Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
2:35 P.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has just met with Russia's Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev and Russian Ambassador Luken. They had an excellent conversation about the forthcoming summit in Vancouver, the situation in Russia today and the very close and supportive relations between the United States and Russia.
The President made it clear to the Foreign Minister, as he repeated at several points during the last few weeks, that the United States stands firmly by those in Russia who are trying to remake their country and to bring democracy and free markets to that great and historic land.
When democracy is challenged, especially when it is challenged in a large and powerful nation such as Russia, it is critically important that the world's great democratic powers, and especially the United States, stand up for democratic principles and democratic leaders such as President Boris Yeltsin.
The President emphasized once again today that the United States is committed to a democratic future in Russia, a future of individual rights and free markets.
They also discussed the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit meeting in Vancouver. This will be the President's first official meeting with President Yeltsin, and his first trip abroad as President -- an indication of the importance of Russia to the United States.
The President has spoken many times about what is at stake for the United States as the situation in Russia unfolds. It is the chance to put behind us forever the antagonisms of the past that fueled conflict across the globe, an historic opportunity for our peoples to come together in business, in education and in so many other ways to help bring peace to the world.
Q: George, were you in the meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: It might be nice if someone briefed us who was.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, certainly I was talking to people who were in the meeting, and we can have other background briefings if you'd like.
Q: How much aid do you imagine bilaterally, and what kind of multilateral arrangements might be made. For instance, the unfreezing of the ruble destabilization fund. What other possible things can be done?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is developing those proposals right now. First of all, on a bilateral basis, what the U.S. would send to Russia for assistance, he is not prepared yet to announce those proposals, but as you know we are also working with the G-7 nations to come up with a multilateral program of assistance. But we have no details yet.
Q: And is the President expecting to call Boris Yeltsin in the near future?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wouldn't rule it out, but there are no immediate plans.
Q: What was the discussion in terms of Yeltsin's political fate? Was he able to give him any kind of an idea of whether he could survive against such opposition?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We had a general discussion about the situation in Russia, but the bulk of the conversation was planning for the summit in Vancouver. I would emphasize that this meeting has been planned for quite some time. And we are looking forward to the plans for Vancouver.
Q: But what did he really say about his position at the moment? Does he have any strategy to survive?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He does. I can't talk about the private conversations between Mr. Kozyrev and the President, but the bulk of the conversation was planning for the summit.
Q: The aid package that is under discussion, was that -- our only government-to-government aid, or would it involve some U.S. incentives to American businesses to invest in the Soviet -- or in Russia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I'm not at liberty to give the details of the package now before the President is prepared to announce. He's looking at a wide range of proposals for technical assistance and other kinds of aid that would reach the Russian people directly.
Q: So it's possible it will go beyond just a government grant of money?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wouldn't rule it out.
Q: Did Kozyrev indicate that he thought that the amount that the President has asked for thus far was sufficient, or did he feel that more was necessary? He talked about how difficult it was to sell this idea both to the Russian people and to the Americans.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that they had any specific discussion about the levels of aid. They did talk about the type of assistance that would be sent over. I don't know that there was any discussion about the specific amount that would be sent over.
Q: What did he indicate would be most helpful?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Any kinds of aid that would go towards reform and helping stabilize the currency and the markets.
Q: George, is there any sense that the latest meetings that President Yeltsin has had with some of his rivals -- Khasbulatov and others -- that that could represent an opening for a compromise? Are you encouraged by what you're seeing happening right now in Moscow?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't think we -- as we said for several days, we're not going to get into the business of commenting on each new development in Moscow as the situation unfolds. I mean, President Yeltsin has said that he wants to take this to the people. That vote will be on April 25th. That is something the President supports, as he supports the process of reform. But we're not going to comment on every new development.
Q: Was Russian oil discussed?
Q: But let me follow up --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sure it came up.
Q: Would you welcome a compromise between Yeltsin and Khasbulatov?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President has said he welcomes a resolution to these disputes. But President Yeltsin has said that he's taking this to the Russian people. He's proposed to do that. We support that process and the process of reform.
Q: A G-7 question. Kozyrev has said that he would like the United States to support the idea of including Russia as a member of the G-7. And has the President talked to other allies about this -- its impact and solicited their support?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe the President spoke this morning with Prime Minister Major and Prime Minister Mulroney of Canada. Those conversations went on this morning. I don't know if he's had any other conversations today. I don't believe that he has.
Q: What was the gist of the conversations?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The gist of the conversations were what can these countries do to help Russia? What can the G-7 nations do now to promote the process of reform and democratization in Russia?
Q: And did the President give Kozyrev any indication and whether he would support Russia's membership in the G-7?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if that specific question came up, but they certainly did discuss the issue of the G-7 helping Russia.
Q: George, did Kozyrev have any particular suggestions or requests on how President Clinton may help Yeltsin during this political crisis back in Moscow, or did he say it would best for the President to keep hands off right now?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the bulk of the discussion was about planning for the summit in Vancouver. Both sides are prepared to go forward with the summit in Vancouver. And this is a positive step.
Q: But did he have any specific requests on how the President might be able to lend some kind of political moral support to Yeltsin during this crisis --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q: George, President Clinton said yesterday that he would not call President Yeltsin or to contact him directly until after he spoke with Mr. Kozyrev. They have spoken. Do you know when President Clinton will be calling --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, there's no specific plans yet.
Q: Why do you keep acting like the situation is normal and all planning is going ahead when everything we read is that there is a real crisis in Moscow? You mean that that didn't come to a --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- I said they discussed the situation in Moscow as well.
Q: But, I mean, you act like everything is just atmospherically a-okay.
Q: Why aren't you panicking? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not in my nature. Both sides now are planning on going forward, Helen, to Vancouver and that's what we're working on.
Q: You mean that -- but it was discussed, wasn't it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The situation in Russia certainly was discussed, absolutely.
Q: George, can you tell us how, without telling us what the plan is -- how it's going to be financed -- through deficit taxes or matching cuts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President did provide for $700 billion -- $700 million, excuse me -- in aid to Russia in his budget. So that's already been provided for in his budget.
Q: Will that be the scope of the plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't want to give a specific number at this time but that's what we have contemplated at this point.
Q: To the extent that it exceeds that, if it should exceed that, is he predisposed to add to the deficit or does he want to see it pay for itself as you go?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, again, until we have those kind of proposals I can't comment on it.
Q: Did Kozyrev come in with any specific proposals that he'd like; any areas of cooperation that he asked?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't get into the specifics, but they did discuss the general proposal of aid for reform, for democratization including technical assistance.
Q: George, did Kozyrev explain why the Deputy Prime Minister in Russia said that the summit should have been moved to Moscow when he obviously is content with Vancouver? How there was a miscommunication?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that that necessarily came up but the position of the Russian government this time is that it's going to be Vancouver.
Q: George, I'm Evelyn Barr-Davis, editor of Highlights and Lowlights. I've been coming here since 1976. Yesterday there was utterly discrimination. I was not allowed in the press conference. In all my 17 years, I've been coming here on and off, this has never happened. They said it was only for regular White House correspondents. The President was saying he was going to tax the privileged few --
Q: What's the question?
Q: yet I'm not amongst the privilege few --
Q: What's your question? Question!
Q: to be -- I would like to know is that going to be the policy in the future? Or what is this? How come the rest -- this is utter discrimination here.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's press conferences will be open to the White House press corps, but I'll look into it.
Q: What about to others, who also come here from time to time? Why just them? What you should do is go by the people's tax statements.
Q: Is that a question? Question!
Q: how much you make on your writing. (Laughter). How much you make on your writing is important.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How much who makes?
Q: I'd be glad to show you my -- I'm in the very top bracket. Very high.
Q: Oh. (Laughter.)
Q: I'll be glad to show you a copy of my tax --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not. (Laughter.)
Q: I'd be glad to show you a copy of my -- is that going to be the policy? You have not answered?
Q: I think Bill Clinton wants to talk to you personally. (Laughter.)
Q: What is your answer, George? Is that going to be the -- that only the regulars are going to get into the press conferences?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you had better ask them.
Q: No, I ask you, then. What is the policy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The press conference will generally be open to the White House press corps.
Q: What about the other people?
Q: I have a question about gays in the military. Do you --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, something easier. (Laughter.)
Q: try to explain to us -- it was left a little unclear this morning, I think -- what did he mean to say yesterday by saying that he would not rule out changes in deployment?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that the President said anything new yesterday. And I don't think he did. What he said was that this was one of the issues the Pentagon is going to look into over the next six months, and he certainly would look at and consider any recommendations they make.
Q: He said he wouldn't rule out deployment -- specific deployment restrictions for gays. That sounds different to me.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's certainly not different from anything he's said in the past. I would point out that he said there are a lot of things that could affect the details of how this is done, what kinds of duty, or should any duty be off limits. He said that on February 5th. This is something he said in the past that he was waiting for the report from the Pentagon. He intends to wait for that report, and we'll consider it then.
Q: Could you explain then how any restrictions on type of duty would be consistent with his promise to end discrimination based on status?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The courts have long recognized that the Armed Forces can restrict duty, based on a number of factors -- whether it's gender, physical ability and age.
Q: Yes, but how would you know what the status is if you're not going to ask them? I mean, the policy now is you don't ask them when they come in, so presumably you don't know. So, if you don't know, how can you restrict them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right now, it is conceivable that you have people who voluntarily make their status known. But this is the kind of question that's going to be looked at over the next six months.
Q: George, will the White House send anyone to testify against the ban at the hearings next week before the Senate Armed Services Committee?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, this is being handled in the Pentagon, and White House people generally don't testify before the Congress.
Q: Well, would the Pentagon representative, then, argue in favor of lifting the ban?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Pentagon is in the midst of doing a review of this process. As you know, it begins on April 1st -- no, it does begin on April 1st with both an internal and an external team. And they're going to continue that review, and they'll report at the end of that review.
Q: Will anybody from the Pentagon be testifying at the hearings?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Ask the Pentagon.
Q: The administration will be -- the hearings in any form?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't know at this point, but I think you should check with the Pentagon.
Q: When does six months start? We've been told July 15th was when the report was due.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's going to give the report on July 15th -- get the report on July 15th.
Q: I didn't understand your answer.
Q: What do you mean by an internal and external --
Q: I didn't understand your answer --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll take Frank's first. The Pentagon is setting up two reviews -- one by the RAND Corporation, which is an external group, and another internal working group to review all the policies.
Q: George, can I follow up on Brit's question?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Ruth was next, then you can go.
Q: Oh, go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q: I insist, really.
Q: I wasn't clear on your answer to the question about how discrimination in deployment would be consistent with the President's position that people should not be discriminated against based on their status.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There are two principles the President's always tried to uphold. One is the principle against discrimination as a -- in service. He doesn't think people should be barred from service because of who they are. At the same time, he's always said that we have to balance that against the need to maintain cohesion and morale and order in the military forces. The presumption is against discrimination of any kind, but you have to balance it against the need to maintain military morale and order and cohesion. These are the kinds -- this is the kind of balancing test that will be considered over the next few months as the review is being considered, and this is what the President has in mind.
Q: The President talked about his view of the broad constitutional right to privacy yesterday. Does he think that that right includes the right to private homosexual conduct?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd have to ask. I haven't asked him that specific question.
Q: And does he think that there are other protections in the Constitution that -- as he suggested and it was obviously confusing and oblique yesterday. But what's his view on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Obviously? (Laughter.)
Q: Well, there are other constitutional -- Yes, I'll stand by that. (Laughter.) Whether there were other constitutional protections for --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think he did also say the -- the mention -- the freedom of gays.
Q: For homosexuals.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know if we've had that kind of detailed discussion.
Q: Well, if you could check on those things, because obviously --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President generally believes there should not be bars to employment. There should be no civil rights restrictions.
Q: Well, but had this comment in answer to Andrea's question, if you can bar people from entering then you could constitutionally bar them from -- and I'm just wondering if --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that he was making -- trying to draw the logical line between saying this was not a position that he necessarily holds; and after upon reading it, I found it's not a position that Senator Nunn necessarily holds either. I don't know that that was the correct characterization of his position, but it would logically follow that if you considered entrance -- I mean, a bar to entrance as unconstitutional then the rest would hold, too, with conduct. I mean, not with conduct but with different kinds of deployments.
Q: Well, but can you find out for us the answer -- since he used to teach constitution law; but what his views are on that subject?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: George, I want to follow up on Brit's question, because I'm a little confused. One thing Clinton has done clearly in this area is said that the military should not ask recruits whether they're homosexual or not, right? Now, if Clinton is now sort of doing this -- and saying that he would willing to -- (laughter) -- I got inspired by Ruth --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Lots of editorial comment -- (laughter).
Q: No, if Clinton is sort of suggesting he was willing to compromise --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President didn't suggest anything. He said he would look at what the Pentagon was recommending. So, it's wrong to confuse that with anything else.
Q: Okay, but I still don't get how, if the one thing Clinton -- it not asking recruits their sexual preference or orientation, then how could you restrict what kind of -- you see what I'm saying? It's just sort of like he had to drop what he's already done in order to do --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The recommendation has not yet come in on the policy from the Pentagon. There is no recommendation yet. He has said he will consider what they say before he makes a decision. That is reasonable. It is the right position for the Commander-in-Chief.
Q: Okay, but does he feel -- is his feeling on asking people their sexuality so not strong, but then the Pentagon came in and said, we think that we should not allow homosexuals to be on submarines, which is obviously what they're talking about; that he would then consider his position about asking recruits their sexual status?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so. He generally believes that people shouldn't be asked. But you still have practical problems, and that's what this whole process is designed to look at.
Q: So his feeling on that question is not strong enough that practical --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I didn't say that. I said that he is going to look at what the Pentagon has to recommend over the next six months.
Q: I'm a little confused, but I guess maybe it's just me.
Q: No. (Laughter.)
Q: I think you're onto something. (Laughter.)
Q: Back on Russia. Is it likely that there will be a G-7 meeting of leaders before -- on Russia anytime soon before the scheduled Tokyo summit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's less likely than having a meeting of the foreign and finance ministers, which the Japanese have talked about.
Q: There was a report from Tokyo that the Japanese would be ready now to have such a summit -- the leaders -- following a meeting at the ministerial level in April. Is it --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't seen the report. But the President has said several times that he's willing to look at any ideas coming from the G-7 to speed up the process of aid to Russia.
Q: Is the United States contemplating buying oil from Russia? Kozyrev made some remarks about that outside. Are we considering buying Russian oil?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's considering a number of options for assistance, but I can't comment on any of the specifics.
Q: Can you tell us what Clinton is doing today to try to fight off the Breaux-Boren Amendment, specifically?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he's had several discussions about the Breaux-Boren amendment. He's had several discussions with members of the Senate both last night -- I think today. I know that he definitely had a few last night. We're not exactly sure when the vote's going to be, but the President will continue to work on it.
Q: Will he be making calls tomorrow? Is he going to go up there, possibly?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about going up there. I wouldn't rule out making phone calls.
Q: Who did he call?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure exactly. I think he spoke with Senator Nunn -- probably spoke with Senators Breaux and Boren.
Q: What was Mr. Rubin talking about today when he said that over the next several days the administration will lay out its plans on imposing the energy tax and economic plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe he's probably talking about the submission to the Finance Committee, but I have to doublecheck on exactly the specific action he was talking about.
Q: It's nothing that you anticipate happening here.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I doubt it.
Q: Another easy one. South Africa announced today that it had at one point made six nuclear bombs. Your reaction? And is this the type of announcement that would pave the way for a de Klerk meeting with the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we've had longstanding concerns about South Africa's nuclear program for a long time. And we were especially pleased when South Africa joined the Nonproliferation Treaty and accepted the IAEA inspections. We welcome President de Klerk's statement today that South Africa has destroyed all its nuclear devices and is adhering strictly to the requirements of the NPT and will continue to do so.
Q: Is de Klerk going to be invited here? His Foreign Minister last week indicated that could happen.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have anything on that now.
Q: And were you told in advance about this? Did the White House know?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q: Do you have any reaction to China's opposition to U.N. action against North Korea?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we continue to be concerned about the situation in North Korea and hope that North Korea will abide by the IAEA agreements.
Q: What about China blocking U.N. action?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He reiterated China's opposition to the nuclear proliferation in Korea. We understand China's position. They think that the best way to achieve this goal is through patient diplomacy rather than sanctions, and we're in touch with them and have urged them to use their influence with North Korea to change its mind about withdrawing from the NPT and to comply fully with the nonproliferation obligations.
Q: Has the apparent collapse of the peace talks on Bosnia prompted any rethinking or any new creative ideas as to what the next step might be?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know that we're willing to accept your characterization of the talks at this time. We'll continue to work with all --
Q: Lord Owen was pretty much saying the same thing last night and today.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll continue to work with all the parties and try and reach an agreement.
QQ: Well, the parties are no longer even in New York. What are we -- what do you mean we'll continue to work with all parties? How are we doing this and what do you see as the next step if a stalemate continues?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that we any specific step at this time, but we'll continue to be in contact with all the parties.
Q: What's the meeting about with Kohl tomorrow and how does it go? Are you going to have the meeting, the lunch, the statements --
Q: Herb Kohl? (Laughter.)
Q: I don't think Herb will be coming down. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, not to be confused. (Laughter.)
Q: alert -- West German -- German, sorry.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The meeting is on Friday. This is a meeting that has been planned for some time. The President's looking forward to discussing --
Q: It's Friday.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, the range of bilateral issues between the U.S. and Germany. I'm certain that they'll be discussing the situation in Russia and the G-7 process of helping Russia. And the President will, as he has with Prime Minister Major and Mulroney, look forward to discussing those issues.
Q: And Bosnia, too?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm certain that will come up as well.
Q: George, how is Mr. Rodham doing? Are there any plans for the First Lady and Chelsea to come back to Washington?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there's no change in the situation that I know of, and I believe at this point that Mrs. Clinton is looking forward to coming back to Washington at the end of the week, but I'm not certain of that.
Q: Can you tell us about tomorrow's schedule?
Q: Can I make one more try at the gays question? If you're saying that it's a question that the administration is trying to balance out competing interests between what the Pentagon wants, what's necessary, what's doable and what the President's commitment is, are you saying then that the President --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's also got a commitment to cohesion and morale and order in the military.
Q: I understand that. But what you're saying is that the President's agreement, or the agreement that was announced when this whole thing started, that the question would no longer be asked about orientation; is it something which is also subject to negotiation if cohesion were to outbalance that? Am I making sense?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think I understand your question. But the President believes that who you are should not be a bar to whether you serve. And he obviously agrees with the policy and put forward the policy of not asking the question.
Q: But it's negotiable.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn't say it was negotiable. It's clearly the preference, and it's the policy of the military at this time. I'm not saying that it's going to change at all. All we're doing is waiting for the Pentagon to make the recommendations before we make any final decisions, and the President is open to looking at those recommendations.
Q: But it may be a bar to how you serve, not whether you serve, right? That's your position?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Our position is, we're willing to look at all of the recommendations that come from the Pentagon and we're going to take them seriously.
Q: So his mind isn't closed, and the possibility if the Pentagon were to recommend it under certain circumstances of revisiting the whole issue of whether or not someone should be asked -- he's not ruling that out?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not ruling what out?
Q: Revisiting the whole question of whether that should be reimposed.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that that will be looked at again. This is a policy that has been agreed to by all sides at this time. But the President is waiting until the review period is done before he makes any further comment.
Q: But, George, how could you separate people, or how could you bar a gay man from a certain category of service if you didn't ask him whether or not he was gay? How would you know?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, people do make voluntary statements. That is one possible hypothetical way that it could be done. All of these questions are going to be reviewed by the Pentagon over the next six months. The President will consider them as they're reviewed.
Q: So they would have to keep it to themselves? In other words, if you didn't want to be barred from a certain kind of service, you would have to stay in the closet -- under that rationale?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But we're not going forward with any rationale at this point. We're waiting to see what the Pentagon has to say.
Q: We're just all trying to understand whether this particular issue is open to negotiation. That's what we're trying to understand -- whether the issue of whether or not you ask someone his or her sexual orientation is something that could change under this new policy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All sides have agreed that the question not be asked. That is the policy of the military now, that is the policy of the U.S. government now.
Q: George, is it possible to have it both ways? In other words, when someone gets reported, you don't ask them if they're assigned to a specific duty -- anyone who is assigned to a specific duty will be asked in order to be assigned? Isn't that one way to handle this question?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Say it again.
Q: Is it possible that one way to handle this, or one way of being considered is that you don't ask someone when they're being recruited, but if they're assigned to a specific duty, that before they could be assigned to a specific duty you'd ask them then. Is that one possibility being considered?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I just can't comment on the hypothetical possibilities of how this is going to be done. All of these questions are under review, and we can't make any preliminary judgments.
Q: What would be the difference between gays now and blacks in the '50s that was justified -- treating people -- some people as second class soldiers or sailors if you allow them to serve?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that I accept any of the assumptions or characterizations that you put forward in the question. And we don't comment on policies that haven't been made.
Q: But the President said he'd be open to it and I'm just asking for --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President said he'd be open to hearing what the Pentagon had to recommend.
Q: And that he would consider it. And I'm just asking why, given that he things the armed services should be open to people based on -- and not excluded based on who they are, what would be the justification --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The military has raised serious questions about moral and order in the military. He is going to take their concerns seriously and listen to them and review them before he makes any final decision.
Q: But all the services at the same time, George, say this would be an administrative nightmare. I -- calls over to the Pentagon and I couldn't find anybody in the services who was in support of such a policy. I mean, is this a compromise that the President is offering the services to try to -- no?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would say once again that the President said he was -- he would look forward to hearing any recommendations that people make. If this was a recommendation somebody would make, he would review it.
Q: Can I ask a process question about multilateral aid to Russia? Are you -- (laughter) --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: I don't understand the consultation process. Specifically, meetings with Kohl, the phone calls to Mulroney and Major are those specifically --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the meeting with Kohl was set already.
Q: Is he specifically looking for allied agreement and he will have announcements next week before the summit on what he's going to propose or will that come after --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's conceivable but there's just no -- there's no set date yet. The President is in consultation with other allied leaders and we're in constant consultation with the other G-7 countries on the aid package. We do not yet have a date to announce.
Q: Before the summit, what can we expect -- an announcement of bilateral aid or can we expect something from Clinton on what his intentions, what his view is regarding the multilateral aid?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think it's clear yet exactly what we're going to be able to announce before the summit or at the summit. We are working both internally for bilateral aid and with our allies at this time. We just don't have any dates yet on when those programs are going to be announced.
Q: George, I want to ask you a question about another question the President answered yesterday, a serious question about keeping pork out of his spending program. As I understand it from talking with the Press Secretary this morning, the President has allocated certain amounts of money to federal agencies with no specific spending plans for that money at this point. And what he was saying yesterday is that he will make sure there's no pork in that spending, is that correct?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The letter from Mr. Panetta to Chairman Byrd is pretty clear that he's not going to support funding for those projects that have been put forward for those wasteful projects.
Q: How does he stop it?
Q: The money passes, how does he stop it?
Q: Line-item veto.
Q: Which he doesn't have.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Those projects aren't necessarily contained in the line of the legislation.
Q: Right. But he also said that he was for all these RTG things, ready-to-go project that the mayors had in mind and that was one of the reasons why he wanted to move ahead quickly because they had projects ready to go --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He will instruct the secretaries not to put them forward --
Q: What I'm talking about though is some of this money is in CDBGs, that the mayors have some considerable discretion over. They have listed some of these projects that have bubbled to the public surface have been on various mayor's lists of things that were on the ready-to-go list. Does the President mean to say now that if that money is voted, that he will try to interfere with the process of that being spent?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you're confusing probably two different issues. There are some that are line items that are in the federal budget. Those are the ones that he has control over. Those are the ones that he will not allow to go forward.
Q: And the others?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And the other ones, I think that there was a lot of mischaracterization of many of those programs by the opponents.
Q: Are you saying now that the parking garage and the other things that were cited are not real or what?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm saying that a lot of those projects were not necessarily characterized correctly by the opponents, the ones that are on the mayors list. The President's going to make sure that the ones that are contained in the federal documents are not funded.
Q: And the others he really can't control, though, correct?
Q: The fish atlases are not going to be funded?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's true. (Laughter.) It's a fairly safe bet.
Q: Even though it's an administration proposal?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service of something that they might want funded.
Q: This isn't the Fish and Wildlife Service of Bolivia, though; this is the one that's under the President's control.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. And he will review all the lists before they go forward.
Q: Can I ask you on El Salvador -- the general assembly that creates general amnesty for all the violation on human rights in El Salvador, what has is the position or reaction of the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Secretary Christopher has appointed a panel to review the Truth Commission report. We do not yet have a position on all of the amnesties. We're aware of the fact that the Salvadorans have acted, but we want to make sure we review everything.
Q: But they've acted, that's the law.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we're going to look at it.
Q: What's on the schedule tomorrow, George?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're still working, frankly, on the schedule at this time, and we'll have an announcement a little bit later.
Q: George, are you at all concerned about the stimulus package --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: Not at all? Not even --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's going to pass. The President, I think, has been able to convince, as he did the members of the House, a lot of the members of the Senate, that this kind of investment in jobs is important right now.
Q: George, related to that, do you think it's going to pass unchanged? Senator Cole is insisting again today in a press conference that unless the President is willing to deal, it's going to go down, it's not going to work? Is he going to bargain, compromise at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. We're going to defeat the Cole Amendment.
Q: Are you going to -- on anything else?
Q: Do you anticipate more Republicans support for your health care plan -- final passage, but throughout the process and budget? And if so, what are you doing to try to get that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it would be smart for the Republicans to support the kinds of health care reforms the President will propose. The American people are demanding that we act on health care, that we do something to control cost, and we do something to increase access.
Q: But Senator Dole and others are complaining you're not consulting with them enough in advance of release of the plan. Do you plan to do more than you've done to date on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm certain we're going to have more consultations as we get closer to the time of introduction. But I would also point out that the task force, the task force members and Mrs. Clinton have had extensive consultations with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Q: On health care, can you elaborate on what segments of the health industry are expected to profit the most from health care reform, and how would they be expected to pay for it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the President has -- we don't have a proposal yet to make. There have been profits in the insurance industry and the drug industry and this is something we're taking a look at.
Q: As a way of paying back, would temporary price controls in --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't comment on any of the specifics.
Q: Do you know it Mrs. Clinton plans to attend the task force meeting on Monday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't know yet. I would expect so.
Q: Is that list that was published --
Q: The Wall Street Journal is correct?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it's a list of people who have access to the Old Executive Office Building.
Q: Why aren't we on it? (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:05 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/269291