Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

Afghanistan's presidential election remains unresolved; the Taliban bombards the Pakistani government with a series of deadly attacks and here in the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average passes 10,000, but the nation's unemployment remains high. Host Scott Simon reviews the week in the news with NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

Afghanistan's presidential election remains unresolved. The Taliban bombards Pakistan with a series of deadly attacks. And in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average passes 10,000. The nation's unemployment rate remains high.

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

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Well, good to be back with you.

SCHORR: It's good for me too.

SIMON: White House has been having a series of what amount to war counsel meetings…

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: …on what the future of U.S. policy in Afghanistan is going to be. Do you have any sense as to how those decisions are going and what that might suggest about the decision?

SCHORR: Yeah, well, yes. The president has been trying as hard as he can to put off this decision. It's a very unpleasant one for him as to whether to send more troops. The time has now arrived where he apparently has to make a decision, which is likely to be announced next week when the NATO defense ministers meet in Slovakia. And apparently the decision is to provide what General McChrystal asked for, which is about 40,000 or maybe a few more troops. And he does it without any great pleasure but apparently it's the way it's going now.

SIMON: Now, we should underscore the White House says that no decision has been made yet. But you're piecing this together…

SCHORR: That's right. There's no decision ever made until the president says he's made it.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

SCHORR: But apparently the British, who have been asked to send some more troops, were informed that it was going to happen, and happen next week.

SIMON: What kind of, if I might put in these narrow terms, political problems is this going to create for President Obama?

SCHORR: Well, you know, when we come to the next election, if things are not going well in Afghanistan, we're getting American troops being killed in larger numbers, if anything like that happens it will be one of those classic things, who lost Afghanistan, and that's what the president will have to face up to.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the contested presidential elections there, because apparently there's going to be a runoff.

SCHORR: It does look that way. The decision had been when they were going over the ground there that that if he ended up with less than 50 percent, there would have to be a runoff. Well, it turns out now that they have decided that he probably doesn't have more than about 47 percent.

SIMON: This is President Karzai.

SCHORR: Yeah. And that means that apparently it is now set that there will be a runoff election.

SIMON: And if there are fewer allegations of fraud there, could that give the United States a more solid partner in the years ahead?

SCHORR: Well, it may well be that President Karzai may be elected on the second run, we don't know. But whether or not that happens, it needs to be resolved and apparently will be resolved.

SIMON: Next door in Pakistan, a stunning series of attacks this week.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Targets including U.N. agency headquarters, army and police headquarters, about 150 people were killed.

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: What is the concern of the U.S. now about the stability of Pakistan's government and events there?

SCHORR: Well, there's been great concern all along about the stability of Pakistan. If they can't manage to hold their own against the insurgents there, how are they ever going to protect the American position there? And yes, it looks bad, it begins to look worse. The Pakistanis say yet one more time, that they're launching a great big counteroffensive, maybe it will work. The president, our president has signed $7.5 billion in aid for Pakistan. If money alone could do it, we'd win.

SIMON: Let's move on to domestic issues. Seemed to be some movement in the debate over health care, because the Senate Finance Committee approved its version of a health care overhaul bill.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Obviously there's a lot of work ahead. The insurance industry has come out against a lot of the pending legislation.

SCHORR: That was something of a surprise because they thought that the insurance industry this time was going to be supportive. But it turned out in the end not to be so. And so now there will be increased pressure on to try to get some version of the bill with a public option, as it's called; in other words, providing some way for the government to make sure that the insurance companies stay honest.

SIMON: Now, the Senate bill doesn't include a public option. And Olympia Snowe of Maine, the one Republican to vote in favor of it, said that she wouldn't vote in favor of it if it included a public option.

SCHORR: That's right. But she did say she would accept a version that would include a trigger mechanism, which is to say that after two or three or four or five years, if things aren't going well, then you can get the public option, which will be called something else.

SIMON: Where do you see the debate going from here?

SCHORR: Oh, I remain convinced, as I've been convinced for a long time, that in the end a bill will come out.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

SCHORR: First of all, on the House side Speaker Pelosi is pretty sure that she's going to have a bill in the House. Then you have - there will be a Senate bill, or more than one Senate bill, and the pressures are so great coming from the White House, as well as from some other people around the country, that they are headed towards some kind of bill calling for at least reform of health insurance, if not reform of health care.

SIMON: And let me ask you about the Dow Jones - surpassed 10,000 this week.

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: And certainly that was heralded as a great sign of economic recovery.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Open celebration on the floor of the stock exchange. But unemployment remains high and consumer confidence fell once again. How do you view the importance of passing this 10,000?

SCHORR: Well, it depends which economists you want to believe. A lot of economists are saying the recession is over. But there are 15 million unemployed Americans who don't see the recession as being over. So it is recession is over, except for those who don't have work.

SIMON: Dan, thanks very much.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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