WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Clinton Gets Laugh Out Of Yeltsin HarangueRON FOURNIER , Associated Press
Oct. 24, 1995 2:36 PM ET
NEW YORK (AP) _ You know Bill Clinton has always wanted to do it himself, but all he could do was laugh when Boris Yeltsin stared down the White House press corps and proclaimed, ``You're a disaster.''
The U.S. president, who has had a rocky relationship with the news media, laughed so hard he doubled over, turned red and wiped tears from his eyes. Between giggles, Clinton managed to remind reporters that the insult didn't come from him.
``Be sure you get the right attribution there,'' he quipped.
The Russian president was criticizing American journalists who he said had predicted the U.S.-Russian meeting at Hyde Park, N.Y., on Monday would be a disaster.
``Well, now for the first time I can tell you that you're a disaster,'' Yeltsin said through an interpreter.
He delivered the line with a straight face, breaking into an awkward smile only after Clinton greeted the remarks with guffaws.
Throughout the joint appearance, the bombastic Russian stole the show by lacing his remarks with harsh critiques of the media.
At one point, he posed a rhetorical riddle: ``How many journalists' brains are used to constantly try to figure out what kinds of different versions and options the two presidents are going to come up with regarding Bosnia?''
But he gave the press a backhanded compliment, saying some of their reports figured in the talks. ``I can't say that your brains turned out to be useless,'' Yeltsin said.
In hindsight, the harangue shouldn't have come as a surprise. Yeltsin may have been tipping his audience with the first six words of his remarks.
``Dear ladies and gentlemen,'' he said, pausing before adding another category: ``Dear journalists.''
Yeltsin's outburst had to concern Clinton's political advisers, who went into the Hyde Park meeting worried that Yeltsin's demeanor could reflect poorly on Clinton.
Internal polls have shown that Clinton's standing is hurt when he shares the stage with the sometimes unpredictable Yeltsin, and some aides had pressed Clinton avoid making any public statements with the Russian president.
In fact, the schedule for Monday's events did not include a Clinton-Yeltsin statement. The news conference came at the last-minute urging of the two leaders.
Some New York motorists aren't laughing, though.
They're the ones who parked their cars within range of Cafe des Artistes, where the president decided to have dinner Monday night.
The cars were towed by police without notice.
As the owners discovered their cars were missing, they gathered at a police barricade near Central Park. One man was handcuffed and taken away after brushing the arm of a policeman.
Some people are never satisfied.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin was miffed when the White House refused him a state visit at the White House, but beamed proudly Sunday when he was positioned directly to Clinton's right for the United Nation's ``class photo'' of world leaders.
He also was invited to a reception Sunday night hosted by Clinton at the New York Public Library, the planned site of the Clinton-Jiang meeting today.
It was at that gala when a Jiang aide noticed a human rights exhibit titled ``What Price Freedom,'' and insisted that the meeting be moved. The White House quickly complied, switching the meeting to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Police blocked off dozens of streets in Manhattan today, snarling rush-hour traffic and angering commuters, so Clinton's 11-car motorcade could make its way to Central Park.
The president, who has gotten out of his jogging routine of late, went running around the park's reservoir, tramping along with a herd of New York joggers.