Week in Review: Iraq Veto, First Republican Debate

In the news this week: President Bush's veto of a spending bill for the Iraq war, the first presidential debate for Republican candidates and Rupert Murdoch bids to buy The Wall Street Journal.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President Bush vetoed the war-funding bill this week as expected. Negotiations for a new bill have begun. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syria's foreign minister at an international conference in Egypt. And Republican presidential candidates debated at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And the House did not have enough votes to override the president's veto on the war-funding bill, which was known in advance obviously. They've gone back to the drawing boards. How do you assess negotiations so far?

SCHORR: Well, I don't think anything pretty much has happened, yet so far in the negotiations between the Congress and the White House. That may take some time. There are various versions of some kind of deadline or other, which I hope that one or the other will accept. I don't think they are anywhere yet.

Meanwhile, however, there was - the Democrats in Congress are getting ready to put on a little pressure. Senator Byrd, who's the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has now said, we have a resolution - it's now supported by Hillary Clinton. A resolution, which revokes the power of the executive to carry on this war as of October 11th, which would - I take it - be exactly five years since they granted that power in the first place.

I think, these are all gestures, back and forth so far. When they reach a point of really negotiating, we'll know.

SIMON: Secretary of State Rice traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this week. There's a regional conference on Iraq, and representatives from Iran and Syria also attended the conference.

SCHORR: Sure.

SIMON: Does this represent the United States opening up some kind of working relationship with Iran and Syria, or trying to reach(ph) an understanding about Iraq?

SCHORR: Well, it certainly is a different approach than the Bush administration would have taken two or three or four years ago when they spoke of unilateralism. Here, in this case, what's very interesting was that there was supposed to be a dinner and it was arranged that the Secretary of State Rice will face directly across the table from the Iranian foreign minister who's name is Manouchehr Mottaki, if remember correctly.

And he showed up there. She wasn't there yet. There was a Ukrainian violinist dressed in red who was playing for the group. And when the foreign minister saw that, he decided that a good Shiite could not really be there with a woman in red - got up and walked out.

And when Rice arrived and wondered what had gone wrong. What had gone wrong is really so representative and typical at trying to bring together these two cultures. If you find negotiation is halted by the fact that you have a Ukrainian violinist, what now?

SIMON: American secretary of state is a woman, too, and I think, she often wears red as a matter of fact.

SCHORR: Yeah. But I don't know whether she wore red.

SIMON: And she's a great pianist. (Unintelligible)

SCHORR: And she's also a great - it would have been very nice of her and with the Ukrainian violinist but, no, it didn't get off the ground.

SIMON: The 10 pack of Republican presidential candidates held a debate in Simi Valley, California, on Thursday. Any general impressions?

SCHORR: Well, the general impression is same as with the Democrats. That this first debate, the objective is not to get into trouble. And so the Republicans, if they all back the president - some more ardently than others - they all said that the Democrats are no good and that they're going to lead us all to victory and so on.

I doubt whether any vote was changed by this. I think, when we get closer to the real thing, we might see something more.

SIMON: The Florida legislature gave final approval this week to move Florida's primary election for March to January.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Now this follows New York and California that also moved up their primaries. And now the secretary of state of New Hampshire didn't rule out putting the New Hampshire primary, actually, in this calendar year.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: He said, we'll move it to before January 1st if we have to. What do you make of the increased velocity of the season and all the big states going first?

SCHORR: Well, and all of a sudden they find(ph), why just New Hampshire? Why Iowa? Then (unintelligible) scenes and we have a lot of reporters coming here. We have attention to us, state and all, and so one after another and they are now beginning to make their primaries earlier and earlier.

I suspect that it's probably going to go on until we will have the aversion, perhaps, of a national primary is, what it would be like. I don't know what that would then lead to but it strikes me that during all of this time, they all - announcing how much money they have raised. And apparently, raising money seems to be the most important part of a primary election over campaigns so far.

So I was - make so bold as to say, why don't we get rid of the primaries with ballot boxes, half of which don't work anyway, and simply take a date and decide who has the most money and that person wins.

SIMON: Well, it would save a lot of expense.

SCHORR: Wouldn't it?

SIMON: Yeah. And they could do something with the money afterwards.

SCHORR: Exactly.

SIMON: Yeah. Let's spend it on campaign stuff. Finally, it was reported this week that Rupert Murdoch made a bid for Dow Jones...

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: Enterprises for $5 billion, of course, that's the parent company of the Wall Street Journal and a number of other publications, including the new wallstreetjournal.com.

SCHORR: Yes. I'm going to have to answer you in purely personal terms. I've been a reporter, one way or another, for some 70 years all the way back to hello-sweetheart-get-me rewrite and all of that. I have a lot of respect for newspapers who are owned by families and are willing to make sacrifices therefore. I mean, the Graham family, Salzberger(ph) family took on a great risk, for example, in publishing the Pentagon papers. If we get more and more people come in and treat newspapers as sheerly a business, I'll be sad.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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