Week in Review: Senate Stalls on Iraq

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Highlights in the news include more Senate deliberations — but no real action — on Iraq; potential instability in Pakistan; new efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East; and the potential return of the fairness doctrine to broadcasting.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

This week an all-night debate in the Senate fails to force a vote on Iraq withdrawal. Senators hear from General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Pakistani President Musharraf faces a crisis again.

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

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And President Bush is having a colonoscopy procedure this morning.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: And so for the few hours that he is out of touch, Vice President Cheney is the acting president.

SCHORR: I don't know why people get so nervous when they hear about that, you know. I mean, he is not even going hunting. And speaking, by the way, of the president, several right-wing columnists went to see him the other day and it was interesting, they all wrote columns in which they said things like they found President Bush upbeat and very good-humored. I thought it was interesting.

It reminded me of a Kipling line, paraphrased to some extent. If you can keep your head about you where all others are losing theirs, it may be that you don't understand the situation.

SIMON: To forestall a lot of e-mailers, the actual Kipling line is: If you can keep your head about you...

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: When all others are losing theirs, it ends up at being and you, my son, are a man, so.

SCHORR: I know. But I paraphrased.

SIMON: Okay.

Overnight session on Tuesday of the Senate to debate Iraq, dramatic scene of the cuts being put down in an all-night session. In the end, what was accomplished or not?

SCHORR: Well, not very much. I think the Democrats began to realize they had made a strategic mistake. They thought that since all the polls show that Americans want to see troops coming back that they took a step, which was trying to get a few more Republican votes and thereby tacked on to the defense bill something about 30 days, 40 days, 50 days, but to some (unintelligible) did they get it back.

I think what they didn't realize that while people want troops back, they're not willing to sort of pull a rug from under the troops now. And so I think that the Democrats learned a lesson. They pulled the bill out the floor and they'll try again in September.

SIMON: What about the Warner-Lugar amendment? Because the defense bill was pulled from the Senate floor this week, do you think that's going to come back?

SCHORR: Well, I don't know what the bill was meant to do other than to provide - to give the president something that he could accept which sounded like they want the troops back without saying all of that.

It's a very, very interesting thing. If you're looking for a real compromise that everybody can accept, maybe you can go that way. But I don't think people are looking for that compromise.

SIMON: What did the senators learned, you think, from the briefings they got from General Petraeus - David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq - and the U.S. ambassador there, Ryan Crocker?

SCHORR: Well, one of the things they learned is that these dates which - first was there was July with an interim report, now a September when there's supposed to be a big report by the general, and I think the impression that, at least that I got, from these people who give their briefings that these days are a lot less important to them than they may be to us back here.

In other words, they're talking about November, January, how much time we need, don't rush, and all of that. I think at some point, the idea that you can just say, this is going to happen in September, people are going to have the facts which I think the general is trying to give them, that's not the way you fight wars.

SIMON: Pakistan, there was a truce between the government of the northern tribes...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...collapsed this week. There was a new wave of violence. And at the end of the week, President Musharraf received a major blow. The Pakistani Supreme Court reinstated a judge that he had suspended, the head of the Supreme Court. What does this do to his political standing right now?

SCHORR: Well, his political standing is not very good. If there's another election, he may not win it. But more important than the president is the fact that there's real trouble now in Pakistan. And now, we're getting the suicide bombings, we're getting a great deal of killing going on, and the truce with the northern tribes has broken down.

This is America's big ally in that area, the guy who was going to help us find Osama bin Laden and all of that. I mean, if they lose Pakistan, they're really in terrible trouble.

SIMON: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair had his first week as Middle East peace envoy this week, and it's announced that there's going to be a Middle East peace talks...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: That's going to go alongside the opening of the U.N. session. Are elements in place, despite or maybe because of the added suffering this summer, that would promote a new initiative towards peace in the Middle East?

SCHORR: I like the way...

SIMON: Just Israel this week...

SCHORR: I like the way you say that. Maybe because of, maybe in spite of, and I think a little bit of both. Things are not going so quickly anywhere else. It's nice to have something that looks as though there's motion. Motion may not always be the same as action. But it gives you a sense of doing something. Certainly a case to keep our secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, busy because this is her thing.

So yes, they're taking another crack at it. It may not work, but why not.

SIMON: There are calls, Dan, for the first in a generation to return the Fairness Doctrine to broadcasting. You were a broadcaster under the Fairness Doctrine. What do you think?

SCHORR: I have a vested interest in this, I must say. In 1976, I was offered the right to reply to Senator Goldwater who appeared on the Dinah Shore television show, and said I was a traitor. And they called up and said you were entitled to come, appear on the show, and say you're not a traitor. I availed myself of that.

But as to the question of Fairness Doctrine coming back, we have now so many outlets, so many ways of people speaking, whether it be cable television, whether it be Internet, it is hard to conceive that you could monitor all of these. So in general, let me say that I am not happy with regulation.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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