Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, the president prepared to announce his decision about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan; the IAEA rebuked Iran and the Senate got ready to debate the health care bill. 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, President Obama prepares to announce his decision about Afghanistan. The IAEA rebukes Iran. And the U.S. Senate gets ready to debate the health-care bill.

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

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And of course, Dan, Tuesday, West Point - President Obama is expected to make his announcement before that audience about his plans for Afghanistan. Do you anticipate anything?

SCHORR: Well, I think it's all generally known by now by a series of leaks, which could almost be called briefings. Clearly, he is going to order some more troops. How many exactly, we don't know, but something in the range of 30,000, maybe more, troops sent to Afghanistan. However, I think, from what I hear, what they're adding is conditions. If there's no progress within six months or whatever, they're setting a kind of a timeline this time, presumably to appeal to those who are against sending the troops. So you're going to get this balance between more troops - we're there, we want to fight, we want to win the thing. But on the other hand, if we don't get the cooperation we expect, well, we can leave.

SIMON: Cooperation from the Afghanistan government.

SCHORR: From the Afghanistan government, yes.

SIMON: Are those timelines - what I believe have been referred to as the exit ramps - real? Because after all, that would entail the administration saying three or six months from now, we couldn't meet our own timetable working with the Afghanistan government.

SCHORR: Well, I'm glad you asked because I don't think they're real. I cannot conceive that the troops will leave under any conditions if there's still fighting going on and face - this administration later on being asked who lost Afghanistan. And so while they may talk about troops being there on a certain schedule - may come out certain schedule, I cannot conceive of any troops coming out in any number if there's real fighting still going on.

SIMON: Let me ask about the week's events in Iran. Firstly...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...almost parenthetical but related to the overall situation, the Iranian government confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize of Shirin Ebadi.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Won it a few years ago. This happens in the same week that the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to rebuke Iran for building a uranium enrichment plant in secret. Does a rebuke amount to anything?

SCHORR: Not to the Iranians, apparently. But presumably there will be something to follow up the rebuke. It looks now as though Russia and China, which have been holding off from measures against Iran, are now moving to support at least certain sanctions against Iran. And I think we'll be hearing more about that, possibly pretty soon.

SIMON: Because there is an end-of-the-year deadline, isn't there?

SCHORR: There's an end-of-the-year deadline originally agreed upon between Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and President Obama - and it was - yes, after the end of this year all bets are off, and then something may happen.

SIMON: Yeah. Coming up on a big United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen early next month, this week China announced it would cut the amount of carbon dioxide that they put in the atmosphere by 40 to 45 percent by the year 2020. Now, this announcement was greeted with some skepticism, both about the validity of Chinese statistics and how much carbon dioxide is actually the culprit.

SCHORR: Well, in the first place because China also said you can't come in and inspect and see that we're doing that unless you're willing to pay for it. And so already they've made their big gesture, and already they're going back a little bit on that gesture. There does seem to be some doubt in the Obama administration as to whether this is for real.

SIMON: Domestic news - the ongoing debate over health care. Last week, of course, the U.S. Senate voted to allow formal debate on a health-care bill following the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives. Be our scout as to some of the issues that the Senate's going to face as they contend with this bill.

SCHORR: Well, they're going to face the issue of health care, but not just the issue of health care. They're going to face again what they faced in the House - the issue of having a public option or no public option. They're going to face again the question of whether there will be an absolute strict ban on the use of any of the health care funds for abortions. And that may take up almost as much time as debating the elements of health care.

SIMON: You did have three or four votes among Democrats, or an independent in Senator Lieberman's case, who came in and said they're going to vote to allow the formal debate to proceed. And just as quickly, they seemed to follow it up by talking about: I could never vote for a bill like that.

SCHORR: Well, it was made clear, when those senators said they would allow the vote to proceed, they would rather explicitly say that doesn't mean we will vote for the bill when it really comes up for a vote. It's just that we think they ought to be able to debate it. And so that was not really such a big deal as it appeared at the time. This vote - the final vote on this is still really something to wonder about.

SIMON: This week, of course, President Obama hosted his very first state dinner. It was in honor of the Indian Prime Minster Singh.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: There were a lot of prominent people there. They have almost been overshadowed by...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: ...a couple - I almost called them nobodies - that's not fair, and they're also not nobodies anymore, and maybe that's the point.

SCHORR: And that may be exactly that is the point. You know, this reminds me of the Balloon Boy and what happened after it turned out that that was a hoax. And the hoax was for a purpose because his father, or his parents, at least, wanted to have a part in some reality show. So now we have another case of a couple that wants to get their faces on television in order - hopefully - to get some kind of part in a reality show. It really is quite remarkable what people are willing to do in order to get a place in television.

SIMON: I thought life was a reality show. I can't get used to these television shows...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: ...being called reality shows. I thought life was the reality show.

SCHORR: I fully agree with you, and the question is whether even life is a reality anymore, or whether we deal in a world which is only partial reality.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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