Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, the president continued his public appeal for health care reform Afghanistan held a historic election amid continuing violence, and yet another media giant died. Host Scott Simon reviews the week in the news with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

This week President Obama continued his public appeal for health care overhaul. And Afghanistan held historic elections amid continuing violence.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott, and welcome back.

SIMON: Thank you. Good to be back with you. Now, of course President Obama had hoped to have health care overhaul passed, sown up, signed before Congress scattered for the August recess - that didn't happen. And now last night the administration said that the federal deficit over the next decade is actually going to be $2 trillion more than it previously thought, which would seem to irritate the concerns of those who complain that the country just can't afford a kind of ambitious health care overhaul. To your discerning political eye, has President Obama had to make some mid-course adjustments?

SCHORR: He's making mid-course adjustments almost every day. He's trying to appeal at the same time to those who insist that they must have some kind of government-sponsored insurance and those who are against it. It's very difficult to do, where at one point he says this isn't essential, and the next day he says, yes, it is essential. He's having a hard time. The polls indicate that he's slipping in the approval ratings in the polls. It's an uphill battle for him.

SIMON: He still has a Democratic House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate. What about the possibility that some columnists, commentators and some of his supporters have urged on him, which is to say, look, we tried to get a bipartisan solution, didn't work, we're just going to pass it by the Democratic majorities we have.

SCHORR: That may happen. That's the kind of the last resort thing. I think he will continue trying. I mean, in September, when the two chambers of Congress come back, they hope to have some kind of a bill ready, but they may not. And at that point, if he is so driven, he probably will rely on the number of Democrats in the Senate and the House. It's important for him to get some kind of bill. Once you get a bill and you get it into Senate/House conference, you could be begin to mark it up there and make some changes. He right now is looking for a minimal victory.

SIMON: Let me ask about the president's political skills, because he certainly ran a fabulously successful campaign. But there have been suggestions that he - the old community organizer got out-organized in the early weeks.

SCHORR: Well, he has not had the same effect of his eloquence that he had during the campaign, and one wonders why. It isn't only that something has happened intrinsically to him. What has happened though is that the American public has turned very sour. The American public is anxious, it is angry. It's worried about pocketbook issues. And the result of that is that they respond to him now by saying we don't like it, we don't like it. And what's very difficult for him now is that he doesn't have a sense of bathing in the love of all the people. They're beginning to be a little bit sour.

SIMON: Dan, Senator Ted Kennedy, who as you know has been working on the issue of health care overhaul for a good number of years - for decades really - made an unusual request to the Massachusetts legislature this week.

SCHORR: Yes. He asked that they pass legislation that allowed in the case of the Massachusetts senator not being able to serve, that the governor for a short period of time could appoint a replacement until an election could be held. The reasons for that obviously is that Senator Kennedy is concerned that his vote or the vote of somebody instead of him not be lost in a vote onto health care.

SIMON: Now, wasn't it just a few years ago that the Massachusetts legislature voted to change the system so that there would be a special election because some people were uncomfortable with the notion of a governor making an appointment?

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: It was when Mitt Romney, a Republican, was the governor.

SCHORR: Well, that was a different situation. This situation calls for reversing it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Afghanistan held presidential elections this week. The Taliban tried to disrupt the elections with violence, but people voted in large numbers anyway. What's the impact of these elections for Afghanistan?

SCHORR: I think it's a little early to say. The government says we had an election. Maybe we didn't have all the voters we'd like to have had there. The turnout was not so terrific. Taliban did have some effect. It will take some time to really count the votes and find out exactly what happened. But they do say we had an election. And the question now is whether anybody won an absolute majority. There may have to be a run-off election. But they went to the polls in large numbers. How large, we wait to see.

SIMON: Scotland, which has some powers independent of Great Britain, faced some criticism this week when they released the man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 - compassionate release.

SCOTT: Yes.

SIMON: Because the man is suffering from terminal cancer. And he received a warm, if some people say attenuated reception in Libya. Why has this has created such an uproar?

SCOTT: Well, after all there were 270 people killed. And he is the only one so far to have been convicted for participating in bringing down Pan Am 103. It's almost to these people who have lost relatives, it is almost incomprehensible that this man would be a conquering hero coming back to Libya, and that Colonel Gaddafi, who's supposed to be making his return into the civilized community, allowed this is to happen. There will be consequences.

SIMON: Don Hewitt, creator of "60 Minutes," who you knew, died this week. I believe he was 86.

SCHORR: Yes, we could talk about him for a long, long time because he was an interesting and frequently humorous character. Let me only recall one of his favorite lines, and that line is: tell me a story. His secret of success in television was to make it come out as a story with good guys, bad guys and whatever. He was a titan in the field of television news.

SIMON: Dan Schorr, thanks very much.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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