The Week In Review With Analyst Dan Schorr

NPR's Scott Simon and NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr discuss President Obama's Oval Office address about the oil spill, BP CEO Tony Hayward's appearance before Congress, and the war in Afghanistan.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

Dan, let's begin with the Gulf of Mexico spill. President Obama delivered a national address from the Oval Office for the first time to talk about it. What did you notice?

DAN SCHORR: Well, what I noticed is that he really wants to drive home that it's a serious matter. That's what Oval Office is supposed to denote. You do Oval Office, it's very, very important. He'd made speeches before. Apparently he'd not managed to bring many people to his side. And so he took what for a president is the ultimate.

SIMON: And then President Obama met this week with BP executives. He got from them a commitment to put $20 billion in escrow to be a compensation fund. And overseeing the dispersal of that fund will be Kenneth Feinberg. He oversaw a similar fund for payouts to victims of 9/11. What do you think we should be on the lookout for in this agreement?

SCHORR: We should look out for whether Kenneth Feinberg is able to decide what he will compensate and what he will not compensate. I mean, he's going to have to decide whether a man who says I would have earned these wages and I'm not getting these wages now - it is a very, very tricky thing that Ken Feinberg has been given to do now. And he'll be carefully watched as to how well he does it.

SIMON: What's BP's interest, as you see it, in entering into this agreement?

SCHORR: Well, a measure of rehabilitation it manages to get out of this - I'm sure they're willing to take it. For them to have someone else handle the compensation is probably also a mercy as far as they are concerned now.

There are these difficult decisions to make as to who gets compensation for lost wages or not lost wages or fish not caught or fish that were caught and so on. That's not an easy thing to do. Ken Feinberg has a reputation there. And probably they were very easy about ceding this whole thing to Feinberg.

SIMON: BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, testified before Congress this week. You watched that testimony?

SCHORR: Yes...TEXT:

SIMON: Give us your review.

SCHORR: Well, he made a very bad impression on Congress when he testified practically all day. I watched him practically all day. And for almost every question it was: I wasn't there, I wasn't involved in that. You sort of wonder what he did in that company.

SIMON: In terms of the news that was reported out of his appearance, what stood out almost as much as Mr. Hayward's testimony was a statement made by Joe Barton, Republican congressman from Texas. He referred to the compensation fund as a shakedown.

SCHORR: And he referred - yes.

SIMON: He's since apologized, but what's the political fallout there?

SCHORR: Well, the political fallout - he probably thought he was doing something for the oil companies, which has given him campaign contributions.

SIMON: A major employer also in those - in the Gulf states.

SCHORR: And indeed a major employer. But he probably did him a lot more harm, at least in their eyes, than he did them any good. This is not exactly what they needed right now. And so he came back and tried to apologize a couple of times. But that little tag lingers.

SIMON: Dan, let me take advantage of your historical perspective. Every president, Republican and Democratic, since Richard Nixon, who you covered 40 years ago, has vowed that America had to break its dependence on oil.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: So much has happened over the past 40 years. Why hasn't America become energy independent?

SCHORR: Because those who want dependence on oil have a lot of money to spend on lobbying is why. It is very difficult to go up against an entrenched lobby of this sort. And much that they do try, it has not happened yet and may not very soon happen.

SIMON: Let's more on to some foreign policy questions. General David Petraeus also testified before Congress this week.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: And he had to deliver the news that the planned offensive in Kandahar is going to be delayed.

SCHORR: That's right. And he had to do that very carefully, because if he were to say that we don't think we can do it because things aren't going too well right there on the battlefield, that would be very bad.

And also what would happen would be that President Karzai would begin to be tempted to try to make a deal with the Taliban, which the United States dearly does not want him to do, or at least doesnt want him to do unless the United States is also involved in it. But here they are. So what does the general say? He tries to emphasize that its a very good thing to talk about this possible offensive in Kandahar and elsewhere because it makes things seem urgent to them.

Boy, that's some reason for an offensive. But they are in terrible trouble, if not desperate trouble, in that area right now. And next December, when they get together and look at their policies again, I suspect there will be some changes.

SIMON: New York Times reports this week that Afghanistan apparently has a wealth of mineral resources. They say maybe a trillion dollars worth. What do you think the effect of the series of discoveries may be on Afghanistan?

SCHORR: Well...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Over the next generation.

SCHORR: Over the next generation. What happened in Saudi Arabia when they found out that they had oil, which people wanted to pay a lot of money for? You have resources, you have power. If the power is used right. If you allow a lot of foreigners in to exploit your power, then it doesn't quite work that way. But resources are power.

SIMON: Thanks very much, NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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