Week in Review: Democratic Debate, War Funding

Democrats debated in Las Vegas, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency issued a report on Iran's nuclear program, and the Senate deadlocked on a funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scott Simon discusses the week's top stories with NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

This week, Democrats debated in Las Vegas, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna issued a report on Iran's nuclear program, and the U.S. Senate deadlocked on funding bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin with the funding bills in the Senate because the two parties have so far not been able to agree in a war-funding bill.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: The Democrats blocked the bill that had no conditions for troop withdrawal. The Republicans blocked a bill that had conditions for withdrawal attached. Where's the possible compromise? What's next?

SCHORR: Well, there is no easy compromise. The Democrats are determined to get into some piece of legislation that we want the troops home pretty soon. The administration say you can't do that, it will make a very bad impression. And the result is they go up to the wire and have one bill, which the Democrats won't accept because it has nothing about the exit of the troops. Then you get a bill with exit of the troops, and that is filibustered by the Republicans.

And meanwhile, the commanders in the field and the people in the Defense Department say we don't really know how much money we're going to have to fight this war and whether we continue to run this army. There are now 175,000 American troops, and the question is who pays for this?

SIMON: Let's get to the Democratic debate that was in Las Vegas this week, presidential candidates, because in many ways, this was treated - the pre-publicity was like a heavyweight title fight. Initially, what are your impressions of that debate?

SCHORR: This reminded me of Hillary Clinton who has stumbled a little bit in Philadelphia before, coming back and saying, okay, you guys, Obama and so on, make my day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: The asbestos can super mart.

SCHORR: Yes. And she spoke, apparently, with a great confidence. It's very hard to get more than a subjective impression of who wins a debate because it really isn't very much of a debate. It has to do who can put the other one down better. And apparently, Hillary Clinton held her own. And that's the big headline from the very long debate. Hey, Hillary's back.

SIMON: Let me ask a question because NPR got a story wrong this week. We reported that Senator Clinton and some staffers had…

SCHORR: Horrors, no.

SIMON: Well, it happens occasionally. Check the alignment of the stars. That Senator Clinton and some staffers ate at a diner in Iowa. Senator Clinton later quoted the waitress who was a single, working mother, but NPR said that the senator didn't leave a tip. The Clinton campaign produced a credit card receipt showing they left, in fact, $100 tip to be distributed to the staff.

Now, I promised to pass onto you a question that a woman in Dallas asked me. She said, how can we trust anything you tell us about Iran's nuclear program when you can't get the story of a tip in a diner right?

SCHORR: Well, I think you're right to say that. I imagine a lot of people think that, and it is very distressing, including to me personally, when NPR or anybody goes with a story that they think they've gotten, and it turns out to be wrong. I'm not exactly clear on how NPR got this wrong. But whatever it is, it's too bad.

But beyond that there is something else to say. What has happened to our whole political system when it's so dominated by trivia? Are we going to elect a president who leaves a larger tip than the other one, or what?

SIMON: Washington Post reported this week that U.S. military leaders in Iraq are openly growing more frustrated with what they say is a lack of political progress in the Iraqi government towards a working coalition there. The recent decrease in violence, they think, has not been accompanied by any progress toward a unity government.

SCHORR: That's right. And there are various U.S. commanders being quoted by the newspapers now are saying that the Iraqi government there is probably a greater menace to Iraq than al-Qaida, indicating they're getting rather fed up with the government which seems to be unable to form a united government and go out and do something. They can't agree on division of the oil revenues. They can't agree on many of the things that have to be done. And all of these is while American troops are there waiting for them.

They were - remember when the surge started it was two things. First of all, we abated the level of violence. Secondly, we got a unified government. Well, they've abated the violence, and now they're waiting for when do they get a government.

SIMON: Now, does this, at least for the moment, tend to support the argument of those people who say if you set a deadline for withdrawal, you will focus the attention of the Iraqi government?

SCHORR: Yes, maybe, of course. But it's a dangerous thing to do because you're also telling the other side that the troops are leaving so get ready for that. I mean, it tends to defeat itself if you set a date and then wonder what's going to happen when you reach that date. It may well be that they can't leave after all, or worse that they have to come back.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Oh, well, Scott, sure. Thank you very much, too. But, of course, we didn't discuss the really big story, did we?

SIMON: Which is?

SCHORR: Which is Barry Bonds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I knew I couldn't keep you from talking about that.

SCHORR: Well…

SIMON: Well, all right. He was indicted after years, really, of speculation that he hadn't told the truth to federal investigators.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: He was indicted for perjury. What do you make of that?

SCHORR: Well, what I make of that it really is so sad. It is the pressure that's put on them by the amount of money involved, by the number of fans that are involved, and they get driven - our athletes who should be models for America — get driven to do these things about enhancing performance.

SIMON: Do you think he's going to get into the Hall of Fame?

SCHORR: I don't think they're asking my vote. But…

SIMON: Oh, — you know, well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: They should.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.