Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, Judge Sonia Sotomayor passed the final obstacles on her way to the Supreme Court, some members of Congress got a rough welcome back in their districts, and former President Clinton secured the release of two American journalists in North Korea. Guest host Daniel Zwerdling reviews the week in news with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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DANIEL ZWERDLING, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Daniel Zwerdling in for Scott Simon.

This week, Judge Sonia Sotomayor passes the final obstacles on her way to the Supreme Court. Some members of Congress get a rough welcome back in their districts. And former President Clinton gets two Americans freed in North Korea.

NPR's senior news analyst joins us now. Please welcome the inimitable Daniel Schorr.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Danny, nice to be working with you.

ZWERDLING: Thanks for coming in. The Senate confirmed Judge Sotomayor on Thursday to be the next justice of the Supreme Court.

SCHORR: Yes indeed.

ZWERDLING: And now the oath of office. I take it you are not surprised.

SCHORR: Well, I guess one has a reason not to be surprised. As long as you have a president and the Senate of the same party, generally you can expect that the nominations will go through. In this case there was a little back and forth, but never at any point did this nomination seem to be in danger. And in the end you got this - more than two-thirds of the Senate voted for her, including nine Republicans. So there was - a great sigh of relief passed over the whole nation when that happened.

ZWERDLING: But members of Congress are not sighing relief as they go back to their districts for the August recess. We keep hearing the voters are grumbling to them. What's this about?

SCHORR: Well, I don't know if the voters are grumbling or whether somebody is trying to make the voters grumble. Apparently the insurance companies have adopted a technique of trying to get people at town meetings to yell and stamp their feet and get up and... we - it begins to look as though a definite effort is being made to sabotage these town meetings, the purpose of which was supposed to be explain the health plan or the various health plans to the public and get them to weigh in. But what's happening right now is you're getting people shouting socialism. You're getting people demanding to know why you're doing this or that. And I think we're in for a rather bad spell on the hustings.

ZWERDLING: And I love that term - on the hustings - out in the countryside. And do you think this is orchestrated?

SCHORR: It is partly orchestrated. It is partly orchestrated. The insurance companies say they're sending talking points, talking points.

ZWERDLING: Well, on to automobiles now. And Dan, who thought that cars would be one of your favorite topics? President Obama, of course, has signed a measure that will send another $2 billion to the Cash for Clunkers program. So can the president now say, hey, we have passed another part of my economic recovery program?

SCHORR: He can say whatever he wishes, but it certainly is one of the rare cases in the past few weeks when the president got what he wanted. It went right up to the wire. The House had gone and the Senate had to take this bill in this form in which it was or it wouldn't work. But it did work. Apparently it has been a widely successful program of turning in your older cars and getting a credit to buy new cars. It is, for all the programs that have been fought about, one of the few that has turned out to be so wildly popular.

ZWERDLING: And are you going to turn in your clunker?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: I happen to have one which is not a clunker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ZWERDLING: I envy you. Let's talk about Bill Clinton's victory this week. The former president went to North Korea and he got them to release those two Americans journalists, who they had arrested. Could this affect the relationship in some way between the U.S. and North Korea?

SCHORR: Well, obviously it could in some way or another. The fact that Kim Jong Il first of all reveals himself as having maybe partly recovered from his stroke, or at least he was there, was able to stand up; and secondly, standing there with the former President Clinton must have been a great thing for him. I would not exaggerate, however, because everybody involved in this tried to make sure that this humanitarian act would be kept quite separate from the big fight over North Korean nuclear weapons. We have not yet received briefings. We don't quite know what the two - President Clinton and Kim Jong ll - talked about for more than three hours.

ZWERDLING: Hmm.

SCHORR: They could not have talked simply about the weather in Asia at that point. So presumably something happened. But it's the kind of thing which is best left alone. This was a humanitarian act. The two women are back. Everybody is happy. Let's get back to business.

ZWERDLING: While we're on the topic of trouble spots, both the U.S. and the Pakistani government seem pretty convinced that a major Taliban leader in Pakistan is dead. Baitullah Mehsud. Could this affect the American and Pakistani military campaign against the Taliban and its allies?

SCHORR: Well, if you have a Taliban military chief dead, if that indeed is true, that has to make a difference. For Pakistan, however, this is a very difficult situation because whenever these drones - and this was a drone, unpiloted aircraft, that carried this out - whenever they do, they usually, a couple or more of attacked Pakistani civilians are killed at the same time. And that's resulted in a certain amount of tension between the United States and Pakistan. It's clear the U.S. intends to go ahead with it. And Pakistanis may not like it, but they're going to have to accept it.

ZWERDLING: And finally, a big anniversary for the country and for you personally.

SCHORR: Ah.

ZWERDLING: Thirty-five years ago, thirty-five years ago this weekend, Richard Nixon went on the air and he announced he was resigning as president of the United States.

SCHORR: Yes.

ZWERDLING: And you helped cover that story. What do you remember about that?

SCHORR: I not only covered the story but I was also part of that story since I'd been on the Nixon enemies list and he'd had the FBI ordered to investigate me. And so it was a big deal for me that he was going and I was staying. And I thought that was pretty good. But that was - that was a day that I shall never forget. In the morning, network chiefs came to talk to people in the House of Representatives about how they were going to cover the impeachment, which is what one expected. And in the middle of the meeting that morning, word came: forget it, there's not going to be impeachment. Why? The guy's going to resign. He'll do that tonight. And so there we were at 9:00 on that evening watching this man who had fought against everything in order not to lose that office, finally giving up.

Why? Well, if he resigns, he gets a pension. If he's kicked out after impeachment, he doesn't get it. And so he finally decided. Furthermore, there was a very, very good chance that he was hoping that the new president, Ford, would pardon him.

ZWERDLING: Which he did. NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. A pleasure talking to you.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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