THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:35 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: I don't have a lot of news. I have a little bit of news. You probably already know about it. This morning, the Vice President convened a meeting -- the President dropped by -- of members of Congress from the upper northwest and northern California, as well as key committee leaders, to discuss the upcoming timber conference -- the Forest Conference actually. It will be in Portland, Oregon, on April 2nd. The Forest Conference obviously fulfills a commitment the President made during the campaign. He has asked that the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Labor participate, as well as the Administrator of the EPA. Among the people who will be involved in planning it are the Governors of Oregon, Washington and California, as well as members of Congress from the affected areas, and again the relevant committee chairs. So that will be April 2nd, on the way to Vancouver.
The only other things on the President's schedule, as we discussed yesterday, are the 1:30 p.m. remarks regarding the credit crunch and the 2:45 p.m. drop-by at the meeting with the California legislatures.
Q Regarding the timber summit, who's invited?
MS. MYERS: They're going to work that out during the next couple of weeks. It will be a one-day summit to address all the relevant issues, particularly forest management issues. And the exact structure of the conference will be worked out by the relevant secretaries and local officials.
Q What's the ultimate goal? I mean, what are -- trying to achieve?
MS. MYERS: The ultimate goal is to take a good long look at all the relevant policy issues affecting forest management issues on the western side of the Cascades.
Q Will it be at all similar, Dee Dee, to the Little Rock economic conference, I mean, the makeup, the logistics of it?
MS. MYERS: The details haven't been worked out yet, but it is a conference to discuss the issues. It will not result in the ultimate policy statement. I think once the relevant information is collected, we'll move forward with policy decisions. But it's more an opportunity to collect information from the various sides and to look very carefully at the forest management issues that affect that region.
Q Is it one day only?
MS. MYERS: One day.
Q Dee Dee, before he -- he announced that as -- he said it was going to be a timber summit; now, you're saying conference.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q Is he just lowering expectations, or what's the reason?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the emphasis is that this is an opportunity for people to sit down and discuss the issues, as opposed to something where a major policy decision will be made at the end.
Q And what exactly is the participation of the President and the Vice President? And how long will they be there?
MS. MYERS: It's a one-day event, so they'll be there on April 2nd all day. The exact schedule and the exact format of the event have not been worked out yet. But they'll be there ostensibly to hear from all sides about what the problems are, what the concerns are, and always with an eye to both protecting jobs and protecting the unique ecosystem of the ancient forest system in that area.
Q And then so they will be moderating, kind of the way they did at the --
MS. MYERS: Again, the details haven't been worked out yet; but it will be an opportunity for the President and the Vice President and the secretaries and the relevant congressional --well, the secretaries -- to hear all the issues, talk through them, and then to move forward after the summit towards some kind of policy decision.
Q It certainly sounds as though you're modeling it on the economic conference held in Little Rock.
MS. MYERS: I think the economic -- there will certainly be some elements of the economic conference that will be applied. I just can't say at this point exactly what it's going to look like because those decisions have yet to be made.
Q Dee Dee, what kind of legislation is supposed to come out of this summit?
MS. MYERS: No specific policy decisions will come out of this. It's an opportunity for each side to thoroughly air its issues, for the President and Vice President to sit down with people who have been affected, people from the affected communities, both in the timber industry and people who are concerned about the ecosystem in the old growth forests.
Q If there's no legislation coming out it, then what's the point?
MS. MYERS: Well, it won't come out at the end of the day. I don't expect a press conference on April 2nd where some specific legislation is announced. After the President and Vice President have had a chance to hear people out, then they'll move forward with some kind of policy decisions after that. And, again, we don't have a specific timetable.
Q Dee Dee, the President indicated that he would invite this girl that was on the -- remember the children's show -- who had the problem with her family and her father losing his job. Is he inviting her?
MS. MYERS: It hasn't happened yet. I'm sure it will.
Q agency or department that is organizing this? And who is --
MS. MYERS: It's the four departments that I mentioned -- Interior, Agriculture, Labor, and EPA.
Q But is one taking a lead on it as far as organizing it or -- do you know?
MS. MYERS: The office -- oh, that's right -- the Office of Environmental Policy in the White House is the lead agency --Katie McGinty.
Q What policy decisions are likely to be affected by this? What are we talking about? Are we talking about a change in --
MS. MYERS: That will be determined after the conference. We're not looking at any particular changes on April 2nd.
Q I recognize that and your suggestion that it's not going to lead to immediate legislation. What I'm asking is are we talking about general forest management policy, likely to be impacted by this?
MS. MYERS: Mostly -- yes. Particularly the management of public lands -- public -- of federal forest lands in those areas.
Q Is the President committed to any change in that policy?
MS. MYERS: He's committed to a thorough review at this point, and then he'll make a decision based on what he hears. I don't think either side thinks that the current -- the status quo is working very effectively up there. So the President is going to go and hear from all sides and then make decisions based on what people have to say.
Q Is that it for stops on the way to Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: As of right now. I don't expect any others, but --
Q Looking for a departure on the 1st then?
MS. MYERS: We just haven't made the scheduling decisions. I think it depends on what schedule is worked out for the Portland conference. I mean, it's a month away. We won't have specific arrival and departure times for awhile.
Q Do you know which congressional committees are going to be involved in this yet?
MS. MYERS: I know that this morning Agriculture and Environment and Interior were there. And I think at that -- were there any others represented? That was about it. Obviously Marla has -- was at the meeting and has further details on this morning's meeting with the -- congressional members.
Q Dee Dee, is there going to be more information or materials coming out on the credit crunch announcement today?
MS. MYERS: Yes. There will be a background paper we'll get to you as soon as we can. We're trying to arrange a background briefing. This is quite complicated.
This just in. Senior Treasury officials will be here at 12:30 p.m. George's briefing will be at 12:00 p.m., and then the senior Treasury officials will brief at 12:30 p.m. and walk you through the arcane details of this plan.
Q The rules on that will be --
MS. MYERS: It will be senior Treasury officials -- background briefing. Yes.
Q Do you expect to make any kind of announcement today on defense conversion?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow. Tomorrow the President will outline his defense conversion plan. It will include assistance to both affected communities and to workers. It's a four-year plan. It will probably be off campus and we'll have more scheduling details later -- in the greater sort of Washington metropolitan area.
Q This thing goes beyond just releasing the $1.7 billion --
MS. MYERS: This will talk about the President's defense conversion strategy over the course of the next four years. And, again, it will include assistance both to displaced workers and to communities affected by the scaling back of the defense industry.
Q In general terms, does that involve new legislation or just an office that would tie together existing aid programs? What kind of thing are we looking at?
MS. MYERS: It involves a number of things. It's fairly comprehensive. Again, it's a four-year strategy, and there are a number of steps involved. But I'll have to wait until tomorrow for the specific details.
Q Does it involve new money that would have to be budgeted for?
MS. MYERS: I think you can look for new money.
Q Are you talking about both base closings and defense plants closings?
MS. MYERS: Right. Obviously, we can't talk of the specifics of the base closings yet, but we anticipate that there will be a lot of base closings as the committee works through its schedule. Obviously it's going to have a tremendous impact both on the people who work in the defense industry, people who work in the military now, and as we scale back the military itself.
Q Dee Dee, tomorrow morning or afternoon?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the time it is. It's late morning, I believe.
Q preview to the California delegation today?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure it will come up. He may talk about it -- I mean, privately not publicly.
Q What is the purpose of that meeting?
MS. MYERS: The California comes annually. Every year they send a delegation here to lobby Congress on a number of issues. I think this year they're concerned about obviously the plant -- the Defense closings, the base closings. But, as you know, the President doesn't have anything to do with that until July 1st, and even at point doesn't have a whole lot of impact on that actual decisions.
Q You said the President was dropping by. Are they meeting with someone else?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't have a list. It's other administration officials. It's in the OEOB.
Q What will be the President's goal of the conversion plan? Can you give us some idea, some sense?
MS. MYERS: Well, the goal is to obviously to mitigate the impact of the post-Cold War defense policy on communities and individuals and to take advantage -- to convert research money and development focus from defense-related to civilian-related applications; so both to move technology towards civilian applications and to take care of the people who will be impacted directly by dramatic change due to the end of the Cold War.
Q Plus requiring new legislation --
MS. MYERS: Again, its a comprehensive package that will look at his strategy over four years. There will be a number of different elements to it.
Q Has the President or anybody in the administration heard directly from Japan in response to what he said yesterday? I know they've had some comments through the media, but has anybody here heard from them?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so but I'll have to doublecheck to see if something at some other -- if they may have contacted us through diplomatic channels. I'm not aware of it.
Q Has the President been in communication with President Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't believe so.
Q Does he plan on making any phone calls?
MS. MYERS: I can't speak to that. Nothing on the schedule today, however I think they've communicated back and forth through the media. Yeltsin is obviously grateful for some of the things both presidents said yesterday.
Q Dee Dee, there is a wire service report of a third arrest in the World Trade Center bombing. Do you have anything on that?
MS. MYERS: Other than to confirm -- what the Justice Department has said is that the arrest was made and that they'll have more details after the initial appearance later this morning. Beyond that I can't say anything.
Q Another wire service report I'd like to ask you about from Jerusalem, the Palestinians say that they refuse to accept the invitation to the next round of Middle East peace talks when the U.S. U.S. Consulate General came to deliver it. Can you confirm that, and what's your reaction to their refusal?
MS. MYERS: That's the first I've heard of it, and I would refer you, probably, to the State Department, although we may have something else to say about it later.
Q Has the President decided which countries will get less foreign aid so that Russia will get more?
MS. MYERS: No. There's been no specific -- we're working on, obviously, Russia policy which we discussed with President Yeltsin at the summit on the 3rd and 4th of April, but there are no specific decisions yet.
Q Would Defense be the lead agency on defense conversion? Would the Pentagon be the lead agency --
MS. MYERS: The Pentagon, Congress, obviously, Labor. The President's conversion plan will have a lot of involvement with both Labor and Commerce Departments.
Q Dee Dee, is Friday on rain or shine as far as this trip?
MS. MYERS: I believe so. We had no discussion about it being weather-related.
Q Can you tell us what the purpose of that whole thing is and what the idea is for --
MS. MYERS: Is it snowing? The purpose of it is, one, as you know, he's going to talk about his defense conversion plan tomorrow. On Friday, he's going to talk to the people on the aircraft carrier, to the sailors, about issues that are of concern to them, like defense conversion. But it's primarily an opportunity for him to address the troops as they head out to the Mediterranean as part of their regular rotation. It's his first opportunity as Commander-in-Chief to meet with a large group of military officers and enlisted folks.
Q Dee Dee, usually before a Yeltsin or a Gorbachev summit there's been an intense focus on the single issue in the leadup the summit. Why have you made the decision to kind of swerve off course with this timber summit just a day before you meet with Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: I think it's something that the President has wanted to do, he said he would do early in his administration. Obviously it's logistically convenient since we'll be in Vancouver. It makes sense to stop in Portland on the way there. And we don't think it's a big distraction. We have nearly four weeks between now and the summit with President Yeltsin to discuss issues of relevance to Russia and to the other -- and to the region generally. And I think that we can do both. I don't think that there's any inherent conflict there.
Q I mean you could have done it any time. I mean, you don't have to be going --
MS. MYERS: Well, it's logistically -- again, the President wanted to do it early.
Q Dee Dee, were you able to track down the list provided by Senator Lott of the --
MS. MYERS: No. I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q Dee Dee, when the President was jogging this morning he spent an awfully long time talking with a man in kind of a hood who was jogging. But they looked like they were involved --
MS. MYERS: Could you be a little more specific? (Laughter.)
Q I wanted you to tell who this guy was. He caught up with the President and they stopped in the park for quite a long time, and I don't think they were talking about running shoes. Do you know what they were talking about?
MS. MYERS: I don't.
Q Do you know who he was?
MS. MYERS: No, I have no idea.
Q Do you know who he jogged with? Who his jogging partner was?
MS. MYERS: No. Who was it? Oh, Scoop --
Q Scoop's on the case.
MS. MYERS: He's on the case. It will be handled professionally. (Laughter.)
Q Dee Dee, what about Tom Brokaw now? Is he going to be the head of the park service, huh? (Laughter.) What do you think about that?
MS. MYERS: It's an interesting strategy by the other networks, I think. (Laughter.)
Q job for Dan --
MS. MYERS: That's right. We're thinking -- yes, Rather maybe one of those other Interior agencies. No.
MS. MYERS: Well, thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:50 A.M. EST