Week in Review: Immigration, Ethics Rules, Card

The week's news includes an intense debate over immigration; a new ethics bill, the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and continuing negotiations on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe it is important to bring people out of the shadows of American society, so they don't have to fear the life they live. I believe it's important for our nation to uphold human rights and human dignity. And the plan I've just proposed is one that will do all that and achieve important objectives.

SIMON: President Bush speaking at a joint news conference with the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, and Canada's Prime Minister, Steven Harper, in Cancun, Mexico on Friday. The subject of immigration dominated their talks and has taken center stage here in the United States in recent weeks.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Now, the intensity of this debate is something that I think people are beginning to notice, as Congress sits down to debate various proposals. There've been hundreds of thousands of people that have turned out for demonstrations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, other places around the country. We perhaps have not seen this kind of intensity or heard it in a debate on immigration for a century.

What do the passions now suggest about how far this country has come over the past century?

SCHORR: Well, President Bush says that America doesn't have to choose between being a welcoming society and being a lawful society. But for a great many people, they are willing to make that choice. The problem with the immigration issue is that unlike other issues this one drives a wedge right into each party and to each group. On the one hand, you'll find people who are saying let them in, especially the Republican conservatives who represent business. Business says cheap labor, tractable labor, we like it.

On the other hand, you get those who say that we don't really want them here because it's against all American principles to have people come here who are not really citizens. And the result of that is that however you look at it, you will find one party for it, and one party against it. And the effort to bridge that is now being made by President Bush. And also, in the Senate, there's also a bill which tries to bridge that gap. But it remains to be seen if they will be able to.

SIMON: So you're not certain they are going to be able to come up with legislation in the end that will be passed and the White House will sign.

SCHORR: No, I'm not certain at all, for the simple reason that this happens about every five or ten years. Somebody says we must do something about immigration and then they say yes, we're going to do something about immigration. And before long you'll find that it falls victim to all the things that make things not happen. That is, there are too many people on either side, both sides totally convinced that they are right.

SIMON: The Senate did pass some ethics legislation this week. This, of course, is following the conviction of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham of California. What do you notice about this new ethics legislation?

SCHORR: What's happening now, again, is something that happens periodically. And that is that the people in Congress get into trouble when you get stories about the favors that they get from lobbyists, all the golf courses they visit, and all the rest of it. And then it gets to be trouble for the people in Congress, and so they decide we have to do something about it.

And so the House has a bill which doesn't do very much. And now the Senate has passed, by a huge majority a bill that mainly says that there should be more disclosure. It won't ban a lot of things, but it will say you've got to report a lot of things. In some cases you may have to get advanced approval from the Ethics Committee before you get hotel rooms or free transportation.

What really amuses me is one provision of the Senate bill requires ethics training for senators and their staff.

SIMON: Well, those will be full classes, won't they?

SCHORR: They'll be very, very full classes, yes.

SIMON: Who's going to teach them? Any idea?

SCHORR: Are you available?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, I don't know as I have much to tell them. I was thinking that maybe former members of Congress or something.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card resigned this week. He has been in that job for five years. That's longer than any chief of staff since Sherman Adams, who served President Eisenhower. Does his departure suggest any kind of wider plan to try and improve the President's political standing?

SCHORR: I think that we've basically had somebody who is really burned out. It's not easy, apparently, working for President Bush. Paul O'Neill, the former secretary of Treasury, his book tells a story which I thought tells a lot about all of this. And that is, there was a cabinet meeting and at some point they decided to have hamburgers sent in for all of them. And the President's hamburger didn't come right away. And so he said to his chief of staff, Andy, you're chief of staff. Do you think you can get me a hamburger?

SIMON: Well, now President Clinton had three or four chiefs of staff, right? It's not uncommon for there to be burn-out and turnover in that job.

SCHORR: That's right. What I don't think, however, it is, is any form of protest, or any sign of a much larger thing happening. I think it could be considered on its own.

SIMON: Russia and China this week agreed to sign on to a United Nations Security Council statement giving Iran 30 days to stop its nuclear activities. The statement says that Iran will face consequences if it doesn't stop enriching uranium. The specific consequences were not mentioned.

Is Russia and China signing on an indication that this is a first step towards eventual sanctions, or some deliberate policy about Iran?

SCHORR: No, I think on the contrary. Russia and China signed on simply because they finally got the resolution amended, in such a way that there are no sanctions involved, no demands for sanctions involved. This is about as far as Russia and China will go. United States wants to take it a little further. And Secretary Rice was in Europe trying to get that to happen. But I don't think this is going to be a confrontation.

SIMON: Hmm. Let me ask about new governments taking shape in the Middle East, because acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party won a plurality, 29 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. But that's not enough seats to rule alone. There will have to be a coalition government. What's that going to look like?

SCHORR: Well, I think the most likely is that they would form a coalition with Labor. The Likud, from which this all stems, Likud didn't do very well. And I think they need a coalition government and it may very well be a Olmert-Labor coalition.

SIMON: Hmm. And of course the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories was sworn in on Wednesday. Within hours, Canada decided that it will withdraw all aid from the Palestinian Authority if they don't recognize the existence of Israel. Secretary of State Rice said that the State Department had almost finished its review of the Palestinian aid question.

How can aid bypass Hamas and still get to the Palestinian people?

SCHORR: With great difficulty; you would have to set up United Nations bodies to distribute food aid and so on. I doubt that it's going to happen. I think it's going to reach some kind of confrontation on the matter of whether Hamas is willing, or not willing, to say that they recognize Israel and renounce violence. That is the condition, which even Canada has now accepted.

And they'll simply be starved out. And if for no other reason, I think they'll have to moderate their position.

SIMON: Dan, thank you very much.

SCHORR: Yes, sir.

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