Week in Review

NPR's Scott Simon discusses the week's top stories with NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Judge Michael Mukasey was sworn in this week as the nation's 81st attorney general.

Congress overrode a presidential veto for the first time since President Bush took office.

And Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke predicted tough times ahead for the U.S. economy.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And, Dan, let's start with the economy, which I know you often don't like to be drawn into any kind of prognostications.

SCHORR: Well, I'm not a big expert.

SIMON: But the Fed chairman predicted the U.S. economy is going to weaken in the short-term, but rebound by the second half of next year.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: What do you make of that assessment?

SCHORR: Well, I'll tell you, I've been struck this week by a headline in The New York Times on Thursday, a series of headlines in The New York Times altogether, which read, "Markets and Dollar Sink as Slowdowns Fear Grows," "Homeowners Feel the Pinch of Lost Equity," "Dow Falls 360," "Oil is Pushing Gas Prices."

And it's really quite - an almost implausible series of things to be happening all at once in the United States. What do I make of it? If Bernanke says that we're not heading into a recession, I hope so. All you can do is standby and say, yeah, all right, let's hope.

SIMON: Now, unemployment is still low. It's less than 5 percent, which is considered to be a mitigating factor in terms of consumer confidence.

SCHORR: That is right. Yeah.

SIMON: And there is a weaker U.S. dollar, but that's fueling, for the moment, larger export markets. What are some of the implications that if the U.S. dollar no longer becomes the currency of choice of other countries?

SCHORR: Well, that's interesting because during the many years that I've lived in Europe, the strength of the dollar was the way you knew that the United States was strong. If you go Paris, it'd be officially 20 francs a dollar. You could a hundred francs to the dollar on the so-called gray market. And when it came to the Marshall Plan, what they needed in order to speed the recovery of all these European countries was, not so much money, but dollar money. They were willing to exchange their depreciated currencies.

And so while it maybe true there's one advantage for the United States from having this very weak dollar, indeed, when the dollar is weak, exports grow. But all the rest is quite sinister.

SIMON: Well, what are the implications we have to ask for the forthcoming presidential campaign, which, I guess, is a way of saying to American voters who will hold a Republican president or a Democratic Congress more responsible?

SCHORR: Well, it's taken for granted that the state of the economy as you approach an election will either help or hurt the incumbent. In this case, it's not the incumbent, but it's the incumbent party. And one has to assume that if you get a recession or further weakening of our economy next year, it will hurt, on the whole, Republican candidates.

SIMON: Last week, we talked about the president's veto of a water resources bill. It had enough support on both chambers of Congress to - for them to override the veto and they did just that…

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: …this week. What do you make of that decision by Congress?

SCHORR: Well, I mean, I - if he wanted to veto something, he picked the wrong bill to veto. This water bills were sort of - well, you might call it as the mother of all pork because almost every community in the country has something to gain from it, so that formed a quite powerful lobby. I assume the president knew he was going to be overridden. I assume that he doesn't mind being overridden. He is very interesting in this last year of his incumbency.

SIMON: And, of course, as we noted Federal Judge Michael Mukasey was sworn in as the next U.S. attorney general. He was confirmed by 13 votes which is a smaller margin than usual.

SCHORR: That's not right. And he has Augean staples left behind by Alberto Gonzales to clean up. And I gather he's getting started right away.

SIMON: And, of course, the news in Pakistan: The White House has appealed to President Musharraf to lift the state of emergency. Benazir Bhutto was apparently released from house arrest.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Questions have been raised. People have said, of course, the way for the U.S. to demonstrate that it is serious is to cut aid to Pakistan. Is this a possibility and what position is…

SCHORR: No, it is not a possibility. There is, as seen by the United States, there is simply no alternative. If you bring down Musharraf at this point, you bring down Pakistan. And that's where we are sort of stuck. This is the country that is considered to be the great ally. Musharraf is trying to save it from going down the drain. The United States, at this point, has really no great options.

SIMON: During the course of domestic politics in the campaign, Mayor Giuliani picked up an endorsement that wasn't expected this week from Pat Robertson. They have different positions on gay rights and abortion rights and probably some other things. What will this endorsement mean for Mayor Giuliani's campaign?

SCHORR: I have no idea. It is quite weird that Pat Robertson, who has praised very hard for the right of life, will endorse somebody who has endorsed the right to have an abortion. It may well be that the endorsement is more important to him than it is to the man he's endorsing.

SIMON: And I have to ask, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was indicted this week on federal corruption charges. He'd been very close to Mayor Giuliani and who'd recommended him to President Bush to be director of Homeland Security. Is this something that Mayor Giuliani is going to have to answer for in the campaign trail? He's had a pretty smooth campaign so far.

SCHORR: Well, obviously he will. And it's very interesting that here and there, every now and then, we get somebody who is running for office and then an advisor to that person turns out to have a past which is not without blemish.

You know what I'm reminded of? In the early days when I lived in New York and there was terrible corruption. And back at that time, they said that things were so bad economically that the mafia was firing five of its judges.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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