Week in Review
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is on paternity leave. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
This week, the Senate passes an energy bill and President Bush vetoes a bill expanding federal funding for stem cell research. A House committee looks into whether the White House violated provisions of the Presidential Records Act. And outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair is considered for a new role as special envoy to the Middle East.
NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is with us. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: Dan, the energy legislation passed this week by the Senate, what's in it?
SCHORR: Well, the main thing that's in it is for the first time in a long, long time, getting changes in fuel economy standards, which the oil companies don't like very much, and then a lot more ethanol. That's about it, I guess.
WERTHEIMER: And what about this veto? President Bush, who almost never vetoes anything, vetoed a bill that would have provided more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is the second time in a year that the president has vetoed stem cell funding. Opinion polls say the public supports stem cell research is.
WERTHEIMER: Is this likely to hurt the president?
SCHORR: The president's veto would hurt him if he were running for office, which, of course, he is not. This is only his third veto and two vetoes on the same subject. But I think that the stem cell research will simply go ahead in other ways whether or not they get federal support.
WERTHEIMER: A new Newsweek poll says that the president's approval rating is down to 26 percent, which makes you wonder, I mean, how low can he go? How does this compare, do you think, to other presidents?
SCHORR: This, I believe, is certainly his lowest poll number. And I think it probably is the lowest since - I think President Nixon at one point had a very low rating.
WERTHEIMER: Shall we go overseas?
SCHORR: I'll go where you're going.
WERTHEIMER: Okay. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has arranged a summit next week. It will gather the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah. What do you think we can expect from that meeting?
SCHORR: Well, I think there's an effort being made to isolate Hamas which is now fully in control of Gaza. That will not be the only meeting. That will be followed up by another meeting, which includes Saudi Arabia. And then still another meeting of the so-called quartet - U.S., U.N., Russia and the Europeans.
And all of these is aimed to find - somewhere what they call a new beginning, is what they call it. But what it really is, is how do we deal with Gaza is now - people are walking around in Gaza in ways they didn't do before. And how do you really get rid of the Hamas or isolate Hamas when they seemed to be doing pretty well in Gaza itself.
WERTHEIMER: It was reported this week that the outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair might be asked to be a sort of a special envoy to the Middle East. Would you think that Blair might succeed in sort of settling things down and reopening talks and facilitating this new beginning?
SCHORR: Well, Blair has some of the unpopularity that comes from the fact that he supported the war and he supported President Bush in the way that he did, but I'm not sure how official this is. It looks like one of those balloons that you send up from the White House to see what happens. He says he hasn't been offered the job yet but I take it as something in the wind and it could happen.
WERTHEIMER: Of course, one assumes that Mr. Blair would have, I guess, you'd have to consider it an advantage. He would have the president's ear. I mean, the two are good friends.
SCHORR: Yes, but I'm not sure how much good that is in the Middle East.
WERTHEIMER: Dan, next week, the CIA is going to release a report of past documents, which are sort of known as the Family Jewels.
WERTHEIMER: The report outlines CIA abuses dating back to the 1950s. Dan, you've done a lot of reporting on this. What can we expect to find in these documents?
SCHORR: Many of the worst things were leaked here and there as, for example, one of the worst was that the CIA had been involved in the assassination conspiracies especially against Fidel Castro, and then also in various other people. I reported that on CBS at that time in 1975. And there are various other things, but I have a feeling it will still be a shock to read all the terrible things that the CIA did when nobody was looking. And I think it's rather interesting that the new CIA director, Michael Hayden, says it's time to let this out.
WERTHEIMER: Perhaps there are some echoes of that era of government secrecy in the news right now. The - a House committee is investigating whether the White House violated the Presidential Records Act, and Vice President Dick Cheney is fighting compliance with an executive order on classified materials.
SCHORR: Yes, there's a kind of a secrecy mania and it's apparently centered in the vice president's office. He now claims that executive orders of the president may not apply to him because he also presides over the Senate. That's very interesting that you have a vice president who really runs his show. And if there can be another way to keep something a secret, he'll find it.
WERTHEIMER: Senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Dan, thanks very much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.
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