THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
9:55 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: A couple of things. At 3:00 p.m., as you know, the President will join the National Champion Arkansas Track Team for a photo op.
Q Sure is busy today.
Q What else is he doing today?
MS. MYERS: Mostly meetings.
Q Can you be a little bit more illuminating? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Well, they're a variety of meetings -- they're all here at the White House with different members of the staff.
Q Subject -- Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: No, no, just normal daily meetings. Here's one -- former New York Mayor John Lindsey is coming in just to say hello. So he'll meet briefly with the President. And the President will probably spend some time working on health care and future planning today.
Q Is he sending Christopher anywhere in Europe?
Q Is he meeting with the task force?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Is he sending Christopher to Europe this week on Bosnia to sound out allies -- or soon?
MS. MYERS: The consultations with allies are ongoing. It's unclear if that will include a trip by Secretary Christopher or any other high-level officials. I wouldn't rule it out, but there's nothing scheduled as of right now.
Q Is there a reaction to the refusal by the EC ministers to endorse the use of force or air strikes against the Serbs yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Well, the consultations are ongoing. As you know --
Q But no reaction to this particular decision not to endorse air strikes against the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: No, other than consultations are ongoing and we're going to continue to work with the allies, as the President has said.
Q Does it make it more likely, or what's your opinion of the effect of --
MS. MYERS: I think the President is going to continue to talk with the allies and continue to press for further action in Bosnia. Last night he signed the executive order tightening sanctions. Those went into effect this morning at 12:01 a.m. And Leon Fuerth will be available sometime this afternoon -- we'll tell you what time as soon as we work it out -- to brief on exactly what that means.
As you know, Leon was in Europe last week talking with our allies about how to enforce the sanctions. The EC agreed yesterday to double the number of sanctions monitors and put somebody in charge of it, so there's a real commitment to that. And even Karadzic was saying yesterday that this would cause real pain in Serbia and in Bosnia. So we're making progress on that. And, again, the President will continue to consult with the allies on further steps.
Q Well, obviously, they're not going for anything -- MS. MYERS: I don't think that that's clear. The
President is going to continue to press. What he says is we won't act alone, but he doesn't expect that we'll have to. So the conversations are ongoing.
Q How much time will it take, how many days does he give himself to convince the Europeans?
MS. MYERS: We don't have a specific time line, but the consultations are ongoing. I think the President has made clear that he wants to move forward on this rather quickly.
Q Weeks or days?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a time line on it.
Q Does the administration consider the Vance-Owen plan dead now with the absolute refusal of Bosnian Serbs and regular Serbs to sign on?
MS. MYERS: I mean, I would say that that's not encouraging. But we will continue to press for some kind of settlement to the agreement, whether it's Vance-Owen or something else. The Serbians have got to stop their aggression.
Q Leaving aside the question of escalating U.S. response to what's happening on the ground there, with the apparent demise of Vance-Owen, is there any other diplomatic initiative that the United States is considering at this point to replace it?
MS. MYERS: There's no specific proposal on the table.
Q Do you have any reaction to the Yeltsin results and has the President been in touch with him in any fashion?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, the results coming out of Russia -- they're preliminary but they're very encouraging. It appears from the preliminary reports that there was support both for Yeltsin and his continuing economic and political reform. We'll wait to see the final results and I expect the President will talk to Yeltsin at some point -- there's no specific plan. It's not scheduled at this point, but I'm sure he will talk to him soon.
MS. MYERS: Unclear.
Q Does the President have any immediate plans to begin consultations with Congress on Russian aid package? Are there any meetings today?
MS. MYERS: There are no meetings today, no.
Q So there is a meeting tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: There's a meeting with a couple of the Democratic leaders tomorrow.
Q Can we do a week ahead, as you did last week?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I'll tell you what we have. Tomorrow he'll have a meeting in the morning probably with some of the Democratic congressional leaders -- just a couple.
Q House or Senate?
MS. MYERS: Both. Just a couple, though.
Q Just Democrats?
MS. MYERS: Right. And then, I think it's noon, he speaks to the National Association of Realtors at the Washington Hilton.
Wednesday afternoon, 20 governors, bipartisan, from around the country are here for a meeting on health care. Thursday and Friday are unclear, other than to say that Friday we'll talk about national service and we will probably travel. But it will just be a day trip, though.
MS. MYERS: Yes, Friday.
Q And Thursday?
MS. MYERS: Thursday is unclear.
Q What city?
MS. MYERS: Don't know yet, but it will be a day trip. We'll go out in the morning and come back in the afternoon.
Q National service is the subject of the trip?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q What about the campaign finance reform legislation? What day will that be?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on that.
Q This week?
MS. MYERS: Hopefully.
Q Is it possible that it would not make the 100-day --
MS. MYERS: Hopefully we'll get it in this week.
Q Can you give us any readout on his impression of the meetings with the Senate Democrats this weekend?
MS. MYERS: Over the weekend -- I think he thought it was very positive. It was a good conversation. They talked some about the past, but mostly about the future.
Q What was this?
MS. MYERS: This was this weekend down in Jamestown with the Senate -- Senate Democrats.
Q Did they come up with any clear strategy for resurrecting any of the elements of the so-called stimulus package?
MS. MYERS: No, because I think it was important that the President also talk to the House before those decisions are made and get their input on it. But I think that there is -- the President is still committed to moving forward, particularly on summer jobs and some of the other elements of the package as quickly as he can.
Q Was there enthusiasm among the senators to do that?
MS. MYERS: I think on summer jobs there was -- there's support for that, as there was throughout the fight over the jobs package.
Q What about the other elements -- highways, vaccinations?
MS. MYERS: Highways -- I think there's support for all the elements. Exactly how and when it will be reintroduced or what the strategy is for that is still unclear.
Q Are you able to say who paid for the compilation and research and publication of your 100 days booklet?
MS. MYERS: I believe it was printed by the Government Printing Office. We're still checking on that.
Q Do you know what the cost was or how many copies?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't.
Q How many copies?
MS. MYERS: A couple thousand, but I don't know exactly. We'll have --
Q Can you give us a background --by midday could we get the facts on that?
MS. MYERS: Sure. And one of the things I know is that it is available on E-Mail and through our computer bulletin board, things like that. So it's being distributed both in hard copy and through our electronic distribution system.
Q Does the President plan any other observance of the 100 days mark? Is that why Thursday's schedule is still questionable?
MS. MYERS: No. I don't expect any other specific observance other than to continue to talk about the initiatives that he talked about at the beginning of the first 100 days and particularly the national service and, perhaps, campaign finance reform. He talked a little bit about it yesterday, but I don't expect any other speech dedicated to it or any particular event meant to mark it.
Q What's the justification for using taxpayer money for that booklet?
MS. MYERS: I think that it's fairly traditional that a lot of things, speeches and other things that have to do with his responsibilities as President be documented and paid for by the government.
Q But this isn't a speech, this is spin, this is public relations.
MS. MYERS: It's not. It's what the President -- I think that the American people are interested in knowing what the President's been doing in his first 100 days. I think there will be a lot of discussion about it in the media and I think that it's of interest to the American people.
Q But it's fairly sugar-coated, the references and the listings and that.
MS. MYERS: I think it's just the facts.
QQ Well, for example, I notice that there's no mention of Zoe Baird in the book. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: No, but I'm sure you all won't let that slip by.
Q That's true. And also, for example, your listing for last Monday was President makes statement on federal operations in Waco. That's, of course, true, but it is sugar-coated, wouldn't you say?
MS. MYERS: No, I'd say that's pretty stripped down. It's true. That is -- that doesn't have any editorial comment attached to it, that particular reference.
Q Did you get any kind of legal ruling from Counsel on the appropriateness of releasing this and having this printed at government expense?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we sought one.
Q Do we know what the government expense was?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't.
Q But that's what you'll find out?
MS. MYERS: Yes. We're still trying to track down --
Q How many copies, expenses --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q Are you going to distribute this at all other than the E-mail. Are these printed copies going to be mailed out or available to people who write in? How do you --
MS. MYERS: They'll be available to people who write in. We don't have any plans to do a massive mail-out. We'll probably make -- may make them available this week at different events. It's not a massive distribution by any means.
Q Were copies made available to the audience in Boston?
MS. MYERS: No, not at the publishers. We did make them available generally to the press yesterday. We just didn't hand them out at the publishers audience.
Q Is the audience -- for instance, if you did a national service audience this week --
MS. MYERS: I think there's a good chance that we would distribute it at that. For example, tomorrow at the realtors we may distribute it to people.
Q Is this the booklet the President made reference to in his remarks yesterday -- a listing of all the campaign promises he kept?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q? What is the subject of his speech at the realtors tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on that.
Q Was that speech yesterday scripted? Is there a text anywhere on that speech?
MS. MYERS: There was a text that doesn't bear a great deal of resemblance to the speech. (Laughter.) I think he was sort of reflecting on the 100 days -- (laughter) -- obviously.
Q Are your speechwriters frustrated?
MS. MYERS: No, I think generally he's been -- they've written a lot for him and he's followed it, but I don't think yesterday is a prime example of him sticking to the script. But he has a lot of thoughts about this obviously.
Q Did he develop any new strategy for overcoming the Republican stronghold in the Senate?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if it's a new strategy. I think that the American people understand that the Republicans held up the jobs package for political reasons, and I think that there will be some price to pay for that. What the President said yesterday was he wants to work with members. I think that there are a number of Republican senators who want to work with the President on a variety of issues. And we hope that gridlock doesn't become the standard operating procedure in the Senate, and don't expect that it will.
Q That's sounds like you're threatening Bob Dole and company.
MS. MYERS: I don't make a practice of threatening Bob Dole.
Q Well, what do you mean by there will be a price to pay for that?
MS. MYERS: Well, I just think that the American people want action. They made it very clear in the last election that they'd had enough of gridlock, that they wanted the government to do something. I think that the filibuster is the prime example of doing nothing. The Republicans in the Senate wouldn't even allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. There was a majority of members of the Senate and of the House who supported the package. It couldn't even come to a vote. I think that the American people are tired of that kind of politics.
Q So you're talking about the price will be exacted by the American people, not the President.
MS. MYERS: Right, not by the administration. Right. Exactly.
Q Dee Dee, there was a mention in a story over the weekend that the President got together with his staff in kind of a how we're doing session on Friday. Can you tell us about that? And are there other sort of appraisals going on this week, other meetings to --
MS. MYERS: Well, the meeting on Friday was less of a sort of looking back at sort of assessing the progress and more of an opportunity to sit down and look at a variety of initiatives that had been proposed and talk about where they are. How much progress has been made, what the decision points are. So it was more of an inventory of ongoing initiatives. Although there was some discussion -- the President mentioned -- talking about what lessons can we learn in a constructive way about the last 100 days and particularly about the jobs package.
Q What can you conclude from that?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if we reached any firm conclusions, and I don't know if I would share them with you from this podium if we did. But I think that there were a number of lessons learned. I think that there were certainly things that we could have done differently and better. And I think there are things that we'll continue to have to deal with as the President tries to get his different initiatives through the Congress. And so, I think that the process is ongoing in terms of trying to best figure out how to move forward from here.
Q How many people attended that meeting?
MS. MYERS: Twenty-five maybe.
Q Where was this, in the Roosevelt Room?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q Are there more self-appraisals going on this week?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there are any formally scheduled self-appraisals. But I think it is wise of us to take a moment to look back since everybody seems to be using this 100 days as a marker period and to look at things that we did well and did right and the initiatives that we made progress on and then some things that we can do better.
I do think there is some of that ongoing right now and I'm sure there will be a number of conversations about it. This week I think that it's generally being done in a very constructive way.
Q Along the lines of lessons learned, when was the last time he met with Bob Dole or Bob Michel?
MS. MYERS: I don't remember off the top of my head.
Q We were told that they were going to meet every other week.
MS. MYERS: I don't remember when the last time; it's probably been several weeks now.
Q Is he planning -- since they're not meeting this week with bipartisan leadership, is that on for next week or is that something that hasn't been determined yet?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to check. I don't know if it's tentatively scheduled.
Q Wasn't that right before the Yeltsin summit?
MS. MYERS: Yes, he definitely met with a number of bipartisan Senate and House leaders -- members; not just leaders but members -- before in developing the Vancouver package. And he's had subsequent conversations with members about -- well, yes, he's talked to them on the phone. I don't know when he's met.
Q He met with them the Thursday before the Yeltsin -- has he met with them since then?
MS. MYERS: As far as I know, they've spoken on the phone a couple of times.
Q Does the President fear that they have -- that the Republicans now smell victory with this tactic and will use it in other instances?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I don't think that that's what the Republicans think. I mean, that's not our opinion. Certainly, they have proven that they have the ability to filibuster a bill, but I think that Bob Dole is the first one to say that this was a bump in the road, and I don't think that they want to be associated with permanent gridlock.
Q The next filibuster threat from Dole is on campaign financing. Has the President talked to him about the campaign finance bill --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q and incorporated any of this let's work together rhetoric we get from both sides?
MS. MYERS: He has not spoken to him about the campaign finance reform bill.
Q Do you know if he plans to do so before it's --
MS. MYERS: There are no plans to, I don't believe.
Q What about the whole lesson learned that you need to talk to Republicans before things get set in stone?
MS. MYERS: The campaign finance is -- I think the Majority Leader has made clear his intentions on that bill before he's even seen what's in it.
Q A lot of that is based --
MS. MYERS: I mean Minority Leader.
Q A lot of that is based on the assumption that it will involve public financing. Will it?
MS. MYERS: The final decisions are being made, and we'll let you know as soon as we can.
Q But if the final decisions are being made, why not incorporate them into the process? At least take away his excuse.
MS. MYERS: I think we're working hard. We've consulted with a lot of members of Congress about this.
MS. MYERS: I believe mostly Democrats, perhaps all Democrats at this point.
Q Is there further report on the search for a new Supreme Court justice?
MS. MYERS: Nothing to report other than it's ongoing. There's no particular time line on it.
Q Is he meeting with anybody any time soon about that?
MS. MYERS: Nothing's scheduled.
Q Has he interviewed any candidates?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q Dee Dee, to follow Mike's question of what the President has learned, if he's learned lessons about his dealings with Senate Republicans and he's got some major legislation up, why isn't he meeting with Republicans actively this week?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that -- you all assume that -- well, I don't want to go down that road. (Laughter.) He's consulting widely with Congress on this. I think it's fairly clear where some members stand on the subject. I don't think that every single issue will be treated exactly the same. I think that there will be an opportunity for Republicans to have a lot of input on this bill. Again, I don't think that the President will talk to Senator Dole. I'll double-check that, but I don't think the President plans to talk to Senator Dole about this before making the final decisions on the package. Although he may speak to him before we announce it, and I'll let you know more about that.
Q? Well, do you have a political strategy then for getting past Dole? Because he says he's going to filibuster this and he's shown that he can do it. Do you have some reason to believe you can peel off the necessary senators?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're hopeful that once we announce this we'll be able to get the support we need to get it passed.
Q You haven't talked to any of them?
MS. MYERS: We're hopeful that we'll have the support we need to get it passed.
Q Well, hopeful is -- I mean, in this business hopeful is not a real good idea. Shouldn't you be certain?
MS. MYERS: I just can't say too much about the strategy for it before it's completely finalized. So as soon as we can tell you more about how that's going to work, I will.
Q Maybe he'll be talking to Republicans other than Dole?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out.
Q On Bosnia, are there any talks scheduled -- telephone talks scheduled today with foreign leaders?
MS. MYERS: He may speak to President Mitterrand today.
Q He hasn't yet?
MS. MYERS: He has not yet.
Q You'll let us know --
Q They spoke last week, did they not?
MS. MYERS: They spoke last week. They will probably speak again sometime this week, perhaps today.
MS. MYERS: Why? I think to talk about both Russia and Bosnia.
Q Has he spoken to Major again since the long phone call?
MS. MYERS: No. But I expect that they may speak again soon.
Q Is he trying to convince them? I mean, they seem to be pretty adamant against any further military --
MS. MYERS: I think he is having conversations with them. I think he's made clear that he'd like -- that he's going to press the allies to help and pursue some kind of course of further action. And I think it's partly trying to develop a consensus among the European leaders as to what to do next. I mean, clearly, we need to do more to stop ethnic cleansing and to stop the bloodshed in Bosnia.
Q With the administration -- is the administration considering exempting large corporations from participation in the health care plan?
MS. MYERS: I think this is answer 41. (Laughter.) I mean, I just can't comment on it.
Q Well, is the President getting pretty frustrated that he cannot seem to convince the allied leaders?
MS. MYERS: I think he's frustrated by the situation in Bosnia generally.
Q At the news conference he said we have to lead.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q What does he think his next move is? Is it just to try to bring them around?
MS. MYERS: Well, I mean, that's what this period is about, to determine what the next move is. I think he's made it very clear that we will not act alone, that he will -- but he doesn't believe that we will have to. I think that he's very committed to further action to stop ethnic cleansing. It is a very difficult and complicated situation, but he's going to continue to press the allies, to talk with the European leaders and come up with some kind of a next step in the near future.
Q Why doesn't he talk to Owen and Vance to see what their views are?
MS. MYERS: Well, there are certainly others that talk to Owen and Vance regularly. Their views are well-known within the administration. Reg Bartholomew and others speak with them regularly. That's one of the reasons we that we sent a special envoy there to that part of the world, to make sure that we were in constant contact with the people who are working hard to stop the fighting and reach some kind of a negotiated settlement, as frustrating as it's been.
Q Is Leon Fuerth on the record today?
MS. MYERS: He's generally not, no. I think he'll be on background.
Q Home sales went down. The numbers that came up this morning show them going down for the third straight month. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. MYERS: I didn't see the figures, but I think generally the economic news continues to be mixed and I think that was part of the reason the President pressed so hard for the passage of the jobs bill -- to try to keep the recovery from stalling for a third time.
Q Do you have an opinion -- there were some remarks by some analysts over the weekend that the economy is not only not growing, but seriously slowing down. Do you have an opinion on that? Does the administration have an opinion on that?
Q The stimulus package.
MS. MYERS: Exactly. Answer 17. No, I think that one of the things that the President continues to be concerned about is that worldwide there's a -- major industrialized countries are having a lot of trouble creating new jobs.
Q Not jobs, but just the economy in general.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's part of the same larger picture that there is sort of a worldwide slowdown in job creation and increases in productivity and other things that are very troubling.
Q But are we losing momentum from even where we've been in the past couple of months?
MS. MYERS: Again, it's mixed. I mean, there continues to be some good news -- interest rates are at an all-time low -- or 20-year low, not an all-time low -- but the news is mixed. But I don't think there's any reason to jump up and be excited.
Q The question is are we going backwards?
MS. MYERS: I think we're concerned about that. I don't know whether we're ready to make that kind of a -- reach that kind of a conclusion right now, that we're going backwards, but clearly we're not going forward in any kind of a measurable way.
Q On health care. Are you now at a stage where you have an outside group of health professionals reviewing the work of the task force so far?
MS. MYERS: No, the task force is continuing to do its own reviews.
Q Doesn't it have an outside group of health professionals that have been called in to review the work?
MS. MYERS: There are a number of outside health professionals who are participating in the task force process. But it's -- I wouldn't characterize it as any kind of a --
Q health professionals review group that specifically has been called in to review everything to date?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Can we have a list of names?
MS. MYERS: We released a list of names.
Q No, but in addition, a supplemental list? There's a separate group that --
MS. MYERS: I will check on that and get back to you. I don't know of any.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:17 A.M. EDT