THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Q George, his speech on the 17th, is that going to be solely on the economy or is there going to be a dramatic speech that he's going to touch on foreign affairs and other topics?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's likely to focus on the economy, focus on the need to create jobs but I wouldn't rule out the possibility that it will include other parts of his legislative agenda.
Q I just want to go over the logic of the Bosnia thing one more time. It seems to me, on the one hand, the administration is undercutting the Vance-Owen initiative, but on the other hand, it doesn't have either a diplomatic alternative of its own or an alternative to diplomacy; i.e. some sort of use of force. So I'm trying to understand the logic of this approach of, on the one hand, undercutting the only thing out there in the absence of either a diplomatic or military initiative of its own.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President's advisers are in the process of reviewing this right now. They are reviewing the policy. They take it very seriously. It's under serious consideration. And I expect that the President will have an announcement relatively soon. But I don't have a date on that. But they take it seriously and they are reviewing and developing a policy.
Q George, do you have anything -- is the President concerned about the violence in South Africa? Has he been in touch with Mandella or anybody down there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q And this new proposed bill of rights that they have -- do you have any --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I have not seen that. I'd refer you to the State Department.
Q Also, I saw Les Aspin come in. Can he be made available to us? What's he talking about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll ask him. I don't know. (Laughter.)
Q Is there an NSC meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that there's a meeting of the President's senior advisors. I don't know if it's a formal NSC meeting.
Q With or without the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Without the President.
Q On Bosnia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. I believe it's going to cover a range of issues, but I would expect that there would be a fair amount of attention on Bosnia.
Q George, I don't know why they call me, but a lot of old people have gotten the idea that the President is definitely throwing out all Social Security. This is an ugly rumor that has swept the country like a prairie fire. I hope you all are going to do something to explain this to people, because they are very confused.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President is certainly not going to throw out Social Security. That's not even anywhere near his plans. He's said several times that he wants to protect the system as best he can.
Q What is he planning to do on Social Security?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he intends to do that. The President is reviewing his options and he hasn't made any decisions yet.
Q Ease the public's mind by explaining. (Laughter.)
Q Does the President perceive any cost in developing his plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, that's something that --
Q What's the cost of waiting as the White House views this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the only thing is we want to make sure we get it right. And the principals are reviewing it right now.
Q But is he working to get it right -- is there any cost in doing it later rather than sooner?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The situation is very serious. It doesn't appear to be getting any better. And that's why the national security team is looking at it.
Q On the budget, does the President wish -- how important is it to the President to get Republican votes for the package he eventually sends up -- the whole package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President wants to get as much broad support as he can for this package. He wants to get it in the country, he wants to get both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress. And he'll be making the appeal directly.
Q Does he anticipate any package that could get or he hopes would get overwhelming Republican support?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think he's going to certainly deliver a package that deserves Republican support.
Q George, in connection with the unions again, Right To Work people are very critical saying that the actions -- PATCO action, if it happens, and the actions that the President took on Monday are just basically paybacks to unions and other special interest groups. What is your reaction to that? And also, why was the Monday announcement of those executive orders so quietly announced? In other words, a paper was put in the bins after hours.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's when the President signed it. But on top of that, I would just remind you, these were reversing last minute orders that President Bush gave as payoffs to big business simply right before the election, in simple fairness -- one, allowing -- making sure the people understood all of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act; and the second one, allowing those who engage in project agreements with union workers to be eligible for federal contracts. Simply returning to a level of basic fairness.
Q George, does the President have any activity outside the White House tomorrow or Friday? And what can you tell us about next week's trip?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is going to be going to the prayer breakfast tomorrow -- the National Prayer Breakfast tomorrow morning. I believe he'll also be going to Capitol Hill in the morning for more meetings with Democratic House members. I think that's the only other meeting he has outside the White House tomorrow. General focus on his economic plan and legislative agenda.
And next week he will be conducting his first town hall meeting outside of the White House since becoming President on Wednesday, February 10th at 8:00 p.m. It will last an hour. It will take place from --
Q 8:00 p.m. or a.m.?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It'll take place on WXYZ-TV in Detroit; and there will be studio audiences in Atlanta on WSB-TV; in Miami on WPLG; and in Seattle on KOMO. We'll have more details later.
Q Atlanta, Seattle -- again, what --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In Miami.
Q Run through the TV --
Q Can we go to Miami or Detroit? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's your choice. What did you need?
Q I was going to ask you about those TV stations.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It was WXYZ in Detroit where the studio audience will be; and there will be other audiences linked up from WSB-TV in Atlanta, WPLG-TV in Miami and KOMO in Seattle.
Q Is the President going to be in Detroit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it will be taking place from WXYZ in Detroit.
Q Is he going to do anything --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, yes, absolutely.
Q Is he going to do something else during the day before --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure yet. We'll have more details later.
Q Is he going to spend the night in Detroit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know yet.
Q Would you? (Laughter.)
Q During the campaign the President seemed fairly specific about setting the threshold for his higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans at $200,000. Are you now lowering that to $100,000 or less? Can you rule out tax increases for Americans who make less than $200,000 in the President's plan --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't rule anything in our out until the President makes his announcement. But I would just point you back to what the President said in his campaign. He expects to raise taxes on those who benefitted in the 1980s.
Q Let me take you back to a question you were asked five or ten minutes ago, whether that included people in the $100,000 to $200,000 range or less. The President seemed fairly specific about setting a $200,000 threshold in this campaign. Are you lowering -- is that lowered now? Is that not a threshold?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I haven't set any threshold. I haven't ruled any threshold in or out.
Q I put the question poorly. Is that not a threshold?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President intends to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He will have the specifics on his plan when he announces it on the 17th.
Q May we consider the wealthiest Americans those who make anywhere from $75,000 on up?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I mean, you have to -- he will announce the specifics on the 17th.
Q Of that particular provision -- raising taxes on the wealthy -- that will be announced on the 17th?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would expect so.
Q Does Hillary Rodham Clinton have any reaction to Reischauer's testimony that managed competition won't produce any savings?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't asked her, but I would refer to you what the President said today, said this morning at OMB. He believes that we can achieve significant health care savings if we get real reform.
Q The testimony yesterday which upset a number of people on the hearing, on the committee, was that there would not be any savings.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that the President did speak to that this morning. He expects that if we get real reform, we can get savings. I don't have an exact number.
Q Five to eight years out?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But we do expect savings over the long term, yes.
Q George, could you just explain for the record the purpose of this town hall meeting next week? Why has the President decided to go speak to these local TV studios and these local TV stations? What is it --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to speak to the American people. And he's going to listen to their questions and what's on their mind and hear what they have to say about the situation we're in right now. And I think he also will explain what he -- the economic situation we're in, talk about his plans to create jobs and reform health care, and the different parts of his legislative agenda.
Q -- no decisions have been made? (Laughter.) I'll let you know the 17th?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's see what he -- I mean, he's going out there and listen to see what's on their mind. And he'll be explaining the situation and give them his proposals.
Q He will have some details of his program --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expect the President will have a lot to say next week.
Q Who will pick the questioners?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure exactly. Generally, we've just had free -- some sort of selection, but I don't know exactly --
Q How long is it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Hour.
Q And is this available for carriage by other broadcast organizations?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All details -- try to talk to Jeff Eller. I don't have much more than this.
Q George, you seem to be saying that the President is going to basically outline the highlights of his economic plan before the --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, again, if I suggested that, I didn't mean to. He's going out there. He's going to hear what's on their minds. He's going to talk about the different choices that we face. He's going to talk about the economic situation we're in; talk about the principles that he brings into this process, as he did this morning at the OMB.
Q George, is this going to be a regular feature of this presidency?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would expect that he would go back to it from time to time. He felt that it's a good way to stay in contact with the American people, make sure he knows what's on their minds.
Q George, one more thing on how the audience will be picked. Is it the White House picking it, or will it be somebody like the DNC, somebody outside the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Generally, the TV stations have picked them; yes, we've had some sort of outside groups. But I don't know the specific details of this.
Q George, could you explain why Detroit, of all the places you could have gone? Is there any significance in picking the -- Motown?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I expect that we're going to go all across the country. But this is a good trip. In the industrial Midwest, jobs are important.
Q Actually isn't XYZ located in Macomb County, outside of --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's in Southfield, but I'm not positive.
Q It is.
Q Does he have any plans for a formal news conference with the White House Press Corps before that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure.
Q -- chosen by XYZ. (Laughter.)
Q George, what's the President going to say if one of those persistent Social Security callers to talk shows, makes it, and says, what are you going to do about Social Security, Mr. President? What is he going to say?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Tune in next week.
Q George, Bruce Reed said yesterday that the President may chair the working group on welfare reform. If he does, would that mean he's giving himself an easier task than he assigned the First Lady --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about that. The President cares deeply about welfare reform. There are a lot of tough issues involved, but he's committed to doing what he can to solve it.
Q You are expecting him to chair that task force?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure yet, but it's certainly under consideration.
Q George, is there anything else on the Detroit schedule beside the town meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing yet, but we're working on it.
Q You do anticipate --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I'm not certain. I don't know exactly what time he's going to be going up there. If we have more to announce, we'll let you know.
Q Any other cities on that trip?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, this is all the details I have on the trip so far.
Q Are you taking a press charter if you go?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm certain that we will.
Q George, the President said this morning -- would you explain what he meant when he said he won't consider raising taxes on the middle class until he's raised taxes on the wealthy? Does he actually have a backup plan here to raise middle class taxes or was that just a figure of speech?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I mean, I think the President is trying to set forward his principles as he goes into this budget process. The first principle is that those who benefitted in the 1980s should contribute first and foremost.
Q George, in addition to raising taxes on the wealthy, will he have other tax provisions ready to announce on the 17th, like an energy tax, for example? Will he generally have other tax provisions?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he'll have the general outlines of his entire economic package at that time.
Q Including the tax provisions?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The entire economic package.
Q George, Prime Minister Mulroney is here on Friday, and I understand John Major will be here in a couple of weeks. Any other world leaders expected?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe he's going to be meeting with Prime Minister Ozal on February 8th at the White House.
Q -- in March?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing else --
Q Are these working visits or state visits?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Working visits.
Q This is kind of a strange question. I didn't understand what the President said the other day about not being able to use his telephones without everybody picking up and listening. And as far as I know the phone system in there, and I've talked to people who say that there are several secure and clear lines on which you can pick up and call people without it showing up on other people's --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He does have a secure phone, but just on his regular phone apparently, and this happened early on, he picked up a line that anybody else who's on the central system could sort of pick up. It happened.
Q Anybody on the central system, what does that mean?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not his nonsecure phone.
Q What did he mean when he said there's no E-Mail. There's E-Mail, isn't there?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There wasn't at first.
Q -- got in trouble.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There wasn't at first.
Q -- hard drives --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: When we came in, all of the -- everything was dismantled.
Q Well, that's because they had to take the hard drives out because they had been subpoenaed or something. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It is true. You're exactly right. We came in and there were no computers on anybody's desks. I mean, there were typewriters. And so we came in and we had to get new computers, and now we're working it through.
Q Can we follow-up on Ann's question, though.
Q But I still don't understand -- he is not saying that if you take the phone that's there --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Clearly, the problem has been fixed now. But when we first got here --
Q -- he picked up the phone and someone was --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, he picked -- no, it was -- and somebody -- people could buzz in. People could just -- it was a line -- say, on my desk, if I had seen that you'd picked up the phone, I could press the button and be on the same conversation. I could listen in.
Q You could listen in on the President of the United States talking on his phone?
Q But you didn't do that, did you?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn't do it, no -- (laughter) --
Q Can you explain what happened? I mean, he picked up the phone one day and somebody --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know exactly what happened. I just know that this was -- once he tried to make a conference call, couldn't do a conference call. It was just impossible. He couldn't call upstairs; he couldn't get it done. (Laughter.)
Q Does he know how to work the phones? Calls have been made from there, we've heard them.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm reasonably certain that this was the case. The phones are getting better. We are fixing them.
Q Is this sabotage?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about that, it's just --
Q -- overload maybe?
Q Did you all have to buy new computers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a good question. I know we have new computers. I don't know how we got them exactly.
Q Okay, but that's quite a government expense and what happened to the government-owned past computers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the hard drives were taken out pursuant to subpoena by the U.S. Attorney.
Q Housekeeping a bit. Are you close -- could you come up with a printed list soon of everybody in the Communications Office and the Press Office, their general duties and phone exchanges?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure. That's fair, yes.
Q George, can you define working visits --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just going to be working meetings. I don't believe there are state dinners involved with any of them, but I wouldn't rule them out.
Q And two days ago, it was -- was it today the meeting with senior advisors that was referred to earlier?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This afternoon, yes.
Q -- photo op --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Of the economic meeting, sure.
Q What was Aspin here for?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Aspin was here for the national security meeting of principals.
Q What time's the prayer breakfast tomorrow?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's 8:00 a.m.
Q What time does he speak at it, do you know?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll get that to you. I don't know exactly what time he speaks, but he speaks early on.
Q Is he going directly to the Hill or back to the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He'll go directly.
Q Can you get that to us before you usually put out your schedule?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q Why not include -- Republicans in today's meeting on campaign finance reform; are they not part of the process?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I'm certain they will be over time, but he just wanted to meet with the Democrats first.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:12 P.M. EST