SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This week President Obama made his first major speech to a joint session of Congress. He also laid out a $3.6 trillion budget proposal and a plan to withdraw most combat forces in Iraq by the end of August 2010. Meanwhile, Mexico is reeling from escalating drug violence. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us.
DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And let's get immediately to President Obama. He addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time, not formally a State of the Union but certainly had some of the feel. What did you notice about his address?
SCHORR: What I noticed about his address is that whereas before then he had been giving out to people, be very careful, it's grim, it's going to take a long time, and had been giving some downbeat medicine to the public, this time he decided it was time to turn it around. And this time it was predominantly upbeat. It was something about we will recover, we are not quitters. And now you see the upside of the Obama way of dealing with things.
SIMON: And what's your estimation of the Republican response that was delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal? This was considered...
SCHORR: Governor Jindal.
SIMON: ...his first major step on the national stage.
SCHORR: It is a general consensus of pundits who are more pundit-like than myself, but I will join them, that this was a crushing failure and that he would have been better off had he stood in bed.
SIMON: Well, a little hard to speak from there. A crushing failure - why?
SCHORR: Simply because he had nothing new to offer. It was a series of tired old Republican Party cliches, which the Republicans on the whole are trying to get out of. It was a real nothing speech.
SIMON: Well, let's ask, of course, about the substance of President Obama's plan - $3.6 trillion budget plan. We never used to say trillion, I think, except if we were talking about distances in the universe. What did you notice about what's in this plan?
SCHORR: Well, it takes America - if it works, it takes America off on a new path. It is saying that we really now have to face a wholly different world. And he divides the whole - all Gaul, as you might say, is divided up into three parts. He has to do something about education, has do something about health, has to do something about energy. And from now on, all his programs fall into one or the other of those categories.
What strikes me about it is, I would have said, as many had said, that he is so bound up now with the economic crisis that all of these things like health and other things he will not be able to get to for some time. He dissents from that. He intends to go ahead with the whole ball of wax and work on all of these things simultaneously.
SIMON: At the same time it's been pointed out that this would put, I believe, 12 percent of the United States' gross national product into some form of deficit.
SCHORR: Well, there is no question that he takes - this recession for which he will, on every occasion that he can blame the previous administration and say we've got to lick it, and in order to lick it we're going to have to pump in a lot of money to do that, and in doing that we know that having pumped in all that money we're going to have to find a way after that of doing something about the enormous deficit that's being built up. And on the whole it's hard to figure that a man that's saying a billion here, a trillion there, and so on and so forth, and next week I'll be back to tell you how we've got to cut down the deficit. But that is life as it's lived these days.
SIMON: Friday, President Obama announced a plan to bring most troops home from Iraq by the end of August of 2010. Now, some Democrats have been critical of this, both the size of the residual force that has been proposed to stay there, 50,000 people, and even - even the pace of withdrawal.
SCHORR: Well, as you recall, the campaign was an awful lot about when troops come home, and Obama was saying 16 months after I get into office we'll do it. But then it turned out that might not work very well. He's already had to consult the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he picked another date. These dates are - whatever other purpose they may serve - are fundamentally meaningless, because if they come towards the end of August 2010 and there's been some kind of resurgence of rebellion or something like that, the troops will make their decision to leave on the basis of the situation then, not the situation as it's foreseen now.
SIMON: What about the argument, though, that it was, it was at the heart of what a lot of Democrats said about the war in Iraq, that's it's the very presence of any U.S troops that foments violence?
SCHORR: Well, the Iraq government itself wants the troops out. They're under trade pressure from Iran. This is, after all, American occupation forces in an Islamic country. And it was agreed that they want to get them out as fast as possible. They're in the position of they want them out, and yet somehow they are afraid of their going out too soon. The result is that you get them veering back and forth between go now, or - please, not quite yet.
SIMON: I want to get you to reflect on the escalating violence in Mexico. More than a thousand people have been killed since the start of the year, and this week federal authorities in the U.S. arrested more than 750 members of a drug cartel. I don't think it's histrionic to suggest that law and order in some parts of Mexico seems to be on the verge of collapse.
SCHORR: That's right. And the question is then constantly raised, is this what you call the beginnings of a failed state? They deny that. They say we'll have it, we'll do it as best we can. It is very interesting, by the way, that the weapons that are being used by the drug cartel in Mexico and back in the United States are mainly American weapons. The cartel finds that they're very much in favor of the Second Amendment.
SIMON: Dan, before we let you go, we want to let people know they can tweet you. You're Twitter.com/danielschorr, S-C-H-O-R-R. All one word.
SCHORR: Amazing. Amazing. I am so impressed. This is a new world.
SIMON: And I'm NPRscottsimon, all one word on Twitter. Thanks, Dan.
SCHORR: And thank you very much.