Making Sense of Iran Now

Pundits clash after a new intelligence report says Iran gave up on nuclear weapons in 2003.

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

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LUKE BURBANK, host:

This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News, your home for news, information, and we've put together an exhaustive best list of best lists. It's Wednesday, December 5th, 2007. I'm Luke Burbank.

ALISON STEWART, host:

And I'm Alison Stewart.

And, you know, Luke, at one point in my life, I wanted to go into politics. I almost went to the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. I was going to be Governor Stewart, and the…

BURBANK: It's not too late.

STEWART: …I - well, yeah, it is. I just - too many dark things in my years. But one of the things - I worked on a campaign as a teenager, and I saw all the behind-the-scenes stuff. And I can't imagine how people dig into your life and find out the littlest detail about your personal life, like who you might hire to be your gardener, and that becomes a campaign issue.

BURBANK: Yes, there's a job opening on the Romney estate.

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BURBANK: Explain.

STEWART: Mitt Romney had to fire his landscaping company over the fact that the company allegedly hired illegal immigrants. Now, Rudy Giuliani took him to task last week during the debate about having illegal immigrants work at what Giuliani called Romney's sanctuary mansion. They went back and forth and back and forth. Well, the Romney campaign found out, in fact, that this company had been using illegal immigrants to work on the governor's house, and the governor has taken a very strong stance against illegal immigration.

BURBANK: Well, and it's - the week is just going to get more intense for Romney. Tomorrow, he has a very, very much anticipated speech where he's going to talk about how his religious beliefs - he's a Mormon, or a Latter-day Saint - how that fits into his sort of political life, and people are comparing this to a speech that John F. Kennedy gave a long time ago, talking about how he was a Catholic, but he still wanted to be president of the United States. So we're going to take a look at what we might get out of Mitt Romney tomorrow.

STEWART: And we're also going to talk to the director of a heartbreaking but fascinating new documentary about three people's decision to end their lives because of terminal illness. It's legal in Switzerland to come in from another country, and, under a doctor's care, if you can prove you have this illness and the doctor feels that you're truthful and you're not - nobody is - you're doing this for all the right reasons, that you can, indeed, take your own life. It's called "The Suicide Tourist." We'll talk with the director.

BURBANK: Also, we'll remember the life and career of the rapper, Pimp C. He died yesterday, or at least he was found yesterday in Los Angeles. You may not even heard of him, but he had a huge influence on a lot of the rap music that's very popular out there right now. We'll talk to somebody from the Houston Chronicle about his influence.

We'll also go to Rachel Martin for today's headlines in uno momento.

First though, here's the BPP's Big Story.

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President GEORGE W. BUSH: Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

STEWART: That's President Bush reacting yesterday to a National Intelligence Estimate report that says Iran scrapped its nuclear weapons plans back in 2003.

BURBANK: Still saying nuclear, Mr. President. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the report a little bit differently today. He called the report, quote, "A final shot to those who spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons."

STEWART: So how is everybody else coming down on the NIE report? Well, we've a round of editorials from newspapers here and abroad. Go, Luke.

BURBANK: Michael Ledeen of the National Review Online agrees with Bush's skeptical eye on Iran, writing, quote, "We've been fooled about the nuclear programs of countries, from the Soviet Union to India and Pakistan. Maybe we've been fooled again."

STEWART: The Gulf Times of Doha, Qatar says:

(Reading) "The Bush administration has proved to be as unpredictable as the Iranian leader. After all, selective interpretation of intelligence reports and a dismissive demeanor towards acceptable diplomatic channels ultimately led to carnage in Iraq."

BURBANK: One of the most liberal editorials comes from Robert Scheer of the San Francisco Chronicle. He questions whether Bush is, quote, "Out of touch with Iran, or willfully ignorant," end quote. Then he writes, quote, "It is hoped that this time around, the truth will catch up with him before he gets us in yet another bloody war just to show he can," end quote.

STEWART: Meanwhile, the Boston Herald's calling anyone who sees the NIE's findings as cause to completely turn our backs on Iran is, quote, "Simply a fool." And the Wall Street Journal's yelling, bias, saying the report comes from a bunch of, quote, "Hyper-partisan, anti-Bush officials."

BURBANK: Summing up the whole situation, Steven Lee Myers of the Old Gray Lady, New York Times writes, quote, "Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate."

STEWART: And that wraps up THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT's Big Story.

Now, here's Rachel Martin with even more news.

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