THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
1:56 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: A quick announcement here. Building on the historic work begun last November during the inaugural meeting of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders at Blake Island, Washington, the White House is announcing today that the President will attend APEC's second summit meeting in Indonesia November 14th and 15th, 1994. The President has also accepted invitations from President Soeharto for a state visit to Jakarta on November 16th, and of President Ramos of the Philippines for a state visit in Manila on November 13th. So that's the upcoming fall trip.
Q Any other Asian nations?
MS. MYERS: That's it.
Q When does he return? Does he go to Australia or anywhere else?
MS. MYERS: He will not be going to Australia. He may stop someplace on the way back.
Q APEC in Indonesia?
MS. MYERS: I believe it's in Jakarta. Actually, wait, wait, wait -- it's at the Presidential Palace at Bogor.
MS. MYERS: But I'm not sure where in --
Q It sounds like a dish.
Q Is that Humphrey Bogor?
Q When do we return?
Q Is there an overnight in the Philippines?
Q Or is that a day trip? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yes, we're just going to go up and back. (Laughter.) I don't have the overnight schedule. We're still putting it together the specific details.
Q Do you have a return to Washington schedule?
MS. MYERS: The return to Washington -- the President may stop, take a few days off on the way back.
MS. MYERS: And then that's sort of the end of the week before Thanksgiving. I think we'll be back the beginning of -- at the very latest, the beginning of the sort of Monday week before Thanksgiving.
Q What happened to Australia? Will he reschedule that some other time?
MS. MYERS: It was never scheduled. I mean, I think a number of things were under discussion in the region since the President was planning to go Indonesia for APEC. We've accepted the invitation from President Ramos, and he'll be coming back after that. At some other time we may be able to go to Australia, or other countries in the region.
Q He'll see Keating I assume at APEC?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q Have the Australians been told, because they're all waiting for the President?
MS. MYERS: Well, I would expect -- you can call them and tell them yourself, Connie. (Laughter.) I think they will be probably be interested in that.
Q Have they been told officially, though, seriously?
MS. MYERS: I expect that they have. Generally, before we make these announcements --
Q Do you have other announcements?
MS. MYERS: That's it.
Q The whole point of the President's new policy on Cuba was to prevent refugees. They have been coming in increasing numbers. It's doubled since his announcement. Is he considering some further steps, such as a blockade?
MS. MYERS: Well, at this point -- as you know, the President just changed the policy at the end of last week. We're doing everything we can to make sure that Cubans, particularly those interested in leaving Cuba, know that they will not be able to reach the United States by taking to the seas. We're reminding them that this is very dangerous, that we certainly cannot guarantee the safety of people who take to the seas in unseaworthy vessels and boats. We're doing all we can to collect those individuals, but they are being taken to Guantanamo.
When we announced a similar policy with respect to Haitian refugees, it took about a week for the word to really reach Haiti and for it to have an impact on the flow of migrants. We do expect this will have an impact on the flow of migrants once the word has gotten out that these refugees are, in fact, being taken to Guantanamo for temporary safe haven and they will not be processed for admittance into the United States.
Q What about a blockade?
MS. MYERS: There are a number of options under consideration. The President said over the weekend that he would certainly consider additional steps as needed. At this point, however, a blockade is not part of our plan. We're pursuing the options that the President chose and laid out over the course of the last few days.
Q Well, State Department people are being briefed today on policy toward Cuba. Are there new initiatives, or is this covering old ground?
MS. MYERS: No. I think that a number of people will be briefing over there today just to sort of, I think, update everybody as to where things stand. But there are no new announcements.
Q Dee Dee, on the crime bill, what is the strategy now to get 60 votes in the Senate if, in fact, there is some point of order to try to derail it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President -- as you know, debate began a little while ago in the Senate, and certainly the President will work very hard on this, as he did meeting and calling individual members to try to make sure that they support the bill.
He will have a meeting today at 4:00 p.m. here with a number of senators. There will be a photo op attached to that, and as soon as we have all the details on that we'll let you know.
As for the debate about point of order, I would just point out that the question here is the legitimacy of the trust fund as a funding vehicle. The Republicans have supported that consistently throughout the process of this crime bill, and we would hope that they would continue to support it.
Q What about the notion that the Senate should drop health care and go on vacation right after it passes or takes action on the crime bill -- would the White House support that?
MS. MYERS: Well, Senator Mitchell said he plans to keep the Senate in to keep them working on health care. Obviously, they're taking a break from health care this week to pursue crime. And I think the President's view is he'd like them to keep working. This is not the time to turn back. He'd like to see them keep working, but we'll see how things go this week.
Q Do you view taking a break as turning back?
Q Republican senators?
Q Yesterday Senator Moynihan said that he doesn't think anyone could realistically expect a health care bill until maybe October. Does the President have any thoughts about that?
MS. MYERS: I think that's something that the Senate will have to work out through the legislative process. I believe Senator Mitchell is meeting with Senator Chafee today; work is ongoing on the health bill. The President feels strongly that they should continue to press forward on this. Senator Mitchell has said that they will. And I think we'll just have to wait and see what kind of progress is made over the course of the next week or so.
Q You said the President wants to go forward, this is not the time to turn back. Do you view a recess as a setback to the process, as a turnback, a problem?
MS. MYERS: No. At some point, the Senate is going to recess -- the House has already gone home -- at least pending the CBO's finishing of work on the Gephardt bill. I think that even Senator Moynihan, who, as you pointed out, said that they thinks they should recess before finishing health care, has said he expects that they can finish a health care bill this year. So I would defer to the Senate leadership on the issue of timing and what's possible, but certainly Senator Mitchell, Senator Moynihan and others believe that it's possible through a number of different timing scenarios to get a bill done this year, and the President is hopeful that that will happen.
Q If it's not going to hurt you why is the President urging them to stay in?
MS. MYERS: I think the President thinks that we've made historic progress through the legislative process this year, that there's good work being done -- it continued to be done last week. It's difficult. Nonetheless, he thinks that they should keep pressing forward as long as it's productive.
Q What are the soundings? I mean, you surely have some preliminary assessments on how the crime bill is going to go in the Senate.
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly, there's been tremendous support for the crime bill in the Senate, including a 95-to-4 vote when the bill came up in December of this year. The assault weapons ban passed on a separate amendment with, I think, substantial Republican support. I believe there were 11 Republican senators who voted for the assault weapons ban when it came up. There was certainly bipartisan support from the very beginning. In fact, if you remember the Rose Garden ceremony we had here --
Q What about now?
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll see. I think we're hopeful that we'll have bipartisan support for the conference bill, which in many ways is stronger than the bill that passed the Senate. For example, it includes a 60 percent increase in prison funding and a number of other things that -- this just in -- 30 percent increase in prisons, not 60. Thank you.
Q You get the non-Jean Hanson award.
MS. MYERS: That's right. (Laughter.)
Q So do you think there will be a filibuster? Do you get any kinds of readings on --
MS. MYERS: Well, we would certainly hope not. Again, I think this is -- the crime bill has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the Senate throughout all the processes. And we'll phrase the question of the point of order because of the trust fund -- I would just point out that the trust fund was cosponsored by a number of Republicans, that there was a vote on a separate amendment on the trust fund -- the Byrd Amendment -- which passed 94 to 4 with only one Republican voting against it. On two separate occasions, the Senate voted to instruct the conference to fund the crime bill with the trust fund.
Q What about the integrity of the rules, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: We're very concerned about that, but the --
Q You wouldn't want to just run over the rules just for something that's politically popular, would you?
MS. MYERS: No, never. That would --
Q I mean this Senate holds the greatest deliberative body.
MS. MYERS: That would be wrong, Brit.
Q Mexico yesterday held presidential elections, and apparently the official winner is Zedillo. I'm trying to know if President Clinton is willing to continue economic policy that he had begun with President Salinas, do it with Mr. Zedillo?
MS. MYERS: Well, so far indications are that the elections in Mexico took place in a generally orderly and peaceful fashion, although there were some reports of irregularities. I'm not going to comment on the outcome of the election until it's been officially announced in Mexico. But no matter who the democratically-elected leader of Mexico is, we will continue to work with them and to build on the foundations of our economic and political relationship with Mexico.
Q Well, will the President send some message of congratulations to winner candidate?
MS. MYERS: Oh, absolutely.
Q Do you have the -- can you identify any of the countries where the Cubans who are taken from Guantanamo might be relocated?
MS. MYERS: No, we're continuing our discussions with countries, particularly in the region. I don't think there will be any surprises.
Q Turks and Caicos again?
MS. MYERS: Turks and Caicos is certainly a country that we've had discussions with. As you know, there's a facility there for Haitians. We also have memorandums of understanding with a number of countries as well as, I think, agreements in principle with a number of other countries. I'm happy to go through that if you don't have it.
But I think we'll have -- within the next -- within the not-too-distant future we should have an announcement.
Q Is it fair to say that some of these countries are more willing to accept Cubans than they were to accept Haitians?
MS. MYERS: I think we had good cooperation from countries in the region on Haitian refugees, and we hope to have the same kind of cooperation on Cuban refugees. Given that the outflow of Cubans -- I mean, of Haitians has almost subsided, in that we've found that we've been able to facilitate them at Guantanamo, I think we'll have plenty of options in the region for dealing with the Cubans as well.
Q I'm sorry, Dee Dee, you said not-too-distant future on an announcement on which third countries -- are you talking, do you mean days or more likely weeks or --
MS. MYERS: No, not hours, not hours. I don't think it will be within the next couple of days, but hopefully sometime -- possibly this week. I certainly wouldn't rule that out.
Q Do you have any idea how long these people will be held at Guantanamo?
MS. MYERS: The Cubans? I think temporarily, until such time as we're able to secure agreements with other countries for safe haven. Again, it is a temporary safe haven. It's not envisioned as a permanent safe haven.
Q Are refugee status hearings and processing ongoing with these Cubans, or has it been suspended temporarily?
MS. MYERS: What, at Guantanamo?
Q At Guantanamo.
MS. MYERS: What they'll be -- they will be given protection; they'll be registered at Guantanamo. They will not be processed for refugee status in the United States. The process is very similar to what we have in Haiti. There's an in-country processing center at our interest section in Havana. We're urging people who would like to apply for permanent refugee status in the United States to go there. That is the only way at this point for Cubans to apply for permanent refugee status in the United States.
Those who are picked up at sea will be taken to Guantanamo. They'll be processed there. They'll be guaranteed protection, but they will not be processed for admission into the United States.
Q Have you decided what you're going to do with those who either would not qualify for admission even if process, or those who want to go home?
MS. MYERS: There will be -- those at Guantanamo will be given the option, as are the Haitian refugees of either staying in a safe haven or returning to Cuba. As for those who don't qualify -- what, in the United States, those who are here now? I'll have to take that. I'm not sure what will happen to them.
Q Have you worked out a repatriation plan for those in Guantanamo with the Cuban government?
MS. MYERS: I think we're in discussion with our -- through our intersection in Havana.
Q To follow up, if they have family members who are willing to sponsor them -- that one family that had 30 relatives -- can they all be -- gain admission, and how long is the process?
MS. MYERS: Those who are already here, for example, who are at the Krome Detention Center in Florida, we're working out the actual processing process for them. We don't have any final process for them. For those who are in Cuba who would like to join their family members here in the United States, they have to apply through the in-country system. They have to go to the intersection in Havana and apply. And we've said we'd be willing to look at ways to expand the number or the ways we're able to accept legal immigrants, and that would be part of our ongoing discussions with the Cuban government about migrant issues.
Q Theoretically, if you have two people who claim they have 30 relatives and they're both --
MS. MYERS: If they're currently in Cuba they need to apply through the in-country processing center. If they take to the seas --
Q If they're in Florida.
MS. MYERS: If they're in Florida, we're still evaluating exactly how to process those individuals.
Q In terms of Senator Moynihan calling for hearings on what is going on with Cuba, any comment?
MS. MYERS: Well, we have certainly worked hard to continue to keep the Hill updated as to the policy decisions there. They were briefed throughout the decision-making process last week and on changes in U.S. policy. And we'll continue to work with the Hill to provide whatever information they feel they need and to certainly consider their views as we move forward.
Q Moynihan's suggest that what we ought to be doing is loosening the embargo and not putting so much pressure economically on Castro.
MS. MYERS: Well, for 30 years we've followed a policy of continuing to put pressure on Castro. And certainly, the actions the President took over the last few days are consistent with the Cuban Democracy Act, which seeks to do two things: One is to continue to put pressure on Castro, to move toward democratic economic reform, including an economic embargo. And the other is to continue to reach out to the Cuban people through humanitarian assistance and expanded communications, both of which the steps certainly that were outlined on Saturday are intended to do.
So the President believes that the policy decisions that he's made over the last few days are consistent both with the tradition of U.S. policy and, specifically, with the Cuban Democracy Act.
Q So in other words, Moynihan, no.
MS. MYERS: We're moving in a different direction.
Q Is the Cuban Democracy Act the reason the President says there's a distinction between not dealing with the Castro regime, but granting most favored nation status to China and dealing with the North Korean regime?
MS. MYERS: Certainly that's one factor. Another is that Cuba is a close neighbor, it's in the hemisphere. It's the only country in the hemisphere that has not had multiparty democratic elections. And Haiti, of course, has a different problem --
Q China --
MS. MYERS: In the hemisphere. Another reason is that there's been some progress in other countries toward democratic, or at least market economic reform. But Haiti has made no progress on market reforms, and almost no progress on democratic reforms.
Q Who is the United States to tell them? I mean, what is -- it's a sovereign country.
MS. MYERS: Sure, it is. They can -- certainly the actions that they take will determine the kind of relationship we have with them. That's certainly the way we've always --
Q Well, just because it's close and it's a communist country, does that make the vast difference in the way we treated other communist countries through the years -- since 1933?
MS. MYERS: Countries in our region have always taken on special significance here. That, I think, goes back as long as this has been a country.
Q That doesn't give you the right to invade someone else's country.
MS. MYERS: I don't remember anybody talking about an invasion.
Q Are you concerned about the mixed signals apparently some of these Cuban refugees are getting? They know, they now are hearing they are going to a third country, but they still believe they're going to get here.
MS. MYERS: We are concerned, which is why we're doing things like expanding communication, expanding broadcasts through Radio MARTI, as well as augmenting those with additional broadcasts to make sure that people do know that if they take to the seas and are picked up, they will not be eligible to apply for immigrant status here.
Q You spoke of Castro and his people instigating this to a certain extent. Any indication that's still going on, or they've stopped it, or what?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the numbers speak for themselves. I think clearly Castro continues to try to export his domestic political problems. He's encouraging people to take to the seas. This is obviously troubling. It's something that we've condemned and are trying to tell people not be part of his cynical ploy; but rather if they want to apply for refugee status, they should do it through the in-country system.
Q Is there any reexamination along the lines that Moynihan suggested and others have suggested going on within this administration towards Cuba policy? The President was certainly not hesitant to criticize foreign policy programs or policies of past administration policies during the campaign. Just because it's been around for 30 years, does that mean it's the right thing --
MS. MYERS: Well, he supported the Cuban Democracy Act before it was passed. It was something he talked about during the campaign, something he's consistently supported.
Q But times have changed. Is there any reevaluation of whether what we're doing is the best way to deal with --
MS. MYERS: I think there's a constant evaluation of policy. And I think the determination has been made that this continues to be the best course of action. That we will continue to put pressure on Fidel Castro to move toward reform. At the same time, we'll continue to reach out the Cuban people. And I think the people briefing at the State Department today are Peter Tarnoff, Doris Meissner and Mort Halperin. And I think they'll probably give a little broader framework about the history of U.S. policy and about how this is consistent with that.
Q Of all the expanding communications to Cuba, do you have any funding for more stations, or how are you going to do it?
MS. MYERS: Part of what will happen is Radio MARTI will be expanded and --
Q More frequencies?
MS. MYERS: Yes, the frequency of broadcast will be expanded, as would -- and it will be augmented. The regulations are being worked out now for the three steps the President talked about on Saturday. Obviously, the Treasury Department will have to deal with the financial issues. DOD and USIA will work on expanding the broadcasts. And the State Department and FAA will work on the charter flight issue. And we expect to have the regulations probably midweek. And they will take effect immediately as soon as the regulations are issued.
Q Did any government in the hemisphere object to the idea to blockade of Cuba and --
MS. MYERS: Well, we haven't proposed a blockade of Cuba.
Q what specifically internationally --
MS. MYERS: I don't think -- since we haven't proposed a blockade of Cuba, I don't know that we've gotten any reaction to it. The steps that we took -- there's ongoing dialogue. I don't know specifically. We talked to a number of countries about a number of issues. Certainly we've talked to countries in the region about the policy changes. And the steps that we took, however, are all unilateral. We will continue to talk about this in the U.N. probably sometime in September.
Q On the blockade issue?
MS. MYERS: No, not the blockade issue, about the current -- Castro's current situation.
Q Well, when you say there's no plans underway for a blockade, does that mean that a blockade is no longer under consideration?
MS. MYERS: It's an option that we won't rule in and won't rule out. But it's not part of the current course of action.
Q What have we asked the U.N. to do?
Q didn't answer my question earlier that a number of things were under consideration. I mean, you said, but that's not part of our course of action. So I took that to mean that it's one of the options under consideration.
MS. MYERS: I just can't rule it in and I can't rule it out. I think last week there was -- number of principals meeting where a broad variety of options were considered. And I just am not going to get into a discussion about which ones were and which ones weren't. But it is not -- again, it's not part of our chosen course --
Q Did the Chief of Staff misspeak this weekend and again this morning on that subject?
Q What did he say?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I think he said that's something that we wouldn't -- we might consider in the future.
Q In terms of September in the U.N., what would the approach be? To tighten sanctions or to get other countries to go along with the U.S. approach?
MS. MYERS: I think to condemn Castro's actions in cynically encouraging people to take to the sea. Mike.
Q Did you say yes or no, does the President want the people of Cuba to rise up and overthrow Castro? Is that something that he would like to see?
MS. MYERS: I think that he would like to see the country move toward democratic and market economic reform. And to the degree that that can be led internally and peacefully, I think that's what he'd like to see.
Q Dee Dee, did I understand you to say that you expect in a week or so a very dramatic decline in the number of refugees coming from Cuba?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we expect some decline. I think we hope that it will be substantial. And I pointed out that it took about a week for the word to get out in Haiti and for the number of refugees there to significantly drop off. And I don't think we've picked up any Haitians at sea since August 8th.
Q Is anyone doing any long-term planning about what to do with Cuba?
Q What's that word again? (Laughter.)
Q I mean post-Castro --
MS. MYERS: Sure. There are long-term and contingency planning underway all the time, and it's continually updated as circumstances change.
Q In the State Department?
MS. MYERS: I think a combination of things. For example, there's an interagency group that includes a number of different agencies that are working on Cuba now. And under the circumstances, they're meeting daily and it includes the Department of Justice, INS, State, DOD, White House, NSC.
Q Are they focused primarily on the refugee problem?
MS. MYERS: They're focused on the current situation, but they'll continue -- there's an interagency process in place for dealing with Cuba now. And I think there's long-term planning that goes on regularly, certainly through the State Department --
Q Who is the point person on that?
MS. MYERS: I'd have to take that question. I'm not sure who -- Alex Watson is sort of the point person at State on Cuba. But certainly other people -- as you know, Peter Tarnoff was working on it a lot last week as was Mort Halperin and Sandy Berger from here.
Q There's a certain ad hoc quality to all of this, as we experienced Friday night and Saturday morning.
MS. MYERS: What are you saying, Andrea? No, I think there continues to be planning, and I think a very coordinated decision-making process that brings all of the interested agencies together.
Q Dee Dee, do you think that the White House has a credibility gap?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not.
Q You don't think that the story in The Post yesterday was legitimate in terms of chapter and verse on different times that --
Q This was not me.
MS. MYERS: This was Ruth Marcus's Post piece yesterday. To the -- I would say that to the degree that if the news media thinks that it's a problem, then I think it's something that we have to take seriously. And I think, certainly, our relations -- the White House and the press relations have not been perfect to date. I think we've worked hard to try to overcome some of the difficulties, particularly those we encountered in the beginning, and I think we've made some progress.
I think there are clearly places where we could improve, and I think we're working hard to make the kind of changes that will help not only to guarantee that the information that we put out is accurate, but that you have faith in that information. And I think we'll continue to do all we can.
Q Dee Dee, on the same subject, I know that this is not your favorite area of questioning, but in Time magazine this week they have an article headlined "D-Day for Dee Dee?" Can you directly say -- and maybe it's helpful to put it on the record -- the article implies and other articles have said that Panetta doesn't want you here, is weighing whether to try to oust you and so forth.
MS. MYERS: Do you have a lottery for who gets to ask these questions every day? (Laughter.)
Q This was an article I just happened to see today in Time magazine. So, since another article is out there in a very prominent way, can you just state what's the latest? Can you flatly say, no, you have no intention, no one's told you anything about this? What is --
MS. MYERS: I think as we've continued to say, Leon has made it clear that he's going to make some changes. He's in the midst of reviewing operations here, I think, as well as trying to get the crime bill passed and get health care reform passed and tackle all the substantive issues. I don't think he's made final decisions. I think that's what he's told those of you who have had a chance to talk to him directly about this. I have no plans to go anywhere.
Q Dee Dee, do you know anything about the vacation plans at this stage? If the Senate were to adjourn, would the Clintons quickly leave town? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think so.
Q The Office of Long Term Planning. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The President has said that he will stay in Washington as long as the House and Senate are in session working on crime and health care and making progress. The House is gone. If the Senate were to adjourn, I think the President would leave within a day or two; I think as quickly as he technically could.
Q You mean if the Senate adjourns?
Q But you don't think -- but you said before the President doesn't think it's a good idea for the Senate to drop health care and go on vacation.
MS. MYERS: He'd like them to continue working as long as it's productive. He still believes that they can get a health care bill this year. Members of the Senate continue to believe that. I think we'll have to see how things progress.
Q He wants the health care bill more than he wants the vacation.
MS. MYERS: Absolutely. He wants both, ideally.
Q False alternative. Bogus choice. (Laughter.)
Q I want to ask a question about what Andrea was talking about earlier about the ad hoc nature of the Cuba announcements. Why did he wait -- why did you guys wait until later, or until Saturday, to announce the new sanctions? Why didn't you take the opportunity of the press conference? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Fair question. I think that there were still discussions ongoing about specifically how to structure the steps. And again, there were a number of things -- the additional steps. But I think the President, on Friday, wanted to get the immigration information out there so he went ahead and announced the changes in immigration policy in order to have an impact on what was happening in Cuba before final decisions had been made on the other steps. There was something that was under discussion.
Q You were speaking in terms of this coordinated effort. I mean, you weren't ready yet to make those announcements.
MS. MYERS: That's correct. I think -- and as the President sees additional steps that need to be taken, he'll take additional steps. I think he holds open the option of doing that.
Q How soon do you think that banks are going to get some sort of notice from Treasury, from the Office of Foreign Assets Control about the blocking of --
MS. MYERS: I think midweek. I think that regulations will go out midweek and they'll take effect immediately.
Q So people will have had from Saturday to midweek to do whatever they want to do with their funds, right?
MS. MYERS: Yes, five days. I guess that's right.
Q Do you think that both the Mitchell plan and the mainstream group plan adequately addressed the issue of cost shifting? Because the CEOs that visited the President this morning don't seem to think so.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we'll have to see. Senators Chafee and Mitchell are meeting today. I think it's up to Senator Mitchell now to meld those proposals into something the Senate will ultimately, hopefully vote on and vote for.
At this point, we'll just have to wait and see what they do. I'm not going to comment on -- first of all, I don't think we've seen the mainstream group hasn't put forward a piece of legislation yet. And I think we'll just have to wait and see what comes out of these discussions this week.
Q Does the President have a concern that -- to follow up on Maura's question -- that when he announces his policy decisions in this way, it has a piecemeal effect in that the public sort of has a sense that he is reacting rather than planning? I think Senator Graham, a Democrat, on Friday said a new policy is hatched every 20 minutes and they take them out of the oven before they're even done. Is this something the White House is aware of, or they just think this is the way you conduct policy?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it depends. I think sometimes it's important to act in a timely fashion. And I think that's why the President moved quickly to announce the changes in immigration policy, rather than waiting until the details had been worked out on the other pieces. And I think under the circumstances that was important.
I think we try hard not to allow the impression of a piecemeal quality to decision-making. But I think in this case, the President believed it was most important to get the word out as quickly as possible to those Cubans who were thinking about taking to the sea.
Q If I could just follow up -- but this really wasn't much of a surprise that there might be some trouble with Cuban immigrants except to the administration.
MS. MYERS: That's not true.
Q All of the reports out of Florida were that there were going -- that this was a possibility. The administration downplayed --
MS. MYERS: Which is why we began work on it last week -- we weren't downplaying it, but we needed to declare a state of emergency. If you recall, fully a week before --
Q I understand that, but wouldn't you have then contingency planning --
MS. MYERS: We were in the process of contingency planning.
Q plan before Friday night?
MS. MYERS: I think we were in the process of contingency planning. I think that this is something that happened quickly. I think the administration responded quickly and decisively. Beginning with the Attorney General's decision on Thursday of the week before to let it be known that boats going down to Cuba to pick up refugees would be boarded and seized if that was appropriate. Then we made it clear that the administration was reviewing its options as the situation got more and more serious, as the number of refugees increased, the President took steps very quickly to deal with that. And I think under the circumstances that this -- the President moved very quickly on this and that the net result of the policy will be that it will taper off the number of Cubans leaving Cubans.
Q But, Dee Dee, was any consideration given to how it would look if he merely came out and talked about the immigrants and didn't say anything about what he was doing to get rid of Fidel Castro? I mean, did that -- was that a consideration?
MS. MYERS: I think the decision was made that it was most important to deal with the migrant policy and that the other considerations were secondary. And so the decision was made that the -- the piece that was most important was to get the word out, to let people know that they would not longer be eligible for refugee status in the U.S. And that it is not, I don't think it is at all unreasonable to suggest that the President would take additional steps later. I think he did that, I think that's reasonable, and I think that those steps will have a good effect or their intended effect.
Q Why would your Chief of Staff discuss an embargo if it's not --
MS. MYERS: He was asked about it, and he responded to a question that was posed to him.
Q There are a lot of stories out today that -- a couple of stories at least that Deutch has warned the military services to expect pretty big cuts and they should look at weapons systems that could be scaled back or delayed. How deep are those defense cuts?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think that's quite -- a number of people have the memo. Basically what he says is that there's a continuing trade off between readiness and technological advancement, and that in order to be prepared as we move toward the 20th century that we have to be ready to review a number of options. And so he's asked simply, as a planning tool, each branch of the review options with respect to new weapons systems. Again, it's simply a planning tool. I believe Secretary Deutch will brief tomorrow once everyone's back from Cuba and Key West and go through the specifics of exactly what that memo was trying to achieve and where they are in the bottom up review of the things.
Q But he's not spelling out a warning of any sort to cutting back programs? He's just trying to put the focus on readiness over expenses --
MS. MYERS: I think that's right, and that you always have to be prepared for the situation in which you might have to cut something. You have to make tough choices in the post-Cold War era. And I think what he's doing is making sure that the Defense Department is ready and has fully evaluated what its options are, what the programs are, where the savings could come from. And no decisions have been made. He simply asked each branch to go forward and to do an evaluation that may be useful down the road.
Q Will he brief at the Pentagon?
MS. MYERS: Yes, tomorrow.
Q On camera?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. You'll have to check with them.
Q How does that square with some of the specific campaign promises the President made?
MS. MYERS: Again, no decisions have been made. He's simply asking people to evaluate what their options are with regard to programs. And, again, no decisions have been made one way or another.
Q Can you do the rest of the week?
MS. MYERS: Unfortunately, since we were not planning to be here this week, we don't have much of a schedule. I think we'll do it on a day-to-day basis. There's no travel planned. I think he'll spend a lot of time on the crime bill, and we'll just do it on a daily basis.
Q Any public events for tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Nothing scheduled at this point.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:30 P.M. EDT