THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
1:27 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: There are no announcements, so if you all have questions --
Q Tell us, what was the Kirkland meeting?
MS. MYERS: The President met this morning with Lane Kirkland. It was the -- just the two of them. They met for about 45 minutes. They discussed a wide range of issues, an agenda on which they'll work together in the coming year, including things like striker replacement, OSHA reform, health care reform and a number of other things. It was a very fruitful meeting, and I think the President feels very good about it.
Q Can you describe the tone of it?
MS. MYERS: It was very productive. It was --
MS. MYERS: It was friendly. It was frank. They had a good discussion. They had a very good discussion. Again, it was just the two of them.
MS. MYERS: I think they talked about a number of issues. But they looked ahead as opposed to looking back.
Q Yeah. What did he think about GATT?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if they talked about GATT.
Q You're not saying that they didn't review some of the differences, are you?
MS. MYERS: I'm saying that the bulk of the meeting was directed toward the common agenda and what they can do to work together in the future. That was the --
Q Who initiated it?
MS. MYERS: The President called Mr. Kirkland after the NAFTA vote. They decided at that time that they would meet, and the President invited him to the White House.
Q Did the President call for a truce? I mean, did it come down to that kind of discussion?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think that there was any need to call for a truce. I think that organized labor and the President certainly intend to work together on a number of things. I mean, clearly, there were -- was a deep difference of opinion on NAFTA. I think that these things do take some time to heal. And I think some parts of it will heal more quickly than others. But on -- in sum, I think the President expects to work very closely with organized labor, with Kirkland and others on a number of issues, and I think he feels that today was a very good start in terms of getting on with the agenda.
Q Did he spend any time talking about the NAFTA battle and about the aftermath? For example, organized labor's giving moratorium at least through the end of the year?
MS. MYERS: Again, the majority of the meeting focused on looking ahead.
Q Speaking of ahead, -- before elections and what labor may do to some of those NAFTA proponents. Was that brought up?
MS. MYERS: I don't think they -- again, they didn't dwell on NAFTA --
Q Did they talk about what might happen --
MS. MYERS: And I'm not going to say anything more about specifically what they talked about.
Q Even if Mr. Kirkland is forthcoming and willing to forgive, it's apparent that many of the other people in the labor movement are not. Did they talk about that and its effect on the '94 elections?
MS. MYERS: Again, I mean, I -- I'm sincere in saying that they talked about looking ahead, about working together, which I think everybody believes is the best way to get past NAFTA is to work together toward a common agenda. They have a lot of things that they want to achieve together. And that was the focus of the meeting. Again, it was a very positive meeting.
Q Did the U.S. present North Korea with counterproposals to its offer today at the U.N.?
MS. MYERS: Yes, U.S. officials met in New York with North Korean officials today to discuss the ongoing situation in North Korea, to discuss the U.S. demands that North Korea open its sites to nuclear inspection and resume dialogue with South Korea toward a nuclear-free peninsula.
Q Has the President had any conversations with leaders about the trade talks -- trying to get them to make concessions?
MS. MYERS: Not since yesterday.
Q Back on North Korea, did the U.S. make a counterproposal to the North Koreans latest --
MS. MYERS: They discussed our response in consultation with our allies toward the outstanding issues. So the dialogue is ongoing.
Q So there is a response. So now the ball's in their court.
MS. MYERS: They discussed outstanding issues and we'll see what happens next.
Q Did the U.S. reject a North Korean --
Q Is the ball in their court?
Q Have we now made a counter to their offer?
MS. MYERS: We discussed outstanding issues and the dialogue is ongoing, so we'll see.
Q But Dee Dee, I mean, it was very clear after the last meeting of this kind that the North Koreans had made an offer or a counter offer. My question is, did we counter their offer today, or is it something not that clear?
MS. MYERS: As you know, we've insisted on a couple of things. We went back to them and reminded them that we want full IAEA inspections of their nuclear sites, and a resumption of the dialogue with South Korea. And we'll see -- again, we're looking toward their actions, but we've made our response clear to them. And so it is now with them.
Q I know, but our response -- but our desire for full IAEA inspections and the resumption of the dialogue has been manifest for weeks. Is that all we said?
MS. MYERS: As you know, I can't discuss the details of the ongoing negotiation other than to suggest that we went back to them to discuss the proposal that they had given to us after we had a chance to consult with our allies and with others in the region. We talked about it some more with them based on what we've heard over the last week or so, and we'll see where it goes from here.
Q You said two days ago, the ball was in their court. Have we now responded?
MS. MYERS: Two days ago the ball was in their court?
Q I mean in our court. Sorry. Is it now in their court?
MS. MYERS: We're still looking for them to respond so, yes, it's up to them to take appropriate action.
Q Did the U.S. reject, excuse me, did the U.S. reject the North Koreans' --
MS. MYERS: It's not a question of rejection. It's an ongoing process. This is an ongoing process. As the President said today, he is somewhat encouraged by the fact that the dialogue is ongoing. We haven't reached any final conclusion yet. We talked this morning. We haven't had a chance to fully review the results of that discussion. But the process is ongoing. We met today to discuss their response to our proposal.
Q Who met?
MS. MYERS: From our side, State Department officials in New York.
Q Did we offer them anything more, meet any of their requests that came out in their most recent response for more concrete offers in terms of financial aid?
MS. MYERS: I can't discuss the specific details of the discussion.
Q Can you tell us a little bit about the disagreements going on here over the Pentagon budget, and what the parameters are, and what the President is coming to?
MS. MYERS: As you know, the President is involved in a rather thorough review of the budget. He's going through each department's budget, spending time with the heads of those departments to discuss the specific details. Last year, as you know as a result of his economic plan, we imposed very strict discretionary spending caps. Each department was given a budget that they had to meet, including the Pentagon.
The President also said last year that he was reviewing the Defense Department in view of the end of the Cold War, but wanted to maintain a strong -- certainly a strong military and an ability to defend our interests around the world. That process resulted in a path which was reflected in the budget. Since then the Pentagon has completed it's bottom-up review, which the President thinks meets his objectives. As a result of some unexpected developments, particularly inflation being lower than expected and salary increases, there's been some unexpected changes which the President will work out with the Secretary of Defense. He has not met with Aspin yet on the budget.
Q Dee Dee, on North Korea again, it sounds as if then the U.S. is saying the same thing it has said all along. It has not changed its position on those two points.
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not.
Q Is there a shift, then, in the two points that you made by --
MS. MYERS: No. No, no. Those two -- that's our bottom line on -- in this regard; that they have to IAEA inspections -- that's part of the NPTs required of them under the NPT which they are signatories to -- and to resume dialogue with South Korea.
Q So the U.S. is not shifting its position at all. It's exactly what has been set.
MS. MYERS: There has been no change in that.
Q So is this then a -- just a flat rejection of their response or is there -- did you find something you can discuss?
MS. MYERS: Yeah. Dialogue is ongoing, and I just can't talk anymore about the details.
Q We don't understand. You turned them down on everything and you're sticking to your position -- what's there to talk about?
MS. MYERS: There are --
Q What are you negotiating?
MS. MYERS: There is a dialogue ongoing and I'm just not prepared to discuss --
Q But you are in negotiations.
MS. MYERS: We're in discussion with them. It's a dialogue, it's ongoing. As you know, this is one of several meetings that we've had over the course of the last few weeks to discuss this subject.
Q Were they given any kind of written response?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if it was written. I can take that question.
Q What does the President think about the cost estimates associated with the bottom-up review? Has he kept them all? Does he think that what the Pentagon says it needs --
MS. MYERS: I think that in terms of -- there have been some specific unexpected changes which I mentioned before. Other than that, he's going to review the budget with Secretary Aspin sometime next week, and have a chance to look at it a little bit more in detail. Basically, he thinks that the budget path that he outlined last year is sufficient to meet the post-Cold War needs of the nation's defense. But we'll look at the unexpected changes in that when the President sits down with the Secretary.
Q Independent of the unexpected changes that have raised what they say they would need, what about the cost estimates that grow out of the defense needs that they say exist from the bottom-up review?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, I think the President supports the bottom-up review. He thinks that that is consistent with the objectives that he outlined. But, again, there have been some changes, something that the President and the Secretary and Panetta will have to look at, and will do so in the coming week.
Q There seems to be a major split between what the Secretary says and what Mr. Panetta says.
MS. MYERS: No, I think I wouldn't read too much into that. There clearly have been some unexpected changes. That is something that the President's going to have review with Panetta and with Aspin when they sit down, and something the President's going to have to review in the overall context of the budget.
I think that Panetta's been fairly candid about the budget, about where we are in terms of meeting our targets and the discretionary spending caps that we implemented in our economic plan from last year.
Q Does the President reject the characterization, then, in The New York Times this morning -- that there's a war between the Pentagon and the --?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely. The President expects to work with Aspin and Panetta. And it's -- they haven't had a chance to sit down yet, but that's going to happen.
Q Is the 15 percent gap between where the Pentagon's at and where Panetta's at exceeded by any other gap between any other departments that you're aware of?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the specific figures for each of the budgets, but I don't think so.
Q Dee Dee, on striker replacement, did the President say anything to Mr. Kirkland about trying to press the case for striker replacement passage in the Senate with the two Arkansas senators?
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether those two names were specifically discussed. But, as you know, the President supports it and is willing to work toward its passage.
Q Did he say that he would do everything he could to -- I mean, how did he express the support? Just in general, the way he has in the past?
MS. MYERS: Again, the only two who were in the meeting were the President and Mr. Kirkland. But, as you know, the President supports striker replacement and they discussed the issue.
Q Did the President discuss health care reform with Mr. Kirkland? And was there any assurance that labor would support health care reform next year?
MS. MYERS: Did they discuss health -- I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you?
Health care? Yeah, they talked about health care.
Q Was there any assurance given that labor would support the President's plan?
MS. MYERS: I think labor supports health care reform and will work toward exactly what that support is going to look like. That's something that we're working with them on.
Q Is your portrayal of this meeting -- do you think your portrayal is -- represents both sides? I mean, I ask that because in all sincerity.
MS. MYERS: Yeah, I do. I think that labor's response has been fairly optimistic as far as I can tell -- or fairly encouraging.
Q Dee Dee, could you take the question on whether they discussed GATT?
MS. MYERS: Sure
Q Dee Dee, it's not clear to me from what you're saying whether Kirkland has agreed not to punish lawmakers who voted for NAFTA.
MS. MYERS: You have to ask Mr. Kirkland that question. I'm not prepared to answer it.
Q But did it come up in their meeting?
MS. MYERS: They talked -- again, I'm not going to get into the specifics about what they had to say about NAFTA, other than to say that mostly what they talked about was the future.
Q Did the President renew his request, or his appeal, to Kirkland in that respect?
MS. MYERS: I think the President's position on this is pretty clear.
Q So he did or didn't have to restate it with Kirkland?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to give you the specific details of their conversation on that issue. But I think that certainly labor knows where the President stands and how he feels about what labor's response to people who voted for NAFTA should be.
Q You might have seen the story on ABC news today, that President Clinton was the hero of a puppet show in France. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I missed that.
Q You missed it? Well, it was a good story. (Laughter.)
I would like to know what are the feelings of the President about this negotiation of the GATT? Is there something personal between France and America about that? And what was the result of the conversation of the talks between the President and Mr. Balladur on the phone?
MS. MYERS: No, I think certainly that we've had a number of conversations -- the President and our other negotiators -- with the French about outstanding issues. I think clearly it's something that we hope to resolve. The President talked to --
Q But did he speak about France, specifically, as being the country which is fighting a lot of our battle? There was no allusion to France?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's clear that the French have had some objections to various components of the GATT agreement. But I think so have other countries. And we've been in the process of trying to work through those. There's more than 110 nations involved, so it's a complex process.
I think the President had a very good conversation with President Mitterrand last week. He had a good conversation with Balladur. Hopefully we resolved a lot of the agriculture issues, which I think the President felt good about. And we're working through some of the other outstanding issues. And I think Mickey made fairly clear what the status of that is.
Q Dee Dee, does the White House still expect the Middle East peace agreement with Israel PLO to go forward on the 13th, or --?
MS. MYERS: We're hopeful that they'll keep on track. We'll continue to work with them. I don't know if there --
Q Has the President spoken to Secretary of State Christopher?
MS. MYERS: He has not spoken to him in the last couple of days.
Q Do you think Sarajevo's under siege?
MS. MYERS: Thank you for that update. (Laughter.)
Q Do you think it is?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I thought you said it was.
I don't have any independent confirmation that it is. I don't know if there's a new news report out there.
Q Just based on what's happened the last few days, do you think the administration doesn't believe it?
MS. MYERS: I think our position remains the same. We're going to obviously pay close attention to that. And there's been no change in our position on the strangulation of Sarajevo, cutting off of humanitarian supplies.
Q With regard to the New York fundraiser the President's going to attend Monday night, did anything come up in the meeting between the President and Mr. Kirkland today which would result in any change in labor's participation in that dinner, which was supposedly a boycott?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that. I will take it and see if I can get an answer. I may not be able to. I don't know if that came up.
Q Do you have an overview on next week? And when will we get the schedule for Monday on the trip?
MS. MYERS: We should get the schedule today on Monday. Basically, Sunday he's going to Christmas in Washington, which is an NBC deal. It's 5:35 p.m. at the National Museum Building. That's it for the -- he has a radio address tomorrow, the NBC deal on Sunday --
Q Where is the radio address?
MS. MYERS: It's here. It's in the Oval. He's not going off campus.
Q Does he have a topic?
MS. MYERS: Crime.
On Monday, the entitlements conference begins at 10:30 a.m. in the gymnasium at Bryn Mawr College. He has a lunch following that, then up to New York. There is a reception -- which is closed -- followed by a dinner, which you'll all be happy to know is open, at the Waldorf. That begins -- the President gets there about 7:50 p.m., and then comes back late Monday night.
Tuesday he is over back at the Mellon Auditorium over at Commerce to preside over the Baldrige Awards, and that is the only public event on his schedule.
Q What time is it?
MS. MYERS: It's at 10:00 a.m. That's the only public event on his schedule for Tuesday.
Wednesday, other than the fact -- there are no public events on his schedule at this time. That is the day, as you know, that GATT is supposed to conclude so, we'll see what happens there.
Thursday is still somewhat tentative. And Friday at 1:OO p.m., for those of you with great interest, the President will read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to a group of children in the East Room. And then I think the weekend we'll do the radio address and the rest of the weekend at this point, I believe, is down.
Q Is it an afternoon deal -- "The Night Before Christmas?"
MS. MYERS: Yeah.
Q Regarding Monday, does the President at this point support any further entitlement cuts beyond that proposed to pay for health care reform?
MS. MYERS: I think he'd be willing to look at a number of entitlement cuts. That's why he's appointed the commission -- the Kerrey Commission -- which is to review different entitlement reforms and entitlement cuts. He's certainly willing to look at the recommendations that that commission provides in addition to obviously Medicare and Medicaid cuts he proposed in his health care plan.
Q He's endorsing none of the plans that are floating around now?
MS. MYERS: Not yet. I mean, we'll wait and see. He's appointed the Commission. He wants to wait and see what their recommendations are before he takes further action.
Q Dee Dee, besides keeping his promise to Mezvinsky, what does he hope to accomplish in all that time he's going to spend in Philadelphia?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's going to participate -- he'll give opening remarks and then participate on a panel that's looking at health care, specifically, and then health care reform. I think he hopes to further the discussion of health care reform and the importance of controlling Medicare and Medicaid spending as part of health care reform and long-term deficit reduction.
Q Dee Dee, what is the President doing today in the meetings and all that he's having? What are these meetings?
MS. MYERS: A number of things -- he has a health care meeting. He has another budget meeting which they are looking at the HUD budget; Secretary Cisneros will be here. Other meetings with staff -- planning, looking ahead, a couple of interviews.
Q Any meetings on North Korea at all?
MS. MYERS: I think that it's likely.
Q Anything else?
MS. MYERS: People magazine. And I'm sure all of you were riveted to your sets during the live Home Show.
Q Who else is going to get to be in on the meeting on the HUD budget?
Q What show?
MS. MYERS: The Home Show, live. It was fabulous. Socks was the star, he stole the show.
Who else is in that -- all of the President's economic team.
Q Why is the President having a meeting on the HUD budget?
MS. MYERS: The President is reviewing the budget, department by department with the various Secretaries and department directors as part of his overall review of the budget.
Q Is this considered the appeal stage?
MS. MYERS: This is an opportunity for people to raise their concerns, sure. They have -- they know what their targets are based on the discretionary limits required through last year's economic plan. And they've been asked to present budgets that live within those limits. Some departments have asked for -- have outlined the things that they think are important that they'd like to see above and beyond those caps.
Q Dee Dee, who does the Home Show, and has it been played yet?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, it aired live and it's a syndicated program that airs on ABC in most markets. And the hosts --
Q Gary Collins and Sarah Purcell.
MS. MYERS: Thank you -- Gary Collins and Sarah Purcell. That slipped my mind. Thanks.
END 1:46 P.M. EST #139 - 12/10