Week in Review: Gonzales, Blair, Wolfowitz
JOHN YDSTIE, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm John Ydstie.
This week, more congressional testimony from officials at the Justice Department exposed the administration's behind-the-scenes maneuvering on warrantless wiretapping. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz announced that he will resign, and Republican presidential candidates debated in South Carolina.
NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr is here to discuss it all. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, John.
YDSTIE: Dan, how would you rate the Bush administration's week?
SCHORR: Oh, this has been one of the less happy weeks for the administration, which show signs of being in a state of decomposition. Here, we have the Justice Department where you get one resignation after another. You find that there were more than the eight U.S. attorneys they wanted to change, maybe 13 or 14.
Then you get the chilling story of James Comey, a former Justice Department official, about how they tried to go to Attorney General Ashcroft laying in bed after operation and trying to push him into reauthorizing the surveillance bill, which apparently turned out to be pretty illegal.
Then you have, now, the British prime minister coming to pay his farewell visit and they have to consider this also as a part of the Bush record because he wouldn't be saying farewell now, in all probability, had he not been so loyal to President Bush when he came into the war.
What else? Wolfowitz - another appointee, another friend - has now agreed to resign. Why did he get such a hard time in the World Bank? I suspect that a lot of the country still had it in for him because he was an architect of the war in Iraq. So altogether, not a very happy week.
YDSTIE: Well, let's take each of these one at a time because each is a big story.
First: the row at the Justice Department. Democrats are planning a resolution of no confidence in Attorney General Gonzales. Is there a chance that he might be pressured into resigning?
SCHORR: Oh, I think not. And one good reason I think that he cannot be pressured into resigning is that the president, at this point in his career, does not want to have another cabinet officer to be submitted for confirmation by the Senate. If you open up a confirmation by - in the Justice Department, you're really going to have a really - a great rouse, so I suspect to tell him, no matter what, you stay there. We don't want to be filling your job.
YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. Now the other Justice Department issue: White House officials trying to get former Attorney General John Ashcroft to renew a controversial surveillance program while Ashcroft was desperately ill.
SCHORR: Yes. He's just been operated on.
YDSTIE: And Gonzales was then the White House counsel.
SCHORR: Was then the White House counsel.
YDSTIE: Was one of those officials who went to the hospital to try to do that.
SCHORR: Exactly. And this all happened three years ago, and people are so shocked to hear that this administration, if they want you to back up a bill, which was of questionable legality in the first place, they wanted him to reauthorize the surveillance plan, which may not have been legal, and soon may not be legal.
YDSTIE: Now on to the World Bank: Paul Wolfowitz resigned his position there.
YDSTIE: This week, European leaders had expressed discontent with Wolfowitz since his nomination to the World Bank in 2005.
SCHORR: Yes. Well, he never gotten along very well with staff. What he was really good at - he had, apparently, some very noble ideas about trying to attack poverty in Africa and so on. But he was still remembered as one of the early persons who helped to write the idea of, let's go and invade Iraq. That is not popular among European countries, in the first place, and so therefore, he still bears that burden.
YDSTIE: Let's move on to another big issue, this one a little happier for the administration. The White House and the Senate did make some progress on the immigration bill.
SCHORR: Yes. Well, it was mainly in the Senate and on a bipartisan basis, and they worked at it for week after week very quietly. It was being kept secret until they had the thing done. And then they charted it out and it is a compromised bill.
Yes, it would reinforce the border some and yes, it would take the 12 million illegal immigrants and make their stay as legal, and a lot of back and forth and it is a compromised bill. It might pass the Senate. It might have more trouble in the House.
YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. And then outside Washington, the 10 Republican presidential candidates debated in South Carolina this past Tuesday. Did we learn anything new?
SCHORR: Well, one thing I learned. Here are these 10, they want to succeed President Bush, and in an hour and a half of discussion, the name Bush was mentioned by one of the candidates only once. I think they are very busy separating themselves from the president and I think his neoconservative administration is, I think, widely considered among Republicans to be on its way to decomposition.
YDSTIE: NPR's senior news analyst, Dan Schorr. Thank you, Dan.
SCHORR: John, thank you too. May I just mention that I will not be here next weekend because next weekend my daughter is getting married?
YDSTIE: Well, congratulations.
SCHORR: All right. I accept it.
YDSTIE: All the best to her and your family.
SCHORR: Thank you.