Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week saw the largest mass shooting ever at a military base in the U.S.; unemployment climbed into the double digits and the run-off election in Afghanistan was called off. Host Scott Simon reviews the week in the 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 largest mass shooting ever at a military base in the United States, unemployment climbs into the double digits, and the run-off election in Afghanistan is called off. NPR's senior analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

SIMON: Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And obviously the biggest story of the week as we sit here is the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas on Thursday.

SCHORR: Yes. And what's there to say about it. You know, it is our job here to interpret, to draw generalizations, to compare it to - how about Columbine? How about Virginia Tech and other massacres? And I can't add it up. I'm looking at my country and saying I don't understand it. What do we know about this young man, this major, other than that he's Muslim. You can find all this little tidbits of information about him, leaves you still gasping for what is this all about.

SIMON: Do people look for overall significance when they're - to try and connect a crime like this to overall social patterns or political policies when there may be no link at all?

SCHORR: Well, people need something to explain it to themselves. You can't go home and sit there with your family and say - why, why, why? You look for explanations. The result of that is that as you suggest, occasionally you go off on very little information and you speculate about it. I have resolutely decided that on this one I understand so little about what is fundamentally behind it that the one thing that I will avoid is quick speculation.

SIMON: Okay, let's get to the economy, which - unemployment rate passed over 10 percent on Friday. First time we've had double digit unemployment since 1983. Now, this figure reflects that hundreds of thousands of people in this country are looking for work.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: What are some of the other implications?

SCHORR: Well, there are all kinds of implications, one of which obviously is political. I mean we've just been through an election where there may already have been some influence on the votes of the economic situation. And now we're looking ahead a year - to next year's election, and yes, there can be profound political fallout from all of this.

SIMON: And in elections around the country this week, of course, Republicans won a couple of governorships in New Jersey and Virginia.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: What do you see as the political implications of this election season?

SCHORR: I think that's not very hard to figure out.

SIMON: The double digit unemployment.

SCHORR: Yes, not terribly good for the Democrats. The Republicans may be on their way to a comeback after they fared so badly in last year's election. We don't know yet for sure, there may be other changes, but at the moment you win two important governorships, and even though you, the Republicans, did not succeed in winning the House seat in upstate New York, Democrats will tell you it's not good news.

SIMON: Will the election results and then maybe more to the point the polling information and the focus groups that attend an event like that, have any influence over the vote on health care legislation in Congress, which might occur this weekend?

SCHORR: That's an interesting question. We apparently are headed for the first vote in the House of Representatives in the next several days, and what effect will that have? Well, everything in the end becomes a referendum on the Obama presidency. We know already that these polls indicate that (unintelligible) his policies if not himself are no longer terribly popular. And he has to really win one. And now this becomes a key thing. He has chosen to make his first real test his health care plan. He is putting everything he has into it. I mean there are lot of nails being bitten - it has not only to do with health but has to do with the political health of this country. And everybody waits and see. Speaker Pelosi says she thinks she's going to win in the House. Well, maybe. We wait with great tension to see.

SIMON: As you and I chatted last week, we expected a run-off election in Afghanistan. It was cancelled this week when president Karzai's challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, declined to participate, said he was concerned that the election might not be honest, fraud might reappear. What's the reaction to his decision been?

SCHORR: Well, the reaction to this decision is to raise again the question of where the United States stands now. Will the United States send the extra troops which they have been talking about, lo, for these many, many weeks and apparently having trouble making up their minds? And it is a question (unintelligible) government now is so shaky that to say we back this government raises questions in itself. In the end there is no way out for this administration other than supporting Karzai, who is the only one they have. If they don't support him, then they really give up on Afghanistan, which they're not quite ready to do yet.

SIMON: Twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: You were the only man I've ever heard of who covered the Wall when it went up and you covered it when it came down. What are you reflections now?

SCHORR: Isn't that something? I think it was one of the great events in post-war history, because look at that in retrospect - the Wall coming down marked the beginning of the end of the whole Soviet empire. Everything else then followed - Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. And to see - look at today and see that East Germany - what was called East Germany - produced the person who is now the chancellor of all of Germany, namely Angela Merkel - I would not have predicted that.

SIMON: Dan Schorr, thanks so much.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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