Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

This week, President Obama attempted to drum up support for his new health care law, the conflict between his administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai came into focus, and the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church roiled Europe. Host Scott Simon reviews the week's 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. Guess who's back? NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us to review some of the week's major news stories.

Dan, good to have you back. I sure got a lot of emails asking how you were. So how are you?

DANIEL SCHORR: I'm fine, thanks to the emails. And I'm glad to be back.

SIMON: The therapeutic power of sympathetic emails. President Obama's been in motion this week - Iowa, Maine, North Carolina - plumping for his health-care plan. Now, didn't that bill pass?

SCHORR: Yes, the bill passed. And you'd think that if he has a bill, he ought to be happy with it, and yet he goes out I've listened to him give three speeches in the past several days, all of them spelling out exactly what will happen under this program, as though he's still trying to sell it to Congress.

Why is that? I guess he feels that he doesn't have support of the whole country yet. The polls indicate Americans, on great numbers, are still not buying it.

SIMON: And anxious about jobs more than health care?

SCHORR: And anxious about jobs more than - yes. The latest figures on jobs don't really change very much. There's still 9.7 percent unemployment. Still talk about maybe turning a corner, but we've been turning corners every week now for the past several weeks. It is a long, stretched-out thing, but Americans are saying, all right, you've got your health program, now come down to what really concerns us this moment. Where's my job?

SIMON: Let me ask you about a court decision in California this week, where they ruled that some of the wiretaps ordered by the Bush administration on an Islamic charity were illegal. Help us read the significance of that decision.

SCHORR: Well, the significance of it is that this was something that was really done during the Bush administration, but the practice continued after President Obama came into office. Court says nay. There is a procedure in which you go to a special court in order to get them to permit you to do it. You didn't follow it, and that was illegal.

This is the president who talked about transparency. The court said it's not very transparent.

SIMON: Let me ask you about an interesting and significant decision this week. President Obama proposed allowing offshore drilling for oil and natural gas along parts of the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: As you read it, what do you think motivated the president's decision now?

SCHORR: Oh, I think what motivates it, he's still looking for an all-around climate policy. And in order to get it, he apparently feels he has to make some concessions. And so here is the oil drilling, which he was previously against but which Republicans want. And by making this gesture, he's really tipping his hat to the Republicans and saying, let's talk.

SIMON: Now, the Bush administration didn't propose expanding drilling to those areas. You know the old phrase - only Nixon could go to China? Could only a Democrat propose expanding drilling to these areas off the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts?

SCHORR: Well, that's right. I mean - and indeed, some of the more liberal Democrats are not very happy with it. But the president is very busy looking for ways of composing differences. And this is his latest.

SIMON: Talk about differences. There's been a volley of strong words between the Obama administration - government in Washington, D.C., and President Karzai of Afghanistan. Help us follow the dingbats back and forth.

SCHORR: Well, one way of helping you follow - you know what it reminds an old reporter of, is this thing? Back in 1963, the Kennedy administration was very sour on the administration in South Vietnam of Ngo Dinh Diem, who was very corrupt, and the Americans didn't like him. In the end, he was ousted in a coup and assassinated.

This is today's version of Ngo Dinh Diem. That is, here is a president of a country on very bad terms with the United States, which he desperately needs. The United States desperately needs him. And yet they manage to go on insulting each other all the time.

SIMON: Does, however, anything threaten the U.S. commitment of troops - and more than that - to Afghanistan?

SCHORR: There is no sign - the United States is supposed to have a build-up of reinforcements reaching about 100,000 by the end of the year. There is no sign they will change that. They can't change that. It is it is a quagmire. We don't leave quagmires.

SIMON: President Obama worked out an apparent agreement with the Russian government on a new nuclear arms deal. But certainly, the overwhelming news out of Russia this week were the suicide bombings that killed more than 50 people.

SCHORR: Well, you said that just right. I mean, here is this country that is very anxious to show that they're a great nuclear power, that they're a great oil power, that they are coming back to be one of the great superpowers. And they cannot keep peace in their own backyard. Here are the Chechens, who don't want to be a part of Russia. Russia says, you are a part and will remain a part. And we have episodes like this bombing.

SIMON: Does any of this threaten the political standing of Prime Minister Putin, who after all makes a point of presenting himself as a man who will not abide terrorism and more to the point, is willing to do some things that other leaders may not?

SCHORR: I don't know anybody whose job is any safer than Putin's job. He's still apparently very popular in Russia. President Medvedev apparently still works very closely with him. No, he's safe in office.

SIMON: I guess Prime Minister Putin isn't traveling his country worried about the Gallup polls.

SCHORR: That's right. Putin does not have to go and sell his programs.

SIMON: Dan, Easter tomorrow. And priests in Catholic churches all over the world, really, are going to have to deliver homilies in the face of what seems to be spreading accusations about decades of sex abuse among the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. And now, allegations of complicity that reach all the way to the Vatican.

SCHORR: Yes. They seem unable to get rid of this terrible thing which is happening to the pope. The pope's personal priest said he's heard from a Jewish friend that this reminds him of one of the worst faces of anti-Semitism, to accuse the pope that way. It really is quite remarkable what people have to say when they try to defend themselves against what you cannot defend yourself against.

SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Thank you.

SCHORR: Thanks, Scott.

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