Week in Review: Egyptian Blasts, Judge Roberts

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr and Scott Simon discuss the events of the week. Topics include bombings in Egypt, the flexibility of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and terrorism as a fact of everday life.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

We turn now to NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

Good morning, Dan.

DAN SCHORR reporting:

Good morning, Scott, as we lightheartedly call it.

SIMON: A week of terrorist violence in London, in Beirut following the visit of Secretary of State Rice, and then, of course, this worst terrorist attack ever on Egypt.

SCHORR: Yeah, let me note a moment in history here. I'm sitting here looking at this morning's New York Times, and on the front page, above the fold, every story deals, in one way or another, with terrorism. Column eight, of course, is the Sharm el-Sheikh bombing. Then in column one, you have a subway suspect is shot to death in London. Then another story about shots in a train car leaving Londoners shaken. In New York, it's a matter of how you're going to check on what you're carrying there and four pictures of suspects in London. I think we may remember this day as a day that all the news of the whole world was suffused somewhere in terrorism.

SIMON: Let me ask--and, of course, based on what are early or incomplete reports obviously from Sharm el-Sheikh--but there has been a group with connections to al-Qaeda that, at least on a Web site, I believe, has claimed responsibility. There certainly seemed to be some coordination as to the timing of the attack. How do you see this as fomenting the entire situation in what we often identify as that most volatile region of the world?

SCHORR: Well, of course, Egypt depends very heavily on tourism and this is another case, as happened a few years ago, where terrorism is used to drive tourists away. It will undoubtedly have that effect. And since the United States is trying to support Mubarak and trying to introduce democracy into Egypt, they will undoubtedly go through what, in a sense, we have gone through with the Patriot Act; that is, do anything you can to stop all this bloodshed and all this bombing. And, I imagine, it'll have an effect there.

SIMON: You know, this week Prime Minister Blair gave a speech that maybe in the welter of events got somewhat overlooked where he said, `Look, this is not a clash of civilizations, but it is a clash between people who are civil and people who are incivil, people who believe that...'

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: `...terrorism is morally grounded and can work and people who believe that it should not.' Does this worldwide tableau, in a sense, that we're looking at this morning of terrorist incidents--terrorists attacks really--tend to promote the larger view that this is a struggle that's well beyond boundaries?

SCHORR: It certainly is beyond boundaries. How far beyond boundaries I don't know. It is not centrally directed as far as I can tell. What you're getting apparently is some copycatting or perhaps a deliberate campaign but spilling across the borders of countries. You know, we talk so lightheartedly about trying to explain all of this. The fact of the matter is that it's reached a point where I simply fail to understand it but I'm scared.

SIMON: Of course, we have to ask about the nomination of John Roberts to the US Supreme Court by President Bush this week.

SCHORR: What a relief.

SIMON: Do you--based obviously on anything he might say in this testimony but lacking something surprising he might say there, do you anticipate much of a struggle to get him confirmed?

SCHORR: Well, not so far. The Democrats are now trying to ask for a whole lot of papers as they did in the base of John Bolton. They maybe hold things up a little bit while they have a tussle with the White House over what papers they can and cannot have.

As to Judge Roberts himself, the end of the first week appears to be, on the whole, very positive for him. He's made a very good impression in his courtesy calls. Not much is known about what he really thinks simply because there is not much of a paper trail in his case. And, I mean, you read some of the decisions he was involved in as appeals court judge, one of them had to do with a 12-year-old girl who was arrested because she ate fries on a station platform, which is not allowed. And he said this is not a matter of due process. I think we have a lot to learn, especially about his social thinking, about his thinking about, well, you've got to say it, abortion.

SIMON: Well, of course, he's--as it's often been said, on the one hand certainly when he was in I believe it was the first Bush administration, he wrote a memo...

SCHORR: I see your thinking.

SIMON: ...which questioned the premise of Roe v. Wade where he said he didn't accept that. Yet, on the other hand, as an appellate court judge, during his confirmation hearings for that position, he said, `Well, it's the recognized law of the land so a judge must uphold it.'

SCHORR: Yeah. Well, that's right. I mean, when he acted as deputy solicitor general--that is, by the way, a political appointment. One cannot simply say, `I'm one of the people who does the necessary work around here regardless of who's in office.' That is a political appointment and it was a position of the administration. Yet, on the other hand, when it became necessary for him to indicate that he would enforce Roe vs. Wade, he was very quick to do that when he was up for appointment as an appeals court judge. It is very clear that he's a very--What should I say?--flexible man.

SIMON: And while we're on the subject of certainly the Supreme Court nominees, the Democrats in the Senate have been girding for some kind of fight. Is this not the one they will mount? Will they wait for, well, perhaps for another nomination and perhaps someone who is perceived to be less gentlemanly than Judge Roberts?

SCHORR: Oh, I don't think it works that way. I think that each nomination is an issue in itself. And the--Rehnquist has one vote and whoever is now nominated to the court will have one vote on the court and I think there'll be some kind of a fight over this one. But I suspect, as at least of what we know now, there's always a last-minute thing that we never knew about that changes the complexion of things, but as of now, he seems to be rather well on his way to confirmation.

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

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