Week in Review: Iraq Timetable, Gonzales, California Primary

Topics in the week's news include a continuing debate over a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, the furor over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, and the impact of an early California primary.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

This has been a week of confrontation between Congress and the White House. The House of Representatives has voted to set a date for withdrawal from Iraq. Congress wants to force White House officials to testify under oath about why they fired U.S. attorneys. And a decision to hold early primary elections in California may reshape the 2008 presidential race.

NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Dan? Hello.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Of course, let's begin with Friday and the House of Representatives passing the bill that would require our troops to be out of Iraq by September 2008. Fair to say a veto's coming?

SCHORR: Oh, it's quite fair a veto's coming. After the Senate version of the bill is passed, probably next week. But that's only the beginning of this game. From then on they have to say, who's chicken? Because President Bush says that if they don't get a bill that he can accept by April 15th, there will be significant disruption in the lives of troops and their families. So apparently we're in for a little trouble.

SIMON: What about the funding question though? Because it would be possible for the House of Representatives, in theory, to deny funding to the effort.

SCHORR: Which apparently is what they are now in the course of doing by simply passing this bill, which has a $122 billion that are needed, but in the same bill would bring home the troops, so that they are stuck. And they'll be stuck until somebody figures out a way to get them unstuck.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the other confrontation between congressional Democrats and the administration. They would like to issue subpoenas for White House aides, or they have been empowered to issue subpoenas for White House aides in the investigation of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The White House says, yes, interview the aides, but not under oath and without a transcript, I think even without any written notes. Do you foresee any compromise on this?

SCHORR: No, I don't at the moment see any compromise. I don't know if you call it a compromise that Kyle Sampson, who was the chief of staff to the attorney general, says he's willing to come and talk. But he's not in the government anymore. So I don't think that the Democrats will accept that as filling the bill they want. We seem to be headed for one of those executive privilege confrontations which we get every once in a while.

SIMON: California announced this week - looking ahead at the 2008 elections - that it's going hold its primary election in February instead of June.

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: And there are similar bills that are poised for passage, we're told, in New York State and in Florida. How will holding earlier primaries affect the nominating process?

SCHORR: Well, I imagine the first thing that happens is that campaigning is going to become a lot more expensive than it's ever been, because California and New York, those are what you call big markets for television. And if you start out the race by having to contest New York or Florida, for that matter, it gets to be a lot more expensive. It's also a very sad day for Iowa and New Hampshire, who have enjoyed this position that they've had for so many years, and now will just be along the way. What it does beyond that, I guess I'll have to wait and see.

SIMON: Is it going to help one candidate or another that you can foresee?

SCHORR: As far as I can see, it will help the candidate with the biggest bucks.

SIMON: Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has surprised a lot of people by running so well in public opinion polls among Republican voters. So far so many people had predicted that Republican voters wouldn't accept his positions on issues like gun control and gay rights. How do you account for his success? Do you see anything over the horizon that he has to worry about?

SCHORR: Well, I don't know whether he has to worry about the fact that it's now been revealed that his wife, who we thought was his second wife, turns out to be his third wife. I don't know what that does because I don't -

SIMON: No, no, no - it's his third wife. It's just she - he is her third husband and we thought that he was her second husband.

SCHORR: Well, they've both been married three times. I am not sure if that changes anything. If this had been the time of Nelson Rockefeller, say, who lost a lot of support simply because he had been divorced and remarried - but then there was President Reagan, who was the first divorced president. And so I think these things play with a lot less clout than they used to.

SIMON: And of course on the Democratic side, in a campaign that mostly has been dominated by interest in Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth received a lot of attention this week for very sad circumstances. It was announced that Elizabeth Edwards's cancer has returned. Senator Edwards says the campaign will continue. Mrs. Edwards says her condition is incurable but treatable, and she wants him to continue.

SCHORR: That was a very affecting thing. And among the things that I really loved was the fact that Tony Snow, who himself is going in for a small operation, talked to Elizabeth on the phone and later said to her, when you see an Elizabeth saying I'm going to embrace life and going forward, that is a wonderful thing. I think that one has to say that cancer is nonpartisan.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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