SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.
Today, thousands of NATO and Afghan soldiers began a massive offensive against the Taliban in the Helmand Province. We'll hear more about the offensive from NPRs Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who was with U.S. Marines in action there, but first - joined by NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Good morning, Dan.
DANIEL SCHORR: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And assess for us the importance of this offensive in the overall war.
SCHORR: Well, it looks like a make-or-break affair. It is interesting that a great deal of emphasis is being put on the fact that this is one that was worked out with NATO as well as with the Afghan government - that President Karzai is being mentioned as one who said, go ahead. And so everybody is in this together and if it works, it is going to be great. But if it doesnt work - well, trouble.
SIMON: Much of the news of the week was dominated by an enormous, historic blizzard that affected the lives of tens of millions of Americans.
SIMON: And the U.S. government - the U.S. government, which sometimes implicitly says to other countries around the world, you know, dont mess with the U.S. government, had to shut down for several days because of a snowstorm.
SCHORR: Yeah. I thought it was very interesting. I thought it was also interesting that went along with that, was the fact that a lot of the civil servants who stayed at home were able to call via Internet, and plug in and find out what was going on. I begin to wonder whether we are approaching the digital revolution in the course of which after a while, even without snowfall you can stay home. You can do this from home someday.
SIMON: Well, lets be able to examine this for a moment. Might this be a snowshed - if not a watershed - of some kind, in alerting millions of Americans to the fact that maybe they dont have to get into their cars and travel to a job?
SCHORR: I think, I think thats right. I think we are really approaching a stage in our evolution where having to pop off into your car every time you have to go somewhere may be changed now. I mean, it began to change when they were able to have teleconferences, people sitting at different places and looking at television cameras and having a meeting. Now, the next step seems to be that they can go home and do a lot of the work from home, which we know they can do, but I think now telework is becoming a concept.
SCHORR: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made a personal appearance in Nashville, where she gave the keynote speech at the Tea Party Convention last weekend. Whats your assessment of how she enhanced her political prospects by allying herself with this movement?
SCHORR: Well, nobody knows exactly where she is headed. She says it would be absurd to say that she is not going to be running for president, which is not the same as saying that she is running for president. That speech that she made at the Tea Party Convention went very well with the people at the convention, but then there was a Post-ABC poll that indicated that she wasnt getting a great deal of support around the country. It said something like 55 percent of Americans have an an unfavorable view of Mrs. Palin, and so I dont think that she has enhanced her position very much since she ran for vice president.
SIMON: Of course, lets turn to international news now, and in Iran this week, President Ahmadinejad said of Iran, quote: We are a nuclear state. Whats the import of this announcement?
SCHORR: Well, the import of this is actually that he wants to really divert attention from a lot of things that are happening in Iran. They had the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, and there were the demonstrations, and they cracked down on demonstrations. But clearly for Ahmadinejad, his tactic is to say, look, we are a great country - hoping to draw attention away from the fact that he simply is not very popular in his own country.
SIMON: Now, there are people ranging from - at least - the French foreign minister to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, and a number of people who really are knowledgeable about nuclear matters, who cast some doubts on this boast.
SCHORR: Well, where they cast doubt - what he said was that Iran could now enrich uranium up to 20 percent or more. There is a tendency on the part of the U.S. and France and others to doubt that he can do it, but whoever knows?
SIMON: In a few appearances this week, President Obama left no doubt that he certainly did not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and that it was U.S. policy to deter them from doing that. At the same time, the more Iran insists on declaring that they are on the verge of developing such a weapon, does that throw other considerations into place?
SCHORR: It looks still as though when the president talks, he talks about diplomatic sanctions, about economic sanctions, carefully avoids "the use of force" in this thing. They are approaching a point where if it really is true, that they have the makings of a nuclear weapon, that the United States is not going to able to sit by and say, lets have sanctions - especially when China will veto any sanctions in the Security Council.
SIMON: Well, let me introduce this. Next week, President Obama is scheduled to meet in person with the Dalai Lama. He had the opportunity to do so last year and did not, and that was certainly read as a desire on President Obamas part to not upset relations with the Chinese at that point, Iran being a major consideration. What kind of signal does a meeting with the Dalai Lama now send?
SCHORR: Well, the president was generally expected to see the Dalai Lama last October but then didnt. And then he got some flak from Americans about that, as to how about human rights - if you are not going to meet with him. And so they decided, yeah, maybe we better schedule a meeting, and now they've scheduled a meeting next week sometime. All right, thats the way they play it. The Chinese government announces that this is terrible. This is going to harm relations and so on, and I suspect that this, along with Taipei, is simply something which goes back and forth: You do it, we denounce you for it - and life goes on.
SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr, thanks so much.
SCHORR: My pleasure.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.