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Week in Review: Bush Becomes a Lame Duck

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Week in Review: Bush Becomes a Lame Duck


Week in Review: Bush Becomes a Lame Duck

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

This week, the U.S. Senate dealt a final blow to President Bush's immigration bill. Also, the Supreme Court voted to limit the use of race in school integration efforts, and agreed to hear appeals from detainees at Guantanamo, and the White House cited executive privilege after being served with a series of congressional subpoenas.

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

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott. Welcome home.

SIMON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Her name is Lee Na(ph), by the way. And you'll be meeting her soon.

SCHORR: I'll look forward to it.

SIMON: The compromise immigration bill just didn't get enough votes in the Senate to end debate, never even came to a vote. With the advantage of a few days of hindsight, what went wrong?

SCHORR: I think in two large areas, things went wrong. When - was that it inherently the problem of immigration is very, very difficult to solve even if everybody want to try. But in this case, there was a word called amnesty, which crept into this. And amnesty became kind of a symbol of what Americans are beginning to worry about whether illegal people come in and actively (unintelligible) all of that.

The other thing, though, went wrong from the point of what we're seeing was that President Bush no longer commands very great support. While the Democrats voted against him so did a lot of Republicans. This is, I think, for President Bush he will look back to this as the day he truly became a lame duck.

SIMON: It becomes an issue in the campaign?

SCHORR: Everything becomes an issue in the campaigns, that's right. And I'm sure that as we approach the campaigns, it's going to be a who did this or that, on illegal immigrants.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the Supreme Court that made several important decisions this week. And I want to start with the ruling on school integration. The court said that public school systems now, as I understand it, can no longer explicitly take race into account in efforts to diversify student bodies. Now, it's been more than half a century since the Brown versus the Board of Education decision. What's the significance of this one?

SCHORR: Well, I think the fight for diversity in this country seems to be entering a new phase with this decision. At one time, it was enough to say that we must have people of different races sitting together. If necessary, we'll send them in buses. And it's turned out that didn't solve all the problems.

Then you had other problems that were entering and it became complicated with Hispanics and others. It was no longer a question of a black-white ratio. But it became much more difficult. And the fact that you might be able to sit next to somebody of another race, but if you then went back to a home in poverty and if you've faced various other problems, it was no longer enough simply to say, we will diversify. At least so this Supreme Court ruled.

SIMON: The court also reversed itself and agreed to hear appeals from detainees at Guantanamo.

SCHORR: Yes. And it is terribly interesting. I cannot conceive of what's going to happen. You have the representatives of the people of Guantanamo standing in front of the Supreme Court and engaged in a contest with the United States government.

SIMON: The Senate Judiciary Committee is talking about a contest, issued a series of subpoenas this week to people in the White House, the Justice Department, the Vice President's office. Senators want information about the firings of U.S. attorneys and warrantless wiretapping.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: The White House cites executive privilege and so far says they will not be honored. What do you make of this save face (unintelligible)?

SCHORR: Well, it's a classic thing if executive privilege comes up when the president doesn't want to answer a subpoena. I can still remember 1973 when Senator Sam Irvin, the head of the Watergate Committee, at one point threatening to send the Senate sergeant at arms to the White House to arrest people who were under subpoena. I don't think that will happen. But yes, the president has put his foot down on this thing and this may end up in court, although I suspect it will still be in the course when the president has retired.

SIMON: Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a voice respected especially in the area of foreign affairs on both sides of the aisle, gave a speech on the Senate floor calling for the president to change course in Iraq. He said clearly the present course is failing. What's the significance of his expression?

SCHORR: Well, if he could count on anybody it had to be on the loyalists Dick Lugar, who always supported him when others didn't. And if he turns that there is not very much support left for the president at had all on this war and I suspect that there'll be others following, and that in the end they will simply have to go to some plan B.

SIMON: President Bush is meeting on Sunday with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, in Kennebunkport, Maine, a Bush family vacation retreat. The relations between the United States and Russia have been strained recently, to say the least over a number of issues.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: What do you look for the best possibility to come out of this meeting?

SCHORR: Well, the best possibility is that they don't have any bus stop between them and come out and say nasty things about each other. If that - none of that happens, that already is a big plus considering what relations are between the United States and Russia right now.

But they are apparently working on getting some kind of - a piece of paper I think which they will be able to agree to upon which will try to go further in fighting proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world.

SIMON: Which both countries have an interest in doing.

SCHORR: It's something they can still agree on. They don't agree on much else anymore.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Thank you and welcome home again.

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