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Week in Review: Hopefuls, Iraq Debate, Brrrrr


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

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): It was here in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together, that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people, where I came to believe that through this decency we can build a more hopeful America.

SIMON: Senator Barack Obama of Illinois standing in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois to announce that in fact he's running for president.

NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr is out today so we're pleased to be joined by our friend, NPR senior correspondent Linda Wertheimer. Linda, thanks very much for being with us.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: And during this week of political news - no one we'd rather to talk to than you - Barack Obama is the story of the day, really. Remind us what he's bringing to the table in this field, large field of candidates at this point.

WERTHEIMER: He's talking about youth. He's talking about the new generation; let us be the generation, he says, that ends poverty, that shares the wealth of this country, that - and then he also said let us be the generation that ends this war in Iraq, within a year, he suggested.

He talked about hope. He talked about this being a hopeful campaign. I think that he brings little experience. He compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, who he also said was inexperienced. But he is very, very -

SIMON: And there's no one around to say I knew Abe Lincoln. I served with him, and Senator - yeah.

WERTHEIMER: He is - I think he's a brilliant guy and a very attractive candidate. His is a compelling story. It's a story that asks the question, is the country ready to think about a black man in the White House? And he himself called it a quest. I think it's a rather romantic thing. It's trying to imagine ourselves a country that would do something we have never done before.

SIMON: Romantic as it is, there are an awful lot of people with money who were deciding that he's the answer for the Democrats in the 2008 too.

WERTHEIMER: Like Hillary Clinton, he's not going to have any trouble raising money. I've talked to some of the Democratic fundraisers around the country and they say that, you know, you have a party, raise a million dollars, it's not that hard to do.

SIMON: I want to ask about the Republican side of the ledger, because this week, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani more or less officially entered the race for the Republican nomination in 2008, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is expected to enter the race on Tuesday. Now, because of various positions he has on gun control, abortion rights, gay rights, it's often said that Mayor Giuliani is just unelectable in a Republican convention. On the other hand, he certainly is either at the top or just below Senator McCain in public opinion surveys.

WERTHEIMER: Yes, but the public does not vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses. That's a very small, tiny, tight of very conservative core Republicans. And so it is those people to whom he would have appeal, and that is as why we have seen, for example, Senator John McCain tacking to the right as he tries attempts to burnish his credentials with that group.

I think, you know, Giuliani has a bit of a past. I think we can all tune in to YouTube and see some interesting Giuliani clips, and I just don't know - I don't know that's going to work?

SIMON: Of all the things to see on YouTube. Usually it's cats scampering on top of the toilet and not Mayor Giuliani. What about if the primary - if the primary - if the primaries that are held earlier are changed so that let's say New York, California, Illinois and Florida all have earlier primaries, does that give Mayor Giuliani a better chance?

WERTHEIMER: I'm not sure that it does. But of course we have no idea how that would work. No matter what changes have been made in the primary system, you know, Arizona moved up, South Carolina moved up in the last time, it didn't change the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire. And they are determined to be first if they have to be the Day of the Thanksgiving. So I think that - I think it remains to be seen how that would work.

He certainly would play better to a general crowd in New York. But you know, it's not a general crowd he's looking at.

SIMON: Also there is a woman president already. The new president apparent of Harvard University is Drew Gilpin Faust.

WERTHEIMER: A woman with three last names. But I guess - I think the lead - it's like - I mean Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of House. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first president of Harvard in - since 16 - what - 36?

SIMON: I don't know. I wasn't around to make the note in my diary.

WERTHEIMER: Be still my heart. I mean this is an amazing - this is amazing progress. She was head of what is left of Radcliffe College. Now she's head of everything.

SIMON: I want to ask you about the weather, Linda. And I don't want a weather report. But this is gripping much of the nation, this inclement or - I guess maybe hyper-clement weather. I began this week in Chicago, where it was 10 below zero, cold even for Chicago. I went to Idaho, which is supposed to be colder than Chicago; it was in a snowy area. And in fact it was 50 degrees.

WERTHEIMER: It is amazing. I mean we had the big report that said okay, global warming is happening. It's a scientifically supportable fact, says the big scientific report. And then it immediately got freezing cold in the northeastern part of the country. I am just stunned by the pictures of those little towns along the shores of Lake Superior in Upstate New York, where they are, I mean they've got 10 feet of snow; they've got - it's just unbelievable.

I think, you know, we're looking at some very wild weather, warm where it's not supposed to be, cold where it's not supposed to be. What is going on?

SIMON: Okay. Thanks very much. NPR's senior correspondent Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Linda Wertheimer
As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.