Week in Review: Campaign, Mideast, Iraq

The U.S. presidential campaign is at the top of the news this week. But so are events in Iraq and the Middle East.

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

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

This week, four states voted in primaries and caucuses. Senator John McCain clinched the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, it is a tight race, even tighter now between Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.

NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi Scott, and you're quite right when you say even tighter.

SIMON: Well, let's begin, then, talking of the Democrats, because Senator Clinton gained some ground on Senator Obama by winning at least the popular vote in Texas and by a bigger margin in Ohio. There are six weeks between now and the next big primary. That's in Pennsylvania. What do you foresee over these six weeks?

SCHORR: What I foresee in the next six weeks is an increasingly acerb contest between the two, now somewhat complicated by the fact that they have a couple of big issues to dispose of. One of those issues is the votes of the so-called superdelegates, which could easily swing things one way or the other, and that's been going on for some time.

Then they have the problem of what they do about the votes, which don't exist at the moment, from Florida and Michigan, which were not allowed to vote because they had broken the rules, and now some effort is being made to get them back into the picture with the result that as life goes on in this campaign, it gets increasingly difficult for the Democrats.

One wants to say about the Democrats, as one once said about Yasser Arafat, that they seem never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the, as you described it, the increasingly acerb nature of the campaign. One of Senator Obama's advisors on foreign policy, Samantha Power, now at Harvard, who has been on this program a lot talking about human rights violations. She's someone who has seen war criminals in the face in places like Bosnia and Rwanda. This week, told a Scottish newspaper, saying after the fact that it was off the record, she called Senator Clinton a monster.

Now she has subsequently resigned and apologized for her remarks, saying that she actually admires Senator Clinton, but what does this indicate?

SCHORR: Well it simply indicates the level of bitterness with which this fight is being fought. I mean, you have here a scholar with great credentials and a Pulitzer Prize for a great book that she wrote and that she should tell a Scottish newspaper that Senator Clinton is a monster, it's almost hard to believe, and it gives you a sense of what's going on - the bitterness that is entering into this campaign.

SIMON: Maybe - a Scottish newspaper, maybe she meant the Loch Ness Monster. They're rather fond of monsters in Scotland, perhaps.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHORR: That's a good idea. You should suggest that to her.

SIMON: And of course we don't want to ignore the fact that Senator Clinton's people met criticism of her by complaining that Senator Obama was sounding like Ken Starr.

SCHORR: That's right. There's a lot of that going on. You know, we face here a situation in which you can say that after the recent victories of Clinton that she has momentum, but you also have to say that Obama still has the arithmetic on his side.

SIMON: Do you see any peaceful resolution to Florida and Michigan?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SCHORR: It's very hard to see. Some are saying we'll do it, but we won't pay for it. Nobody seems to be willing to put up the money to pay for having elections now in these two states. As of now, I see this simply being fought over all the way up to the convention and then the credentials committee, if it wants to, can make a different disposition of the matter.

SIMON: Ironically, Senator McCain, who would seem to have the wind in the sails at this point, won't earn as much coverage as the Democrats because he's got the nomination clinched.

SCHORR: Yes, but for the kind of coverage the Democrats are getting, they could very well do without because all it is is about who was sniping against whom, what's the latest thing that someone has said that somebody else has to apologize for. I think if you ask the Democrats if they could be in the position of the Republicans of having a nominee and not quarreling with each other, they might accept that.

SIMON: Let's turn now to events in the Middle East. Eight people were killed in a shooting at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: And at the same time, there's an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza that Amnesty International is calling the worst since 1967. It's hard to speak of a peace process at this point, but they were just at the verge of saying they were going to talk again.

SCHORR: And apparently, under some pressure from the United States, they are willing to say they are still going to go back to the talks, and Egypt is trying to broker a cease-fire, and so all is not ended. Nothing has started, but as usual, it goes on and all is not ended in this great, great struggle.

SIMON: Let us note that there has not been, as far as we can determine, a U.S. casualty in Iraq since February 25th, which is kind of a milestone, which is not to ignore the fact that this week, the deadliest single insurgent attack of the war happened on Monday south of Baghdad. More than 100 Iraqis were killed by a car bomb.

SCHORR: It really is quite remarkable. Now, there was some tendency on the part of the Bush administration to suggest a lot of the trouble came from Iran, which was infiltrating arms and people to fight in there. A remarkable thing happened this past week, and that is that President Ahmadinejad of Iran arrived in Baghdad for a formal state visit, red carpet, band playing, motorcade into town and all of that, in stark contrast with President Bush, who came in by helicopter in the dark of night.

And they're standing there in the presence of Prime Minister Maliki, who is supposed to be the best friend of the U.S. administration, listened as Ahmadinejad said that U.S. forces must be removed. That sort of scored one for the wrong side.

SIMON: Dan Schorr. Thanks very much, Dan.

SCHORR: Thank you, sir.

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