Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy may have marked the end of an era in American politics, but also left a number questions about its future. Also, the Justice Department began a probe into CIA interrogation methods. And questions remain about who has been voted into power after Afghanistan's elections. Host Scott Simon looks at the week in 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, the death of Senator Edward Kennedy may have marked the end of an era in American politics, and also leaves a number of questions about the future. Also, there are questions about Afghanistan's elections.

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

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And first, of course, let's begin with Senator Kennedy, who is being laid to rest today.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Much of the coverage this week has referred to the end of an era, the last Kennedy brother. Let me get you to take a look at the legacy of that dynasty, which never really came about. And that name, if it still has the magic for Americans.

SCHORR: Yes, but before we get to the great magic for America, the legacy, I just want to mention one thing, my one discovery - that I didn't know about Senator Kennedy…

We knew he had this surpassing ability to get legislation passed, surpassing ability to work with the other side of the aisle in doing that, and making friends with people who might otherwise be opponents of his. What I learned in the past few days was a number of small things he did for small people, one after - individuals: wanting to make sure that somebody who needed an airplane ride, a veteran, got this airplane ride instead of having to go by bus. Or helping people in very, very small way - and then following up to find out that it happened.

SIMON: Yeah.

SCHORR: There was sort of an active humanity there, which in some ways, to me, went beyond the work that it did.

SIMON: I almost have not done a story in Boston over the years where I haven't run into somebody who told me a story about how my kid always wanted a baseball signed by Pedro Martinez. And I told Senator Kennedy and sure enough, two weeks later it was there.

SCHORR: Right. Now the end of an era. It's obviously end of an era. It's not likely that the next generation will be as much involved in the government as these others were. Yes, there was one who was a lieutenant governor. There's now a member - Patrick - who is a representative from Rhode Island in the House of Representatives, and so on. But somehow, it seems to me that the yen to work in government and be elected in office - somehow, there's more emphasis among the younger Kennedys working with environment, working with human rights, working outside the actual sphere of the government itself.

SIMON: Let me ask you about health care because of course, this debate was capturing so much attention in this country. And I think it's safe to say, almost the overwhelming legislative concern…

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: …of his career. Will Senator Kennedy's death sharpen - change the debate over health care overhaul?

SCHORR: Well, there are some, for example, some of the Democrats are saying, why don't we call the prospective bill the Edward Kennedy bill. There will be an effort, obviously, to use his considerable prestige to help to advance the bill. Whether it works, however, I don't know. I don't think we are where we were, for example, when President Kennedy was assassinated and President Johnson said, let's pass a civil rights bill; let's do this for Jack Kennedy. I don't think they will pass a health bill for Ted Kennedy.

SIMON: There are also some practical questions about who will fill his seat and perhaps, will Massachusetts have a vote to cast on any proposal for health care overhaul. Massachusetts law - and it was changed just a few years ago, when there was a Republican governor who might have been in the position to make an appointment…

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: …the legislature changed it to say that there has to be a special election within five months.

SCHORR: Correct.

SIMON: Governor Deval Patrick now says he supports changing the law which Senator Kennedy himself requested just - was it 10 days ago…

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: …so that he will be able to appoint someone more or less immediately to this seat until there is a special election.

SCHORR: It's likely to happen. I mean, they will have hearings. It will take a week or two or so on. But I don't see what will stand in the way of their doing that. There is a lot of feeling that Massachusetts should have two seats in the Senate and that they should have two votes, especially with the important health care bills coming up.

SIMON: There is no final tally in the elections in Afghanistan. In fact, there might be a runoff. But there were reports this week that Richard Holbrook, the American special delegate…

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: …walked out of a meeting - or left a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, with much consternation and frustration.

SCHORR: Well, it's very, very difficult. Here's the United States, which has to support a government which it doesn't think very highly of. If they had their druthers, I have a feeling that people here in Washington would really like to see somebody else there. But there isn't anybody else there. And meanwhile, reports keep coming in of more and more fraud in connection with the election, and the question of whether there's going to be a runoff or not a runoff and so on. It is a mess. And now they need more troops. It's a question of how many more troops they will ask, and whether on this present circumstance they can get it. It looks very gloomy.

SIMON: I want to do something, Dan, we usually don't do in these conversations that we have and been having for some time. I want to bring in another voice, a little unexpectedly.

Mr. TED KOPPEL (Journalist): This is a happy birthday wish to Dan Schorr from his old friend and colleague Ted Koppel. Dan, this is with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KOPPEL: Radio listeners nationwide mourn reporting's downward slide. Still, he stands behind the mic, finger firmly in the dike. NPR and Daniel Schorr, quoth the raven evermore. Happy birthday, Dan.

SCHORR: Oh, thank you so much.

SIMON: He's on tape.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: Oh, he's on tape.

SIMON: On digits we save these days.

SCHORR: Was that evermore or nevermore?

SIMON: Well, nevermore. But Ted Koppel changed it to evermore because you are 93 on Monday, I believe.

SCHORR: Well, thank God.

SIMON: Well, happy birthday from millions of people, Dan.

SCHORR: Thank you. Thank you, Ted. And thank you, everybody.

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