Week In Review With Daniel Schorr
JACKI LYDEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is on assignment, I'm Jacki Lyden.
This week, Chicago failed in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics despite an in-person plea from President Obama. The White House was more successful in talks with Iran, and the Senate Finance Committee released a health care proposal.
NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hi, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Jacki, welcome aboard.
LYDEN: Thank you. It's nice to be with you. So how would you sum up the president's week, Dan?
SCHORR: Well, perhaps you can put it in two ways. There was first of all Copenhagen, where the president and the first lady went to try to get the Olympic Games awarded to Chicago, and they struck out. On the other hand, there was a meeting with the Iranians, six countries, and then one country, the United States, meeting with the Iranians, which hasn't happened in a very long time.
No one had expected very much of this, least of all myself, I must tell you. I thought it was going to go quite differently. So I better confess that. But no, it went better than expected. So what do you say for his week? Win some, lose some.
LYDEN: Well, it may well have broken the president's heart and perhaps the first lady's and Oprah Winfrey's, but diplomatic talks this week between the Iranians and the Americans with other Western diplomats did seem to yield positive results. Tell us what came out of the meeting.
SCHORR: Well, what came out of the meeting sometimes sounds very technical, but what came out of the meeting was that the Iranians agreed to open up to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency this newly discovered nuclear installation. It said also that it might be willing to send uranium to Russia and to France for reprocessing.
These are small gestures, but they are gestures in the right direction, and they will certainly seem to be the basis for future talks, which will continue probably before the end of this month. So you have to say, however it may turn out later, as it usually does, you have to say that at this moment it is, as the president called it, constructive.
LYDEN: So what happens now as a result of what the Iranians have promised to do? Will there be inspections in Iran soon?
SCHORR: Well, what happens, first of all, the IAEA is sending people this weekend, and then it remains to be seen how much they really mean when they say that you can have complete and open inspection. Because they want to go further than just looking. They want to see documentation, they want to see a great deal of how this thing came to be. And there are plenty of things for them to negotiate, but these are things on a highly technical level.
LYDEN: Dan, does this change somehow the White House's problem with Iran? It's certainly is dramatically different than only a week ago. We should of course remind people this is the first kind of talk like this in 30 years.
SCHORR: Yeah, and everybody knew it was important that they were willing to go into a meeting. But it's only a beginning. I mean a lot depends on what happens next and the emphasis of the president that's being put on this is, yeah, good, but now let's see where it goes.
LYDEN: What's the risk to him here?
SCHORR: There is always a risk that the president has always taken a position that he wants to engage with our adversaries. And engagement with our adversaries is a fine idea unless it turns out to work out badly. The risk here is that the Iranians will, as they normally do, be stringing us along and in the end we find out they have one, two, three, four, five more nuclear installations, which they didn't tell us about and don't intend to tell us about. I mean this could go well, but it could go very badly and then it would look very bad for the president's policy of engagement.
LYDEN: Turning back to domestic affairs, the Senate Finance Committee after weeks of hearings finally finished work on its version of a health care overhaul Bill at about 2:00 in the morning on Friday.
LYDEN: Does it look like there will finally be a real health care bill?
SCHORR: Well, it begins to look more than it did a few weeks ago that there would be a bill. The question is not whether there will be a bill, I think, but what would be left in the bill, because so many things have been taken out, especially the - what was very important to the president, he said, the idea of having a government operated part of this pie. That was taken out in the committee, could be restored on the floor of the Senate, or there could be other versions of it.
The idea of having a trigger - to trigger such a thing if it were necessary in a few years, or a co-op, having them do it on a cooperative basis. There will be some form of this in some very fancy language, but there will be something.
LYDEN: Finally, Dan, let's talk a little bit about Afghanistan. On Wednesday President Obama met with several of his top advisors on the Afghan war to talk about the U.S. strategy moving forward. General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, joined that meeting by video link. And then the president met in person with General McChrystal aboard Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen on Friday. What was that talk about?
SCHORR: Ah, I wish I knew. But I think (unintelligible) say this. There's been a great deal of tension between the military in general and General McChrystal in particular. There's been a great deal of tension because at the White House the staff people are trying to work out some way of cutting back on the number of troops that they should be sending. General McChrystal, however, says he needs 30-40,000 troops and there's not going to be - if he doesn't get them, that it'll be very unhappy. He's warning that things could go very badly and the whole enterprise might collapse within a year unless this is happening.
Well, he went and made a speech, McChrystal did, in London, in the course of which he inferentially criticized the White House point of view and said that these troops are needed. And there may very well be that he was summoned for a 25-minute meeting with the president on Air Force One because the president might have been a little irritated about what looks like open disagreement by one of his generals. This, I think, is still to be developed.
LYDEN: Well, Dan, thank you very much for being here.
NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, thank you.
SCHORR: My pleasure, Jacki.
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