Week in Review: Presidential Debates, Economic Woes This week, the GOP and Democratic presidential candidates faced off in their final debates before Super Tuesday. And in economic news, the Fed lowers interest rates again. NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr reviews the week's news with NPR's Scott Simon.
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Week in Review: Presidential Debates, Economic Woes

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Week in Review: Presidential Debates, Economic Woes

Week in Review: Presidential Debates, Economic Woes

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week: debates for the candidates in both political parties in advance of Super Tuesday; John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani end their campaigns; and President Bush says the economy is showing serious signs of weakening. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.


SIMON: And certainly let's begin with politics. There were debates in both parties this week on the approach to Super Tuesday, when 22 states - almost half the nation - are going to hold primaries or caucuses. Let's start with the Republicans. Your estimation of that joint appearance between Senator McCain, Governor Romney and Governor Huckabee.

SCHORR: Well, I think they're doing it just as they've done it all along until now. The differences between them or among them are not terribly great. When they get to an argument, it's whether or not one did or did not agree to a timetable for getting troops out of Iraq. And I think by this time, with regard to the Republican candidates, the public pretty well knows where they stand. The important thing, I think, is for McCain, who I think still needs to make some progress with the very, very conservative part of the Republican Party.

SIMON: And of course the Democratic side, there had been some palpable tension - sniping, at any rate - between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

SCHORR: Between Senator and ex-President Clinton.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Both Clintons and Senator Obama by himself. But of course it was just the two actual candidates on the stage this week. And what's your estimation of that appearance?

SCHORR: Well, they were very cordial. They finally decided there's nothing in it for either of them to be sniping at each other. The retired ex-President Clinton, who had made a little trouble. And they went ahead and they gave different - slightly different views, not radically different views - on subjects like health insurance. You know, there was nice moment when the questioner asked whether if one or the other won, would they - would he or she accept the other one as number two on the ticket. And he said, well, with regard to Hillary, she would be on anybody's short list.

SIMON: What are the candidates doing that you notice to try and fine-tune their operations leading up to Tuesday?

SCHORR: Well, as I suggested, with regard to McCain, he still, I think, has to convince some of the hold-out very conservative Republicans. But since they have nowhere else to go, the chances are that some of them if not all of them will go. On the Democratic side, I think that Obama still has some patching up to do with Latinos, some of whom have tensions with the blacks and so on. And he still has a little work to do there. But they're working at it.

SIMON: Attorney General Mukasey testified before the Judiciary Committee this week and pointedly declined to say that waterboarding is a form of torture.

SCHORR: Yeah, yeah.

SIMON: What do you read into that?

SCHORR: Well, he seemed to be acutely uncomfortable. Most of the waterboarding in Guantanamo and sending all these suspects to foreign countries to be grilled in one way or another was all more or less done before Mukasey came on board. But what struck me as I listened to all of this is that where have I seen this before? Well, the fact of the matter is that every once in a while in history a president faces a big foe that he doesn't know really know how to handle, and he gets to panic. I mean, back in World War I we had the Mitchell Palmer raids; we rounded up lots of Russians and East Europeans because they were afraid of the communists, none of whom was ever proved to do anything wrong. Then after Pearl Harbor we had even President Roosevelt giving his consent to rounding up 120,000 or so Japanese and Japanese-Americans as maybe spies for Japan.

And I think here also, where we got this big Islamic peril that no one quite knew where it was, what its geography was and so on - and I think that what happened is that President Bush simply ran scared. And he said round them up, interrogate them, do what you want with them. We want to know if there are going to be any more terrorist plots. And that's what you get in the way of overreaction.

SIMON: Grand jury has ordered James Risen of the New York Times to disclose the source of one chapter of his book "State of War." This is not in capacity with his reporting as the New York Times reporter, but that book.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: What is this case about?

SCHORR: This is a fascinating story. They're referring to a chapter of the book that deals with CIA and its operations in Iran. And if you look at that chapter, there's an amazing story there of how an officer at the CIA trying to communicate with CIA agents in Iran pressed the wrong button on a digital device and sent messages to the wrong people, with the result that an Iranian double agent got a hold of it. And the result of it was that the whole network of CIA spies in Iran was simply blown out of the water.

Now, if the grand jury says we now have to know where you got this, they are almost confirming this story. So by now if you haven't read it before, go read the chapter in Risen about the terrible stupidities of the CIA in Iran.

SIMON: Bob Ball, who I know you knew, served more than 20 years as commissioner of Social Security under three presidents, died on Wednesday.

SCHORR: Bob Ball was sort of the quintessential civil servant. He served under lots of presidents, including Nixon, but not for the second term. He was the one who really gave us Social Security, but he also gave us Medicare. He was a great guy.

SIMON: Super Bowl, Dan - Patriots against the Giants.

SCHORR: Oh, I...

SIMON: Come on back to football.

SCHORR: I think - I don't know which Super gets the most delegates? Am I talking about the wrong...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: Or am I talking about the wrong Super?

SIMON: All right. Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.


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