Week In Review With Daniel Schorr
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week, the president and the former vice president joined the debate on national security. President Obama and Israel's prime minister met at the White House. A day later Iran launched a test missile. And the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan grows by the hour, as refugees flee the Swat Valley. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And Dan, you had this image this week of President Obama and former Vice President Cheney delivering almost simultaneous speeches Thursday…
SIMON: …on national security. What points did each of them make?
SCHORR: Well, each made the point that the other one was going to lead the United States into unmitigated disaster. I mean, here is President Obama, who in very deliberate tones said that what happened under the Bush administration both with regard to interrogation and in regard to most of their policies on counter-terrorism were all wrong. And former vice president - who wasn't very much heard from in the old days. It's funny, he says he's been sort of liberated, and he acts quite liberated.
SIMON: Let me get you to read deeper into both speeches. What were the points of disagreement actually?
SCHORR: Well, that's interesting, because if I can turn that question around, the points where they were not disagreed which I found the most interesting. In the first place, you have the fact that President Obama is willing to have the U.S. house prisoners, which one would have supposed he might not have done. He's not willing to release photos of what goes on during interrogation.
SIMON: And continuing military tribunals.
SCHORR: Yes, and we thought that he was against military tribunals during the campaign, and now he says that if you can fix them up and have them a little better, you can have military tribunals as well. He is willing to accept the idea of preventive detention of people who might be terrorists. You put all that together and you'll find that a large part of the Bush policy on national security has survived.
SIMON: And is that because your perspective is different in a campaign than it is in the White House?
SCHORR: Well, obviously he has a very different perspective, and you also have the fact that you have to deal with problems on the ground, which before you only had to talk about in sort of, in generality. These things are not generalities anymore. I mean you have Guantanamo. It's a big, big headache. The president said within a year he would close it up. At the moment he's not quite clear how he can close it up, but they're working on it. And I guess it is a lesson. Campaigning and governing are quite different things.
SIMON: Iran conducted a missile test this week, just a day after President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had met at the White House. We were told that they met longer than expected at the White House and that was apparently very amicable.
SCHORR: They always say that it lasted longer than expected in order to indicate cordiality, which may have been there or may not have been there. So in this case they were 45 minutes overtime, but you don't get the impression that 45 minutes of overtime gave you any changed perspective on the part of either the president or the prime minister. And it's clear that what divides them - although they don't say it in these words - divides them is the following: it is that for Prime Minister Netanyahu problem number A-1 right now is Iran. This he said even before that missile was launched.
As to the Palestinians, oh well, he would not promise to give them a state, but he would like to be very nice to them and all the rest of it, but the point of it all was that Palestine doesn't rank very high on the list of priorities for Netanyahu. For President Obama, on the other hand, if he could get some kind of agreement on a two-state solution, it would be a great thing to be able to get, one great solution. And he wants to go ahead with Iran and have a sense of diplomatic engagement with Iran. Netanyahu says, all right, you can have it, but until - till the end of the year. After that it's off. And then what? And then Netanyahu would like to see some very tough measures and the president would - we don't know yet.
SIMON: Multitudes of refugees are on the move in Northwest Pakistan fleeing attacks by them against the Taliban. What do you make of the violence and the resulting humanitarian crisis?
SCHORR: Well, here is the Taliban, which is trying to slowly take over all of Pakistan. They are now meeting with resistance. Between the Taliban and the Pakistani army lie these poor villagers. There are perhaps two million of them who have now been forced out of their homes and forced, dodging fire, to go somewhere. It is one of these unmitigated great tragedies that we face from time to time. And what happens? United Nations asks for money, will drop food, and they'll do all the rest of it. This is perhaps the largest group of displaced people in recent memory, and it just makes you quiver.
SIMON: Dan Schorr, thanks so much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.