Week In Review With Daniel Schorr
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week, the president stepped up his health-care reform efforts but got distracted by an incident involving the arrest of a friend. And Secretary of State Clinton has a verbal duel with North Korea. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And the attempts by the Obama administration to nail down health- care reform…
SIMON: …get something passed, big news this week, but it looks as if it's not going to happen nearly as quickly as the administration would like. What happened to that August deadline?
SCHORR: Well, what happened with the president and his famous deadline, when he said he really wanted to have a bill ready by the middle of August, when they go off on their vacation, what happened to it is that they did not reach an agreement in a Senate committee to put a bill on the floor. So the whole thing is now shoved off until after the August vacation.
SIMON: President Obama has always said he was concerned that if he didn't set a deadline…
SIMON: …and there was no action, that there would be no action, period.
SCHORR: That's right. And then when the deadline has passed he says, what deadline?
SIMON: Yeah. Well, what happens next to health-care reform?
SCHORR: What happens next - well, is that everybody goes away, comes back, and goes back to where they were. That is to say, they resume on the Senate side the attempt to get a bipartisan bill, which they need on the Senate side, and the House waits - one must say, in spite of how bad it looks, they've made a lot of progress. And I was quite struck this week by seeing a copy of Newsweek with a cover article by Senator Ted Kennedy, you know, and the cover has a headline, which says, "We Are Almost There." And I guess Ted Kennedy would like it to be almost there. He's given his life for this, but we don't know.
SIMON: A neighborhood incident - ordinarily - in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became a national story this week because it involved a distinguished Harvard professor, Henry Lewis Gates Jr.
SIMON: He was arrested for disorderly conduct outside of his home in Cambridge. Police were called to the house to investigate a possible break-in. Professor Gates says that he and his driver were forcing open the front door of his own house. The door was jammed. Now, this is where versions differ because, of course, the Cambridge police accuse the professor of being obstreperous and uncooperative with the officer. Professor Gates says…
SCHORR: But nobody differs on what the president then did: plunged himself into the act at the end of a news conference, the purpose of which was to talk about health care. And if anybody could do immense distraction from health care, it was the president himself. And I'm sure he must have wondered later what led him to do it.
Well, I suspect it is time to say that this country is not yet finished with racial profiling and that's - a great deal of sensitivity to anything that sounds like it. And so when professor Gates got an impression that he was being treated in a way that maybe white people trying to break open the lock on their door would not have been treated, when they realized what was involved there - we are looking at people acting as they used to act and which we hoped was over, especially with an African-American president. But racial profiling lives, or the fear of it.
SIMON: Well, I was struck by the reaction of the Cambridge police officer, who took special exception to the charge that he was racially profiling.
SCHORR: Well, that's right. The thing…
SIMON: And that also carries a very heavy sting.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SCHORR: There are so many ironies involved in this. Sergeant Crowley, the officer in question, was the one who was in charge of briefing the police on racial profiling. Here's a president who - we know where he stands. And everybody acts out a part, as though we were in some former age.
SIMON: A major corruption scandal, apparently, in New Jersey. More than 40 people were arrested this week and charged - mayors, state assemblymen and rabbis. What's behind the charges?
SCHORR: What's behind the charges - that apparently, they were involved, and they had them on tape because they had somebody who was willing to cooperate with the FBI, and had them on tape indicating they were - mayors, officials, were accepting bribes to do favors for developers and real estate people, and it was so widespread and had gone on for so long, it was almost impossible. Now, I am old enough to remember the Jersey City with Mayor Frank Hague in the 1920s, when Jersey City was an example of corruption in city government. It's taken a long time now to beat that record, but they have.
SIMON: And finally, Secretary of State Clinton was on a trip to Asia this week and she got into kind of a back and forth, indirectly, with North Korea. Was this all a verbal duel, or is there's something more serious going on? And uniquely personal, the remarks the North Korean leadership made.
SCHORR: That is right. Secretary Clinton said that the North Koreans were acting like an unruly child. And they answered back in kind. I think what we're seeing is soft power at work. Secretary Clinton doesn't talk about we're going to bomb you or anything like that. She just says if you would like to get into the - be among the nations of the world, then you have to act a little differently. And it is very interesting, you - then she goes there, and there's a question of Myanmar and whether they're doing something with North Korea, and she says, don't do that, don't do that. And I'm not sure whether she gets anywhere that way. But it's an interesting phenomenon.
SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Thank you.
SCHORR: Sure thing.
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