Week In Review With Daniel Schorr
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Alexander Haig, retired general, former secretary of state, advisor to presidents, has died at the age of 85. We'll talk about the news of the week in a minute with NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Dan, good morning.
DAN SCHORR: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And first, what are some of your reflections about General Haig?
SCHORR: Well, one big reflection: on August 1, 1974, Haig, who was then-chief of staff to President Nixon, went to see Vice President Ford and told him that something desperate might happen with Nixon unless they manage to get him out of the office and talked about the possibility of toughing it out until impeachment or pardoning himself and all the Watergate people and so on.
Ford then asked what the pardon powers were of the vice president. And Haig said here is a memo, legal memo explaining it to you. You can pardon at any time. And the result of this was that they managed to arrange to get Nixon to resign rather than do something rather desperate. And the interesting thing about that was that who became president as a result of it? Vice President Ford, who had made the deal in the first place.
SIMON: Alexander Haig, of course, eventually became secretary of state.
SCHORR: Eventually became secretary of state, that's right. He had a distinguished (unintelligible). But nothing will be remembered more vividly by those who were covering Watergate in those days than the fact that President Ford more or less was told that he could give a pardon and that would take care of everything.
SIMON: Another week, another Democratic senator announced that he's not running for reelection. This week, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. What do you see as the immediate political effect of Senator Bayh's decision?
SCHORR: Well, immediately it's another hurt for the Democrats in getting ready for the next elections. I mean, this follows losing the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey and then the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts. But I would suggest to you that this is not only a matter of where parties stand against each other, I think something larger is happening here.
I think what Senator Bayh is saying is that this whole thing doesn't work anymore. I can't get legislation through. It's not that I'm opposed, it is that I can't get anything done. And he's reached the point now, the idea of America so angry that they're willing to look at a Congress and say you're not doing anything suggests something that is more menacing than simply whether one or another wins a couple of seats in the Congress.
SIMON: Major allied offensive continues in Afghanistan in the Helmand Province. A NATO commander there said on Thursday that it might take another month to secure the Taliban stronghold in Marja. Let me take the question a little bit off to the side, 'cause I got a very thoughtful email from the listener this week who said: Every time you people in the news business refer to a Taliban stronghold, it suggests some kind of reinforced pillbox with just enemy soldiers firing out at NATO troops. Or, as he said, in fact, we know in Afghanistan and some other places, there are often a lot of civilians who are mixed up with the people that NATO soldiers are shooting at.
And we know civilian casualties have been a fact in this offensive.
SCHORR: I think that's a fair comment. And it should also be noted that civilians get heavily involved in this and that the American side says that the Taliban is now deliberately trying to shield these people behind civilians. Well, one way or another, it's not much of a stronghold.
SIMON: In Pakistan this week, U.S. and Pakistani agents captured a high-ranking Taliban commander during a raid in Karachi. Does this represent a change in the way Pakistan is cooperating with the U.S. and going after certain people?
SCHORR: Well, it may, or at least it's a good start. I mean, for a long time the United States has been putting pressure on the Pakistanis to take a more active role in trying to get the Taliban up near the border there, and so without very much luck. It looks this time as though there was real cooperation. It was done.
The rest (unintelligible) was simply done by the Pakistanis with information and intelligence that had come from the Americans. And everybody's patting each other on the back and saying, hey, we're cooperating.
SIMON: And I want to ask you about this story, this - can we call it - murder in Dubai. Member of Hamas was murdered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in his hotel room. And different people are pointing different fingers and who's responsible.
SCHORR: Well, the original suggestion that came out of Dubai was that it had to be an operation - the Mossad, Israeli intelligence. The 11 people who did it had passports which had been European passports, had had what was considered to be the fingerprints of a smooth Mossad operation. Now, however, word comes from Dubai that it may not have been Israelis but that two Palestinians have been arrested and that it may be that this comes from the rivalry between the Fatah, which is the other side, and the Hamas, which have been vying for power within.
I think we will not know for some time.
SIMON: And we of course began with a joke about Tiger Woods's statement, but you have some reflections on that this week.
SCHORR: Well, I have one reflection on it. I listened to it with enormous interest and stopped at the point where he said that he carried on all these affairs, well, because he felt entitled. And I'm fascinated by the use of the world entitled, as though we live a culture in which if you are a big celebrity, if you're very famous, if you're a rock star, if you're followed around by fans, that gives you an entitlement to do things which you would not otherwise be able to do if you were simply ordinary citizens.
SIMON: Dan, thanks very much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.
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