Week in Review: Iraq Policy, Libby Trial

Highlights of the week's news include the Senate's rebuke of President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq and the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work.

SIMON: President Bush in a State of the Union Speech on Tuesday night.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hi, there. Thanks very much for being with us.

SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: The president's speech was not entirely devoted to Iraq, but that's certainly where the most public interest was and certainly where he seemed to be the most animated.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: How do you gauge the reaction so far?

SCHORR: Well, the reaction so far, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee deliberately picked the next day to vote a resolution, which said that it was against the national interest to send these 20,000 troops. That precipitated a lot of back and forth there. The public, if you didn't like what they were trying to do, you wouldn't like it. Now, there were not many people standing up and saying, yeah, let's do it. I think the president is doing a good thing. It's on the - it has not helped his sinking ratings in the polls.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the Senate resolution because it's what's called a non-binding resolution and...

SCHORR: Oh, yes.

SIMON: ...how - remind us what that is? How does the Senate, which has legislative power, pass a non-binding resolution?

SCHORR: All right, I'll give you my short lecture on the subject, and it really goes this way. If Congress wants to, under the Constitution, it can do almost anything it wants by simply threatening to refuse funds. But in this case they don't threaten to. They just say we don't like your sending these troops there and we really wish you didn't send those troops there. That means they get their opinion out without having any real affect, but that doesn't mean it's not important because there is a psychological affect.

SIMON: Let me ask you about another resolution being considered. Senator John Warner of Virginia drafted his own, that would generally oppose the surge, the increase in troops, but support an increase of troops - limited increase of troops in the Anbar Province - what's often called the Sunni Triangle - specifically. Now, why did the Democrats apparently choose not to support Senator Warner's resolution, which might have won more bipartisan support?

SCHORR: People in Congress know they want to be on the right side and it's hard to tell what is the right side. If you come out supporting President Bush on this, that apparently is not going to be very good for a great many people. On the other hand, if you oppose it, or if you succeed in stopping it, then the president gets to say that you have sold us out. Find the exactly the right note, the right tone to say, we wish you hadn't sent those troops, we wish you wouldn't send those troops, but we really don't want to do something which will cause a great deal of trouble, then you see how legislation works at this point.

SIMON: I want to ask you about the trial that began this week of former vice presidential aide Lewis Libby. He's accused of perjury and obstruction of justice in concealing his role in the leak of the identity of a CIA officer. Mr. Libby now says he's a scapegoat that he's being hung out to dry to save the skin of Karl Rove, the most famous political advisor in the government.

SCHORR: Well, he is trying to save his skin. And in trying to save his skin may involve skinning some of the people in the White House. I'm not sure what the details are, but I would not be surprised if it were true, that Karl Rove said to somebody let's have Scooter handle this one. We going to...

SIMON: Scooter is Lewis Libby's nickname.

SCHORR: Yes, sorry about that.

SIMON: I happen to have the same nickname, as you know.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: But, so you meant the other Scooter. Yeah.

SCHORR: Yes. So that he now wants to save himself. And there is this French expression, sauve qui peut, that is to say save yourself if you can - and Scooter Libby is now doing the sauve qui peut.

SIMON: Hmm. E. Howard Hunt died this week at the age of 88. One of the names that comes to us from history from the Watergate scandal, he spent 33 months in jail for his role in Watergate. He was one of the people that organized the break-in, wasn't he?

SCHORR: He was one of the main persons to organize it. He was sort of the field commander on the break-in. He was across the street in a Howard Johnson Hotel monitoring the operation - or trying to by walkie-talkies - which in the end, didn't work. But he was the one who got people, some of whom had worked with him in the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, and other glorious little things that they had done - yes.

SIMON: He had a rich life in the world of espionage, didn't he, before Watergate?

SCHORR: Rich, I don't know. He had a very, very active life.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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