Week in Review

A review of the week's news. Iraqi voters head to the polls in an atmosphere of "unexpected calm."

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

Voters are heading to the polls in Iraq today to decide on a new constitution. If the document passes, elections will be scheduled in December to seat the first full-term government in that country since Saddam Hussein. So far, we're hearing reports of solid voter turnout. The wires refer to it in an atmosphere of an unexpected calm. Iraqis are being asked to answer yes or no to just one question on the ballot, which is: Do you agree on the permanent constitution project? NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Good morning, Dan.

DAN SCHORR reporting:

Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The constitution will be adopted unless, as I understand the math, two-thirds of the voters in any three provinces reject it. There are...

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: ...18 provinces in Iraq.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: Sunnis are a majority in four provinces. What do you make just from this distance with apparent reports of a large outcome about any indication that might have--I'm sorry--a large turnout about any indication that might suggest about the outcome?

SCHORR: Well, there are two questions. One is how they vote and the other is whether they vote. The turnout appears to be, so far, pretty good, under heavy protection of American forces and Iraqi forces, concrete barriers put in some places. And so--but they are--apparently go out and vote. There are pictures at points at which you can see whole families marching together to the polling places. There have been a few bombs, there have been a few rockets, there have been some mortar rounds, but apparently not enough to disrupt the voting, which as you suggested is going in relative quiet.

SIMON: What about the attempts that were made in the last few days to mollify some of the concerns of Sunni voters?

SCHORR: Yes, well, the problem remains the Sunnis and whether they'll go along--again, whether they'll vote for it or whether they'll boycott it. There were some last-minute steps taken to appeal to them. A principal one, as I gather, is an arrangement by which the constitution can be amended after it's been adopted--sort of say you get another crack at this--and that apparently has appealed to some of the Sunnis. Altogether, as you suggested, if you have to have two-thirds of voters rejecting it in three provinces, that tends to stack the cards in favor of adoption.

SIMON: What, as you review it, does this constitution look like in its final form?--because there were certainly concerns expressed from a variety of people: women in Iraq who were concerned it didn't--that it doesn't invest them with equal rights; concerns of people about the religious groups, as well.

SCHORR: Well, right. I think people can say that it was--the problem lie in two places. One is the position of the Koran, and what they've done is the Koran is a--not `the'--principal source of law. It goes very heavy also on relative autonomy, while still reserving important powers to the central government. It really is a document written by a committee with something for everybody.

SIMON: Moving back to the United States, White House adviser Karl Rove testified Friday before a grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of a CIA officer. This is the fourth time he has testified, and I guess he was on there for several hours, more than four hours. Do you have any leaks about what was said?

SCHORR: Well, party they are leaks, partly they are just surmisals. We don't have a great deal of specific information, but if Karl Rove has to spend four and a half hours on his third visit before the grand jury, it must mean that the prosecutor's trying to resolve now discrepancies between the testimony of Rove and also of Lewis Libby, the Office of the Vice President, on the one hand, and the reports given now by Matt Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of The New York Times.

Perjury becomes always a possibility at this late stage. People a little sorry they said at an early stage what maybe they shouldn't have said. I'm always reminded of President Nixon who said that the cover-up is more dangerous than the original act. And they're saying that Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has not made up his mind yet about indictments. Around the White House, there's a mood of foreboding, however. The spokesman, Scott McClellan, has to keep coming up and saying that work is still being done in the White House. They are running a little scared.

SIMON: As you noted in that last answer, Judy Miller of The New York Times testified this week. She had, of course, initially refused to; spent nearly three months in jail. Do you think that the fact that Karl Rove has been called back has anything to do with the fact that it's in response to anything Judy Miller might have said?

SCHORR: Or Matt Cooper.

SIMON: Yeah.

SCHORR: I mean, the whole thing becomes all one great pattern in which you have a couple of reporters and a couple of White House officials, and so you get various combinations of them, yes.

SIMON: I--yeah.

SCHORR: By the way, what we still need to hear--I mean, Matt Cooper after he testified came out and wrote for Time magazine was it was all about. We have yet to hear from Judith Miller. It is said that The New York Times may be coming out with a big, big story by Miller maybe tomorrow. We'll see.

SIMON: OK. Want to ask you about the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers because big-name prominent conservatives seem to be lining up almost one by one to say this is not what we had in mind. George Will's phrase was that she is an unserious nominee. What do you make of the chances of this even getting to the hearing confirmation stage?

SCHORR: Well, I'll tell you, Scott. You're not supposed to legislate from the bench, they keep saying. But I think you're probably not supposed to legislate from the pew either. And to try to bring...

SIMON: You're talking about the president's reference this week to...

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: ...Harriet Miers' religious faith.

SCHORR: That's right. A big point is being made of she's a very, very good evangelical. She's a member of a church which is very, very strong against abortion, all of that. There is something quite weird in the way now that you have to pass a kind of a litmus test based on how religious you are and whether you have exactly the right degree of conservatism. As of now, the odd thing is the people for whom she speaks or wants to appeal--they are among the ones who say, `Listen, yeah, right. We want all these things.' Say, `We want to have appointed a representative. We just think we can get somebody smarter than Ms. Miers to do it.'

SIMON: Do you think--there's several weeks before she, of course, makes testimony. Do you think there's a possibility that she will decide to withdraw her name from nomination, or do you think there's also the possibility that she'll testify and be very impressive, as people say she can be personally, and will turn her fortunes around?

SCHORR: Well, as of now, it is not likely that she can turn the fortunes around. On the other hand, the president seems to be quite obdurate in saying he is not going to withdraw the nomination. That always leaves the possibility that he will not withdraw the nomination by himself, but that she may decide at some point in order to serve the president the best thing she can do for him and for her religion as well is to say, `Listen, I'm going. Get someone else.'

SIMON: And we should note six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the mid-October deadline that was set for FEMA to get people out of trailers--is it going to be met?

SCHORR: No, there's still apparently 22,000 people who don't have anything except quite temporary homes. And there is a way in which no matter how terrible the disaster is there--it somehow gets replaced in a few weeks by other disasters.

SIMON: Thanks very much. Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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