Week In Review With Daniel Schorr
AUDIE CORNISH, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish in for Scott Simon.
From a snowy Washington, D.C., I'm joined now by NPR's senior news analyst, Dan Schorr, for a look back at the week's big news stories. Hello, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Audie. And it is snowy.
CORNISH: And we've got a little bit of good news to start the week. The unemployment rate improved last month, dropping from 10 percent down to 9.7 percent. It's a five-month low. Now, President Obama says it shows the United States is climbing out of the recession - is that so?
SCHORR: Well, if it is, it's painfully slow. The president himself tried to indicate they had to be careful about this because at the same time jobless claims went up. There are signs of improvement but they run into other signs which indicate that the thing is still lagging. So that to say things are -look better, yes, but you have to hedge it. And Wall Street is certainly hedging it.
CORNISH: Now, another item high on the president's agenda is the national debt. This week Mr. Obama said he is going to issue an executive order for a bipartisan debt reduction commission. Now, do you think that will satisfy Republicans who have made the deficit one of their big issues?
SCHORR: Well, I don't know. Of course, the Republicans are indeed trying to make this a very big issue. I'm not clear whether they will be satisfied with the measures that the president proposes to take, such as, for example, creating a commission which will make decisions on what to do about the deficit - whether the Republicans will join in that, I don't know. And whether it will need legislation, I don't know. So I think this is at the moment a very, very good tool for election but whether anything will happen on this vast deficit, who knows.
CORNISH: But how can the government increase the number of available jobs while at the same time decreasing the deficit?
SCHORR: Well, that's very interesting because if you want to fight the deficit increase you're going to stop spending. If you want to fight unemployment, you have to increase spending. So you find yourself stuck between these two purposes that you want to reach and you can't reach them both at the same time and in the same way, and that is our dilemma.
CORNISH: Dan, we also heard this week from former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker about his ideas on how to deal with reform of the financial industry. Do you think that the administration is making any headway on that front?
SCHORR: Well, I think so, that Paul Volcker worked on a paper for the administration about what should happen now and clearly what has to happen now is some whole new system of regulation to try to overcome big problems that gave us this big recession. He testified before a committee on the Hill and they seemed to be very interested; clearly talk regulation, you're going to get some people opposing it, and it will be a hard job getting it done, but apparently he is being taken seriously.
CORNISH: Now, President Obama also promised to repeal the military Don't Ask Don't Tell policy during his campaign. And that's the policy banning people who are openly gay from serving in the military. Is that finally about to happen? Because there were some congressional hearings this week.
SCHORR: Yeah. Well, I don't know if it's about to happen. It's on its way to happening. The Pentagon is saying give us until the rest of this year to work it out. This is a way they move very slowly from one thing to another, but clearly they are moving in that direction and probably should get there before the end of the year.
CORNISH: Haiti is, of course, still in the news. Now, despite the enormous amount of help that U.S. has given Haiti, this week we learned of 10 Baptist missionaries from Idaho had been arrested and charged with kidnapping for trying to move 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic. That must have been a very painful issue.
SCHORR: It has to be a very painful issue both for the Haitians and certainly for the United States. And certainly for these 10 missionaries from Idaho who apparently were really just only trying to help the children. And it is said that in some cases they talked to their parents and their parents said yes, I'm not going to try to judge from here what's being going on there. It only looks as though once everybody settles down, they will go back to doing what they did before and that was a procedure for adopting children.
CORNISH: Now, back in the U.S., conservative Tea Party activists are gathering in Nashville this weekend...
CORNISH: ...for what is being billed as the first Tea Party convention. And the headline speaker is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Now, how influential do you think this movement will be in the mid-term elections?
SCHORR: Well, she certainly is influential. She is getting a $100,000 for making this keynote speech. And as to where it goes from there, it is very hard to take libertarians who are against organization and see how they organize -whether there will be a new party somewhere off on the right remains to be seen. But it is a very interesting manifestation that these people, many of them young, some of them not so young, who originally merely started out to try to disrupt some of the town hall meetings that dealt with health care problems, and it will be interesting to watch and see what happens to these people now that they are going to go into the business being a political force. They're already charging more than $500 for people just to attend their convention. I don't know what the original Tea Party people paid.
CORNISH: And finally, Dan, I want to get your thoughts on who is going to win the Super Bowl tomorrow.
SCHORR: The Super Bowl tomorrow. Well, that was a question that Scott Simon asked me several years ago. And I'll tell you what I said to him. Super Bowl -I don't know who. Who's playing.
CORNISH: Well, Scott, we'll be back next week. NPR's senior news analyst, Dan Schorr. Dan, thank you.
SCHORR: Enjoyed working with you.