THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
The Briefing Room
2:45 P.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Any questions?
Q George, the President, when he was asked if he had a firm commitment that at the end of the six-month period, he would sign the executive order -- and he said, I don't expect to change my position on it. Is that intended to leave the door open to the possibility that he could be persuaded that the problems, the dilemmas are such, that there should be -- maintain some restrictions on gays in the military?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it speaks for itself. The President has a policy. It's a policy based on a principle. And he doesn't intend to change that policy. Right now, we have the review to undertake.
Q If I could, I want to you ask you again a question I asked you the other day. The President referred several times to a strict code of conduct. Does he contemplate the possibility of a dual standard of conduct -- one code to govern heterosexual troops and another code to govern homosexual members of the service? Or when he refers to a strict code of conduct, is he talking about neutral rules that would apply across the board to sexual conduct by all troops?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first of all, there has to be a strict code for all troops. There's no question about that. That said, it's not impossible that there would be different rules to apply to different sets of people. That's not impossible. It's very easy to contemplate -- would have different sorts of assignments, different situations for the different sets of people. But that's precisely what this review period is intending to study.
Q Isn't that, though, what the California court intended to strike down?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so. The California court was very careful in sticking to status as the reason for not having any discrimination.
Q You said sort of sounds like --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, because it --
Q -- based on status.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it would lead -- because it implies different forms of conduct. I mean, this is clearly a complicated area, which is why we need six months of study to go through it.
Q George, can I ask a real quickie on the Palestinian deportees? Any progress made on that? Have you accepted any of the Israeli compromises?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, Secretary Christopher spoke with Prime Minister Rabin this morning. It was a very good phone call. We're continuing all of our diplomatic efforts right now. And we hope they're successful.
Q What sort of compromises are you suggesting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't go into the details of the diplomatic discussions, but they are going on right now.
Q George, -- the fact that the order today is an interim order and the fact that it leaves open a number of questions about how disciplinary proceedings would be handled, what else about this compromise is in the category of things that were not the way the President would have had them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. He said that he is for an executive order and the ban, but it's been put off further down the road during this period of study. I think that he's very pleased with the fact that the question will no longer be asked. He's very pleased with the stay in continuances. I think that it's, as he said, we had a lot of discussion over the issue of what happens to people in this interim period who simply declare themselves or are acknowledged homosexuals.
Q He would have preferred that they be off the hook.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Prefer that we just have no change at all. I mean, a change from current policy, but that they not be put in any different set of circumstances.
Q And those who are already by virtue of status alone, already under proceedings would be excused from those proceedings.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They would be stayed.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. Stayed, I think, is better than dropped. And in this case --
Q But that's what he wanted to do.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- I think that that would be preferable to having yourself go all the way to discharge and then having the discharged suspended and put in reserve.
Q Could you elaborate on that? How does he justify that? I mean, what -- that seems like a major concession. Apparently the Joint Chiefs are quite pleased with this notion.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there's no question; the President said that he didn't get everything he had hoped for. At the same time, let's look at what the President has achieved here. Number one, he has maintained the principle. And he is issuing, intends to issue an executive order in July. Number two, the question will no longer be asked. That is a step in the right direction. Number three, the court cases will no longer -- will be stayed. They will not proceed. At the same time, he has preserved the principle that no one will be discharged for simply being homosexual. Remember, if you look at the policy closely, they will go up to the point of being discharged, but they will not be discharged; instead, the discharge will be suspended, and they will be put in the standby reserve. They will not be thrown out of the military.
Q -- solely on status, not on conduct.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Solely on status.
Q But you can be put in standby reserves solely on your status.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q -- separated from active duty --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's separated from active duty, but it is not being discharged; it is not being formally discharged. He has preserved the principle that people should not be discharged.
Q But that's only if the attorney general intervenes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the attorney general will suspend the discharge. They will not be discharged.
Q Or does that person have the obligation to appeal to the attorney general? In other words, how does the attorney general get into the case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: These cases -- this only applies, first of all, in contested cases. So by the very fact that it's being contested suggests that there will be the opportunity for the attorney general to get involved. I can say the attorney general will suspend the discharges. People will not be discharged during this six-month period. They will if it gets to that point, go to the standby reserve.
Q The state says the attorney general can suspend. It doesn't say --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that that is contemplated.
Q George, how does it square with the --
Q The standby reserve is nonpaid status.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's true.
Q So, I mean, you've been emphasizing they won't be discharged; but in effect, they will be losing their job;t hey will be losing their pay; and they will be losing their livelihood. Is that not true?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: For a short period of time, they will have the opportunity to have all of that restored if the law is changed.
Q How does it square with the California decision that the President welcomed? Doesn't that fly in the face of yesterday's ruling, that people strictly on the basis of status should not be --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Discharged. And these people will not be discharged.
Q But could I also ask you, on page two of your release, you say the President intends to issue an executive order July 15, lifting the ban. But the phrasing here is, should the current policy be changed? And this is a White House press release. You seem to leave open in your press release whether, in fact, it will be changed --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I think the President's words speak for themselves. He intends to issue this executive order.
Q -- phrasing -- is this wrong, this phrase?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not saying it's wrong. I don't think it's necessarily inconsistent.
Q But how does that uphold the principle, his oftstated principle that people should be able to serve in the absence of improper conduct --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President intend --
Q -- given that for this period of time at least, these people will be punished for their status?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There is no question that this is a compromise. The President said quite clearly he did not get everything he hoped for or everything he worked for. He intends to issue an executive order that would have no discrimination based on status in this interim period. It was very important to the Joint Chiefs and others that we try to maintain current policy as best we can for the purpose of maintaining morale and discipline, which has also been an important goal of the President's. And this is the best way to get from here to there.
Q But a compromise -- I mean, exactly what did the President get that he wanted?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: First of all, we are not going to have the question -- let me go through it again.
Q But the services already agreed not to ask that question. They said that was not going to be a significant problem for them. What -- any sticky, difficult issue that the President felt strongly on -- what did he get in this compromise?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The judicial cases will no longer go forward. They will be stayed. You can say now that it's not a sticky issue, for the question not to be asked. Up until yesterday, the question was always asked. This is a significant step in the right direction and I think that's undeniable.
At the same time, the President also believes and is deeply committed to the other parts of his legislative agenda. He was not willing to gum up all of Congress for this issue -- he believes that we should go forward.
There was a great risk that the family leave bill would be held up and it would be stopped or blocked at least for a time period. We had every indication that the Republicans would continue to add this on to every single piece of legislation -- on the economy, on education, on health care --
Q It still may.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we think that now we have the means to go forward and the votes to go forward, and to keep this issue off the table as best we can for the next six months. That is an important principle.
Q What about, though, in six months? I mean, he's not planning to change his mind.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President intends to issue this executive order.
Q George, if he doesn't have the support for it at that time, at the end of six months, will he issue the executive order, even if it's clear that Congress will override --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's see what the situation is after six months. But the President intends to issue the executive order. We're going to learn a lot about how this can work over the next six months. And I think we should all watch the process.
Q Can you talk at all about what you might do over the next six months to help solidify and build public support for an eventual order?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first of all we're going to join in the consultation process with the Congress and the military to study the issue and to learn about how all these authority issues can be resolved; I mean, one other thing that I think is important and got lost here in the last couple of weeks is that the President is proceeding on a narrow principle, and that there were a lot of suggestions about what his policy might imply that he doesn't intend at all. But it's the kind of thing that has to be looked at during this review period.
Q Just to follow up, do you think the President would speak out a lot in the next six months on this issue?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President's going to start speak out right now on his economic plan, on his health care plan, as he said in his statement on national service and his other legislative priorities.
Q Does the White House or the administration send any kind of message or have any sort of contact with people who are stayed, who are in this position where they'd lose their jobs and are wondering whether through the hearings and process, wondering whether they are going to get their jobs back on July 16th?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of. I would also say that this is going to apply to a very, very small number of people. You're talking about situations where it's solely based on status, where it's acknowledged. I would expect that it just wouldn't apply in that many cases; I mean, I can't put a number on it, but we don't contemplate any kind of mass action.
Q George, the President said after the election that he didn't think people should have to lie about who they are. Isn't he, in effect, asking them to continue to lie about who they are at least by silence during this six-month period?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That is not his intention. As I said, let me just go back to it again, this is not everything the President would have hoped for. It is a compromise. He is going to continue to do what he can to further the cause for which he believes in and the principles he believes in; but this is a compromise.
Q George, does this six-month review include the larger question of sexual harassment issue raised by such incidents as Tailhook?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expect that will come up. I also believe that there is a report on Tailhook coming up within the next couple of months that has already been in process.
Q George, am I correct, that during the six-month period, the only cases that are suspended are those against former service people? The cases will proceed against current service people.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the cases against current service people are the ones that are suspended. The cases that have already been brought are stayed. This issue of suspension and put on standby reserve only applies to cases which arise after today.
Q But I think it specifically says -- I'm sorry; forgive me for not bringing this with me -- it specifically says that cases will proceed.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Proceed up to the point of discharge. They will not be discharged. The discharge will be suspended; they will go into stand-by reserved -- if it gets to that point. I would also say that this process takes quite a bit of time. I mean, the process can take as much as four or five months to get to this point. So, in practical terms, again, you are dealing with very limited --
Q I guess what's confusing me is that cases involving acknowledged homosexual status being contested by the individual be processed all the way through. Those cases are not suspended; they're processed; then people are separated.
Q Unless the attorney general --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If directed by the attorney general, the final discharge, based only on status, will be suspended.
Q The final discharge is suspended, but the person is taken out of active duty.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, again, we've conceded that. The important point, principle the President was trying to preserve is that they will not be discharged. We are conceding that they will -- if it goes to that point, they will be suspended and put in standby reserve.
Q And the initiation of new cases against people on status only is --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's not contemplated, no.
Q Will you appeal the L.A. decision?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's lawyers and the President will review that case and we'll have a decision soon.
Q But that's not an explicit part of the agreement, is it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q Can I just ask you about, on the first page you say -- the Department of Justice is seeking continuances in pending court cases where they're trying to get back into the military once having been discharged, which is, of course, the description of yesterday's L.A. case. I would think under your second paragraph on page one, you would need to appeal in order to get the continuance.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, a continuance isn't the same as an appeal. I mean I'm not an attorney, many of you maybe are, but an appeal is a separate sort of action.
Q What about the sailor himself? Does the President, under this six-month policy, want to see him back in the Navy or does he want to see him frozen for six months outside the Navy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President and his lawyers are reviewing the case right now, and they'll have more to say on whether or not they're going to appeal later.
Q So, he's in limbo right this minute as far as your policy is concerned?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, at this point this case has been decided.
Q Brit asked you something a moment ago and you said it is not contemplated; and I couldn't hear what it was that you were saying is not contemplated.
Q New cases on status only.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Preliminary investigations for status only, no.
Q So, the various military investigative services will be told not to start up new --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The current policy is -- investigations are only supposed to take place for misconduct.
Q Right, but there have been widespread charges that that is not in fact what they do.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the intention.
Q Will there be an investigation into that? How they --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You'll have to ask the Defense Department. I don't know.
Q George, is it true that these people are not always taken off of active duty? They are not always -- they may be suspended -- but they're not always taken away from their duties while this case --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't know. You'll have to ask the Defense Department; I don't know much on the history.
Q -- the commanding officer, I believe.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we still do give discretion to the commanding officer for reassignment within this agreement.
Q George, let me ask you this as a hypothetical.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I probably won't answer it, then. (Laughter.)
Q If someone on an aircraft carrier or aboard some Air Force base or army barracks, announces in the next week that he or she is a homosexual and that there is no misconduct, the only thing they've declared is their homosexuality, can the various investigative arms of the military go ahead and begin proceedings to investigate them and to suspend them or separate them? Does anything happen to these people? Will you initiate new proceedings --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. I mean that person has the choice of being released.
Q Yes, but you're talking about status only --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q Status only.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q What if they don't want to be released?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Then they can contest it and the proceedings will begin.
Q The proceedings will begin.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q I thought you said they weren't contemplated?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I thought we were talking about investigations. This is a person acknowledging on their own that they are homosexual. That's a different case from what you asked.
Q -- (inaudible) --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right.
Q Action will be taken?
Q So, action will be taken against those who acknowledge they're homosexual?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. Acknowledge is in the agreement.
Q Is that discretionary or is that mandatory --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure of that. I think that usually is up to the commanding officer, and we're trying to preserve as much discretion for the commanding officers as we can.
Q Is the President unhappy with Colin Powell and some of his refusal to make plans for cutbacks in defense spending as he was directed to do by the President's policies?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he hasn't received any report from General Powell yet.
Q He doesn't have to have a report from General Powell, but reports coming out in the newspaper.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he's learned not to respond to everything he reads in the newspaper.
Q No, I mean is he reading these articles in The Post which show that Colin Powell apparently is acting opposite from the policies of the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but he'll wait for --
Q George, as a technical point -- I don't know, but I think the policy says that -- I don't have it; I wish I had it in front of my -- says that the cases, that they can be discharged unless the attorney general gives --
Q It says if the attorney general.
Q Right, but I mean, it's contingent -- that the attorney general can suspend the discharge. But what you're saying is that the attorney general will suspend the discharge in all cases?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I suspect that, yes.
Q But I mean, but technically the person could be discharged if the attorney general, for some reason, does not suspend --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Technically, I suppose that's true --
Q Okay, thank you.
Q -- and that's agreeable to Sam Nunn?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. Suspension is the agreedupon policy.
Q George, two questions about the court case. First of all, what is your understanding of the scope of the judge's injunction, does it apply nationwide?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It applies nationwide, yes.
Q Can you tell me why, other than that's what the White House Counsel thinks, what is the basis for thinking that, because I've seen different reports on it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All I know is that it's the opinion of the White House counsel. I don't know all the basis of it.
Q I know, but if there's a different opinion in another circuit, I mean --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There is, but apparently this one -- again, he is reviewing it in full over the weekend. But it's my understanding it's his judgment, based on consultations, that it would apply nationwide.
Q I'm sure that will be very exciting for that judge to --
Q On that case, I thought understood Dee Dee this morning to say that it would be appealed, or she expected it would not be appealed -- or that she expected it would not be appealed.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President said he believes in the principle enshrined in the case, but he's going to have the White House counsel review it. He hasn't read the case yet. He's going to read it and will make a decision.
Q Well, if he agrees with the case why would the judge's ultimate finding --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He said he agreed with the principle. He wants to review the case. I mean, it's the proper thing to do. You can't make judgments on what you're going to do about a case until you read it and review it.
Q Well, you're leaving open the possibility that did not seem to be open this morning, that it might be appealed.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I am saying that the President is going to review the case before he makes a final decision on whether or not to appeal it.
Q George, Senator Mitchell said today that he would oppose an oil import fee. Does that in any way, shape or form narrow your options about foreign broad-based taxes --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, we're going to be consulting closely with Congress on all the options inside the economic plan.
Q Did the President talk with Mitchell about this at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of. I don't know, but I don't think so.
Q Could you explain two things about -- that we haven't gone over yet. Down at the bottom of this statement it says, "When a case involves only homosexual status and the person requests a discharge, they will be released from active duty." That's without --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If it's not contested, they can leave if they --
Q -- honorable discharge, not -- nothing on their record.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly, as has always been.
Q And secondly, could you explain the last item? Is the transfer to protect the individual -- I think there might be a typo in here, I don't understand what this means.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, both. The commander has the discretion to transfer an individual either if he judges that it's in the interest of the individual, or if he or she judges that it's in the interest of the unit.
Q So, once one of these cases is under way, prior to this person being put on standby reserve, he can be arbitrarily transferred by his commander who thinks that he's --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is during the proceedings but before you get to the point of suspension or discharge.
Q Right. But he can be moved out for no other reason other than that he's a homosexual?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, but that's to a different job, it's not to suspension; just reassigned.
Q George, I'd like to ask you two questions of foreign affairs. The first one has to do with the U.N. Reports have surfaced that Secretary General Boutros-Ghali is intending to replace Richard Thornburgh when he retires with non-U.S. -- on the management post. Will the Clinton government make a stand on that to keep it in the hands of an American?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't feel there is a decision yet on that. We'll wait and see what happens.
Q And the second question: I asked you a couple of days ago about the great controversy with the naming an assistant secretary of state for Latin America --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right.
Q -- Mario Baeza. Reports keep surfacing all over the place. There is still a big fight over that issue, and you said --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President still hasn't made a decision; the Secretary of State hasn't made a decision.
Q Where are we on the attorney general?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is continuing with interviews, but he's made no --
Q He's interviewed more than one person?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe he has, yes.
Q Does you know how many --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't.
Q Do you know how many he's interviewed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I know it's more than one.
Q And do you have a sense of the timing of it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a good sense. I mean I hope sometime next week, but I have no --
Q You mean before the end of the weekend?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know.
Q George, hopefully, according to his question, your answer -- you implied that maybe they would just consider the question whether it was an American at the U.N. or not. Hopefully, the President, before he allows this man Thornburg to continue there, will consider the record that Thornburg made as an attorney general?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about it.
Q George, the White House Counsel believes that the California case applies nationwide; and the California judge said an American cannot be denied service, absence of conduct. Doesn't that make this whole thing moot and it's a done deal?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I, again, am not a legal scholar, but the President has said that he respects the judgments of the court and has always felt that the court is going to have an awful big say in the final disposition of these cases. Beyond that, I can't comment.
Q George, when the President came in here he apologized for being late and said he had been held up by another issue. What was it?
Q A problem, he said.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: A problem, did he say problem?
Q -- yes, he did.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's got problems all day -- (laughter).
Q What was the specific one to which he was referring?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's been working on the economy today; he's been working on family leave. I'm sure he's had conversations on health care and a lot of other issues. I don't know the specific thing that was on his mind immediately before walking into this room.
Q George, bottom line in terms of the self-interest of homosexuals today in uniform who are in the closet. Doesn't this policy today telegraph to them, stay in the closet for another six months if you know what's good for you? What incentive could they possibly have to stop the lie. The minute they're honest about their status, they're booted over into the standby reserve and lose compensation.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President wants to do everything he can to make sure that we have real cohesion and morale during this interim period. But beyond that, I can't get into the business of giving advise or counsel or anything like that.
Q Wouldn't your expectation on the basis of the policy you've just put out be that they'd have to be idiots to come out of the closet, in terms of their self-interest?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, clearly there would be --
Q For the six-month period.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Clearly, there would be consequences involved in that.
Q So is it fair to assume then, that you would expect hardly anyone to come out of the closet --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I said that earlier.
Q -- before July 15th?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expected there would be very few cases of this sort.
Q George, could we have a report every day on the progress of this Health Task Force?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you can ask questions about it every day,and I can try to answer them; Dee Dee can try to answer them.
Q Well, what's the latest? What's the status of it now? They've had several sessions, and up to date now what --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that they've had several sessions, but Mrs. Clinton has begun the work of the task force. They've had --
Q Can have a list from day to day of the witnesses she calls?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I don't think it's that formal. Right now they're just getting down to nuts and bolts work.
Q -- a number of issues already today. You talked about the things that the President is working on, and there's quite a few of them. One of the things that the President talked about when he was Governor, was that during his first term he felt like he got -- he got involved in too many issues at once and that it may have cost him reelection and it may have hurt him politically. Is there some concern on your all's part that if you go to this sort of broad approach, that he could get into political trouble again for the same reasons he got into trouble as Governor?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President has to deal with problems that are brought before him. But President's said time and time again that he intends to focus on the four big issues that are going to be at the core of his legislative agenda: the economic program, health care, national service, political reform.
Q It hasn't worked out that way, has it, George? He's had --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's doing it. I mean, he's still spending the bulk of his time on those four issues.
Q Can you explain why there was a lid put on last night at 6:30 p.m. and then there was a meeting between the President and Senator Nunn and Senator Mitchell and no one was told about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that Senator Nunn came out and spoke afterwards.
Q But there was a lid put on at 6:30 p.m. and there was no all-call.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a good question. I know the meeting came up at the last minute. It was called very quickly.
Q This is not a small matter.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I understand that, and we'll look into it. But the meeting was called at the last minute.
Q But you would -- in the future, you would see to it that that didn't happen.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll do our best, yes.
Q George, has the President talked today to David Mixner or any of his other supporters in the gay community to explain his need to compromise?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think the President has, but his staff has been in contact with him.
Q You said that one reason the President was willing to compromise at this point was because he didn't want to gum up all of Congress and endanger things like the family medical leave act, and his economic program, his health care program. But in six months when he'll be revisiting this issue, you are likely to be engaged in serious battles with Congress on those very simple issues. Is it possible that at that point the President also will be willing to make fundamental compromises on this issue in the interest of getting his economic program through or his health care package through?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President intends to follow through on his commitment. In six months we will have more done. We will have learned an awful lot more about the issue and about the best way to implement this policy, so we'll just have to wait and see.
Q George, on the decision, it says you can't deny enlistment to anybody based on their sexual orientation in the absence of combat. What happens if you all are confronted in this interim period with somebody who say, "I'm gay and I want to enlist in the Armed Forces"?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the question won't be asked.
Q But I volunteer it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know. That question has been asked, and we'll have to look into that hypothetical. But it just hasn't happened.
Q George, has the President asked the Armed Forces to stop sending videotapes to Congress to lobby against --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As far as I know. I haven't heard any reports.
Q But the videotapes have appeared on a lot of television --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I saw them on the television programs, but I don't know anything beyond what I saw in the reports.
Q No reaction from -- the President today said the military is very different, and one thing the military is not is a democracy. And it seems that some of these leaders, top military brass have exercised their democratic rights in a far greater area than they would tolerate from people below them when it comes to expressing their opinion about this.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well again, I don't know where these -- exactly where these tapes are coming from, but the President doesn't approve of them.
Q The Marine Commandant acknowledged distributing it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, then we'll have to look into it.
Q George, has this been, in a sense, an early lesson in consulting with Congress and the need to consult with Congress before you start bringing up these issues?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President did consult with Congress. If you saw Senator Nunn's press conference just a few minutes ago, he said he's talked to the President about this as early as August; and there were continued consultations throughout this process. Let's face it, this is just a difficult issue that release deep feelings on either side. It was going to be difficult no matter when it came up.
Q -- from this end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the President did consult with Congress, his team did consult with Congress. And again, I would reject that it cropped up here. There is no question that very -- back in October, November there were rumblings that Republicans and others would be forcing a vote on this issue regardless of the presidential action, regardless of the timing of the presidential action, and we had to act pursuant to that.
Q Is that why you were responding -- are you saying you were responding, then, early because of that threat?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there was no question that regardless of what the President did, unless he completely abandoned the commitment he had made, there would have been a vote forced in the Senate very early on it.
Q And that's why you had to act now.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely.
Q George, there's a vote coming up in the House on Tuesday against the special committees -- four of them; I believe three, now. One is on aging, one is on hunger and one is on children. Republicans are making a great fight to wipe out these special committees. They don't write laws, but they investigate and bring out a hell of a lot of good facts. I wonder if the President is putting his army of lobbyists up at the Capitol to work against the Republicans on this and keep those committees.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President supports the Speaker and the special committees. Thanks.
Q One other question, please, if I may on -- on a different Pentagon matter. Top military officials are warning against, or cautioning against strict enforcement of the no-fly zone in Bosnia or lifting the embargo. How does that affect your review of the situation and what you might do or what you might have?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There's no question we'll take that advice very seriously. As I said yesterday, this is a very serious matter that the President's advisers are reviewing right now; and we're looking at all the options. And we're going to take that advice very seriously.
Q Those are two of the primary options that you were considering. If they're blown away, then what does that leave you with?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we are reviewing all of the options right now and we're taking that advice into consideration.
Q George, what about the separate issue of the commitment to stop this discrimination of civilian employees of the federal government?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the President has nothing to announce yet on that.
Q Is he going to wait six months before he addresses that issue?
Q -- change subjects for a second? I have a general foreign policy question. Once all the foreign policy reviews have been completed or almost completed, can we expect at one point in time a foreign policy speech by Clinton?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expect he'll give one --
END 3:15 P.M. EST