Week in Review: Iraq; Lebanon; Katrina Promises

Topics for discussion in recent news include President Bush's continued push for the war in Iraq; a fragile cease-fire but scant progress in Lebanon; federal promises on Katrina aid; and California's stance on emissions.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

President GEORGE W. BUSH: If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world. But they will not decide to stop fighting us.

SIMON: President Bush speaking to an audience at the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

NPR's senior news analyst, Dan Schorr, joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And this is not the first time the President and other members of the administration have gone out and...

SCHORR: No, indeed.

SIMON: ...sought public support for the war in Iraq. The administration's argument is that Iraq is a theater of engagement in that overall war on terror. Polls apparently show that the American people don't entirely accept that. Has there been any perceptible change in attitudes or political support over this past week?

SCHORR: Well, the administration is no longer able to take weapons of mass destruction as justification for the invasion, having been unable to produce any weapons of mass destruction. So you go back to the other rationale, that Iraq is a central front in the war against terror. Only that has some problems also, one of them being mounting evidence that the al-Qaida opposed the secular Saddam Hussein regime and actually gave support to insurgents against him.

So apparently the President, however, intends to go on with the speech-making campaign, total of five speeches until the middle of September, when he reaches that really big and important date of the anniversary of September 11. And polls indicate that the public no longer is taking this very well.

SIMON: Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have also made appearances. And in speeches this week, they both compared some of the criticisms of the war on terror with people who spoke in behalf of appeasement of Nazi Germany in Europe in the 1930s. Now, we just observed your 90th birthday this week. Happy Birthday.

SCHORR: Thank you.

SIMON: And you are old enough to remember that debate.

SCHORR: Well, I am old enough to remember. And I think that to compare what's going on in Iraq to what happened, appeasing the Nazis, appeasing the Communists, is something of a stretch. But I think there's a certain sense of desperation in the Bush administration. They really need to make some kind of argument because the polls are beginning to go against them. No longer is the president accepted because he is the one in charge of national security. People don't believe that he's doing national security terribly well.

SIMON: That attitude, of course, may well be intensified and complicated by the confrontation with Iran. The deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program came and went. No agreement from Iran to put an end to its nuclear program. In fact, President Ahmadinejad said that Iran would never give up its right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology. What do you see happening next?

SCHORR: What happens next? Well, all right. Here we are again, number two of the axis of evil, Iraq not yet settled but now we're getting ready for the next confrontation, except it's hard to tell how the confrontation will take form. What happens is the administration will call for economic sanctions against Iran in the United Nations, but Russia and China are opposed to that. The administration indicates it will go ahead with some kind of sanction anyway, outside the United Nations if possible, and what happens after that, I have no idea.

SIMON: Let me ask you how the peace is holding or not in Lebanon. First U.N. peacekeeping troops began to arrive this week, about 150 French army engineers, about 800 Italian troops reportedly there now. But Hezbollah has notably refused to release Israel's captured soldiers. Israel has not lifted the air and sea blockade of Lebanon. Is progress being made nevertheless?

SCHORR: Well, on the other hand, it does appear that the cease-fire is holding, more or less. Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations has been in Damascus and says that Syria is now willing to make sure that no more arms go through Syria to the Hezbollah. In Israel the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is facing increasing demands for a sweeping investigation of where Israel went wrong, where the Israeli forces went wrong. And apparently Defense Minister Peretz is supporting the demand, which indicates that there's a split in the Israeli administration.

So before this goes much further, one has to see what happens in Israel, what happens with the Hezbollah. They seem to have a few weeks to be able to do that, to get the United Nations force in place. On the whole, hold your fingers on Lebanon.

SIMON: In the United States, President Bush traveled to the Gulf Coast this week as we observe the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. After the torrent - I'm sorry if that sounds like a bad pun - but the torrent of criticism that the administration received last year for the bungled federal response to the storm - must be noted, for that matter, criticisms made about the state and city government - has the administration followed through with some of the pledges that were made? And has it been able to improve its standing and its reputation as a problem solving administration?

SCHORR: Well, if you include in promises $110 billion that the president promised to get out of Congress in order to help down there, well, yes. President Bush went down to New Orleans and I listened to his speech down there. And it sounded like he was reprocessing the speech he made a year ago, on the same occasion, about how well the federal government was going to spend money wisely. Once again, he talked about the poor. He is going to something about poverty. He managed to more or less repeat all the promises he made last year, few of which have been carried out so far.

SIMON: The California legislature passed a bill this week requiring major industries to limit emissions in greenhouse gases. This is something that the federal administration has resisted doing. California essentially is the first state to break with administration policy. As California goes, so goes the nation? Will other states decide to do this?

SCHORR: Well, it's a remarkable thing that Governor Schwarzenegger did there. See, I can remember back to 1967 when California led the country in calling for measures against air pollution. And once again, California takes the lead, now with Governor Schwarzenegger. This is clearly an embarrassment to the Bush administration, which has not been willing to go anywhere near the emissions standards that are called for in California.

And the only thing - it's very funny - is that you would've thought Governor Schwarzenegger would have done a little bow to Al Gore when he did this. But he didn't do that.

SIMON: And finally, there were new developments this week in the case of this outed CIA officer, Valerie Plame Wilson. It seems that the mystery of who identified her to journalists may have ended with Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State under former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

SCHORR: Yes. Very disappointing. I mean this is supposed a big scandal involving neocons in the Bush administration and how they were out to get Valerie Plame. But now we have a former deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell, who not known to be neocons and so on, says they were just in the course of gossip with Bob Novak that he mentioned it with no purpose in mind at all. That really is disappointing.

SIMON: Could Mr. Armitage have saved the American people several millions of dollars by coming forward a couple of years ago and saying it was me?

SCHORR: He would've saved a lot of money. But I take it that three years ago he may already have told this to the special prosecutor. It's just that we didn't know.

SIMON: Thanks very much. Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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