Week in Review: Turkey, Mukasey, Bush Veto
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week, Michael Mukasey came closer to winning the Senate confirmation as attorney general. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution to a man in Mississippi and that unofficially postponed many more lethal injections around the country. And Secretary of State Rice met with Turkish leaders to prevent a military incursion into Iraq.
NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And let's please begin with Secretary of State Rice.
SIMON: Traveling to Turkey this week, she met with the leaders there and tried to persuade them not to send the army into Iraq to track down rebel PKK fighters. Would she make a dent?
SCHORR: Well, I don't know. She tried to say that the PKK, the guerillas in northern Iraq, are a common enemy, which suggests that the United States is supposed to do something. The prime minister of Turkey is coming to Washington, and apparently, they will not invade at least until the prime minister has been here.
But unless they can find some other way of dealing with these two or three thousand guerillas who are making so much trouble for Turkey, Turkey remains committed to incursion — they don't call it invasion — but incursion to the wrath of the PKK if need be, but with or without help from others. What they haven't gotten is very much help from the Iraqi government.
SIMON: What might be the chain reaction of events if Turkey sends troops in?
SCHORR: Well, if Turkey sends troops and Turkey is, in one way or another, at war with Iraq, and it opens up a whole vast, new front in their many, many battles.
SIMON: Let's move to domestic affairs, because it looks like Michael Mukasey is closer to winning Senate confirmation as attorney general.
SIMON: Picked up a couple of key Democrats - members of the Judiciary Committee on Friday - Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California.
SCHORR: Right. And so it seems fairly certain now, I'd say, that the thing will be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and goes to the floor. And there is something else going to happen. There is always a danger of filibuster, which might happen. But this is a strange struggle over Mukasey.
Mukasey is not really the subject of this. The subject of it is the Democrats wanting to pin the administration to the wall on this business of waterboarding, on the whole business of torture, and trying to force him to get Mukasey to say something that would in effect condemn what the administration has so far done.
Well, it looked as though it might work for a while, but apparently it won't.
SIMON: There was a meeting that Senator Schumer reported that he had with Mr. Mukasey in which he says - Mr. Mukasey says - if the Congress specifically exempts waterboarding or any other sort of interrogation technique as attorney general, he's honor-bound to uphold that even if the president tries to pressure him otherwise.
SCHORR: That's right. But what we'll not do is talk about the past.
SIMON: President Bush vetoed a water projects bill on Friday that would have allocated funds to repairing some infrastructure and restoring wetlands. The bill passed with more than two-thirds support in both chambers.
Now, interestingly, Republican Senator Voinovich of Ohio called the veto irresponsible. It's Democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin who said it was a good veto. He said the bill was bloated with pork.
Why, for the first time in Mr. Bush's presidency, would he issue a veto that's almost certain to be overridden?
SCHORR: Well, there one has to know something about the mind of President Bush, who, as he enters into the last year in office, is determined to stick by his principles whether it's convenient for him or not. And so what he really is saying, try me. It seems almost as though he looks forward to vetoes.
It's a very strange manifestation, but, yes, he will and that means projects dear and near and dear to the hearts of many states that concern water, it will happen. It will happen because they will override the veto apparently. But then after that, the president has to issue a signing statement and decide whether or not he will respect it.
SIMON: Democrats debated in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Senator Clinton of New York was asked about the proposal by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to allow illegal immigrants to hold driver's licenses, and she was railed by almost everyone else on stage and accused of giving two answers.
SCHORR: Well, before the debate, in a newspaper interview, she has said that Governor Spitzer's idea of requiring motor vehicle licenses for illegal immigrants, not granting them but requiring them in order to (unintelligible) and cut down some of the accidents on the road. She said that was a pretty good idea.
However, faced now with her opponents for the nomination with the question of was she going to take on was becoming a fairly potent anti-immigration lobby. And that's what's involved here.
There are people who say what, give license to these people? Never. Round them up and deport them. And they form a voting element, and she then tried to retreat from the fact that it was such a wonderful idea because she saw the problem, it didn't entirely succeed.
SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.
SCHORR: Sure, Scott.