Week In Review With Daniel Schorr This week, newsman Walter Cronkite died at 92. Also, the health care debate continued, the president gave a major speech on race and Judge Sonia Sotomayor seemed to survive her confirmation hearings.
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Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

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Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

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

And of course we're going to review the week's news with Dan Schorr. But we want to ask Dan now to begin by talking about his old friend and colleague of so many years at CBS News, Walt Cronkite, who died last night at the age of 92. Dan, good morning.

DAN SCHORR: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And what was he like?

SCHORR: What was he like? Well, he was very matter of fact and very collegial and very easy to work with. Tried very hard to be neutral and very dispassionate, sometimes succeeded and sometimes not. As for example, when President Kennedy was killed there was a tear in his eye and there was a break in his throat. And when he went to Vietnam and came back and said that war is unwinnable. That had an enormous effect. Other than that, simply easy to be with because he was a true professional.

SIMON: And his legacy?

SCHORR: His legacy? His legacy, I guess, is the legacy of the one who used to be called Uncle Walter by many people. And that is to say that he was a man that was trusted more than any person in the United States. His legacy is that there was a time when people told us things that we believed in and trusted in inherently. Nowadays, however, is he right, is he wrong, whatever - the legacy of Walter Cronkite was trust.

SIMON: Turning now to other news this week. The Obama administration found that the momentum it had going on health care reform was blunted this week when the Congressional Budget Office warned that the plans coming out of the House were going to be significantly more expensive than had been projected. President Obama called a press conference on Friday afternoon to talk about that. What are the options they're weighing now?

SCHORR: Well, there apparently is trouble. It apparently, as you said, has lost a certain amount of its momentum. It's not only that Elmendorf of the Congressional Budget Office says that it really doesn't achieve savings and cut costs, and that headline wasn't very helpful. It's also that in the Senate it bogged down and was put over to next week, which raises the question of whether the president can have what he wants to have - is to have a bill before August. That now begins to become in question just from the loss of time.

SIMON: What does the administration do in response?

SCHORR: Well, the first thing that the president did was to do what he would not normally do on a Friday afternoon, which is to come out a half-hour after he said he would come out and say, you know, you really - we're really doing very well, it's achieved a great deal of consensus and all of that. He reminded me a little bit of a coach in a locker room when things aren't going well and giving a pep talk. It was a pep talk saying, whatever you may read in the headlines about trouble and so on and so - it ain't so. We're nearly there, we're nearly there - just hang on.

SIMON: Ted Van Dyke, the old Democratic operative who worked for Hubert Humphrey and in the Johnson White House, had an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this week in which he suggested that President Obama was spending his political capital by making maybe too many public appearances. Is that the case?

SCHORR: Well, it is his way. He does make a great - he does make a great many appearances, and that's the way he likes to govern. Yes, we're about to start talking about another of his appearances.

SIMON: Of course, the president addressed the NAACP convention this week. And what an extraordinary image - the first African-American president speaking at the 100th anniversary of this country's oldest civil rights organization.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: How do you assess what the president said?

SCHORR: Well, it really was quite dramatic, as it had to be. But what impressed me most of all is that the president kept talking about not what's happened in the first hundred years of the NAACP but the road ahead, what soon needs to be accomplished, the needs of education, the needs for people to take responsibility. And it was very interesting. Here was these veterans of the civil rights marches and all saying, look where we are, we got a president in the White House. The president said, yeah, but on my shoulders you've got to go ahead and let's get the rest of it done.

SIMON: The president's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York, finished up several days of confirmation hearings this week.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Any doubt she'll be confirmed?

SCHORR: Well, all the people who should know say (unintelligible) no one has come out to say - there won't be a filibuster, that's out of the question. As to whether there will be votes against her, there may be a few, but from every appearance she pretty well has it done.

SIMON: Did we learn anything about the judge that surprised you or was interesting during this week of hearings?

SCHORR: She was, just as I expected her to be, very cool, very self-possessed, knew exactly what she was doing. And I think that she will bequeath as a result of that about three words which will be remembered forever. One is wise Latina and the other is empathy. Those are the words which became the words that's threaded through the - through the hearings. But other than that, I think she's made it.

SIMON: Some surprising news out of Wall Street this week, I guess. Several banks posted better than expected earnings - Bank of America, Citigroup - which just a few months ago were getting bailout money…


SIMON: …seem to be doing quite well now. Now, does this suggest to you that the bailouts worked or that they so far have worked for the banks but maybe not the taxpayer?

SCHORR: Well, nobody seems really to know. Even experts on this, of which I certainly am not, can't be quite sure. They didn't expect it to happen. It was a better quarter than they expected it to be. They didn't know why. Is it, would it have been not as good, would it have been worse, if it hadn't been for the bailouts and so on? We don't know. Or at least let me frankly tell you that I don't know. But it is very interesting that the bonuses are still being paid.

SIMON: Secretary of State Clinton gave a foreign policy speech this week at the Council on Foreign Relations just before heading off to India. You were there. What did she say?

SCHORR: Well, she gave a pretty good what they call (unintelligible) a tour of the horizon of the whole foreign policy, very carefully, very well done. The only thing that struck me as rather interesting was the discussion of relations with Iran. Here's Iran, whose government now may not be legitimate, and yet she's holding the door open to conversations with them.

She will never say, for example, we will not deal with this - which probably stole the election - we won't deal with them. And I think it's very important at this point. So I think that Iran is getting into a very (unintelligible) state. There's Rafsanjani, the former president, getting up and making a speech attacking the present regime, a sense that there were demonstrations still going on which they seem to be unable to control. And there may well be without our having done very much about it that Iran may be in such great trouble itself that it may be in the near future doing less trouble for others.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure thing.

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