Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

It's now called the greatest oil spill in history, and this weekend, efforts continue to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The president also faces challenges in Washington: It was revealed that former President Bill Clinton spoke with Congressman Joe Sestak at the request of the White House, trying to convince Sestak not to run in the Pennsylvania Senate primary against Arlen Spector. Host Scott Simon reviews the week's news with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for a look back at the week's news. And for that we're joined by NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Hi there. And let's, of course, begin with what is the greatest oil spill in history, we're told. President Obama emphasized that he takes responsibility. What do you see as what he sees is his responsibilities here?

SCHORR: Well, certainly his responsibility is to make it clear to the American public that he's right there pitching and this is not going to be like one of those things where the president comes down too late. He's devoted a lot of time and a lot of effort to this.

But yet what can responsibility mean when it turns out that the company conducting this operation turned it off for 16 hours for some technical reason or other and neglected apparently to tell the administration. Fact of the matter is that when it comes to some of the equipment that you need, which BP has and the U.S. doesnt have, and so responsibility becomes a sometimes thing.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the resignation - or maybe it was not a resignation this week - of Elizabeth Birnbaum, the head of the agency that was supposed to oversee these drilling platforms.

SCHORR: Yes. Well, we're now seeing how it's all coming home to rest. There was a lot of pressure from various companies that wanted to drill. And they put pressure on the government. And the government, which is interested in getting as much energy as possible because we're in a race for energy of all kinds, and so sometimes they're a little bit lax when it comes to getting licenses. I think now from now on they won't be.

SIMON: Let me follow up with a question, which can be a parenthetical. There has now become a very famous clip of video that shows President Obama himself way before this spill, but just a few weeks ago as he announced offshore drilling, declaring it had become quite safe.

SCHORR: Well, that's right. He's really caught between the need for offshore drilling, which has a big lobby behind it, and the possibility of something like this. After all, it turns out that even (unintelligible) this operation there was consideration being given to problems of whether they should go ahead. And they just overrode that. Why? We need energy.

SIMON: Let me ask you about another political question that has caught up the administration. It was revealed this week by an administration report that President Bill Clinton spoke with Joe Sestak...

SCHORR: Oh, yes.

SIMON: ...who - now Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania -apparently at the request of Rahm Emanuel, who works in the White House. And apparently the subject of - how shall I phrase this - alternative routes in public service came up, the whole idea being to deter Congressman Sestak from running against Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.

SCHORR: Absolutely. The question now is: Were ethics violated, was something illegal done? It turns out Sestak himself now says this. Yes, and there was something where Bill Clinton suggested to him that he might want to stay in the House of Representatives for a while and that maybe they could give him some unpaid jobs - advisory jobs of various sorts to enhance his image.

What's the effect of all of this? That Specter does not have a competitor in the race for the nomination. Did he do that in any illegal, immoral, unethical(ph) way? The White House says no. but I think this thing is still bubbling along with the help of some bubbling Republicans.

SIMON: This week, tensions continued on the Korean peninsula. North Korea's cut off ties with South Korea and accused South Korea of faking the sinking of the vessel in which scores of South Koreans were killed. Of course, an independent, multi-nation report confirmed that North Korea torpedoed the ship.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Are both sides just making loud pronouncements and essentially hoping nothing will happen?

SCHORR: Well, no. They're making pronouncements, all right, but some of them hope something will happen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the area demanding action against North Korea. And China has so far not indicated which way its really going to go. China says that if there really was an attack on a boat, that has to be punished. On the other hand, they're not sure that has happened. They want to know more about it. China is in a position of wanting to be somewhere between North Korea and the rest of the world and they're having trouble figuring out how to do that without taking a position.

SIMON: I dont understand what action against North Korea means, in that it just - are there any sanctions left to apply to North Korea that aren't already in place?

SCHORR: Probably not. I mean the sanctions have made an exception for food and medicines. I dont think they would disturb that. No, that's right. You are suggesting the real question that comes up is when you have nothing peaceful left to do to force them to do something, what kind of non-peaceful measure do you dare to think about?

SIMON: In Jamaica this week, dozens of people have been killed. Police did literal battle with supporters of a drug lord in the streets of a poor neighborhood in Kingston.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: What are we seeing going on in Jamaica, do you think?

SCHORR: Well, somehow it's not only in Jamaica. What you really see is a form of corruption that's spreading its hand all over the countries in the developing world. You get it in Mexico, as you very well know. You get it in Afghanistan, as we very well know. It is a very corrupt world that we live in, or at least a large part of the world lives in.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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