THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
9:50 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Good morning. Okay, a few quick announcements. Today's schedule, the President has a small business event in the OEOB, room 450, at 10:30 a.m.; at 12:30 p.m., lunch with the Vice President; 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. he does his usual Thursday photos with folks from around the country; and then at 8:00 p.m. he is at the National Law Enforcement Officers candlelight vigil, and he should be back at the White House at around 9:00 p.m.
Q What kind of remarks does he have there?
Q What is he doing at that event?
MS. MYERS: It'll be some crime-related remarks. No new policy unveilings.
Q Any legislative push for the crime bill or anything?
MS. MYERS: No. I'm sure he will -- he generally talks about the crime bill and the Brady bill whenever he has a chance to. He may talk a little bit about community policing, which is included in the empowerment zones proposal and other places.
Q photographers dinner after that?
MS. MYERS: No photographers dinner.
Q Janet Reno, will she be there?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I believe so. But I'm not 100 percent sure.
Q There will be remarks?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q Dee Dee, there was only one photo op listed at 4:30 p.m. Are there others?
MS. MYERS: There are several -- wheelchair basketball team, National Association of Private Enterprise, a group of military aides from the White House, and that's it.
Q And there will photo ops in all three of those?
MS. MYERS: Actually the only one that's a photo op is the wheelchair basketball team.
Q Why is he snubbing the photographers?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he's snubbing them. He's going to the candlelight vigil. He's been to, as you know, three press dinners this year. He's obviously taken that seriously and will continue to attend those press dinners throughout his tenure here.
Q This administration likes photographers better than the Ford --
MS. MYERS: We like you all the same. We love all of you very much. (Laughter.)
Q What's the --
MS. MYERS: It's Small Business Week, and I don't know what the exact structure of the event is, actually. He's going to make remarks, talk a little bit more about the deficit reduction trust fund, touch on some of the themes he talked about yesterday, and he'll actually have a new proposal -- but an announcement to make on incentives for small business.
Q As part of something that already exists, like empowerment zones, or --
MS. MYERS: No, no, as part of reconciliation.
Q Can you tell us where the Bosnia-Macedonia -- everything stands now? We're getting such mixed signals as though it's off the stove now and so forth.
MS. MYERS: Actually it's not. It's moving forward. There has not been a lot of change from yesterday. But where we are is, as the President said yesterday, troops in some kind of peacekeeping force in Macedonia is something that's been raised. It's not something that's imminent, but it has been raised as a means of keeping the conflict from spilling over into other parts of the region.
In the meantime --
Q He is still considering that?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's something that's on the table; but again, no decisions have been made and no deployments are imminent.
Q Is Kosovo also being considered as part of that?
MS. MYERS: It's something that's been raised by the allies.
Q What was the question?
MS. MYERS: The question was, is Kosovo under consideration, putting some kind of peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
Q Can I ask under what authority we would put these peacekeeping troops in? Have they been invited by the governments? I mean, I may have missed it --
MS. MYERS: In Macedonia there's already a CSCE force in there. It's really a monitoring force. What's being considered, really, is an expansion of that under CSCE authority. That is the same sort of -- it's an expansion of that program that is currently being looked at. I believe the troops are -- now are Scandinavian.
Q Regarding Kosovo, I mean, is the President in favor, would be in favor of sending U.S. troops there as part of an international force?
MS. MYERS: What he's said is he's in favor of taking action to keep the conflict from spilling over. There is some concern about the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, but no decisions have been made. It's something that's been raised by the allies, but not something that we've made a decision on yet.
Q Dee Dee, up until this point, the whole -- the thing the President was saying is that there would be no troops, period, unless there was a peace agreement --
MS. MYERS: In Bosnia.
Q Right. But what is the motivation now to even think about putting troops in? Is this basically to placate the Europeans?
MS. MYERS: No, the President has said we have several objectives here. One is to keep the conflict from spilling over, the others are to stop the Serbian aggression and to stop ethnic cleansing. I think there has been, throughout this conflict, grave concern that the conflict could spill over and that similar ethnic disputes could erupt in other parts of the region. Putting people in Macedonia or Kosovo, which is not something that is being actively pursued right now, would be a means of containing the conflict.
Q Dee Dee, how would their presence contain it? I still don't understand that. You're saying that, just by being there it will prevent a spillover?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely.
MS. MYERS: Why? Yes, because I think there will be people on the ground to keep either some kind of -- to keep the Serbs from either moving into another part of --
Q Physically keep them from moving in?
MS. MYERS: That would certainly be part of it, or to monitor their actions to prevent them from sort of organizing some kind of an aggressive action.
Q So you're sending them into a combat situation?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's to prevent a combat situation. It's not currently a combat situation. It is very different than what's happening in Bosnia.
Q So those are things he is not actively pursuing now? What is he actively pursuing?
MS. MYERS: At this time, we're continuing to consult with the allies. As you know, the President is continuing to press for further action. I think over the course of the last couple of weeks, what's developed is a consensus that we do need to take additional steps to show that the international community is not going to allow ethnic cleansing and Serbian aggression to go unchecked, that we have to take action to contain the conflict.
Q Does he still think that he can't convince Europe -- at one stage to use military steps or to resort to force against the Serbs?
MS. MYERS: I don't think those options are off the table. I think we're continuing to press forward and continuing to consult on a number of options. The President has not changed his view of the situation, as he pointed out yesterday. And, again, I would point out that there is a consensus that the international community should take additional action. So we'll continue to press forward.
Q How do you get to that point?
MS. MYERS: That was the result of Christopher's trip, the Secretary of State's trip. That's something that I think all of the allies have confirmed.
Q They ought to do something, but they don't know what to do? Is that --
MS. MYERS: Well, at this point, yes. They want to do something, we're continuing to press for consensus on what that would be. Obviously, one of the things that's happening is that the sanctions against the former Yugoslav republic, Serbia and Montenegro are having an impact, and we're going to continue to watch Milosevic to see if he is sincere and committed to the embargo of all but humanitarian and food aid to the Bosnian Serbs.
Q What does it look like so far on that?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to monitor it. Some of the news reports have been mixed, but we're continuing to look for additional efforts.
Q Well, what does your monitoring show -- that it's airtight, that it's a sieve, that he's living up to it? It's been, what, a week now?
MS. MYERS: We're still monitoring it, but I think there's clearly been a reduction in support.
Q Do you agree with the British -- came on today that this whole thing is causing a rift between the two countries and the allies in Europe because the Clinton administration is pushing them so hard?
MS. MYERS: It's causing a rift between the European countries, or between us and the European countries?
Q The United States and the European countries, particularly Britain.
MS. MYERS: I think we disagree with that. Obviously, we're going to continue to press. This is something that the President feels strongly for and something that we've worked hard on for the last several weeks. But I think we have good relationships with our European allies, and we're committed to keeping that relationship strong and acting in a multilateral fashion to stop the conflict in Bosnia.
Q Do you anticipate the President doing anything this weekend? This referendum vote is Saturday and the Europeans have made it clear that they don't want to take any action or additional steps until after that vote. Do you anticipate the President working Saturday and/or Sunday in consultation with the allies?
MS. MYERS: I think the consultations are ongoing. The President doesn't have any particular meetings scheduled. It may take another day to get the results of that referendum. We don't have any events tied to that.
Q Is it a watershed for U.S. policy?
MS. MYERS: No. As we've said before, we don't believe it's legitimate. But some of our allies are committed to seeing what the results are, and in the meantime we'll continue to consult with them and press forward towards consensus.
Q Is the President involved in those consultations, or has he taken himself out of that and is letting subordinates do that?
MS. MYERS: He's obviously being kept informed, but the consultations themselves are primarily happening with the Secretary of State and others. Nothing's scheduled.
Q And your statement on Monday that action on Bosnia was in a holding pattern, is that still the case?
MS. MYERS: I think what I meant to convey was that a lot of the allies are committed to waiting until the referendum over the weekend. In the meantime, we're going to move forward, pressing for a consensus for additional action.
Q You said a minute ago that clearly a consensus to press for future action -- what evidence is there of that?
MS. MYERS: That's --
Q Recognizing that the allies want to wait for the weekend referendum, what consensus -- what evidence can you show us now that there's a consensus for further action?
MS. MYERS: I think that was the outcome of the Secretary of State's trip to Europe. And I think that is something that the allies have confirmed, that they believe we need to take additional action, and we're pressing for a consensus on exactly what that action would be.
Q? Illustrated how?
MS. MYERS: Through the results of his consultations with them, through their comments subsequent to it. I think they've all said that they believe that the international community needs to do more on -- and what we're working on now is to forge a consensus on exactly what steps we should take.
QQ Well, they have -- with the exception of Italy declined to back the President's call for military action.
MS. MYERS: Well, I would say -- we haven't said that there is a consensus at this point on exactly what steps should be taken, but I think that the President's leadership has driven the international community to the point that they all agree that additional steps should be taken. And we'll continue to work with them to reach consensus on what those steps are.
Q Dee Dee, now that the Croats and the Muslims are fighting, is it true that there is a lessening of support among the -- on the U.S. side for lifting the arms embargo period?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think our position hasn't changed. I think clearly the conflict is an issue of concern and something that we'll watch very closely.
Q Has the President changed his thinking at all on it?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Dee Dee, is that possibility of lifting that arms embargo, is that becoming less of a reality though even though he hasn't changed his views given the opposition of Europeans?
MS. MYERS: Well, the situation is fluid but I think the President's position has not changed, and we'll continue to press for consensus for further action with the allies, but the President's position has not changed.
Q Dee Dee, is it the President's feeling that should the Serb's reject the Vance-Owen plan to reach a referendum, the Europeans would have to accept the steps proposed by the President that they would have no way out -- is that his feeling?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to characterize what their response would be other than to say we're going to continue to press for further action.
Q I was asking just because a French Minister -- said this morning that in fact France doesn't have -- doesn't hold much stock -- is a bit irrelevant, which show that, in fact, regardless of the result France will continue to oppose the lifting of the embargo and even air strikes. So what kind of a chance does the President have of convincing Europeans if they think that anyway -- in fact, irrelevant?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the consultations are ongoing. And we're going to continue to press, and we'll see what happens. But I don't think that as far as we're concerned the referendum has an impact one way or another on the our plans.
Q What impact has the Pentagon report on the success or lack of it of airpower in the Gulf had on the President's consideration of that option in Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that he's had a chance to evaluate that yet.
Q Well, on the referendum among the Bosnian Serbs, is it still the U.S. government's position that the results of the referendum have no credibility?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely.
Q The Times has a story this morning that the United States -- the administration has asked Mexico to accept former representative Jim Jones as the U.S. ambassador there. Is that correct?
MS. MYERS: I can't confirm appointments until we make them.
Q I wouldn't ask you to confirm the appointment, I was asking you to confirm whether we've asked Mexico to accept him? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Same answer.
Q Now that the President has recommended this or proposed this deficit reduction trust fund, how does the White House intend to get that into, through Congress? I mean, have you got somebody to draft the bill? Are you working on it here? What's the state of play on that?
MS. MYERS: Yes, there's -- I'm not sure exactly what the -- we will introduce legislation through the -- it will become part of the reconciliation process. And I'll have to get back to you on what exact steps. But we're optimistic that we can get it through Congress; there's a lot of support in Congress for it.
Q Are you going to work to --
MS. MYERS: It will be legislation. I'm not sure who the cosponsors have been. As you know, Rep. Schumer and others have been the main proponents of this in the past, and Senator Bradley on the Senate side. So we'll work with Congress to get legislation introduced. It'll probably have a lot of cosponsors.
QQ Is it fair to say that you sort of sprung this on Congress because many of those who even thought this would have been a good idea were surprised that it happened yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it was something that we had discussed with various members and staffs over the course of several weeks. I don't think we gave them a lot of lead time that we were going to announce it yesterday, but they knew that it was something that we were considering and something that the President was looking favorably at.
Q And he put this out there because the poll results you were getting from around the country were showing that people weren't buying the economic program without some proof that the President was seriously committed to reducing the deficit?
MS. MYERS: I think that clearly people are willing to contribute more if they believe that the money will be spent prudently and for things like deficit reduction. I think it was an opportunity -- an opportunity for the President to be very specific, to have a specific plan that says, yes, these additional taxes and these spending cuts will go toward deficit reduction. So I think it's an opportunity -- we're focusing on the economic plan this week and it makes its way through the Ways and Means Committee. That process is going extremely well. And this is just an excellent opportunity for the President to show that he's committed to deficit reduction.
Q Isn't it true, as the Republicans were quick to charge yesterday, that there really is no net deficit reduction in the Clinton administration; that when you leave office, at the end of the first term, say, the deficit will be approximately what it is today?
MS. MYERS: That's just not true. There will be --
Q what was the deficit last year, and what would the deficit be?
MS. MYERS: That's an irrelevant measure, because if you look at what the deficit projections were under the Bush five-year plan, and what the deficit projections are under the Clinton plan. There's a tremendous amount of deficit reduction, both in cumulative terms and in real terms.
Q Well, all that means is your holding the line on --
MS. MYERS: No, it means that we're reducing the deficit -- reducing the deficit by $500 billion over five years, and as a percentage of GNP by 50 percent. It goes from 4. -- I can't remember; I don't have the numbers in front of me. But we cut the deficit as a percentage of GNP in half over five years, which is infinitely more than the previous two administrations have done with the deficit, when see it skyrocket both in real terms as a percentage of GNP.
Q Are there any plans to address the nation, even tentative, on the Bosnia situation?
MS. MYERS: No plans.
Q If there as military -- would you call the Desert Storm model of getting congressional approval and setting a deadline?
MS. MYERS: We just haven't gotten to that point. I just can't speak to plans that -- about decisions that haven't been made.
Q Can you jump ahead to tomorrow, what's on the schedule?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Glad you asked. At 1:00 p.m. the President will hold a press conference in the Rose Garden, weather permitting. And if the weather is not good, we'll do it here. It is just a regular old press conference as opposed to anything more specific. In an ongoing series of press conferences, I might add. (Laughter.) Oh, dozens, dozens.
Q third one --
MS. MYERS: This is the third one, dedicated just to letting you guys talk about what you want to talk about.
Q Have you really counted how many questions he's answered?
MS. MYERS: It's over 500, so it's a lot.
Q You're keeping track?
MS. MYERS: Actually, I'm sure by tomorrow we'll have the specific number for you.
Q Can we like an Arsenio Hall, 1,000-question --
MS. MYERS: We might have to do a big ceremony around the 1,000th question. Have some -- I don't know --
Q Don Imus will probably get it.
MS. MYERS: Yes, he probably will. That's a good idea. Saturday he's doing his radio address. That's the only public event on the schedule as of now. Sunday, no public events.
And Monday morning we will leave for Los Alamos, New Mexico, and then on to San Diego. Monday night we will do a town hall meeting in San Diego at the studios of KGTV, Channel 10, which is the ABC affiliate in San Diego. It'll be 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time, and we have the coordinates if anybody's interested. And it will be a small studio audience, and it's 40 to 50 local residents.
Q Any other cities involved?
MS. MYERS: We will probably got to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Q I mean, any other cities involved --
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the structure -- that's a good question. I don't think so.
Q Could you finish that up, Dee Dee? Los Angeles -- MS. MYERS: We'll probably go to Los Angeles Tuesday
morning and then come back to Washington. We don't have an event scheduled yet in Los Angeles.
Q What's in Los Alamos?
MS. MYERS: It's defense conversion.
Q Is he planning on converting Los Alamos to something? I mean, is there a specific --
MS. MYERS: No --
Q I mean, they have a very specific job there.
MS. MYERS: They do. But the President's been there before and talked about -- there is obviously civilian uses for the kinds of technology that they specialize in there.
Q Could you give us an approximate departure time on Monday?
MS. MYERS: It'll be in the morning. We'll do the event in Los Alamos and then get to San Diego in the evening, Pacific Time. So I don't think it'll be a real early departure.
Q Is there any -- comment on --
Q Return time on Tuesday? Dinner time -- late night?
MS. MYERS: Sometime in the evening probably, early evening.
Q Dee Dee, is there any comment on the French government's request today that the Blair House agreement be renegotiated?
MS. MYERS: No comment on that. We'll continue to push forward toward framework for GATT by the G-7 meeting in Tokyo and we'll continue to press for that.
Q The President hasn't been informed yet or he doesn't want to comment it or --
MS. MYERS: No, I'd have to take the question.
Q Can we get back to Bosnia just for a brief minute? Senator Biden's comments Tuesday in the Senate have ruffled a lot of feathers in Europe -- they were pretty -- does the President share his views? Does he feel the way he stated them was helpful to his achieving a consensus?
MS. MYERS: The President said on Tuesday that he wasn't going to characterize at all Senator Biden's comments, and went on to say that his position, the U.S. position is well-known in Europe and we'll continue to work with our allies. We believe that this is an international problem that requires multilateral action; and we'll continue to press for a multilateral solution.
Q Dee Dee, back on the economy, given the wholesale price figures yesterday and the retail price figures today, is the administration concerned that inflation is once again becoming a problem?
MS. MYERS: Well, at this point, we don't believe there's a lot of inflationary pressure, but it's something we'll continue to watch.
Q What's the status of that -- investigation on the plot against Bush?
MS. MYERS: It's ongoing. Don't have any report on it today.
Q They're not back yet?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Is Sessions going to get the coup de grace today?
MS. MYERS: I believe he's meeting with the Attorney General today. And beyond that --
Q What does it mean --
MS. MYERS: She said that she -- the question was, is Sessions going to get the coup de grace today -- (laughter) -- in Helen's usual delicate terms.
Q Off with his head. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's right. (Laughter.)
Q Give him a push. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The Attorney General will meet with -- the answer is, the Attorney General will meet with Director Sessions today. The Attorney General, when she's prepared, will present a report to the President, who will review it and make a decision.
Q Will the President meet with Sessions?
MS. MYERS: Nothing's scheduled.
Q He's asked for that.
MS. MYERS: We haven't made -- nothing -- he'll wait until he gets the report from the Attorney General and make a decision on that.
Q How long could that take, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: The Attorney General is reviewing the allegations against him and Sessions' defense.
Q And what's the time frame on all of this?
MS. MYERS: There's no particular time frame, but obviously Janet Reno has said it's something that she wants to move forward with, and is meeting with Sessions today as part of that process.
Q Is it likely today, the final decision by the President?
MS. MYERS: No, no, no. At some point the Attorney General will present a report to the President. She hasn't done that yet. She's meeting with him, I think, as part of the preparation process.
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q Have a replacement yet?
Q What else is the President doing tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: The only other public event is he's meeting with the White House Fellows at 5:00 p.m.
Q No meetings with lawmakers? No meetings with --
MS. MYERS: Nothing's scheduled. That could change, depending on what happens. But there's nothing scheduled.
Q No meetings with national security folks or diplomatic advisers?
MS. MYERS: Nothing's scheduled. He continues to, obviously, receive regular updates. He's in regular contact with his National Security Adviser and others on Bosnia and other international situations.
Q But nothing's scheduled outside his normal morning briefing?
MS. MYERS: No formal meetings scheduled.
Q On Ways and Means, you said the process is going extremely well. How many exemptions is the administration willing to accept on the energy tax?
MS. MYERS: Well, we don't have a specific number of exemptions on the energy tax. Obviously we're going to work with the House Ways and Means members to reach something that's acceptable, that protects the President's overall goals. And so far we've very gratified by the way the whole reconciliation process has gone in a number of committees. For example, yesterday the direct loan program got out of Labor and Education, in the Senate, which was extremely gratifying. The whole process is going very well, and we think that the House will probably vote on it tonight -- the House Ways and Means Committee.
Q Dee Dee, on the Ways and Means, since it appears that the ITC is dead in the water, is the President proposing these small business incentives as an alternative to the permanent --
MS. MYERS: I would say, don't miss the President's small business event this morning.
Q Is he going to mention corporate income tax? Is he willing to compromise, come down from the 36 as Rosti wants?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're willing to work with the House, obviously, to reach a compromise that both meets with the President's objectives, which is a plan that is ultimately fair, that raises revenue by going back to the people who did the best in the 1980s, who saw their incomes go up but their taxes go down. We think that we will achieve that. We're very happy with the way the process is going so far and the way it's preserving not only the specifics, many of the specifics of the President's plan -- the vast majority of the specifics -- but also the intention of the President's plan. But I don't think we'll have any specific comment on that today, but he will talk about other small business incentives.
Q Is the President giving a reception for the Middle East negotiators at some point?
MS. MYERS: None is scheduled at this point.
Q Can I go back to the economy for just a second, the inflation -- do you think that's a one-time thing, weather-related, or do you have a reason for why the jump if you don't think there's inflationary pressure --
MS. MYERS: Let me take that question, or have one of our economists respond.
Q Is there a briefing this --
MS. MYERS: George is briefing at noon -- 12:30 p.m.
Q Where was the President this morning? It appeared that he wasn't in the Oval Office this morning. Do you know where he was?
MS. MYERS: He came in at 9:30 a.m. -- I think -- he was definitely in there for a meeting at 9:30 a.m. I think before that he was at the Residence, yes.
Q At 9:30 a.m. -- all right --
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:16 A.M. EDT