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Special Event

President Clinton Announces New Initiative to Increase Aviation Safety

Aired January 14, 2000 - 3:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... American Airlines Chairman Don Carty, Delta Airlines CEO Leo Mullin, First Vice President of the Air Line Pilots Association International, Captain Dennis Dolan, Allied Pilots Association President Richard LaVoy, and Mark D'Angelis, the aviation safety action program representative for the Transport Workers Union.

Three years ago I asked Vice President Gore to lead a commission in aviation safety and security, looking at how to make our skies as safe as they can possibly be. Already there is less than one fatal crash for every one million commercial flights, but we know we can do better still. Any accident, any death in the air is still one too many.

The commission set a goal of reducing fatal accidents by 80 percent over 10 years. Its members agreed that the best way to meet the goal was to stop accidents before they happen and identify problems before they have terrible consequences.

This is a completely different way of looking at safety. It requires business, labor and regulators to work together in a completely different way -- as partners, not adversaries. Everyone must focus on fixing problems, not fixing blame.

I'm proud to be here with all these people today to announce a new partnership among business, labor and government, to set us ahead of the curve on safety. Under Aviation Safety Action Programs, pilots will report problems or concerns immediately to safety experts at their airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

They will be encouraged to share their valuable insights about doing the job more safely. They will be freed from the fear of being disciplined for admitting that something went wrong. The FAA will still have the right to take action against deliberate violations of aviation rules, criminal activity, or drug and alcohol use. The experts will get the data they need to stay in front on safety; to solve problems, evaluate existing safety systems, and propose new ones.

We know these programs will work, because American Airlines and its pilots have run one as a demonstration for more than five years now. Pilots reported literally thousands of concerns to the FAA. Those reports produced real improvements in procedures and in equipment. They even helped designers and builders create safer planes and airports.

For example, pilots' expertise changed the way some airports use lights and signs on the runways. And pilots helped to rewrite the safety checklist they must complete while planes taxi from the gate. And when American extended its program to mechanics and dispatchers, they improved equipment manuals and maintenance procedures.

I hope we'll be able to follow their example and open this program to all the people who make airplanes fly -- flight attendants, mechanics, dispatchers. For the first time, we have regulators, business and labor working as real partners. When it comes to safety, everyone has a responsibility; we want everyone on the team.

And let me again say I have only the profoundest gratitude on behalf of all the American people, and especially those who will be in airplanes in the future, to all those who are here with me today and those whom they represent.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you dropping the caps on the budget which were so dear to you in the past?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, the caps were literally completely shredded in the last budget by the majority in Congress. And so what I have to do now is to adopt an honest budget based on the spending levels that were adopted and the reasonable expectation that inflation, at least, will be taken care of, particularly, you know, in defense. If you'll remember, we had a big issue about how much the defense budget would be increased. But there were other increases as well.

So you'll see, when my budget comes out, that it still does everything I said we have to do. It invests more in education, science and technology and other important areas; it protects the money necessary to take Social Security out beyond the life of the baby boom generation, to extend the life of Medicare; and very importantly, it will still allow us to get out of debt for the first time 1835 over the next 15 years.

So all the budget objectives that I have -- continuing to run the surpluses, getting the country out of debt, but continue to invest in the things we need -- will be met by the budget I present to Congress.

QUESTION: Mr. President, on (inaudible) a pharmaceutical industry spokesman today did say that your plan is still unacceptable to them, and if you come back with the same plan they'll still fight you on this.

And my question to you is: Are you prepared to compromise with them? And what is your understanding, if their big objection is the danger of price caps not only on Medicare drugs, but that this could spill over to the commercial sector where they just sat all across the (inaudible)?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, there's no danger of price caps, but what I think they're worried about is the fact that if the government becomes a big buyer that we'll be able to bargain for lower prices at greater volume. I don't think that's a bad thing. You know, someone ought to ask them how they can possibly justify the fact that American senior citizens are now being carried across the border to Canada to buy drugs produced in America by American drug companies with the help of public funds that pay for research -- with the availability of tax deduction for research and all of that -- and Americans are going across the border into Canada and buying the same drugs for less than half what they cost here.

So I think what they ought to do is come sit down with us and let's see if we can agree on a common approach. There may be a way that we can agree on an approach. That's all -- that's why I was somewhat cautious in my remarks today.

I think it's a good thing that they recognize that it would be better if Medicare could provide this benefit, because we know 75 percent of our senior citizens and probably a higher percentage of our disabled people who need medications cannot afford what they need. And we know it can not only lengthen life, and in many cases save lives, but it can also improve the quality of life.

So I think it's a very important issue. And I take their offer in a positive way, and I just hope they'll come sit down with us and we'll try to sit down with them and with people in both parties in Congress who care about this and see if we can work out a common position that we can pass, because I think it's a very important issue.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) a real (OFF-MIKE) PR move on their part just to keep you from bashing them?

CLINTON: I don't know. You know, I don't like to bash people, I never have done that as an option of first choice. And I'm not bashing them today, I think.

But I think that, you know, their big problem is that ordinary Americans now know that if they live close enough to the Canadian border they could cross the border and buy a lot of drugs for half what they pay here, and in many other countries, even though the drugs are produced here by our companies; and that any large producer will do the best that any large -- just like in the private sector, try to get the best bargain they can. But if there's some way to work through this, I'll be glad to sit down and make sure our people are available to them and we'll try to work it out.

QUESTION: Mr. President, is it right to offer financial incentives to TV networks for incorporating anti-drug messages into scripts? And are you inclined to try to seek similar incentives for other issues involving TV program, like, say, gun violence?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me say, it is my understanding that what General McCaffrey was trying to do is to amplify the impact of the advertising program that we have been running. And keep in mind, a number of networks have agreed not only to take paid ads, but have run a lot of our ads for free or reduced rates, and they are under an obligation to run public service announcements.

I think that General McCaffrey reached a conclusion based on how many people see public service announcements that are run late at night, as opposed to prime-time programming that more people watch, that if the networks were willing to put a good anti-drug message in heavily watched programs, particularly by the most vulnerable young people, that would be a good thing.

CLINTON: And it's my understanding that there's nothing mandatory about this; that nobody -- there was no attempt to regulate content or tell people what they had to put into it. Of course, I wouldn't support that. But I think he's done a very good job increasing the, sort of, public interest component of what young people hear on the media, and I think it's working; we see drug use dropping.

And let me say, I've talked to a lot of people in the entertainment community who like the idea that, without compromising the integrity of their programs, they might be involved in all kinds of public service efforts. So, that's where I am on this. I hadn't -- this was his initiative, and I hadn't given any thought to the question of whether it might be applied in other ways, frankly.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton talking about federal payments to TV shows for anti-drug content, and that is focus of today's "TALKBACK LIVE," coming up here in a few minutes. And you'll here more discussion about that.

We will consider to monitor the president's appearance in the White House for other news development.

Two things he did address: He is reacting positively, he says, to the pharmaceutical industry dropping its opposition to his proposed prescription-drug benefit for Medicare recipients, and they are offering to work with the administration on Medicare reform. The White House had said the drug industry feared the administration would adopt price controls, and decided it was better to cooperate with the White House than take that risk -- that according to the White House.

Also, the president stood with FAA officials, executives from the airlines and pilots' representatives to announce a partnership between business, labor and the government. Under the plan, pilots can report safety problems in the air, perhaps near accidents, and they are sure that they cannot lose their jobs as a result of reporting such incidents. The hope here is for safer planes, safer airports and safer air travel for all, according to the president.

We will take a break. "TALKBACK LIVE" begins in just a moment.

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