Politics This Week With Juan Williams

The Obama administration dealt with several major policy issues this week, starting with efforts to push the president's proposed budget through Congress, and ending with an announcement of an updated strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The Obama administration dealt with several major policy issues this week, beginning with efforts to push the president's proposed budget through Congress, of course ending in an announcement with an updated strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Here to help us sort out the week's political news, our friend NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Good morning, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And there's suddenly a lot of foreign issues on the president's plate. I guess they've always been there, but we've been looking at the economy.

WILLIAMS: Well, the economy has sort of drowned out everything else. But at the moment, if you were to take it off, you'd say it's Afghanistan, where this week, of course, he agreed to send more troops, though it's now to be an additional 21,000 on the ground, and it looks like a new commitment in terms of fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and extending then over to Pakistan.

So here's another country. And there you're seeing a commitment to an additional 1.5 billion in non-military aid, the idea being if you can stabilize the society, you can do much to stop the source of terror.

And then, of course, Mexico has exploded on the map this week in terms of the fight against the drug cartels and the question of how you stop that kind of threat from extending across the U.S. border.

And we go on here - North Korea, where we see that they are saying they're going to launch some kind of communications satellite in early April. Of course the fear is that in fact it might be a military missile that's launched, and then the question becomes about the response from not only Japan but from people here in this country who fear that the missile could reach the West Coast. And at the same time, of course, North Korea's holding two reporters from Al Gore's Current TV. So North Korea's on the stage.

And then next week the president's going to London for the G20. And there already you see lots of resistance coming from the European leaders in terms of the stimulus package, who say it's not about stimulus, that the spending is simply going to throw too many dollars into the global economy. What we really need is more regulation of financial markets and saying that President Obama's approach, as the current head of the E.U. said, is the road to hell.

SIMON: Let me ask you a budget question immediately, because there are some Democrats who are going to be a tough sell on this budget, right?

WILLIAMS: They already are, yeah. They're worried about it, and because they're worried in terms of their own reelection chances and the mantra that this is tax and spend and that the president is putting future generations at risk. You know, you've heard that even this morning from Judd Gregg, the senator from New Hampshire, in his response to the president's radio address.

So at the moment you have moderate Democrats, people like Claire McCaskill in Missouri or Kent Conrad, the head of the Budget Committee, from North Dakota, Ben Cardin from Maryland, Evan Bayh from Indiana, all these people are saying, you know, we want to cut back and we want to make sure that this package is really in keeping with proper fiscal limits in terms of controlling the ever-growing size of the deficit.

SIMON: Juan, you and I both grew up in great newspaper towns - New York and Chicago, respectively. It's a bad time to be in the business, isn't it?

WILLIAMS: It's just horrible. It really makes me sad. I just can't believe it, because we both loved not only the fact that you'd get that paper every morning - great newspapers and a selection of newspapers - and it would bring the world to you. But, you know, Scott, on a very elementary level, things like covering school boards, zoning commissions, city councils, that whole watchdog function that makes people better participants in a democracy, seems to be going away with the end of newspapers.

Who pays a reporter to go to a city council meeting? It's not sexy, it's not all that exciting, but it's very important.

SIMON: You and I lost a friend this week, too, John Hope Franklin. The esteemed historian died this week. And you shared the stage with him on a few occasions…

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

SIMON: …you both being chroniclers of the Civil Rights Movement.

WILLIAMS: And, gosh, he was a mentor to me. You know, this man, 94 years old, Medal of Freedom winner, and the thing about him is you have to put him in line with so many great American historians - W.E.B. Dubois, Carter G. Woodson - and then of course here comes Dr. Franklin to really make sure that in terms of the American canon, African-Americans and their stories is an essential part of the telling of the tale.

And you know, his great honor was in terms of doing a biography of G. Washington Williams, who himself was a civil rights veteran - black - who was writing a history of blacks from the previous century. So you see the line, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah. Thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome.

SIMON: Juan Williams.

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