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Published on Thursday, January 23, 2003 by
Ari the Evader by Russell Mokhiber...
Ari & I
White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer
Thursday, January 23, 2003 - 1:00 PM
by Russell Mokhiber

Mokhiber: Ari, two things.

The President's auto safety chief, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, says that people who drive sports utility vehicles are especially vulnerable to fatal rollovers because the vehicle's high center of gravity makes them more likely to tip during sudden maneuvers. He says that if automakers don't make SUVs safer, the government should step in to mandate the changes. Does the President agree with Dr. Runge that sports utility vehicles are not safe enough and that consumers should think twice before buying one?

Ari Fleischer: I think the President is guided on issues like this by the best expert analysis and there are a variety of different analyses on this. I'm not clear that that's the prevailing view.

Mokhiber: That's his auto safety chief, though.

Ari Fleischer: That's one of the things he said. I'm not sure that's the only thing he said on this topic.

Mokhiber: Second question.

A group of victims of medical malpractice are in town today to protest the President's proposed cap on medical malpractice damages. One, Linda McDougal, underwent a double mastectomy after being mistakenly told she had breast cancer. She said that "President Bush wants to put through a cap on medical malpractice compensation. His intent is to harm me." The other is Kathy Olson. Her son Steven was severely brain damaged due to a medical error, and his compensation was drastically cut to a similar cap under California law. They want to meet with the President to present their views. Will the President meet with them?

Ari Fleischer: Russell, the President's point of view on this is that people who are denied the medical services that they need and they deserve have every right to court. But the problem that we have in our society today is that right to court has been abused -- not by cases for the people who are in need, but by lawyers who prey off of the cases of people who are not in need -- to create a new system that has become such a lottery where people go to court and attempt to win millions; that what we have, instead, is a system where mom's who are pregnant who want to have babies are losing their ability to go see a doctor. That's the other side of this story that the President is also focused on.

The President wants to make sure that we have a legal system that works for the people who deserve help, and that's why the President's proposal does not call for caps in all regards. It calls for caps in noneconomic damages, which has been the source of the greatest abuse. But there is no cap on the actual economic damages that people suffer under the President's proposal. But the President wants to make certain that the abuses in the system, that the frivolous lawsuits in the system, that the lottery-awards nature of the system is corrected. We have a crisis in America when it comes to health care and health care delivery, particularly affecting pregnant women, who are rapidly -- across the country, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, throughout America, particularly rural areas -- losing their abilities to see doctors who can deliver the health care they need.

Mokhiber: So will the President meet with these victims who are in town?

Ari Fleischer: I'll let you know if there's anything on the schedule. There's nothing on the schedule today.



-Thanks to Russell Mokhiber

White House reporter Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter - He co-authors the weekly Focus on the Corporation column with Robert Weissman which Common Dreams publishes. He can be reached at:


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