THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
12:41 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: A couple of quick announcements. The President today major disasters in Nebraska and South Dakota as a result of severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes. He's asked FEMA to provide individual and public assistance to families and communities affected by the floods. The FEMA money will provide for temporary housing, home repair, disaster unemployment, assistance for road repair, SBA loans, debris removal, utilities and water control.
And an issue which none of you are interested in, the Attorney General Janet Reno will be here to meet with the President this afternoon at 3:15 p.m. to discuss the FBI. I expect to have an announcement after that.
Q Are the reports that Sessions is coming in at 3:00 p.m. correct?
MS. MYERS: No. It will be just the Attorney General and the President.
Q How will it be announced?
MS. MYERS: It's likely the President will have something to say after the meeting.
Q What contact is the President having with Judge Sessions?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have more to say about that after he meets with the Attorney General this afternoon.
Q Would you advise that it would be in person or on the telephone any contact he may have?
MS. MYERS: Judge Sessions will not be here. He's not expected to be here this afternoon.
Q When you say that it is likely the President will have something to say after the meeting, do you mean that he would say it to the nation publicly at this lectern perhaps?
MS. MYERS: Perhaps from this very podium. Yes, I expect him to have something to say publicly.
Q Does the President feel --
Q Was Judge Sessions invited?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Does the President feel concerned that now that he's come up with a compromise on gays in the military, that Sam Nunn is insisting on legislating what could be a more restrictive policy? Wasn't the whole point to avoid having Congress enacting a law?
MS. MYERS: Clearly, the President asked Secretary Aspin to spend several months reviewing this, consulting with the military, consulting with Congress, consulting with various interest groups in order to come up with a policy that would be acceptable, that would work. The most important thing was to find a policy that would work. He thinks he's found that. Obviously, he'll announce it today.
We'll see what Sam Nunn and other members of the Congress choose to do. As you know, Secretary Aspin will testify on the Hill Tuesday and Wednesday, and we'll have to wait and see where we are.
Q Sam Nunn has said that he believes something must be legislated. Isn't that rejection of the President's compromise?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. We haven't seen the legislation yet and I think the President has yet to review all the details of his plan. But that will happen today.
Q But wouldn't any legislation be a setback for the President, who did not want it codified?
MS. MYERS: No, not necessarily. The President didn't want the ban as previously enacted codified. And I think he has come up with -- Secretary Aspin will issue a directive to the service chiefs of staff today. That's the form that this will take. Now, if Congress chooses to enact legislation that codifies the President's proposal, then that's something else. We'll have to wait and see what the details of the legislation --
Q This will not be an executive order from the President?
MS. MYERS: No, it's a directive. Secretary Aspin recommended that it be a directive from him to the various heads of the services. And so that's the form it will take.
Q Is the President afraid of a confrontation with the FBI Director? I mean, he won't have any personal contact with him to deliver coup de grace.
MS. MYERS: No, he's not afraid of a confrontation. He's going to meet with the Attorney General today to discuss it. And I wouldn't rule out some kind of contact. But Director Sessions is not expected to be here today. And we'll have more to say about the situation after the President has spoken with Janet Reno.
Q But if the man has wanted to see the President, why can't he see him?
MS. MYERS: The President will have more to say about the situation after he meets with Janet Reno.
Q It's not clear to me whether the President has spoken to Judge Sessions today or whether he intends to --
MS. MYERS: He has not. He has not.
Q Does he intend to speak with Judge Sessions today?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's going to meet with Janet Reno first and then he'll move forward from there. I wouldn't rule it out.
Q Given that Congress is going to act anyway on the gay ban, and given that whatever decisions anybody makes are probably going to end up in court, why not take a stand on principle and the President just overturn the ban instead of giving up on his campaign promise?
MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, the President said --has said recently that what he hopes to do through this is to make progress. This is a significant step forward for men and women serving in the military. The President will have obviously the details of his policy at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.
I think what he worked very hard to do and why he asked Secretary Aspin to take additional time was in order to find a compromise that would work, a policy that would work, not something that would be thrown out right away.
I hope that members of the Congress will take the time to review the President's policy, to talk to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will all be there with the President today, to talk with the Secretary of Defense, all of whom have worked very hard on this. They believe this is a step forward. They believe it's a policy that will work. They believe, and the President believes strongly, that this will make life better for gay men and women who choose to serve in the military.
Q But gay men and women do not believe that.
MS. MYERS: Oh, I'm not sure that -- we'll wait and see. I don't think that the entire community's going to be perfectly happy with this policy. Nonetheless, it is a step forward. It is going to make life better in practice for the men and women in the military. And the President is going to announce the details of that today.
Q Well, is he disappointed that he has to go back on his promise?
MS. MYERS: Again, I don't agree with your premise that he's gone back on his promise. He's making progress. But I think he is -- I think he's aware the he didn't get everything that he hoped -- that he'd hoped to be able to do more, but that wasn't possible.
Q How does he feel about that?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he feels like he tried his best to make progress, that this is a step forward, that it isn't everything he'd hoped for but it is a step forward, and that some progress is better than none at all.
Q For this measure -- for Nunn's measure to be codified into law, does not that make it more difficult for further progress on this issue by the President?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, we'll have to wait and see how Senator Nunn offers an amendment, exactly what the details of that are. I think he probably wants a chance to review what the President's proposal is today. So we'll just have to see.
Q There's a chance it will require further legislation, correct?
MS. MYERS: Depending on how it gets worked out. I mean, it's all speculative at this point.
Q Does the President feel double-crossed at all by Nunn?
MS. MYERS: No, he doesn't.
Q I'm not clear on how you can say it's not a betrayal of his campaign promise when his promise in putting people first was to lift the ban on gays in the military. And clearly, that's not lifted. If you're openly homosexual, you cannot serve under this policy.
MS. MYERS: It is a step forward in that people will not longer be asked about their sexual orientation in order to join. They'll no longer be drummed out or investigated on the basis merely of rumors or speculation about their sexual orientation. This is clearly a step forward. And, again, I will let the President unveil all the details of this and talk in his own words about what it means and where he thinks it is in terms of what he's said in the past.
Q North Korea is balking at talks in Geneva. What is your reaction to that -- on nonnuclear arms?
MS. MYERS: I think their talks have been -- the talks have been ongoing. And I think the sense was that some progress had been made, although we're certainly not there yet. I know that there was a meeting scheduled again today, and I don't know what the outcome of that is.
Q Staying in that region of the world, Dee Dee, what are the prospects for U.S.-Japan trade relations after the LDP has lost the bid of power after the election?
MS. MYERS: Well, the United States and Japan have had a long-term, stable relationship. We don't expect that will change. Whatever structure the new government takes as they work through the coalition process, we think it will be one that the United States can work with, and we look forward to further negotiations on trade and on GATT.
Q Do you it helps or hurts the trade negotiations?
MS. MYERS: I think it's impossible to say at this point. I think we expect that it won't have much effect. It may slow things down a bit in the interim. But I think that we expect the talks to go forward. We've had a long-term relationship with Japan. We don't expect that that will be affected by a change in government.
Q Getting back to gays in the military, what would the President like Senator Nunn to do at this point?
Q Go away. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Obviously, this is something that the President wanted worked out in consultation with Congress. We've tried hard to do that and we'll see where it goes.
Q How much advance consultation did Nunn have with the White House before he announced his intention to codify this into law?
MS. MYERS: He's been involved in discussions throughout the process, I think. I don't know what has happened the last few days so I don't know where he is on the President's final decisions on this.
Q Did he and the President discuss this at all?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe they've talked recently about it. I'll have to get back to you on exactly when the last time they talked. It hasn't been for a while.
Q On the same issue, if the President had such strong feelings about lifting the ban in the beginning, why didn't he make a case for that to the American public? A lot of it seemed to be stand back and let Congress debate it and let everybody else -- he made very broad comments --
Q Can you tell us what she's talking about?
MS. MYERS: She asked, why hasn't the President made a case for lifting the ban on gays in the military? I think the President made a very strong case, particularly back in January when this issue first surfaced and he was first questioned about it. He said in no uncertain terms that he didn't think people should be excluded on the basis of status alone, but that he didn't think there should be changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as per conduct. And that the status -- that people ought to be judged based on conduct, not on status.
I think he then put in place a process and asked Secretary Aspin and others to work on this, to come back to him with a recommendation. They've now done that. During that interim period I think he chose to move on, to focus on issues that were much more at the top of his agenda -- the economy, health care, some of the international events he's had to deal with.
Q At last word, Attorney General Reno and Justice Department lawyers were said to have had equal protection concerns about the proposed policy.
MS. MYERS: The Justice Department has reviewed it and they don't have any problems with it.
Q If you can be expelled for telling someone that you're gay how is that not excluding a gay on the basis of status alone?
MS. MYERS: I think that George and Dave Gergen addressed that last week, and I'm going to let the President talk about the details of his policy first and then we may come back later with a backgrounder this afternoon if that proves necessary.
Q What's the difference between a directive --
Q When the President announced the suspension in January of asking the question, cases were supposed to be held up, final disposition of cases. Do you have any idea how many that involved? And a follow-up.
MS. MYERS: I don't. It's a -- I think it's roughly two dozen, but I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q And has the President called David Mixner or any of his other friends to talk about this in the last day or weekend, or anything like that?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of, but I'll double-check and get back to you on that as well.
Q Back on the Sessions thing, is Judge Freeh in town today? Has he been asked to come back to Washington?
MS. MYERS: I don't know his exact whereabouts.
Q How did he and the President hit it off?
MS. MYERS: They had a very good meeting.
Q When do you expect an announcement?
Q Whoa, in Clinton terms, just a very good meeting, that sounds like they must have had a fist fight. (Laughter.) Was there any hugging or any of the stuff we've come to expect -- (laughter) -- when it's been a really good meeting? Did they bond? (Laughter.) Was the President moved by his story? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's the question that remains to be answered. I will say they met in the Residence and it was just the two of them --
Q How long did it last?
Q Who is they?
MS. MYERS: This is the President's meeting with Judge Freeh last Friday. The meeting lasted roughly two hours? Pardon me?
Q You mean he's the man that the FBI wants?
Q That's who I meant, Sarah.
MS. MYERS: You'll have to check that with the FBI, but certainly, that's the job he's being considered for. And the President was last seen giving him a tour of the Residence.
Q That's a good sign. When do you expect an announcement?
MS. MYERS: Soon.
Q How soon?
MS. MYERS: Well, it depends on what the resolution of today's meeting is, but --
Q But it could come as soon as when? Tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow.
Q Is there some concern about double standard here in terms of Travelgate, people were found guilty of pressuring the FBI, cronyism, lying. Sessions -- they got reprimanded. Sessions is going to lose his job for taking his wife on a trip and stuff that doesn't seem too much more serious.
MS. MYERS: Well, the Attorney General is coming today to present the President with a report that she's been working on for some time. I think it's important that the President have a chance to go through the details of that report with her one last time before I comment on the criteria.
Q The new report?
Q Is the President's mind made up?
MS. MYERS: He's going to meet with the Attorney General and I expect him to make a decision based on that meeting.
Q But as of now, he still hasn't decided?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to entirely characterize his state of mind on this. (Laughter.)
Q Come on.
Q Good answer.
MS. MYERS: Thank you.
Q The guy's a gone goose, come on, Dee Dee, tell us.
Q The President was going to retrain his laser beam on something that no one has even asked a question about this morning, the economic package. What happened to that laser beam? Is it scatter shots?
MS. MYERS: The President has been spending most of his time focused on the economy, particularly on the economic plan. I'm glad you asked this question, Jeff, because if you look at the week ahead, which I know you're all interested in, he's spending --
Q We'd like to but we never get one.
MS. MYERS: That's right. Well, you're going to get one. Later today he's meeting with Senator Sasser and Representative Sabo. Tomorrow he will meet with --
Q Is that today?
MS. MYERS: That's this afternoon, that's a 5:00 p.m. He will meet this week with the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, the Women's Caucus, the Conservative Caucus, the Conservative Forum, the Mainstream Democratic Forum --
Q How about the druids? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's probably next week. Right.
Q When is the Black Caucus?
Q meet with him?
MS. MYERS: Let me just go through this day by day. Today he meets with Sasser and Sabo. Tomorrow Moynihan -- he's having Moynihan and Rostenkowski in. He will also meet, likely, with the Women's Caucus and perhaps the Hispanic Caucus. We're still trying to schedule all these meetings in.
He will meet at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning with the Black Caucus --
Q Have they accepted?
MS. MYERS: Yes. He has some kind of a small business event in Maryland at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday. He'll have a CEO lunch also with small business leaders the same day. That evening at 5:30 p.m. he's meeting with the Conservative Democratic Forum.
Some of these times could change, but 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning he's meeting with the new House members. At 10:30 a.m. he's doing --
Q Freshmen House members?
MS. MYERS: Yes, freshmen House members.
Q Aren't you glad we asked?
MS. MYERS: That's what it says on my schedule here. I can't be responsible.
Q Democrats only or bipartisan?
MS. MYERS: It is freshmen Democrats.
Q All on economic --
MS. MYERS: This is all to talk about -- yes -- conference process, the economic plan.
Q And 10:30 a.m. Thursday --
MS. MYERS: At 10:30 a.m. Thursday is a high-tech event. Then he has lunch with the Vice President. You don't want to miss that. Then at 4:45 p.m. he's meeting, 30 years to the day, with the Boys Nation and Girls Nation reps.
MS. MYERS: Thirty years to the day.
Q In the Rose Garden?
MS. MYERS: In the Rose Garden. So you might --
Q Rain or shine? (Laughter.)
Q Is he going to pick out some kid whose hand he's going to shake, and 30 years from now that kid's a president?
MS. MYERS: Exactly. Pass the mantle. Pass the mantle. Q Was this his idea? MS. MYERS: I think it was -- this is something that's
prescheduled in terms of when -- they schedule these things years in advance of -- maybe not years, but a long time in advance as to when the Boys Nation and Girls Nation events are in Washington. We did, I think, try to work it out this day during this week.
Q Was that one of his brilliant aides and assistants, or was that the President?
MS. MYERS: No, Marcia Hale gets credit for this one.
Q This is Thursday?
MS. MYERS: This is Thursday. We're still on Thursday. At 5:30 p.m. Thursday he meets with the Mainstream Forum. And then at 10:00 a.m. on Friday he has a Cabinet meeting. It's a House caucus -- House and Senate caucus.
MS. MYERS: Yes. And then at noon he's having --meeting and having lunch with Prime Minister Shushkevich of Belarus. You don't want to miss that.
Saturday, radio address and then he's having the 1993 and 1963 classes of Boys Nation to the Rose Garden for coffee. That's Saturday.
Q Aren't they a little young for coffee?
MS. MYERS: Water.
Q on the economic parts of the program --
Q I've had my hand up for 40 minutes.
Q Any your mouth open for longer than that --
MS. MYERS: Shhh. Okay, you be next, Sarah.
Q Does the President feel a bit sidetracked by these other issues that have come up at the end of last week and obviously he's going to resolve today, namely gays in the military and Sessions?
MS. MYERS: Well, there are certainly always things you have to deal with as President. I think that he's going to continue to try to focus on the economy, on the economic plan. That's clearly what he's spent most of his time on over the course of the last week, since he returned from Asia, where he again spent a great deal of time on domestic economic issues. But this is something he has to deal with. And I think we'll do this today and then move right on.
Q Is there some new shape or new program that is planned for the FBI, a new purpose? Because the FBI tells me that the main thing wrong with Sessions was that he did -- his personality did not meld with theirs. And they've been trying to get rid of him before he even landed in Washington. Is it because they have a plan for a new program in the FBI?
MS. MYERS: I think it's important to wait for this process to work itself out.
Q I don't think we'll ever get it from these people, because the less they know to look for, the FBI will never tell them --
MS. MYERS: If and when we should have a new director, I think that will be --
Q playing very sinister here that before this man ever got to town, they were objecting to him -- inside the agency were trying to pick their own boss.
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure that that's true.
Q Oh, yes, it is.
MS. MYERS: I think if -- the President will choose the next FBI director, should that become necessary. And there will be an announcement, and the new FBI director will outline his vision for the future of the bureau.
Q Can you tell us about --
MS. MYERS: About Larry King?
Q Yes, where will that take place and how long is it?
MS. MYERS: It's going to be either -- CNN, pay attention -- it's going to be either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Q What is?
MS. MYERS: So, we'll get back to you guys on that.
MS. MYERS: This is Larry King Live.
Q With President Clinton.
MS. MYERS: Larry King Live, it's 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday from the Roosevelt Room or the Residence -- we haven't chosen a site. Somewhere here at the White House. And it's just an opportunity for the President to talk about the economic plan, how it's going to affect the lives of Americans.
Q The promo say Tuesday.
MS. MYERS: I know.
Q Do you have a clue what time Clinton and Reno might come out, just generally?
MS. MYERS: They start about 3:15 p.m. I suspect they'll be out sometime -- the meeting will probably break up 4:00 p.m. or 4:15 p.m. I'm guessing.
Q What exactly is he going to be telling all these groups of members? At some point you all said that he was going to weigh in when this left conference. Well, here it is. What is he going to be telling them that he wants?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he's going to --
Q Other than the broad generalities --
MS. MYERS: Right. I think he's going to, obviously, continue to press the broad generalities, which include $500 billion in deficit reduction and fairness and all those. I could bring back the flashcards if that's necessary, but --
Q Oh, no. (Laughter.)
Q Broad-based energy tax?
MS. MYERS: I think, as Director Panetta said yesterday, we're moving more toward a Senate number. Through the House and Senate processes, we've identified additional spending cuts. I think that that's allowed us to sort of free the middle class from some additional burden. I think we're moving again toward a Senate number.
Q And just a gasoline tax --
MS. MYERS: I think that's something that still has to be worked out. Obviously, the BTU tax is something that's very difficult to get passed.
Q What does he tell the Black Caucus about the investments they want, if we're moving towards the Senate number, which is smaller?
MS. MYERS: We've found additional spending cuts. And I think the President has made clear that he's still going to continue to press for many of his investments. I think he'll have a number of conversations with people over the coming week to see exactly what's possible. But he's going to continue to fight for earned income tax credit and empowerment zones and things like that that he's been talking about, as well as $500 billion in deficit reduction and fairness and a good balance of at least as many, if not more, spending cuts than new revenues.
Q On the flashcards, what happened to the broad-based energy tax?
MS. MYERS: It's still there, in the form of perhaps transportation fuels or some other form, but it's still part of the package; always has been. It will be smaller than the President originally proposed. I think that's clear.
Q I don't understand because, if I recall, after you ditched the BTU tax, you came out with flashcards and said the President is absolutely committed to the principle of a broad-based energy tax, and that's what he's going to fight for in conference. And if I'm not mistaken, a gasoline tax, you said, would not be, so what happened? Where are now?
MS. MYERS: I think has always been broader than just a gasoline tax. The Senate proposal is a broad-based transportation fuels tax. It --
Q Which raises most of its revenue from gasoline that's taxed at the pump.
Q It's a not so broad-based energy tax --
MS. MYERS: It's not as broad-based as a BTU tax, that's true.
Q So what's happened here? Has the President decided it was necessary to give ground on that, or what? There's no use pretending that the gas tax is a broad-based energy tax like the Btu tax. We all know that.
MS. MYERS: It is broader than -- but it's also fair that it's broader than just a gasoline tax.
Q Not much.
MS. MYERS: It is not the same thing that was proposed by some candidates, say, during the campaign, which was a 10 cent a year increase only on gasoline for automobiles. This is different than that.
Q Is it your position that the transportation fuels tax being talked about now would count in and of itself as a broadbased energy tax and, therefore, be consistent with the President's principles?
MS. MYERS: I think we're still working out the final details of that, but I wouldn't rule that out. I'm not -- we still have a process here to go through to determine exactly what this package is going to look like. It will certainly include some kind of an energy tax, probably closer in size to the Senate proposal than to the House proposal. Probably less than half of what the President originally proposed.
Q So your position is that that would be consistent with the President's fundamental principle of a broad-based energy tax?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q How does it meet the environmental goals, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: Well, it would in some ways discourage automobile use and other things. It's not as -- it doesn't have the same incentive as the Btu tax which the President originally proposed, but it's still has some environmental benefits.
Q Do you think this tax will be high enough on gasoline to discourage automobile use?
MS. MYERS: We'll see where it finally ends up.
Q Dee Dee, does the President want a larger gasoline tax than the Senate proposed or the Senate enacted?
MS. MYERS: That's something that we're looking at now.
Q Well, would the 4.3 cents be sufficient?
Q Is there someone smoking in here?
MS. MYERS: I think the room's just on fire. (Laughter.)
Q Either way let's do something about it.
Q Would the President be satisfied with the 4.3 cents in the Senate bill?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to wait and see how the details get worked out. What he wants is $500 billion in deficit reduction, fairness, preserve some of his investments.
Q If the President wants the $500 billion and he wants to maintain the empowerment zones, earned income tax credits, and these other things, where is he going to get the revenue for those? Doesn't he have to have a larger --
MS. MYERS: Well, there's a number of ways. It's something that going to be worked out. I don't think -- I mean, we're certainly not committed to the number in the Senate package at this point. I think it will be closer to the Senate in terms of the total size than to the House version.
Q Do you want to exempt airlines from whatever energy tax does come out, given that the President's Commission on Airlines reported today they were overtaxed and should be exempt?
MS. MYERS: That's something we'll have to work out through the process.
Q What position is the President going to take since this his own commission saying they are overtaxed?
MS. MYERS: They're making recommendations to him. The President will --
Q What was the question?
MS. MYERS: The question is, is the President willing to exempt airlines fuels from a transportation fuels tax. And the answer is that's something we will work out in the process.
Q How about exempting farmers?
MS. MYERS: Again, something that will have to be worked out in the process.
Q Does the President think it's a good idea to increase the cost on farmers by $3 billion over five years, given the state of things in the midwest -- all those floods? That's what the reconciliation calls for.
MS. MYERS: Right. Again, that's something that will have to be looked at in the context of where we are. I think we're moving toward decisions on this, toward a final package. I think the process is going to move pretty quickly. However, all of the final details have yet to be worked out.
Q Could you tell us something about the job description of this NAFTA czar, and is Ambassador Strauss a candidate?
MS. MYERS: There will be somebody in the White House who will coordinate NAFTA. I expect to have an announcement on that soon; perhaps, but not necessarily this week.
Q The former House Postmaster today wrote a --entered a guilty plea as part of an illegal scheme with at least two unnamed members of Congress. Only three are under investigation. Does this put a cloud over Chairman Rostenkowski when he's in a crucial role in negotiating the --
MS. MYERS: I think we'll wait and see what the details of that are before I comment on it.
Q How does the President shore up support with these House members who are still fuming over being, they say, sold out over the energy tax, the Btu tax?
MS. MYERS: I think the President is going to put together a good package that meets his objectives, that will be good for the country and good for members of Congress as they go home and try to sell it to their districts.
Q But, Dee Dee, a lot of those freshmen who are going to come in here on Thursday say the President has lost a lot of political capital because he did cave on Btu and because of today's gays in the military announcement.
MS. MYERS: I think that there's --
Q How do you recover?
MS. MYERS: I think that there are a lot of -- through the House and Senate process, I think both bodies came up with additional spending cuts. I think everybody agrees that's a good thing. That allows us to reduce the size of the energy tax, which I think most members of Congress also think is a good thing. And I think the final package will be something that they can support. That's the goal.
Q Did the President interview anyone else besides Judge Freeh for the --
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.
Q You started to tell us how long the meeting on Friday evening went.
MS. MYERS: I was about two hours. A little less than two hours.
Q What time are Moynihan and Rosty tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I think it's lunch, tentatively scheduled for 12:30 p.m. I don't believe that that's changed.
Q On Sessions, two questions. One is: Since it does appear, or it could be that what he is trying to do is just get out of this job with his reputation somewhat intact, is there any effort on the part of the White House to sort of give him a graceful way out? Is that a concern or consideration?
MS. MYERS: I think that, obviously, the President will speak to the Attorney General about it. I think that's been a concern of the White House all along. And it's something that we had -- that, I think that's been a concern.
Q What about -- is there any kind of golden parachute for this guy, or even a silver parachute --
MS. MYERS: We'll wait until later today, perhaps, to have any more details on that.
Q To what degree do you believe that today's announcement puts the issue behind you and how much lasting political damage was done to the President?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think only time will tell. I think that the announcement today does close the loop. He said six months ago that he would ask Secretary Aspin to report back to him in six months. As you know, the Secretary presented that report last week. The President has had the weekend to review it and today he will give a speech outlining the details of that policy. That is something that is supported by the Joint Chiefs including the Chairman, and by the Secretary Aspin. So I think this, as far as we're concerned, closes the loop.
Q What was the argument in favor of a directive versus an executive order? I mean, is there is difference?
MS. MYERS: No, in practical effect, there is no difference. Secretary Aspin recommended that as a better way to implement the policy and the President agreed.
Q Why is it better?
MS. MYERS: The Secretary recommended it. I'm not sure for what reasons.
Q Will it distance the President from it?
MS. MYERS: No, that was not -- it was the Secretary's recommendations based on implementation. I don't know -- you might want to check with Aspin.
Q Why didn't the President work with Sam Nunn in recent weeks as this policy was evolving and getting closer to being -- wouldn't it have been smart to try to make sure that he was on board?
MS. MYERS: I think Sam Nunn's views on this were wellknown and taken into account in the development of this policy. He held hearings on it. The outcome and the results of those hearings was considered in the process. He's certainly spoken to a number of people including the President a couple of times, including Secretary Aspin, including others.
Q But my point is that he doesn't seem terribly comfortable with the "don't pursue" aspect of it which evolved last week that went beyond "don't ask, don't tell." Why not engage him during the last 48 hours when this thing was being relaxed somewhat?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think he's been involved and I'm not sure I agree with the notion that it's been relaxed somewhat. He's somebody that's been involved in this process throughout.
Q Judge Ginsberg, I think her hearings begin. Are you aware of any opposition to her from any quarter?
MS. MYERS: Not yet.
Q Or do you expect any problem?
MS. MYERS: No, we don't expect any problems. I think the process will go smoothly in that she would be confirmed by an overwhelming majority. Some people are even predicting unanimity. I would not go that far.
Q Why did Joycelyn Elders resign if there was no problem with here double-dipping?
MS. MYERS: Because, as you know, she was using vacation days, and when she -- she was appointed back in December for a job that didn't start until -- she wouldn't begin the process until July. So she was taking a day or two a week and coming to Washington and being paid as a consultant for the work. She took vacation days -- her vacation days are winding down. She's now intensely involved in preparations for her hearings and in preparations, eventually, for her job as Surgeon General. So it was appropriate for her to resign. But her vacation days are running out.
Q for her to resign -- why wasn't it appropriate for her to not do it in the first place?
MS. MYERS: Because throughout -- for the last several months she's been coming down one or two days a week. It wasn't necessary for her to spend full-time preparing for a job she wasn't going to start for several months.
Q I understand that, but at the point where she's been preparing for this pretty intensively for awhile as she was both taking her vacation days and getting the consulting fee from the government, she only resigned from the Arkansas job after it was reported and after the Governor said he had some concerns about it.
MS. MYERS: I think that what she has done is perfectly legal and perfectly appropriate. She's running out of vacation days, she's spending more and more time preparing for the hearings and for the jobs, and it was an appropriate time for her --
Q Why didn't she wait until she was out of vacation days? I mean, why give up the money?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that she has to give up the money. I don't believe she does. You can --
Q Wait a minute. If she quit before the vacation was gone, is she going to get the money to both?
MS. MYERS: You'll have to check with Arkansas, but that's a common practice in a lot of places. You get paid for vacation if you quit before you take it.
Q What exactly will the President do tomorrow night if he doesn't do Larry King? Does he have something on the schedule now that we need to know about?
MS. MYERS: He might. I don't know. We should sort of wrap this up in a different forum.
Q David Letterman.
Q In retrospect, is there anything that the President would have done differently on the handling of gays in the military from making the promise, gone forward?
MS. MYERS: No, it's a very difficult issue, and one that I think was handled carefully and thoughtfully. That doesn't mean there's an easy solution to it. But I think the President made a very good-faith attempt to make progress on this. He didn't get everything he wanted, but it is a step forward.
Q So there's nothing he would have done differently?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if there's anything he could do different. You might check with him at some point, but I don't think there's any regrets.
Q When will we have a chance?
MS. MYERS: Oh, he talks to you all every day.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:16 P.M. EDT