THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
3:03 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: As you know, the President cancelled his schedule for today. He spent the day at the Residence. I think he took a briefcase of paperwork with him. He's been there, he's been quiet. I have found no one in the West Wing who he's spoken to today, which is a good sign.
Q whisper to anybody?
MS. MYERS: I can't find anybody that he's spoken to, even in a whisper.
Q Did he had any visitors?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q Does he have the flu, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: No, he simply has a voice that's strained from overuse. His doctor recommended yesterday that he rest it. He's doing that, and we expect that he'll resume his schedule tomorrow.
There have been a few changes. As you know, we had to cancel the Piney Point event, the congressional retreat, the House retreat there. He'll do that tomorrow, leaving the White House about noon. That's a closed event, so we'll take the travel pool only. He'll return here. The event with the National Conference of Mayors on Crime has been moved to 3:30 p.m., and that will be in the East Room. And those are the only events on the schedule for tomorrow. Saturday remains the same. Saturday morning, 10:06 a.m., live radio address.
Sunday night, he has the dinner with the National Governors Association here. He'll watch the Super Bowl and attend the dinner, and many parts of that are open to the pool. So we're working on the schedule now. Parts of the dinner -- the entertainment, the toast --
Q Has he gotten over the hoarseness at all? I mean, you don't know.
MS. MYERS: Actually, we spoke to Mrs. Clinton this morning before she left for the West Coast, and said his voice was improving.
Q governors --
MS. MYERS: Yes, there's been no change in Monday. Let me see if I have the details here. Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. he has the National Governors Association Conference in the East Room. That will focus on crime. Then at noon he'll have lunch with Chancellor Kohl. Many interesting topics. Then Monday night from
8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. he will attend the Democratic Governors Association Dinner at the Omni Shoreham. That is open press.
Q What is that again?
MS. MYERS: That's 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Omni Shoreham. And that's the Democratic Governors Dinner.
Q schedule -- is the President ready to change U.S. policy toward Vietnam? Is he encouraged in that by the Senate vote today?
MS. MYERS: We'll certainly welcome the Senate's sentiment on that. As you know, the President has made changing relations with Vietnam changing relations with Vietnam contingent on progress on MIA and POW issues. There were a number of criteria that he set forth, including the supply of documents, the return of remains, resolution of discrepancy cases, and cooperation with Laos. Progress has been made, but the overall issue is still under review.
Q Where are we in terms of a time line, in terms of a decision?
MS. MYERS: We don't have a firm time line. There have been a number of missions over there. Winston Lord was there. Admiral Larsen was there, a number of other people have been there and reported back including members of Congress. But there's no particular timetable.
Q Does he share the view of some, particularly John Kerry, that delay is actually harmful?
MS. MYERS: Well, the President made -- that he's reviewing the overall situation. He wanted to make sure that the Vietnamese were doing everything possible to cooperate on MIA and POW issues. That is the basis of his decision. And again, the entire situation remains under review. And again, there's no timetable on it.
Q How much of an embarrassment is the resignation of Philip Heymann from the Justice Department? Is that another embarrassment for the administration that's lost a number of people already?
MS. MYERS: Certainly not. I think that Phil Heymann served well for a year. I think he made clear what his reasons were for leaving. That was a decision made by the Attorney General and by Mr. Heymann and we'll certainly just move forward in finding a replacement.
Q When did the White House know that this was coming?
MS. MYERS: We were notified yesterday.
Q Did you have any kind of early warning though that is was a possibility, or did it come out of the blue yesterday?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that answer to that -- whether there was any warning. Again, this was a personnel decision made by the Attorney General in consultation with Mr. Heymann and we'll move forward from here. I think she has said all that needs to be said about that.
Q The first time around, the White House had most of the say in who filled these top jobs at Justice. This time does Reno have the full power to choose who she wants for this job?
MS. MYERS: I think all the heads of all the departments and agencies have the authority to run their agencies and to make personnel decisions that they see fit.
Q What about the appointment of an assistant attorney general for civil rights -- is that going to happen this week?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so, no. I think it will happen soon, but not this week.
Q Dee Dee, on North Korea, is there any decision made by the President on the sale of --
MS. MYERS: No change from yesterday.
Q Dee Dee, on the deficit, can you tell us whether the President thinks the progress on the deficit is enough to thwart Senate efforts to pass a balanced budget amendment?
MS. MYERS: I think he certainly hopes so. As you know, we announced last Saturday that our own estimate showed that the '95 budget deficit would be under $180 billion, which is a 40 percent decrease. That is substantial progress. That's real leadership. This is the most progress we've made toward reducing the deficit in a long time -- three consecutive years of lower deficits. It's an important step. I think that speaks for itself. And we'll do what we can to convince Congress.
Q why is he so adamantly against it?
MS. MYERS: As he said during the campaign, it's -- he doesn't believe that we need congressional -- I mean, a constitutional amendment -- when we have real leadership. What you need is a credible plan that brings the deficit down over a period of years and imposes fiscal discipline. The President's five-year plan introduced last year has clearly done that in the first year. And with the addition of health care reform, the deficit numbers will continue to move down over the long-term. That's the objective -- to bring the deficit down in a way that is more flexible, that allows you to deal with changing economic circumstances more easily. He feels strongly about that.
Q Dee Dee, on health care reform, is the White House encouraged that Harry and Louise have changed their tune, and now are also calling for universal coverage?
MS. MYERS: Harry and Louise have been very busy over the last few months, but certainly that is the President's bottom line -- guaranteed private insurance for every American. That to him -- without that, you cannot have meaningful health care reform. So I think that's a positive sign. We'll continue to work with the HIAA and other groups to achieve meaningful health care reform.
Q Dee Dee, the Deputy Attorney General, who has worked in other Democratic administrations, has always had a reputation as being one of the easiest people on the face of the earth to get along with. Is there any befuddlement at why the Attorney General should have had trouble working with someone who everybody else has no trouble working with?
MS. MYERS: I have nothing to add to what I've already said. That was a decision that was made at the Justice Department.
Q the Attorney General?
MS. MYERS: Of course, and I think he made that abundantly clear last Thursday night on the Larry King Show. He said that she was doing terrific, that he thought that she had a real
instinct for justice, and he said a number of very positive things about her.
Q Does the President have a plan that would pay some people for not driving to work?
Q Dee Dee, Mack McLarty met with Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and John Conyers today. Can you tell me anything about that meeting, what it was about?
MS. MYERS: No, I think they're here as part of the Conference on Mayors, and I don't know specifically. I'm happy to take it if you want to give me a call later.
Q Dee Dee, although the administration has indicated some flexibility on a slower phase-in of universal coverage, is there a point at which it would be unacceptable because of the impact on the deficit?
MS. MYERS: As you know, the committee hearings on that have started. We're going to work with Congress as the plan moves forward to come up with the best possible solution. But I think we're going to have to let that work its way through the committees.
Q Have you received your recommendation on the Pollard case from the Justice Department yet?
MS. MYERS: Have not.
Q Does the President have a plan that would pay some people for not driving to work?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that question. I saw a headline to that effect today, but I don't have anything more for you on it.
Gosh, a quiet crowd today.
Q How about the superfund decision? When are we going to hear that?
MS. MYERS: It's in the works. I don't have a hard timeline on that.
Q Not this week?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q -- Yugoslav army units have been identified by name as operating in Bosnia. Does the President still think it's a civil war?
MS. MYERS: We're looking into reports about Yugoslav army units. I think there's nothing to indicate that there's been a real escalation there, but again, we're looking into it, other than the normal -- or, what we've seen in the past with regard to the Yugoslav National Army.
I think that the President has said in the past that there are elements of civil war and there are elements of aggression. I don't think that the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina lends itself to an easy description, but it's certainly more complicated than simply a civil war.
Q He referred to it as a civil war --
MS. MYERS: He's referred to it in more complex terms over the course of the past year.
Q A related question -- now that the United Nations has acknowledged that the bulk of the humanitarian supplies are going to Serbians in Bosnia, is the President thinking about reevaluating the airlift at all?
MS. MYERS: I think it's important that the airlift continue. We've said from the beginning of the airlift and the humanitarian assistance that we would provide it to people in need. I don't know if there's any specific review ongoing. I'm happy to take that question. But we've always tried -- this has been the longest airlift in the history of the country, delivering more than 20 pounds of food and medicine to every person in the country. So that will continue.
Q Dee Dee, there's a story today that a couple of the paramedics who were first on the scene when Vince Foster's body was discovered had questions that it seemed that there were inconsistencies with a finding of suicide. Would the White House favor any reopening of the investigation into the circumstances of his death?
MS. MYERS: The Park Service Police investigated that at the time. The Special Counsel has now included that in the scope of his investigation. We'll cooperate with the investigation, and beyond that I have nothing to add.
Q Dee Dee, how serious do you think the situation in Japan -- situation?
MS. MYERS: Well, that's certainly something that we're watching closely. It's something that they'll have to resolve, that Prime Minister Hosokawa and others will have to resolve. But we're watching it closely. We expect that the meeting with Prime Minister Hosokawa will go forward here on February 11th.
Q During the visit to Belarus, a senior administration official described Shushkevich as the country's leading reformer. Now that he has apparently been dumped, are we rethinking whether to go ahead with the aid that was promised during that visit?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's regrettable. He was a reformer committed to strong economic reform, democratization and denuclearization. But there was a broad consensus in the country for denuclearization. We expect that that will continue. And we'll continue to work with them to try to further economic reform as well.
Q But, Dee Dee, is there a concern that if the aid now goes to the Kebich government, that the effectively we are supporting anti-reform forces?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, aid will be contingent on how things progress in the country. We'll see how it goes. Obviously we'd like to see reform continue. But I think it's important the nuclear program continue. And there seems to be broad consensus in the country for that.
Q What do you base that on?
MS. MYERS: On the acts of Parliament over the course of the debate over denuclearization. They voted to adopt the SALT treaty -- I mean, the START treaty, and they also joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty over the course of the last year.
Q On that, if denuclearization continues but economic reform doesn't, then they get the aid or they don't?
MS. MYERS: Well, some of the aid is tied to denuclearization. I mean, they will receive part of the $12 billion from the sale of highly enriched uranium. Some of the money they'll receive is Nunn-Lugar, which is also dedicated to dismantlement of nuclear weapons.
Q a lot of money.
MS. MYERS: They'll get money for denuclearization, certainly, and other economic aid, I think, will be contingent on how the reforms proceed.
Q Dee Dee, what kind of reassessment of U.S. policy toward Russia, Belarus, Ukraine is going on right now considering the developments over the past couple of weeks?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we're going to continue to look at how best to target our aid to make sure that it's -- it is, as Secretary Bentsen said, contingent on reform. Most of the aid in the Fiscal '93, '94 packages is direct aid for things like privatization, energy, sort of training in democracy in exchange programs, things like agriculture. Most of that, all the '93 money has already been obligated and mostly spent. The '94 money we're in the process of obligating now.
I think it's a question in terms of broad aid more for the international financial institutions, something that we'll consider in the future as well; but for the money that we talked about at G-7, certainly most of that has not been obligated. And that will depend, very much on the progress of reforms.
Q In terms of the administration's policy, is there tinkering on the edges to react to these events, or is there a reassessment of the policy in general?
MS. MYERS: No, I think, generally, the policy -- there has not been a change in U.S. policy.
Q -- is there a reassessment?
MS. MYERS: We continually reassess the policy in terms of changing events, but I think the overall policy, which has been to support the reformers, to support democratization is the right policy and we stand by that. Yeltsin is the principal reformer in Russia. He's reaffirmed his commitment to reform. And we'll continue to support him and do what we can to further the reform process.
Q Is it fair then to say that despite the reverses that the reform movement seems to have incurred, the administration does not yet see any need to change the way it's doing anything in regard to Russia --
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll continue to review the situation in Russia. But generally, our policy has been to support reform and we'll continue in that direction.
Q I understand that -- but obviously reform has had a couple of rocky weeks here. Does the administration think --
MS. MYERS: And we'll have to see how the new --
Q -- any need to do anything differently at this stage?
MS. MYERS: At this stage we're going to continue to support reform and to work with the Russians to direct our aid in ways that support reform.
Q These reverses came right after the President's trip to the area. Is there any concern that the President might have inadvertently said or done things on that trip that contributed to the backward movement?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, first of all, there's been -- there have been -- Gaidar and Fedorov did leave the government, but there's been no -- President Yeltsin maintains his commitment to reform. Chernomyrdin has worked with Vice President Gore on the space and energy issues and has also said on many occasions that he wants to move forward the process of reform. Obviously, we're concerned about the changes in the government. We'll be watching it closely. But we need to wait and see what their policies are before we make judgments about whether they've reversed course.
Q Did we reschedule the Kramer Junior High meeting yet?
MS. MYERS: Next Thursday.
Q It will be rescheduled --
MS. MYERS: Yes. And we always meant to reschedule it, and it was unfortunate, I think, that some of the kids were talked to by the press before they were told that the President would in fact reschedule that. It's too bad.
Q Can you give us any kind of week ahead for next week -- travel?
MS. MYERS: We don't have any travel and I don't have the whole week ahead. Tuesday he will go talk to the National Governors, I guess at the hotel -- I think it's at the Omni where they're meeting. That'll be a health care speech. He'll probably do another event that day health care-related. And the rest of the week is still shaping up. And Thursday we'll go to Kramer Junior High.
Q And over the weekend you've got a trip?
MS. MYERS: Probably, yes. Sunday.
Q Sunday departure for that?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Monday -- I think we'll be gone Sunday and Monday, but we need to confirm that. So that's really planning purposes only.
Q Is he taking any medication, using any sprays?
MS. MYERS: No, no.
Q Has been seen by his doctor today?
MS. MYERS: As of an hour ago, had not.
Q Is the President going to reschedule that trip to Baltimore that he had at the General Motors plant?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that yet. It hasn't been rescheduled yet. We may try to do that at some point.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:20 P.M. EST