Week in Review: Bush's Regrets, Mideast, Capitol Raid
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is on jury duty. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Unidentified Reporter: Mr. President, you spoke about missteps and mistakes in Iraq. Could I ask both of you which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret?
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Saying bring it on. Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. That I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, wanted dead or alive. That kind of talk, it - I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted.
WERTHEIMER: President Bush speaking on Thursday at a news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he discussed some of the mistakes he had made in the Iraq War.
Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us.
DANIEL SCHORR reporting:
WERTHEIMER: Dan, President Bush has not exactly been known for confessing error. And yet that is exactly what he did on Thursday night. Is this a new side we're seeing of President Bush?
SCHORR: It's a side we haven't seen before. He is - when asked before about what mistakes he had made, he said he couldn't think of any. Now he can think of them; not only verbal mistakes, but a very important mistake. He said the worst mistake was Abu Ghraib.
It's an interesting manifestation to see President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was together when so many people were against them, both with terrible ratings in their own countries, and saying we're going to stick it out together. It's quite dramatic.
WERTHEIMER: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also visited Washington this week, Dan. And he said that Israel would unilaterally draw borders in the West Bank if negotiations with the Palestinians don't produce some kind of result by the end of the year. President Bush praised Mr. Olmert for his bold ideas in acting alone. Was that a surprise?
SCHORR: No, it wasn't a surprise. But it was very important to Israel and to the prime minister, because we are getting ready to say that if you can't come up with a negotiating partner, so we can talk as we always have talked about trying to get two states living in peace, side by side, we'll give you another few months. And then the idea is to, all by themselves, say this is Israel and it would less leave for the rest.
Now, he couldn't really get away with trying to do that unless he had support from the President. And apparently, he did get complete support from President Bush. And from that point of view, was pretty important to Israel.
And another important element in the meeting between Olmert and President Bush, and that was probably overshadowing everything about what's happening in the Palestinian State, and yet to be, and whatever, is what happens with Iran. Israel has, I think, let it be known to President Bush, that whereas back in 1991 the United States said stay out of the Gulf War, and Israel stayed out, this time, I think, Israel has said this is our life that's involved, and if we think that there's a threat from Iran, we will not necessarily wait for you to take care of it.
WERTHEIMER: What do you think about the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issuing some sort of ultimatum to Hamas, also about creating the borders for a state?
SCHORR: You know, the conflict in the PLO, among the Palestinians, is sort of a crisis within a crisis. There's Israel-Palestinian crisis. And then you have the fact the president, who is from the Fatah, says we have to get together and talk to Israel. And in order to do that, Hamas will have to renounce violence and understand that there is a State of Israel.
And so, what we have here now is two crises, a crisis, which maybe the oldest, longest established crisis in the world, the crisis being Palestinians and Israel. And now, Palestinian versus Palestinian.
WERTHEIMER: Dan, something else that happened here in the United States that I can't recall ever seeing before. And that was FBI agents raiding a congressional office, carrying boxes of documents out of a House office building. The documents are from the office of William Jefferson of Louisiana, a Democratic member of Congress who's alleged to have taken bribes. The Republican leadership rushed to his defense, which...
WERTHEIMER: ...considering he is a Democrat, was something of a surprise. And the Congress is steamed up because this is a institutional issue. Right?
SCHORR: Well, Congress is steamed up because if the FBI can break into one congressman's office, who is safe among all the members of Congress? And so they pose this as a great constitutional issue, that nobody can set foot without their permission on Capitol Hill, and so on. And it's an almost an un-resolvable issue. And therefore, at this point, the President has stepped in and said, Whoa, wait fellows, 45 days cooling off period. And meanwhile...
WERTHEIMER: Time out.
SCHORR: Time out. And meanwhile, he will look for some answer to this. But I'm not sure he'll find one.
WERTHEIMER: Well, now, in the history of these kinds of relationships between the Executive Branch and the Congress, what they've always done is rattle a lot of sabers and then negotiate.
SCHORR: Sure. I can remember during the Watergate when at one point Senator Sam Irving, headed the Watergate Committee, was threatening to issue a subpoena to President Nixon. Now, I don't know if that was serious. But what you have here is elements of Congress willing to display their power and wanting to make sure that their power is not stepped on.
I don't think the Constitution is very clear on all of this. So I think they make history as they go along.
WERTHEIMER: The Senate passed an immigration bill this week, finally. And now it is supposed to be merged and blended with the immigration bill that passed the House last year. But of course the two measures are very different in philosophy and in detail. The House bill makes felons of illegal aliens who work in this country, and criminals of the people who hire them. The Senate offers a pathway to citizenship for illegals living and working here.
Any chance of a compromise?
SCHORR: Well, it's very hard to see how there can be a compromise, because they really go in totally opposite directions. The idea was - in the Senate bill is that at some point you will have guest workers. And they'll, after a while, be able to get their citizenship. The House bill declares them to be felons, as you suggested. And I don't exactly see there are geniuses who can put these two things together. But I think, I fear it's so far apart that I would not want to be given the job of hammering out a compromise.
WERTHEIMER: The President is thought to be a little bit more sympathetic to the Senate version of things than he is to the House version of things.
SCHORR: Oh, much more. The President made a speech, in the course of which he outlined what, in fact, became the Senate bill.
WERTHEIMER: But do you think he's got the kind of influence that could make the Senate bill become the compromise? Does he - or has he lost that kind of squeeze?
SCHORR: Well, the latest polls on how the President is doing, I think, something like 32 percent. I think that the members of Congress, on the House side, are saying that we don't think you have coattails any more, Mr. President.
WERTHEIMER: And then, perhaps the most dramatic event of the entire week was former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, standing before the bar of justice and being convicted on 38 counts between them of fraud and conspiracy. What does it mean when two multi-millionaires, one of them a close friend and campaign contributor for the President face a strong possibility of spending many, many years in jail.
SCHORR: Maybe the rest of their lives in jail. I mean, what we're now seeing is something which I was not sure that I would ever see in my lifetime. The arrogance of big business has been taken on by justice. And this is not the first of big businesses to come before the bar of justice, and this may be the end of an era.
WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much.
WERTHEIMER: Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: My pleasure.