Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, President Obama addressed Congress, urging quick action on health care overhaul. But Congressman Joe Wilson's reaction made almost as many headlines as the speech itself. Also, Afghanistan is still sorting through allegations of fraud in last month's presidential election. Host Scott Simon talks about 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, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress trying to put some spark into health care overhaul. Congressman Joe Wilson's reactions sparked almost as many headlines as the speech. Afghanistan is still sorting through allegations of fraud after its presidential election last month.

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

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And, Dan, the president's speech was on Wednesday night after all the back and forth and post-speech analysis…

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Did he change the game much?

SCHORR: I think it has changed the game in his way. It's now very clear - first of all, I think that the president has recovered his mastery over the debate. He (unintelligible) the debate.

Secondly, I think he's now made it rather clear, which way they are going in that clearly he says, you know, he wants a bill. It may not have everything he wants in the bill, but he just wants to have a bill.

And I think that if he has a bill and he's willing to compromise on a lot of things, he will probably now get the bill.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. So, perhaps including something about tort reform perhaps not -totally not for a public option.

SCHORR: Perhaps not including the one that's the - the one thing that he thought was really very important to have and that was a so-called public option, something that would have the government involved in it that there is considerable opposition to not only among Republicans but among some Democrats. And I thought he may clear that while he's in favor of this idea, that he's not going to have his life on the line for it. Once you indicate that you're willing to compromise important points, you're on your way to compromise.

SIMON: Dan, let me put you on the spot. What are the chances for some kind of health care overhaul bill?

SCHORR: Well, now that you put me on the spot all I can do is say I think that there is likely to be a bill. It's not likely to have a great many things that are being talked about today, but the president is insistent. If he doesn't get a bill, that is going to be very, very bad for him and for the Democratic Party. So, if he wants a bill badly enough to give up many of the feature of it that he wanted, I don't see why he shouldn't get a bill.

SIMON: During the president's speech on Wednesday, Republican Congressman from South Carolina, Joe Wilson shouted out, you lie. All the analysis that's been done, did he give the president a political gift?

SCHORR: It is very difficult to say. I think that what it tells us is that more than anything else this country is polarized, increasingly polarized, it is polarized at town hall sessions. It is polarized even in the State of the Union situation. And the word simply is that there is nothing that doesn't invite people to yell at each other in this country anymore.

SIMON: I got some emails, thoughtful emails this week complaining that the press was overreacting and pointing out that the President Bush had been booed by Democrats presumably during his State of the Union address in 2005, when he talked about social security.

SCHORR: That may well be true. But let me say speaking purely personally that when you talk to the president of the United States in a Hall of Congress and say, you lie, that is a different order of things. And I think it's not the same as saying boo or something like that.

SIMON: Afghanistan, let's go overseas, more evidence of fraud in the August 20, presidential election. Just on Thursday, results from 83 polling stations were thrown out. Meanwhile, the White House signals that it could be what they call weeks and weeks before the president decides whether to send more troops into Afghanistan. Something the military has requested. A lot of congressional Democrats don't like that. Is there any connection between persistent reports of fraud in the election and indecision over the troop?

SCHORR: Well, I - I think yes, there is some connection. General McChrystal is presumably getting ready to ask for more troops for Afghanistan. But meanwhile, they're looking at a president who may have stolen the election and is very difficult to give that kind of support under those circumstances to President Karzai.

On top of which now, Senator Carl Levin, head of the Armed Services Committee, is now coming out against sending combat troops. He wants to send only training troops. And so, what you're getting is: how do you send a lot of troops to a guy whose government you may find to be illegitimate?

SIMON: There is a chance that the Afghan Electoral Commission itself could mandate a recount, isn't there?

SCHORR: It could mandate, yes. It could mandate a run-off election and that at the moment, it's likely to happen.

SIMON: And in line with that, a reporter for The New York Times, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan last week was rescued this week in a raid by British commandos. His Afghan translator was killed in the raid as was one of the British soldiers. Another, some Afghans notably in association of Afghan Journalists who wonder allowed - who complained that there seems to be a double standard between saving the lives of Afghans who've been kidnapped and saving the lives of Westerners.

SCHORR: Yes, I agree, it's so sad that there is nothing anymore today that will not illicit from someone. Yes, but the American or the British, one working for The New York Times gets rescued but you don't rescue the local person. That seems to come up in almost every connection these days.

SIMON: Thanks, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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