THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:35 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: I know you are all looking forward to the Maine Black Bears ice hockey team photo op this morning. And the President will speak at the Building and Construction Trades at 11:30 a.m., and that's it for the public schedule today.
I have a little bit on the rest of the week. Tomorrow he will be working on health care some. He'll be presenting an award to the Teacher of the Year and he'll be meeting with President Vaclav Havel --
Q All in the White House?
MS. MYERS: All in the White House.
On Wednesday in the morning he'll run with the winners of the Boston Marathon -- teach them a thing or two.
Q What time?
MS. MYERS: I don't have the specific times on this yet.
Q Sounds like an early morning jog?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Yes. It will be at the time of his regular early morning jog.
Then he'll meet with Democratic Congressional leaders here at 9:30 a.m. We'll have some kind of an Earth Day event. We're still working on the details of that. And then he'll meet with Walesa at 2:00 p.m
That afternoon, he has a heads of state reception. There will be nine heads of state in for the opening of the Holocaust Memorial. And then there's a larger reception --
Q In the afternoon?
MS. MYERS: This is Wednesday afternoon. This is --
Q Walesa on Wednesday in the morning?
MS. MYERS: Probably around 2:00 p.m.
Q And then Wednesday afternoon?
MS. MYERS: Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. will be the heads of state reception.
Q How many?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a list. There are nine in total, including Rabin, I believe. We'll have a list of that probably --
Q Herzog --
MS. MYERS: Herzog? We'll have a list of that by probably later today.
And then in the early evening, I think, we have a -- there's another reception for about 800 people who are here for the museum, and that will be outside on the lawn, weather permitting.
Q Closed coverage?
MS. MYERS: There will be maybe a photo, but I don't know all the coverage details yet.
Q After the meetings with Havel and Walesa, will he do joint news conferences, as he's done with other --
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether we'll just have the op at the top or do a specific news conference. We're still working on the details of those.
Q What are the purposes of these visits? Are they get acquainted sessions, working visits --
MS. MYERS: They're all working visits. I think, again, most of these leaders are here for the Holocaust Museum, and it's an opportunity for the President to meet with other world leaders.
Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. is the opening of the museum. Friday is unclear, although he will probably leave Friday night for Jamestown, probably late -- around 9:00 p.m. He'll spend Saturday in Jamestown. Sunday morning he'll go to church in Jamestown, then fly up to Boston for the meeting with the newspaper people -- you people. And then that's it.
Q When does he come back? Sunday night?
MS. MYERS: Sunday night, or Sunday afternoon.
Q It's very helpful to have the week ahead. Did the President give the green light on Waco?
MS. MYERS: He was informed -- this is an FBI-Justice Department operation. He was informed of it, and we're keeping a close watch on it.
Q Do you know when he was informed?
MS. MYERS: I don't.
Q There was a report that the President's specific order or demand of the law enforcement officials was that there be no loss of life or that it be absolutely minimized. Can you say whether that was a directive from the President?
I can't comment on the communication, other than to say that the President was informed. But it is a Justice Department-FBI operation.
Q Did he participate in decision-making, or was he just notified that it was happening?
MS. MYERS: He was notified.
Q They didn't ask his permission or --
MS. MYERS: No. The FBI and the Justice Department are working out the details of this.
Q Was he briefed on this plan before it happened?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly when he was -- I know that he was told something about it this morning, but I don't know if there was a point earlier in which he was informed.
Q Of what was he informed? Can you say?
MS. MYERS: That the operation was going to go forward.
Q The assault on the compound?
MS. MYERS: Today's operation, yes.
Q What exactly is today's operation? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: It's a Justice Department-FBI thing.
Q I know, but what are they doing? What are they trying to do? Are they trying to end this standoff today once and for all?
MS. MYERS: I would refer you to the Justice Department or the FBI for the specific objective of the mission. I'll let them characterize it.
Q Dee Dee, you said he was informed that the operation was going to go forward. That would indicate to us that he was informed before its --
MS. MYERS: Correct, he was informed before.
Q Yesterday, today?
MS. MYERS: I know that he talked about it this morning. I don't know if he knew about it yesterday.
Q Who has been briefing him on this? Has it been Janet Reno or the FBI Director? Who specifically has been the point person for the White House on this?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you on that. I'm not sure who the specific person is.
Q Is that what's held up any action on Sessions, one way or another?
MS. MYERS: No. As you know, the Attorney General is reviewing the evidence on Judge Sessions, and when she has --presents a report to the President --
Q Did you tell her to get it ready?
Q Do you know why it was an FBI operation as opposed to ATF? Did somebody say the FBI should take over, be in charge? Or is there some statutory reason why they were --
MS. MYERS: I don't know how that breaks down.
Q Are you steering us away from feeling that the President had to sign off on whatever he was told by Justice and FBI? That he had to give his approval?
MS. MYERS: Yes, pointing you toward the idea that the Justice Department and the FBI are handling the specifics of this and that the President was informed about it.
Q Well, if it's successful, will it still be a Justice Department -- (laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Helen, I'm overwhelmed by your cynicism this morning. (Laughter.) I don't know if I can handle it.
Q Are you moving toward a decision for any other actions in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to review that situation. Obviously we're very concerned about it. We'll continue to consult with our allies. As you know, the President talked to Prime Minister Major yesterday. They agreed that the presence of U.N. peacekeepers there to try to maintain the cease-fire was important. The President will continue to work with his advisors and perhaps consult with allies. He will continue to consult with allies as the week moves forward.
Q To what end? I mean, what is now the goal?
MS. MYERS: The goal is to stop the violence and the bloodshed in Bosnia, to save lives. The cease-fire and the actions now in Srebrenica that have allowed the wounded to be taken out, obviously, are important in reaching their goal, which is to save lives. But we'll continue to press the Serbs to sign onto the peace accord, to stop the violence, to end their aggression. As you know, the U.N. passed the omnibus resolution over the weekend, which will stiffen sanctions against the Serbs. They're going to feel the impact of this, and we'll continue to press them.
Q Do you believe that Vance-Owen is still a viable process and that your goal is to do whatever simply to get people to sign onto that?
MS. MYERS: Our goal is sustainable peace in Bosnia, obviously. We will continue to -- again, the President is reviewing his options this week. He'll continue to do that. We're looking at ways to stop the fighting, to end the bloodshed, and to establish some kind of a sustainable peace there.
Q And so when the method --
MS. MYERS: It continues to be something that's on the table. If all sides would agree to that, we would certainly be willing to work to enforce it.
Q Dee Dee, the President seemed to --
Q Dee Dee, your comments, please, on yesterday's New York Times column by Mr. Gelb which asserted that a cynical game is going on here in which the powers of the West simply keep on talking and doing nothing until the Serbs conquer whatever they want to conquer.
MS. MYERS: Well, I obviously --
Q -- your comments on it --
MS. MYERS: -- disagree with that premise. It's a very complicated situation. I don't think we've ever pretended that it's easy or easy to solve. It's difficult on a number of levels, and we're continuing to try -- do the best we can to try to deal with it.
The President -- obviously, what's happened in Srebrenica changes the equation a bit. As the President stated last week, some options are on the table now that may not have been, with the exception of injecting U.S. ground forces at this point. But it's a very grave situation. I think the President and his advisors
are taking it very seriously. And to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
Q Well, is he having -- I mean, is the problem -- he seemed to have reached the end of his rope Friday in terms of the time has come to make other decisions. Is he having the hardest time with the allies coming aboard to do something collectively, or --
MS. MYERS: He's said many times that this is not something that we can do alone, that we must act in concert with the allies, that Europe needs to be a partner in any action that we take there. And the President will continue to consult with the allies on this very difficult situation.
Q Forgive this incredibly stupid question --
MS. MYERS: It won't be the first. (Laughter.)
Q The arms embargo is a U.N. resolution, is that right?
Q Thank you. My colleagues say yes. Is there any consideration being given for unilateral action on that front?
MS. MYERS: On?
Q Lifting the arms --
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to comment on specific options. But the President has made clear that he wants to act in concert with the allies. He doesn't want to take unilateral action on this situation.
Q So regardless of the fact that we're considering all these things, we're essentially paralyzed by the fact that these are U.N. resolutions that we know the other allies are not going to go along with.
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't endorse that characterization exactly.
Q How would you put it?
MS. MYERS: That we're going to try to press the allies to move with us, to work with us on this. We think that we have a much better chance of success working together with the allies, with the Europeans who have a vested interest in this.
Q Is there any indication at all that the British or the French have changed their minds one iota about the arms embargo?
MS. MYERS: We're going to continue to press forward on a number of fronts and consider our options as the week goes forward.
Q Is the President going to be speaking with Mitterrand today?
MS. MYERS: He may talk with other leaders. Nothing for sure.
Q The only one he's talking with so far is Major?
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q But you expect him to speak with others today?
MS. MYERS: I think it's entirely possible.
Q What is your understanding of the city -- the status of the city of Srebrenica in terms of what's going to happen now? What is the administration's understanding of what happens next?
MS. MYERS: Our understanding is that there's a ceasefire there. There are U.N. peacekeepers there to both evacuate the sick and wounded, and to hopefully help maintain that cease-fire. And that's the current situation. We're continuing to keep tabs on it.
Q Are the Bosnian-Serbs being disarmed as well as the Bosnian Muslims? And are the Serbs going to be allowed to enter the town?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the specific --
Q You said it's --
Q Well, that's a -- yes, I mean --
MS. MYERS: The status of it is that the U.N. is going to take the weapons from the Bosnians. I don't know -- I can check for you to find out whether or not the Serbs will be allowed to enter the town. I don't know what the status of that is. I don't believe so. I believe the objective is to create a safe haven there where the fighting will stop.
Q And then will Serbian -- either Bosnian Serbs or Serbian regular army units be allowed to transit the area and use it as a corridor to get into Sarajevo?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that's the objective, no. But I don't know that all of those details have been worked out. I don't believe that they have. But I'll check and get back to you.
Q Do you consider this as a surrender?
MS. MYERS: I think we think that it's a cease-fire and it's an opportunity to remove the wounded, to save some lives, and to create a safe haven where the Bosnian Muslims will be safe for the moment. I mean, these cease-fires are tentative; there's no question about that. But we do think that the presence of U.N. peacekeepers will help to sustain the cease-fire.
Q Does the President think he can get a stimulus package tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to see what happens. As you know, Senators Mitchell and Dole will speak today. We're hopeful that we can get a jobs package through the Senate. We'll continue to work for it and see what happens.
Q Any plan of reading on what may happen?
MS. MYERS: I think it's important to see what happens in the conversation today between Senators Dole and Mitchell.
Q What time are they meeting?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q Is the current intent to force a vote on the slimmed down version, or is this negotiation aimed at some further adjustment of this to make it more palatable?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think, again a lot will depend on -- we'll have to wait until Senators Dole and Mitchell have a chance to speak to see where we are today.
Q That would seem to indicate that you plan to -- you're willing to or are up against a situation that forces you to negotiate further and adjust it in some way before this vote.
MS. MYERS: Well, I wouldn't rule out that there could be some changes to the package. At the same time, I think that the President is committed to a package that will create jobs and I think that he's going to want some form of that to be voted on. We'll continue to press the Republicans in the Senate to vote on a jobs package. You know, this isn't the first time that a stimulus package of about this size has been voted on. In 1983, one passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin. Unlike this particular package, it was not paid for; the President's package is paid for. And I would just point out that a lot of the Republicans that are currently in the Senate voted for that 1983, $15-billion stimulus package.
Q Senator Dole said yesterday that one of the timecritical elements in this package probably is the extension of unemployment benefits. He said he'd be willing to break up a $4 billion for unemployment, and he also talked about immunization and something else.
MS. MYERS: Summer jobs.
Q Right, summer jobs. Would the President agree to breaking those items out, get those passed -- after all, summer is only a very few short weeks away -- get that out of the way and then dicker on the rest of the package?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, the President wants to see a jobs package passed. He believes that we need it, he believes the program that he has is reasonable, it is paid for. In terms of specific tactics we'll wait until after Mitchell and Dole have spoken today. But the President wants to see a substantial jobs package passed. He believes that there is support for it; the majority of members of Congress both the House and the Senate support it.
Q Why has he permitted the perception to prevail that it's not paid for?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he's permitted the perception. I think every time we've been asked about it or had an opportunity to speak about it we've pointed out, in no uncertain terms, that it is paid for. That it is part of his five-year budget that reduced the deficit and increases investment, and that it is all paid for over the course of five years -- specifically paid for.
Q Dee Dee, the President's comments at 11:45 a.m. -- are they --
MS. MYERS: They'll address stimulus.
Q One more on Bosnia. Is the President satisfied at the level of humanitarian aid that's getting through? There was report over the weekend that the warehouses are empty.
MS. MYERS: I think you always hope you can do more. I think that there is -- there are some relief supplies arriving, both by air and by land. You always wish that it could be more. And we'll continue to work with our allies and other European countries to make sure that there's a steady flow of humanitarian supplies.
Q Is he satisfied at the level now?
MS. MYERS: I don't think you can ever be completely satisfied. You can always do more.
Q Are the Middle East peace talks going to be delayed?
MS. MYERS: There is a meeting going on in Damascus today. We're waiting to hear the results of that. I don't know what the prognosis is for starting tomorrow.
Q Did he strike out in his talk with Major?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not. It was a very good conversation. I think they agreed on a number of things.
Q What is the President trying to get Major to agree to?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that they are reviewing a number of options. I can't say specifically, other than that they agreed that we need to continue to pressure the Serbs, continue to isolate them in the world community, to continue to try to get them to sign on to a peace agreement to stop the bloodshed. They have to stop their aggression and we'll continue to press for that to happen. I think they agreed that the sanctions were a good thing and they talked about ways to close some of the loopholes, both by rivers and by air and by sea, or by land and by sea, which I think is useful. And now will begin work on getting ready to enforce the next round of sanctions starting next Monday.
Q But can we assume that he is trying to get the allies to sign onto lifting the arms embargo --
MS. MYERS: I think he's going to work with them to sign onto further action, and I won't comment specifically on what that is.
Q The President is actively considering some of those actions which he said were not agreeable to -- so we may see something in the next few days from the President in that regard?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I don't know if it'll be the next few days, but I think the President made clear that, given the situation that there are currently options on the table that may not have been on the table a while ago --
Q He's actively working to consider them?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q You're not back to status quo just letting the sanctions work?
MS. MYERS: Correct. We're actively considering more options. We'll continue to work with our allies. And as President and Major said yesterday, they would continue to be in touch on this. It's an ongoing conversation.
Q Can I go back to the schedule for a second? You said Tuesday, the first thing you said was he'd be working on health care. Is that to mean he's working in the Oval Office? You're not going to do an event?
MS. MYERS: No, no event. This is part of a series of semi-regular meetings as we move toward decision-making on the package.
Q With the task force, or --
MS. MYERS: It's not a task force meeting, per se, but it's with health care advisors.
Q Do you have a target now on when the health care is going to be ready?
MS. MYERS: Mid-May.
Q AIDS Czar?
MS. MYERS: Oh. I don't know.
Q this week?
MS. MYERS: Probably be addressed on Wednesday.
MS. MYERS: Biodiversity treaty.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:50 A.M. EDT