For Obama, A Week Of Multitasking This week found President Obama up to his ears in budget negotiations and proposing tough new oversight of financial institutions. But he also had to deal with other pressing issues, like the war in Afghanistan and North Korea flexing its muscles.
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For Obama, A Week Of Multitasking

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For Obama, A Week Of Multitasking

For Obama, A Week Of Multitasking

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week found President Obama enmeshed in budget negotiations and proposing tough new oversight of financial institutions, but he also had to deal with other pressing issues, including the war in Afghanistan and North Korea flexing its military muscles. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let me ask you about the line-up that seems to be developing in Congress, because it's not just some Republicans, but - many Republicans - but some Democrats complaining about this massive $3.6 trillion - I haven't had to say that a lot on the air - trillion dollar budget plan. Does the president have the votes to put it through right now?

SCHORR: I don't think right now, but I think he will have by the time he finishes negotiating. He seems to have become very adept at saying this is what I want; $3.6 trillion is a blueprint for all the things we want to do. Then he'll find - yeah, but I don't like this, or I don't like that, from one side or another. And before you're finished, you will find that he has conceded this and he conceded - that's what he did with his stimulus package, was to make certain concessions, as long as the core of what he's trying to accomplish is maintained. Well, he may be able to negotiate it again.

SIMON: Speaking of the stimulus part of the package, I want you to take advantage of your repertoire of experience to ask you why some countries, particularly European countries, are openly annoyed with U.S. plans to pour billions of dollars?

SCHORR: Yeah, and Prime Minister Topolanek of the Czech Republic, who is the rotating president of the European Union this year, said that what United States was proposing in the way of all the stimulus was a path to hell. Now, why did he talk so strongly about something which we - here in this country they find a very useful thing to do. The answer is, there is burned into the memory of all of Europe, especially Germany, the years in the 1930s when they had inflation, when they had unemployment at a very high level, and what do we get: Hitler.

And that is remembered in Europe, if it's not quite so vividly remembered here. (Unintelligible) let's not make a big deal of stimulus. Let's hold on, let's make sure that we're not getting big deficits all the time. And I think that's going to carry on until April 2nd, when they all meet - the 20 all meet in London. And I think there is a real, real difference between Europe and the U.S. on this.

SIMON: Meanwhile, Secretary Geithner - Treasury Secretary Geithner - presented Congress with the administration's plan for revamping financial oversight.


SIMON: Who's going to enforce it if it passes, and could this have prevented or somehow affected a situation like AIG?

SCHORR: As to who's going to enforce it, they are making some efforts to create perhaps a whole new agency, in a way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt did, establishing new agents to do this thing. This one would pick it up from the Federal Reserve, pick it up from Treasury and do the enforcement (unintelligible) I'm not sure that's going to go through. If it doesn't go through, it will be the regular existing agencies, which will simply be saying no longer can you say that we don't oversee you because you are not a bank, which is what AIG tried to do, and say we're an insurance company, but then it went ahead and did all of this without oversight. From now on, no one dealing with money going back and forth from the American people is going to be able to say I don't want any oversight.

SIMON: And meanwhile on Friday, President Obama unveiled his long-promised new strategy for Afghanistan…


SIMON: …and Pakistan.


SIMON: And they were pointedly bundled together. What's…

SCHORR: Well, that's important, that's important. It is no longer a war going on in Afghanistan. The border for all practical military purposes no longer exists up there in the North. The U.S. is going fly drones in there whether or not the Pakistanis like it because the fact of the matter is that the war in Afghanistan is now completely supported and fueled from Pakistan. There are reports this week in the New York Times that as a matter of fact the Pakistani intelligence group, ISI, was working with Taliban. So what this new strategy is, we are going after al-Qaida. Wherever al-Qaida is, we go.

SIMON: Including Pakistan.

SCHORR: Including Pakistan. So the president announced in addition to the 17,000 troops already slated to go to Afghanistan, there will be 4,000 more going. But there'll be now a great deal of emphasis on getting development people there, civilians.

SIMON: Finally, President Obama had an online town meeting…

SCHORR: Ah, yes.

SIMON: …this week. Tell us your impression of that and what I think we can fairly identify now as the administration's media strategy.

SCHORR: Well, the wonderful thing is, you invent a new means of communication and somehow President Obama will harness that to his great campaign. So this was online. People in advance had sent in thousands and thousands of questions from which the White House picked the ones they liked, then they asked some questions from the floor. He did this with enormous verve and grace and so on (unintelligible) and you have to admire the man, if for nothing else, his ability to turn every new technological development into a way of his campaign.

SIMON: But reporters usually complain when there is some kind of access to the president and no named reporters are not included. They think…

SCHORR: Yeah. There was a press conference the other night and there was no questions called for from anyone of all the major newspapers. So instead of calling on the good gray New York Times and so on and so forth, he called upon Ebony magazine, he called on Politico and so on, thereby demonstrating who runs the media here. The press doesn't, he does.

SIMON: Dan, thanks very much.

SCHORR: Oh, very much my pleasure.

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