Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
2:31 P.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President is meeting with President Walesa of Poland. And he'll be meeting with other heads of state at the Holocaust Memorial receptions this afternoon. And I'm prepared to take questions.
Q: Stimulus package.
Q: George, there's some question on Waco -- let's see if we can clear this up.
Q: Janet Reno indicated, or the President indicated that in his briefing by her, she cited as a primary reason for going when they went is fear for the safety of children who it appeared were being abused and perhaps further abused. She has since indicated that there was apparently no fresh evidence of further --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: A little contemporaneous --
Q: abuse, which raises the question of, that being the case, why would that be cited as a primary reason for going then as opposed to waiting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there were a number of factors that the Attorney General, the President and the Director of the FBI cited as reasons to move on the compound. I think that even on Tuesday, the Director of the FBI, William Sessions also pointed to evidence of child abuse. And I think there is absolutely no question that there is overwhelming evidence of child abuse in the Waco compound. I mean, you had David Koresh marrying children. You had David Koresh sexually abusing children. You had kids being taught how to commit suicide, how to put guns in their mouth, how to clamp down on cyanide. That is child abuse by any definition of the word. It was continuing, it was going on.
As I said, we have no specific evidence that it was worse on Saturday or Sunday than it was on Friday. But there was also no expectation that it was going to get better. I mean, these kids were being held, and they were being held hostage, and they were clearly not there by choice, and they were murdered by David Koresh.
Q: George, was the President given to believe, perhaps that there was fresh evidence of further and continuing child abuse?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President was clearly told about child abuse in the compound. I do not know whether he was told it was specific instances that day, but he was clearly told that there was a concern to protect the children in the compound. That was one of many motivations behind the move on Monday.
Q: George, you're finished, right? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm glad you guys are getting this all worked out.
Q: Is the United States planning to seek a protocol to the treaty in order -- the Global Warming Treaty --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Global Warming or the Biodiversity?
Q: The Biodiversity Treaty -- in order to put in place the additional agreements?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we clearly are and now working with our allies and have circulated an interpretive statement on the issues of intellectual property rights. Those are in the foreign capitals now. They are being reviewed and we hope to have an announcement on that soon.
Q: But on the Global Warming Treaty, is the United States willing to seek either renegotiation or a protocol to follow in order to put the timetables and goals the President committed to today into a body of enforceable language?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is committed to the timetables and goals, as he said in his speech today. He also announced that by August he would have a complete review of the policy and an analysis of how it would be implemented. And I don't think I can get into that until that review is completed.
Q: But you make it international since the treaty doesn't have those goals and timetables because of the previous administration's reluctance to agree to it. Is he willing to try to negotiate internationally an additional protocol or a new treaty?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that the exact form of how that would take is going to be reviewed by the administration, and we'll have it done by August. That's why the President announced that today.
Q: George, it now appears that you may get some part of the stimulus package. Are you going to declare victory?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're going to wait and see what happens. The President's going to fight for every job he can get. He's going to continue to work, as you know, there are discussions going on in the Senate right now. We hope those discussions continue. We hope they are successful. The President wants to get summer jobs. The President wants to get the immunization money; he wants to get the highway money. And he's looking forward to a successful conclusion of those discussions.
Q: It appears that whatever you get it's going to be severely diminished from what you asked.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're working on that right now. Right now the minority in the Senate is blocking action on the President's full package. That is clear. They have the power to frustrate action, to block action to create jobs. We're working with them right now to see what we can get.
Q: George, does the President sincerely believe that Bob Dole is trying to keep people from working, as he said up on the Hill?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that the actions on the Senate, when they used the filibuster to create gridlock and prevent action on the jobs package, shows that fewer people are going to go to work this summer. I mean, the actions speak for themselves.
Q: George, if the President can't get this modest, self-described modest $12 billion package, how's he going to be able to push through the far more ambitious deficit reduction plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he already has pushed through the deficit reduction plan.
Q: He's pushed a blueprint, though. I mean --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's a big -- I mean, it was the quickest passage of a budget of any President in recent years. It was an ambitious package that reduces the deficit by $500 billion and provides for real investments. And we had great success with that. We hope we will continue to have success as we move through the reconciliation process.
Q: You don't see this jeopardizing --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. So far we've had -- the overwhelming pieces of the President's economic package have passed. We're going to continue to work on this jobs portion. We're obviously concerned that the minority in the Senate has blocked it. We're going to continue to work, and we're going to continue to work on all parts of the President's package.
Q: George, this thing, even if it does get by, if there is a compromise, it's going to be stripped down to bare bones, far less than he said was absolutely crucial. How can you stand there and say this is not a defeat?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What I can say -- every job we create this summer is a victory for the person who has that job. And that's why we're going to continue to fight for the jobs. We want to put people to work. That's what this administration's committed to. That's the motivation behind the jobs program and that's why we're going to fight for every job we can get.
Q: Can you honestly say at this point that the kind of compromise you're talking about now to basically it seems like save face -- you're not going to tell us that's a victory.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What I'm want to say is that every job we can get is a victory for the American people, a victory for the people who have those jobs, a victory for the communities that are going to benefited by the jobs that are created.
Q: But not a political victory for Mr. Clinton.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, this isn't about politics, it's about people, and it's about putting people to work. And that's what this administration is about.
Q: What about the President's political weakness, the perceived weakness on the Hill that the President is now vulnerable, that he can't get his programs through, and that he'll have difficulty with tougher issues, such as health care?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has put through his budget in record time. It's a budget of record scope. It reduces the deficit by $500 billion, as I said.
Q: It's an outline, it's not a reconciliation bill.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, a lot of other presidents whose budgets were declared dead on arrival might be happy to have passed their budget in six weeks.
Q: Since that time, George, is there now a problem in that he is perceived since his success on the budget, that he's now perceived as being vulnerable?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if I share that perception. We're going to continue to fight for the President's jobs package. We're going to continue to fight for his priorities. And we believe that the majority of the American people share those priorities and will continue to be behind the President and will lead to success.
Obviously, the President's staked out what he's fighting for here. A minority in the Senate is frustrating it. A minority in the Senate is blocking it. We are looking to work for as many jobs as we can get, and we'll continue to fight on the big issues that matter to the American people, whether it's jobs or education or the major health care review that we envision.
Q: Is the President doing anything differently as a result of Waco? Has he set into motion any new modus operandi in view of what happened in terms of his relationships with the Department of Justice or anything else? And has the investigation started actually by Treasury and Justice? Who's in charge?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I assume that the review has begun. As you know, the President has called for an investigation headed by Justice and the Treasury Department. They were working out the details yesterday, and we expect it to get started very soon. I don't know exactly what minute it's starting, but obviously new evidence is coming forward all the time.
Q: Is one person in charge over all of the --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Attorney General and the Treasury Secretary will run the investigation. I suppose it's possible they'll delegate the day-to-day operations to an investigator or someone of that sort. But they have the responsibility.
Q: What's the independent oversight that you talked about yesterday? Has that been worked out?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have the final details yet. I'd send you to Treasury and Justice. But there will be independent non-Justice or Treasury Department officials as part of the review process.
Q: George, has this episode done anything to alter the administration's faith in experts of this kind who purport to be able to make precise calculations of human conduct? The President seems to be taken with such expertise, and so does this Attorney General. Has this episode done anything to shake that faith?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think you can make blanket statements to a response like that. Obviously, you listen to the experts and make your best judgments. That's what the Attorney General did, that's what the President did.
Q: Does it strike anybody as odd, for example, the Waco Police Department was not in the group of people that participated in this decision?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I wasn't aware of that. I can look into that. But a lot -- it was the unanimous recommendation of the law enforcement agencies that we were consulting that we go forward. I did not know that the Waco Police Department wasn't --
Q: Is there not also a question raised when you've got the compound being guarded, in effect, by a bunch of people who are deemed so expert and so indispensable that they cannot even be rested, and that that comes forth to the President as one of the reasons to hurry up and act because they experts are tired?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not certain that that's a fair characterization. I mean --
Q: Well, certainly said that they people were not easily replaced and couldn't be stood in for.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely, and that's one of the things that the investigation, and certainly the congressional hearings, should look into -- the question of what kind of hostage rescue operations do we need; how can we assure that we have all the resources we need to handle situations like this. That's exactly what the review is designed to look at, these kinds of questions, to make sure that in the future we might be able to avoid those kinds of questions. I don't think that this is the time, though, to secondguess the decisions on the ground. Let's take the investigation, let's listen to what the congressional hearings come up with, and let's make the appropriate adjustments at that time.
Q: George, on another subject. One of the people, one of the leaders that the President is welcoming to the White House today, the head of Croatia, has referred to Israelis as Judeo-Nazis and has doubted the extent of the Holocaust. Is it proper to have someone like that welcomed to the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I have not seen those comments. But obviously the President would strongly disagree with those kinds of statements. It's outrageous. He does not agree with statements of that kind. And he clearly believes, as is evidenced by his dedication of the Holocaust Memorial, that this is something that we must remember profoundly to ensure that something like it never happens again. But those specific statements I have not seen them.
Q: It's been moving on the wires this afternoon. That's the source of it.
Q: George, speaking of Croatia, there now seems to be reports that the Croatians are fighting with the Muslims inside of Bosnia, which makes the situation even more complicated than before.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It certainly does. I mean, we want everybody to come to the negotiating table. We want the shooting to stop and the negotiations to continue. And obviously, whether it's fighting between the Serbs and the Bosnians or the Croats and the Serbs or the Croats and the Bosnians, it is all troublesome. It is not furthering the process of peace, and it's something we're troubled by.
Q: What does the administration view as the potential pluses -- and I understand no decision has been made -- what is the view of the potential pluses of lifting the arms embargo, given the situation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't want to go down that road while the decision is being made. As the President has said, that this is something we should consider, and we'll continue to discuss it with our allies. Clearly, that kind of an action might help level the playing field between the Bosnians and the Serbs. There is clearly an overwhelming -- the Serbs have an overwhelming advantage in artillery and other weapons. But I don't want to go into that in any detail at this time while it's being discussed.
Q? George, is there a sense that in the aftermath of some of these setbacks -- the Waco business and the jobs bill up on the Hill and this frustration over Bosnia -- that the President is losing some of the early political momentum he had when he pushed through the budget resolution in record time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Wolf, I think we're in this for the long haul and the President's going to continue to fight for his priorities and he's going to continue to fight on the Hill and we look forward to many more victories and successes for the American people up on the Hill. I don't know that I would agree with the characterization of your question, but the answer is we're going to keep on fighting every day.
Q: These are setbacks?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I mean, the jobs bill isn't done yet. Clearly, we have not gotten all that we wanted. The President will continue to fight.
Q: The outcome of Waco is not what you would have wanted, obviously.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think the outcome in Waco is the outcome that any American would have wanted. At the same time, I don't believe that the outcome in Waco -- the deaths in Waco are the responsibility of David Koresh. Something that I think the American people clearly understand. David Koresh was the murderer in Waco; David Koresh is responsible for the lives that were lost.
Q: One more question -- are you doing anything differently now in the aftermath of these incidents to try to regain that political momentum? The last time after the gays in the military business in the first few days of the administration you set up the war room and you brought in Begala and all of that. Are you doing anything now to try to regain the momentum and gear up for the health care reform?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're working very hard on health care right now, as you know, in preparing for the final decisions and the introduction of the health care plan in May. We're going to continue to fight on that. We're going to continue to fight for all of the President's priorities over the coming weeks and months. And we're just not going to stop.
Q: On Waco, what regrets does the White House have, if any, about the President's statements on responsibility and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that if you take all of the statements in context, the President was clearly taking responsibility from the start. I think it's unfortunate the perception that got out there and I suppose that if you look back on it and say, should the President have had a more public statement on Monday night, that might have been better.
At the same time, the President clearly explained that he did not feel it was appropriate until he had certain knowledge of what was happening with the lives on the ground that he could go out. It was a judgment call. If it was a mistake, then it's something we certainly take responsibility for. But the President was very clear on taking responsibility for the government's actions in this case. He was also very clear on the fact that David Koresh must take responsibility for the deaths.
Q: What do you hear from the public on this subject, if anything, in the comment offices and so forth? What is the feedback?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The only thing I know is what I got from the Justice Department and they sent over to us this morning. It said that 80 percent of the phone calls and letters were in support of the Attorney General.
Q: Would the purpose of repealing the embargo on arms for Bosnia, the Muslims, be to enable them to try and recover some of the 70 percent of their country that's been seized by Serb militia? Would it be to enable them to protect the few remaining enclaves that they still hold? And if it would be merely to protect the little bit of their country they still hold, don't you run the risk of there not being much left at all if the embargo is not repealed quickly?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think our goals remain the same: We want a cease-fire; we want people at the negotiating table; we want an agreement. We're going to continue to further and discuss a policy that will advance those objectives. That's what we're looking for.
Q: To carry that further, then the purpose of them -- providing them weapons would be to advance the possibility of a cease-fire? In other words, to --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All of the objectives. We want the aggression to stop. We want the fighting to stop. We want an agreement in place and we want everybody at the negotiating table. This is one possible tool that is being considered by the administration, it's not something that has been decided.
Q: A possible tool in the sense it would make it more difficult for Serb militia to advance?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Presumably, it would do that. It would it also increase the pressure to come to the negotiating table.
Q: Back on Waco. Between the time that the President talked to the Attorney General before the fire started and when they spoke at midnight, did the Attorney General try and reach the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: She didn't try to call him at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that there was an exchange of phone calls sometime late in the evening between the two of them. There was nothing in the afternoon. But it was just one of those games of back and forth, as far as I know.
Q: When did she try to call him?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe he tried to get word to her, she tried to call him. And I don't know the exact time they connected, but I know it was late Monday evening.
Q: He tried to call her first?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Had word to her that he was trying to talk to her. I don't know exactly how the message was relayed.
Q: Why is it appropriate for her to come out and make the public statements, but the President didn't feel it was appropriate for him to do it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It was just something he was concerned about. We were getting a lot of different information at the time. She made the judgment that she wanted to go out and do the press conference. That was clearly, certainly within her power to do, and she did a very good job at it.
Q: If it's not appropriate for the President to do it, why is it appropriate for the Attorney General to do it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that that's a decision that she made and a decision that the President supports. I mean, the President said very clearly his reasons. And I also just said that whether that was a mistake on our part is something we have to take responsibility for. But the President has been clear on taking responsibility for the government's actions in this case, and he has also been clear on supporting the Attorney General on that matter.
I would also point out that even at noon on Monday, from this podium when we took responsibility and the President took responsibility, that was before anything had even gone wrong, before the fires had started. I mean, we were not distancing ourselves in any way, shape or form.
Q: Back on the stimulus plan. Does the administration have any regrets that you've expended so much political capital on a plan that's turning out to be so small?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we would have already liked to had the money in the pipeline and going out already. Certainly, we wish this would have gotten done much quicker, and we wish we would have gotten all of the funds that the President first requested. We think this is an important package to create jobs. We think it should have been done quickly. Obviously, the fact that it hasn't been done that quickly and in full measure is something that we regret.
Q: Why was it such an important package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think there was clearly an attempt on the part of the minority to turn this into a political fight. The President believes it's important to create 700,000 summer jobs. The President believes it's important to create jobs by investing in highways and mass transit. The President believes it's important to immunize kids this summer. The President believes it's important to have waste water treatment that will both create jobs and clean up our communities.
All of the priorities created in that package are priorities that the President believes will help the American people and create jobs, and that's why he fought for them. It's certainly a worthy battle to fight for the jobs of the American people. That's why the President was elected and that's what he's going to continue to do. And if it costs him some political capital, so be it.
Q: On Bosnia, since the President is engaged in a decision-making process, can you give us some idea of when this process will end? Is it days, weeks, can you give us some finite --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have a specific timetable. We're in consultations now with our allies where, as you know, we've had -- the President met with his national security advisors yesterday. Those kinds of consultations will continue. He talked about the Bosnian issue with President Havel yesterday. I assume it will come up in his meetings today as well. He'll continue the discussions and as soon as we have something I'll let you know, but I just don't have a hard timetable now.
Q: George, back on the stimulus. My understanding of the White House authorized proposal today is about a $6.8 billion package with anything over $4 billion paid for with rescissions for '93. Not true?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can say in the general outlines of the plan, first of all, we received plans from certain Republicans both last night and today, which we responded to. And the President has indicated a willingness to pay for portions of the program, and we're looking at the overall scope of the program as well. But Senators Dole and Mitchell are in discussions right now. The one you pointed out to me just doesn't sound familiar.
Q: If I could follow up -- if you pay for certain portions of the program, where would those rescissions come from? And secondly, if you're actually paying for it, aren't you losing the idea of a stimulus?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know where the rescissions would come from. Clearly, this is something that would be part of the negotiating process. At the same time, our argument has been that we wanted to have a stimulus and a jump-start to the economy. And we've also said we want to create jobs. And these funds will create jobs if they can go out into the field now, and that's our goal.
One more time -- I mean, the President wanted his whole program. He's fighting for every job he can get. The minority --the Republicans are blocking it. We're going to fight for what we can get.
Q: Just back on Waco for a minute -- how does this affect the outstanding -- the review that, I guess, is still outstanding of Judge Sessions? Does the President have full confidence in him because of his actions during the siege?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think there's any relationship between the two at all. The Attorney General has said she wanted to have a complete and thorough review of the file and the report on Judge Sessions. And she'll be making a recommendation to the President once that's complete.
Q: Was there any discussion, though, of the difficult situation he was in during this? Here you have a guy who's tenure is very uncertain directing these events.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, that wasn't a factor.
Q: George, when you say that the Republicans turned the jobs bill into a political fight, do you dismiss the Republican claim that they were trying to keep the deficit from growing bigger, that they had legitimate concerns about deficit spending?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that if you look at the record on deficits over the last 12 years, it's not much to point to. And the President has come forward with a deficit program that reduces the deficit by $500 billion.
Q: George, didn't the President say yesterday that these are the people that took the national debt from $1 trillion to $3 trillion?
Q: Four --
Q: Well, whatever. Under his plan, if all the numbers add up the way he says they will, will he not also add a trillion to the national debt?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are because of programs already set in place. What he's doing is turning it around. And he's bringing the deficit down when it has been going up. You can't get rid of --
Q: How can you fault the other guys for raising the national debt by trillions when you're going to add a trillion yourself?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It happened on their watch, first of all, and we're bringing the deficit down.
Q: Well, I know, but what about what's going to happen on his watch by his own numbers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's because of the policies laid out in the past.
Q: George, if I could go back to what you said earlier on the stimulus. You said that the President indicated a willingness to pay for certain parts of the program. Can you talk a little about numbers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have any details or numbers at this time. He just indicated a willingness in principle to pay for certain parts of it, and if -- those discussions are going on now and I just can't comment beyond that.
Q: George, did I just hear you say that the $900-andsome -billion in debt that the President plans to add over his four years are due to the policies of the past?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of the policies of the past. The interest payments continue to rise -- absolutely. He's bringing the deficit down.
Q: Is this not debt that the President has proposed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the debt -- the debt will increase. He is bringing the deficit down. I mean, there are a lot of policies in place of either, one, uncontrolled spending or, two, interest payments on the debt which will continue to add onto the debt every year. We are turning that around. We are reversing course. And it's a start. Will it get done overnight? No, it will not. But he's certainly making a start at it.
Q: Let me just follow up on that, the debt? In addition to Specter, has the President spoken with other Republican senators today or yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think he's spoken to any other Republican senators today. I think he spoke with Senator Cohen on Monday. But there's been a lot of contact by members of the staff.
Q: Does the President agree with Vessey's judgment that that Russian report is authentic but inaccurate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, he met with General Vessey this morning and received a report on the General's trip to Vietnam. We're still analyzing the information on the document -- DOD is analyzing it. We're also going to take the information that General Vessey brought back and do a complete review. So I don't think we have a final judgment at this time, but certainly General Vessey makes a lot of good points.
Q: Is there any movement on relations with Vietnam after this meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're going to continue to review the document as it comes in and we're going to continue to review our relations with Vietnam. But until we have a full and complete accounting of the POWs, we can't move forward.
Q: George, on global warming, is the President committing to not only reducing emissions levels to 1990 levels by 2000, but is he going to maintain them at that level after the year 2000?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The commitment is to hit it by the year 2000. I assume that will be part of the review. Frankly, I don't know about the out-years after the year 2000.
Q: Environmentalists argue that basically it's a drop in the bucket and not getting him very far if you simply allow them to go back up afterwards.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's certainly a concern we'll take into account. I don't know that that would be our goal to have them go back up. Clearly, we want to get greenhouse gasses under control. But when the President's full review is done by August I'm certain that will be contemplated.
Q: Has the President made a decision on that issue yet, whether he's going to commit to a cap by the year 2000?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know we want to hit the targets 2000. I don't know the answer to that. I think Marla can deal with it.
MS. ROMASH: The commitment represents, one, a commitment President Bush was unwilling to make, to set specific targets and timetables on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The way to reach those levels -- I mean, it's not as though we are all of a sudden in the year 2000 going to start increasing greenhouse gas emissions. There are strategies that will be in place that will continue to lead toward decreased emissions.
Q: Marla, is that a yes or a no? Is it a cap?
MS. ROMASH: Right now we're talking about stabilizing at 1990 by 2000, but recognizing that we need to work long-term to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: So, basically, it's just a you'll try after the year 2000?
MS. ROMASH: Well, no, I think it's stronger than you'll try. And the environmental community knows well when we talk about stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: If "we'll try" won't do what's the word --
MS. ROMASH: The answer is we are doing what no other administration has done, what Bush refused to do, and set specific targets and timetables.
Q: What is the enforcement mechanism and what is the actual goal?
MS. ROMASH: Well, I think the enforcement mechanism you'll see probably or you may see in whatever gets produced in August. What happened in June at the Earth Summit was that because of the Bush administration's opposition these targets and timetables were removed. However, other countries had already started working -- you had raised the issue -- on protocols and other agreements that would put it back in. That remains an open question on whether or not that will happen.
Our commitment is to take significant action to reduce CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2000 at '90 levels, but obviously to look beyond that at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: Does this have to be done by legislation -- I mean, how do you reduce --
MS. ROMASH: Some it may require legislative, some may require other means. I mean, some of it --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is all part of the policy review that will be done by August.
Q: I know, but in order to explain to people what he is saying today, we can't just say this vague --
MS. ROMASH: It speaks to a broad commitment by the government to reach specific targets and timetables. When in the past, our government has simply said, we'll try; we're saying we're going to do it.
Q: George, just to follow up on that, to get something clear. There's a meeting of ministers in Geneva, I think before August, on the issue. Will the United States press at that meeting for any kind of -- either pushing language to add to the -- take away some of the loopholes in the treaty and to put these kinds of goals and timetables into international law?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I mean, let's have Katie get back to you. I just don't know.
MS. ROMASH: They're ongoing meetings related to the climate convention that was signed in Rio by the countries that signed and others who continue to study global warming.
Q: There's one in Geneva this summer. I think it comes before August --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll take the question.
Q: George, while we're on the environment, on the Biodiversity Treaty, when you talked about these understandings, is that something that the U.S. can do unilaterally, or are you saying that that's something that has to be negotiated and other countries --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're negotiating with other countries, and they have the interpretive document now. And we're consulting with them. And, yes, we hope to get an agreement.
Q: When is he submitting it to the Senate?
Q: What happens if they don't buy into the interpretive document?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean, I can't speak to every instance of what would happen. It's clearly something we want to get agreement on.
Q: But will we take back our signature? Do we say, never mind, we're not playing by these rules? How does it work?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it's something that we're going to continue to fight for on the side.
Q: George, will the President go ahead and sign the Biodiversity Treaty before these interpretive documents are all signed off on, or this has to be -- do these documents have to be signed off on before --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that we're not going to actually sign until the documents have been reviewed by all the foreign governments.
Q: He's not submitting it to the Senate for ratification now?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe so, no.
Q: There's a June deadline for signing it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm certain we'll beat the deadline.
Q: Can I ask a little a bit about Russia? The events in Waco and Bosnia have taken a little bit of the attention, but in four days, we're going to have the plebiscite in Russia and Vice President Rutskoy and the Speaker really tearing into Boris Yeltsin and his people; it's going to be a close call. Does the President have a task force prepared in case Yeltsin does not win the referendum?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is continuing -- he's obviously following the elections quite closely. He believes that President Yeltsin is the best hope for reform. And obviously, his national security team is also following the events very closely. And we will continue to watch it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:04 P.M. EDT
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/269310