Week in Review: Britain and Iraq; Clinton and Obama

Highlights of the week's news include Britain's plan to reduce forces in Iraq; an early dispute between the political camps of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama; and Sen. John McCain's criticism of Donald Rumsfeld.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

After Senate Republicans blocked passage of a resolution against the buildup of troops in Iraq, Senate Democrats this week tried to answer with a proposal to revoke parts of the 2002 resolution that authorized the use of force. Infighting between two Democratic presidential candidates, and Great Britain announces a partial withdrawal of its troops from southern Iraq.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin in the Senate, because they could not pass the non-binding resolution against the troop surge in Iraq. But Senator Levin of Michigan, Senator Biden of Delaware are working on a new proposal that would revise that 2002 resolution to narrow the authority given the president.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: They say the situation in Iraq has changed so the resolution ought to be changed to fit.

SCHORR: Well, simply they would repeal what they gave the president back there in 2002. And that is, if necessary, the right to use force after having gone to the United Nations and all of that. Well, that was blocked. And so what's the next step? Democrats clearly want to keep the issue alive. It's working pretty well for them. So the next step is, tell you what, let's introduce a resolution saying that we no longer think it necessary that you have that power. And therefore we hereby revoke it and we'll give you another resolution, which won't contain all of that.

Now, that resolution will probably face the same filibuster that the other one did. But I don't think the objective right now is to get this or that into it. I think it is to keep the thing alive until the election, which so far the Democrats are doing fairly well.

SIMON: So the object isn't necessarily to pass or for that matter defeat a resolution...

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: ...so much as it is to keep the issue going?

SCHORR: That's right. And it's also now become a bit of an issue within the Democratic Party, because David Geffen, who is a...

SIMON: Yes. Well, I wanted to ask you about the smackdown in Tinseltown. David Geffen, interviewed apparently by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, and had some very unsparing words about the Clinton's, and Senator Clinton in particular. And Senator Clinton said that Barack Obama's camp should apologize. Senator Obama said I don't know why I should apologize for something somebody else said. Real dustup beginning quite early.

SCHORR: That's right. It all revolves around the issue of Iraq. What was wrong? What did David Geffen find wrong about Mrs. Clinton? He thinks that she shouldn't have said that she refuses to apologize for having voted for the resolution. There is a point to be made. Poor Mrs. Clinton, who's been getting it from - I'm not so sure poor Mrs. Clinton, but...

SIMON: No. I saw the report on their finances this week. Poor wouldn't apply.

SCHORR: That's right. All the millions they used to get from David Geffen are now going to go to Obama, and that won't be a great thing for them. But on the other hand, if you look at it and you say, what is it that people are asking of her? They're asking of her that she say that she has apologized for the resolution, and knowing that if the same situation presented itself - and I'm being a little editorial now - and the issue were, the president says I've got absolute proof that we're in imminent peril right here and I got to have the right to use force to repel all of that, who can vote against that?

The fact of the matter is, these people were deceived, and having been deceived, they voted that way. And I guess it's very difficult to get somebody to apologize under those circumstances.

SIMON: Senator McCain, on the Republican side this week, said in a campaign appearance, he said that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quote, "will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history."

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: What does this say about the campaign on that side of the aisle?

SCHORR: Well, the fact is that if you happen to be against the war - as many, many are becoming now - then you have to be against Rumsfeld, because he was the one who conducted that war.

SIMON: Let me ask. The war or the occupation that followed, because that seemed to be what Senator McCain was criticizing, an inept occupation policy.

SCHORR: I think he wanted to have a bigger buildup of troops. He wants more in there...

SIMON: Yes.

SCHORR: ...rather than fewer troops.

SIMON: But I think he specifically felt the number that were deployed in the field, to undertake the invasion, were not sufficient to keep order after the invasion.

SCHORR: That's right. But I don't know how much it would take to keep order after the invasion when there wasn't any real plan for keeping order after the invasion.

SIMON: Great Britain announced they're going to withdraw about a quarter of the 7,100 British troops in the Basra region, start returning home in the next few months. They are turning over those duties to units of the Iraqi Army. They say it can be seen as a sign of success.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Of course it's - other people say it shouldn't be read like that at all.

SCHORR: Well, they're acting predictably. If you happen to be on one side, you say success. And if you happen to be on the other side, you say we're being driven out and we can't afford to there anymore.

SIMON: Finally, Dan, a series this week that shook a great many people up in the Washington Post on conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center that said on the one hand the immediate traumatic care given wounded veterans of war, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, is fine. But afterwards, many have been left to linger in a bureaucratic maze and unhygienic conditions.

SCHORR: It really was awful. And you read that - and we talk about fighting in wars, taking care of our troops, the president comes and he talks about doing things for the troops - and they found the most deplorable conditions in at least one building of the famous Walter Reed Hospital. Everybody now has egg on his face or her face, as the case may be. And you sort of wonder, if this is supporting our troops, God help us.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: My pleasure, if it is a pleasure.

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