Week In Review: Obama's Overseas Trip, Housing Bill

Scott Simon reviews the week's news with Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr. Among the topics: Sen. Barack Obama's visit abroad and the news coverage of the campaign trip and legislation to help homeowners.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Last week, we looked ahead at the trip that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was about to make to the Middle East and Europe. Today, we'll get a chance to look back at that and other news with NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: How did he do?

SCHORR: Well, if his purpose was to establish foreign policy and foreign military credentials for the folks back home, he on the whole succeeded. He strode across the stage of the Middle East and Europe. He was seen with all the great leaders of the Middle East and Europe, all of whom seemed to have something in common with him. He made a point of saying, with regard to Iran, that they should stop their uranium enrichment and don't wait for the next president, which was a statesman-like thing to do. He got an enormous crowd in Berlin. You have to say, if you're going to look as though you're presidential, if that's part of what it is, he did pretty well.

SIMON: Was there anything presumptively presidential about it in a way that risked coming off badly with voters?

SCHORR: Well, that remains to be seen. I mean, that's true. For example, he had indicated some interest in seeing wounded soldiers in Germany, and the Pentagon said, well, that would make it kind of a campaign thing, and so they laid off that. It's a very delicate matter there, to look presidential without looking as though you're imitating the president.

SIMON: When there has not been an election yet.

SCHORR: Yes. President Sarkozy acted in France as though it was all done, that this was going to be his colleague and so on, but that endorsement was not shared by lot of other people.

SIMON: Let me ask about the media. All three commercial network news anchors accompanied Senator Obama for most of the leg.

SCHORR: Can you imagine?

SIMON: Yes. And the issue this raises is, in the finite universe of time there is in the news industry, was there something unfair when you're covering an active campaign about covering this trip - which, after all, is a campaign trip, not a policy-making trip - so much that it didn't leave a lot of space over for the McCain campaign?

SCHORR: The news media, I guess including NPR, are in the business of giving what people think they ought to know, what seems most interesting at the time. If it seemed interesting that here was the presidential candidate going to all these places while the man running against him was seen on a golf course with the senior Bush; or while at the Berlin, big rally was going on, Senator McCain was attending a German restaurant in Ohio, where he happened to be. If that's wrong, it may be wrong, but I think it's the way the press has existed all these years. It's not a question of equal time. There was an equal-time rule, which no longer applies. It's news merits.

SIMON: But this raises the question: When all is said and done, this was not a policy-making trip, it was a campaign trip. So what made this merit such attention when you just relocate the campaign overseas?

SCHORR: The answer to that question is the answer to why he's leading in the polls. Because he makes an enormous impression where he goes. We're reporters. The guy does something, it's pretty exciting. He comes out with 200,000 people in a square in Berlin and tells them, we must now tear down walls everywhere, and everybody cheers. And is that news? It's news, more news than his opponent on a golf course.

SIMON: Let me ask you about congressional approval for a bailout plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the huge mortgage companies. There are also provisions to help some people who are facing foreclosure and to help first-time home buyers. What do you make of this, Dan?

SCHORR: Well, I think what's very interesting is that it's almost as though they had to do it. There was practically no way out. There were half a million people who now may be able to refinance their mortgages on more favorable terms and along with that, a lot of money standing by waiting for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, should they need it. And those faced with the consequences if they didn't do something, I can understand they're doing.

But what is very interesting is a regulation is coming back. For all these years since President Reagan, we had this deregulatory climate. And all a sudden, people - you know, the free market is a very, very good thing but a little policing of it here and there may be very necessary, and I think that's a rather remarkable way in which regulation has come back into favor.

SIMON: There are some Republicans, in particular, who are opposed to the bailout on principal and oppose President Bush on it because they just say for the market to work, when somebody makes bad investments, they have to pay the price. They don't think it's right for the taxpayers to now have to pay for the mistakes of major companies.

SCHORR: You know what it reminds me of? I think when you and I were talking during the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s, and I think I reported to you at that time that a listener had called me up to say, I don't see why I should have to pay for bailing out of savings and loan people. I think the government ought to do it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan.

SCHORR: Sure.

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