackson prior to Jesse Jackson's meeting with Mrs. Clinton and Chief of Staff McLarty. Do you know if Jesse Jackson raised the Ford question during that meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that he did not raise it in any meeting with Mrs. Clinton.
Q: How about with the Chief of Staff?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I don't believe so, but I'm not completely positive of that.
Q: On the economic plan, David Broder says in his column today that the administration's calculation on what -- who gets hit with the tax bite down to the level of $30,000 included things that most people wouldn't consider income, like the value of fringe benefits and the imputed rental value of a family home. And that if you just include income, that the tax bite goes down to families making $20,000 a year. Is that accurate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so. There's no definite way for each individual family to work out a calculation. Our calculation is a broad distributional calculation based on the increase in the tax, the energy tax relative to people's use. But you have to weigh against that the earned income tax credit, the food stamps, the low-income energy assistance, which would offset any possible increase. So there's no hard way to determine that. A lot of it would depend on the energy use of the family. But we think that for almost all cases, people under $30,000 would be protected.
Q: But wait a minute. When you talked about people under $30,000 being protected, that was in part, if not in large part, was it not, because of things for which such people would qualify that would make them, therefore, immune to these effects.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right.
Q: So you had to make some calculus as to their qualifying. Does that not, in fact, clearly limit the effect of this to people who are in the $30,000 and up range, or not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: For the most part, I mean, it will. If you're under $30,000 -- we figured out at the $30,000 level the average might be about $21 a year increase for a family.
Q: But when you say dollar level, does that mean families who make $30,000 a year, including the value of fringe benefits and the imputed rental value of the family home? Is that how you define --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It could include that. It's a definition of family income. But for any family, I mean, you're also talking at that level, that amount of money would be very small anyway. People would not be receiving great amounts of fringe benefits at those kind of salaries.
Q: resolution, George, would you tell us why you believe it would lock in members of Congress, since the budget resolution doesn't really bind them later?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it does. As you know, the Senate rules, it would take a super majority to go over any limits, which is very difficult -- it would be very difficult in this environment, I believe.
Q: Can't you do it with offsets?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You could do it with offsets, but then at least you're staying within the caps.
Q: Well, I know that, but an offset can be a tax.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, you can't go across. You'd have to stay within the cap. I mean, it has to be spending for spending.
Q: I though you were wiping all that out.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: I'm talking about the --
Q: As a follow, the budget resolution will be the blueprint for new taxes and spending, the stimulus vote after that is the new short-term spending. But is there any vote early on on the tax incentives part of it, or is that all --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The tax incentives?
Q: Yes, for business --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Those would be included in the reconciliation package.
Q: But that doesn't come until late in the summer?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know exactly when it will
come. It comes after the budget resolution.
Q: George, on Susan's question, I understand you saying that those kinds of fringe benefits and things that offset income might not make that $10,000 difference at the $30,000 level. But your computation that takes into account things that people don't include as income normally -- I mean, they don't pay taxes on their fringe benefits and everything. I get a thing from the Washington Post every year that tells me how much more they pay me, but I don't feel that much richer by it -- fringe benefits. That would apply to the $100,000 level as well, which would kick in a lot more people if your calculations include things like the imputed value of your house and your fringe benefits. Do you think that the American people should feel misled by your calculations?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but it doesn't include that for the income -- not in the least. Not in the least. If you look at the computation of the energy tax, it's going to be a relatively moderate tax based -- obviously based on use for families. We think for the average middle class family in the $10 to $15, maybe $20 a month range at the higher levels. I mean, the income taxes would not kick in at all for any families until you get to taxable income of $140,000 for couples and $115,000 for singles. I don't think it's misleading in the least. The only taxes --
Q: those numbers include the same things, though, don't they?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no.
Q: define our terms.
Q: You're talking about taxable income.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are different -- taxable income, which understates the actual income by vast amounts.
Q: That's true, but just $30,000 number isn't $30,000 in taxable income. It's $30,000 in what you're calling family income.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Family income.
Q: Which includes this raft of other --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the tax isn't -- and you all know this -- the tax isn't tied to income. This is just a gauge of the -- how the tax would largely fall. The only taxes that are going to fall on people who are underneath the income levels of taxable income of $140,000 for a couple are the energy tax, which is largely based on use. There's no sure estimate of how much it's going to be. Or for elderly couples who are receiving Social Security, some of them who are above the threshold of $32,000, which I believe is taxable income, would also receive the higher Social Security. There are no other taxes that fall in this group.
Q: Can we get a calculation from the Treasury Department that bases the distribution of these tax burdens in a way that people can correspond to what they think is their income, either --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think David's shaking his head. I think we can't.
Q: either gross income or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just not the way you can do
Q: Didn't the Treasury Department put out a table last week that said it kicks in at $20,000 taxable income?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They said there would be a small -- I mean, we figured out that, according to their table, at $30,000 the tax would be about $21 a year.
Q: But didn't they put out a table that said that you were not immune unless -- you were not immune above -- below $20,000 compared to $30,000, which was the White House --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the people in the under $30,000 in virtually all cases would not face any added burden.
Q: Thirty thousand what -- imputed income?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty thousand income.
Q: George, this calculation that Treasury uses for its distributional tables at this level of total family income, or I think economic income is what call it over there -- it's correct that this is the same distributional calculation that they've been using for -- it's not a number that was created --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no, we did not -- it was not created here. This is the standard distribution tables that were produced for the 1990 budget summit, for 1989, and for every one that I'm aware of.
Q: George, Senator Dole said today that the actions you took last night with the budget shows that you're running for cover, retreating because you know the entire package is in trouble. What's your response to Senator?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator -- the package isn't in any trouble, because there's no alternative to the package, least of all from Senator Dole and his colleagues in the Senate. They have done a good job of carping and whining, but they can't come up with any alternative.
Q: George, there was some criticism on the Hill today from Senator Johnson and others about the energy tax, and suggested maybe there should be alternatives to the energy tax. Is the energy tax a negotiable part of the package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the members of Congress will take a look at all the different provisions, and if they have some technical fixes or some suggestions on how it could be improved, obviously the President is open to their suggestions.
Q: But in terms of more than a technical fix, I presume that switching from an energy tax to some kind of national sales tax would not be a technical fix. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a safe assumption.
Q: Is the energy tax from the President's point of view an integral part of the package; that whether or not the calculations within it are changed, the -- remains?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As the President has said, he sees this package as a whole and he wants the integrity of the package maintained as best it can be. Obviously, within certain categories there might be fixes, there might be substitutions. But he basically sees the package as a whole.
Q: On spending cuts, some Democrats expressed an interest last week in paring rescissions for '93 spending with the stimulus spending. What's the President's position on that? And now that you've moved the resolution up, do you think that mollifies their interest in trying to do that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know. As the President has said time and time again, he's open to any suggestions for recisions or spending cuts. If they have suggestions, we'll certainly take a look at them.
Q: But cuts for '93?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll look at them.
Q: When is the President going to propose the next round of spending cuts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to look at them constantly. And as we discover them, we'll announce them.
Q: There were a bunch of cuts that the President, his advisers considered during the budget meetings that ended up not being put into the plan because you were concerned that it wouldn't fly on the Hill.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Really? (Laughter.)
Q: I have that impression. Has the political calculus now changed because of people on the Hill saying they want more cuts - -
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there's a great hunger in the country for making sure that this package is as credible and that we have as many spending cuts as we can get. And the President, and I think the Congress as well, are both eager to respond to the will of the American people on this. And we're going to continue to try.
Q: Well, does that mean that some of the cuts that you decided not to propose before may now come back?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I'm not sure. I can't confirm anything that happened in the discussions. But we're going to continue to look for real spending cuts.
Q: House Republicans are going to come up with a list in a couple of weeks.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And then they're going to put it back in their pockets. (Laughter.)
Q: George, will you look at it while it's out?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll certainly look at it, yes. And we're eager to. As you know, the President's going to meet with several House and Senate Republicans next week.
Q: Well, as you know, George, some of your top economic advisers were proposing eliminating, saving a big piece of change by eliminating the space station and the supercollider.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to start this game again. We're not going to one by one by one.
Q: What about Somalia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go to Somalia. (Laughter.)
Q: under $30,000 is immune from the energy tax, when they'll be affected by -- electric bills and gasoline --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Immune from the effects. We believe that the offsets; I mean we were always very clear on this presentation.
Q: It's not -- immunity -- offsets. I got it.
Q: Can you clarify what this incident was in Kismaayo, and how many people were killed, what the circumstances were? And also what, if you can, explain a little bit about what are -- what the rules are here as far as Marines opening fire.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I have no -- we have some sketchy details so far. We know there were demonstrations in Mogadishu this morning. We have heard the news reports about the Somalis who have been killed. I cannot confirm that on any independent level. We know that two American soldiers were injured. I don't have any further information on that. As you know, the American soldiers have --
Q: Were they soldiers or Marines?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure.
Q: There's a difference. Soldiers are Army; Marines are --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll check -- the American military personnel -- two American military personnel were injured. I'm not sure which branch of the service they were in. I just know there were violent demonstrations. They were probably incited based on statements that were false having to do with General Morgan from General Aideed. And the American soldiers obviously can protect themselves and are trying to maintain order as best they can.
Q: Before the inauguration, the President seemed to be fairly critical of the fact that the whole process of disarming the civilians wasn't clear when we went in there. What is now -- what is the marching order now, as far as disarming civilians now that he is President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The military personnel are supposed to do what they can to allow for the secure delivery of humanitarian supplies. I mean, if they are faced with a potentially violent situation they are prepared to respond.
Q: But beyond that there is no standing rule, order or whatever --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I refer you to the Pentagon for the exact standing rules, but that is the general stance.
Q: George, Robert Oakley apparently signed a letter or an order or an ultimatum, whatever you want to call it, to one of these factional leaders saying get out of town by noon tomorrow or we open fire. I mean, essentially that was the letter that I understand that Oakley signed. Is this an escalation of the rules of engagement? Has the thing changed whatsoever?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe so. I haven't seen anything on the letter. So I don't want to comment on it right now. But I can check into it and get back to you.
Q: How does this potentially affect their withdrawal plans?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As we said before, there's no firm timetable for the withdrawal. We're planning the transition for the U.N. forces, and we hope that it's going to be prompt. But it doesn't affect it in any way.
Q: George, let me ask you a question about Major's visit. Is the President still sore at the Prime Minister about what happened in last year's election? And how much of a strain has that put in their relationship and the relationship between --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: None whatsoever. He's looking forward to a good meeting with the Prime Minister today, and they're going to discuss a variety of issues and hope to maintain the good relationship between the U.S. and Britain. I don't know that the President never was sore.
Q: No hard feelings?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: None at all.
Q: Well, there were certainly some in the campaign team to whom John Major was not a favorite figure. Is that -- has the President put out the word that he wants any criticism silenced, or what?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He didn't have to. There's no problem whatsoever.
Q: When report came up about the files and the passport files and Major's political advisers giving Bush some advice. At least from the campaign there was some loud chagrin and anger about that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me go ask James. (Laughter.)
Q: Does he plan to press about Northern Ireland?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that's probably most likely to come up.
Q: It is likely to come up? Is his position still that there should be a human rights investigation and special envoy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we're willing -- we're going to discuss that and we're willing to look at the issue of a representative if all sides can agree.
Q: On what grounds would the President.
Q: For those of us in the nether reaches of the room, if you could sometimes look beyond the first row, I appreciate it. About the great hunger for spending cuts that's abroad in the land, how has this affected your appetite for asking for a certain kind of modified line-item veto, and what are your plans for doing that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has said throughout the campaign and still maintains an interest in some line-item veto, perhaps an enhanced rescission of some sort, and we expect to continue to look at that.
Q: Right. But are you doing to ask for it? Are you going to press for it? The opportunity is coming up in the next series of legislative --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President is still committed to it, and we'll probably have something soon. But I don't have anything firm.
Q: George, while you're back in the back of the room, we also can't hear back here, so I may be repetitive in this question. But how are we going in there with this airlift with the resolve that if our pilots are attacked or shot down, we will take appropriate action to respond with air cover or some other means of defending those pilots? They're going in with transport planes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about Bosnia? Again, I can't comment on a hypothetical situation about a mission that hasn't yet been approved. So I can just say that we're going to do what we can if we go forward and make sure that it's a safe and effective mission.
Q: George, is the White House expecting or working for a visit by the Bosnian President this week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have anything on that, no.
Q: There was a report that the Vice President had actually invited him, but maybe he's reluctant to come.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I can't comment on that right now.
Q: Two procedural questions, perhaps mundane, have come out of yesterday's events. Your announcement at 6:00 p.m. about the new schedule for Congress, most of us weren't aware of until some editor came over and waved a piece of wire copy in front of our noses. I was wondering why we didn't know about it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can be very clear on it.
Q: Can we be beeped.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We tried. This was -- try to balance this. We made the announcement immediately, literally after the phone call. We wanted to try and make sure that everybody who was on a tight deadline was able to get the information. If we would have had been able to give you more notice, we would have.
Q: Just to follow up -- and I have a second part of this -- even if an announcement has to be made quickly to meet network deadlines and things like that, even a beep to tell us that an announcement has been made, that we should check in, or something would be helpful.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair point. Yes, absolutely.
Q: We all have deadlines, especially at that hour, and we all need -- at that hour -- breaking information.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely.
Q: The second thing was, the readout after the BoutrosGhali meeting. What is the policy for readouts after foreign dignitaries visit here? According to the State Department, our State Department reporter who was here covering that, only when he became aware that a few reporters were going to be escorted upstairs to see Tony Lake and Madeleine Albright was there a general hue and cry that perhaps it should be open to a broader representation of news organizations. Why is there not just a general readout for everyone who is interested?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We will do that at times. Yesterday we tried to make it as broad as we could, but we're certainly going to try and make them as broad as we can.
Q: I'm sorry, why would you exclude some reporters from a briefing like that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We wanted to make sure we had a background briefing, and we've had some difficulty trying to figure out all of the ground rules for a background briefing, but we'll continue to work on it.
Q: If you do a background briefing here, it's available to everyone. You know, then we can all --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know there's been an awful lot of resistance to having background briefings in this room, and we're trying to work through that.
Q: You could say there's going to be a background briefing only if you agree to abide by the background briefing rules - - included. I mean, you could set a rule like that. But when you invite only a few organizations to join in a briefing, it puts the others of us in a great competitive disadvantage.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're trying to balance it. It's a good point. We'll continue to work through it. But, as you know, we've had difficulties establishing the ground rules down here.
Q: Can you tell us anything more about Monday's trip?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that the President is planning on going -- I can't announce the place yet. I hope we'll be able to have it by the end of the day. But it will just be a day trip.
Q: What day?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Monday.
Q: Anything later in the week -- for next week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at this point, no.
Q: What's the topic Monday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: National service.
Q: What's the topic Friday at American University?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to give a speech on the global economy.
Q: Is it going to be heavily devoted to trade or not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Trade will be one part of it.
Q: Is he going to have anything new to say about his approach to trade?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It depends on what you consider new.
Q: Well, you know, you've got state of play questions on GATT. There's --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that it's going to be
focused on trade or there's going to be specific policy announcements on trade. It's going to be more a broad conceptual framework.
Q: What do you mean by the global economy? You mean his arguments for economic change here because of the -- our need to fit into a global economy, or is there some new initiative that he's - -
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily a new initiative. Just more -- thinking -- been the conceptual framework.
Q: What's tomorrow look like?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow we'll be having an announcement with business and labor leaders here at the White House.
Q: What time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not set yet. I believe it's late morning -- 10:30 a.m.
Q: Is that the credit rules or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. The President hasn't made a final decision on that yet.
Q: What's the subject?
Q: I'm sorry. What --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Just for -- we're going to bring in business and labor leaders to talk about the economic plan.
Q: Oh, you said an announcement.
Q: made a decision on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The credit rules.
Q: What's the general announcement tomorrow?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think -- we're seeing across the country more and more support for the plan, and I think that the announcement tomorrow will just reflect that.
Q: One final question. Do you expect an announcement tomorrow after the Warren Christopher meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev on a summit with Yeltsin?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm just not sure yet. I expect that that's something they'll discuss.
Q: the credit rules mixed up with that other meeting? Would you clarify --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The credit rules -- no. I don't know if he's making an announcement on the credit rules tomorrow. I do not expect it. He is having a meeting with business and labor leaders.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END1:28 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269186