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The Week In News: Norway, The Debt Ceiling And Murdoch

GUY RAZ, host: With me now is The Atlantic's James Fallows. He joins us most Saturdays for a look behind the headlines. Jim, first of course to that tragedy in Norway, as we just heard from Anders Gaiever. The extreme anti-immigrant views of that alleged suspect, he says they're not wholly uncommon in Norway.

JAMES FALLOWS: I think that is so. And of course, we have to say what a terrible tragedy this is for a small country. And of course, there are many things we still don't know about this event. One thing we do know is a major theme in Western European and Scandinavian literature and journalism and movies over the last generation has been the strains of multi-cultural assimilation in parts of the world that are not used to that.

In the United States, this has been our story through most of the U.S.'s existence. For good and for bad, this has been part of what we've struggled with. It's a more modern struggle in many parts of Europe. And I think - I'm sure the Norwegians will be asking themselves as they recover of how they can address the inevitable cultural changes that all modern nations go through.

RAZ: Jim, I want to turn to another major story that we're following. Of course, we just heard earlier in the program the debt ceiling standoff between the White House and congressional Republicans.

Last night, of course, President Obama came out to the White House briefing room, a relatively empty briefing room. It was late on Friday night after that deal, a possible deal, between the president and Speaker Boehner fell apart. He was clearly frustrated. Let's just take a quick listen to something he said.


President BARACK OBAMA: I've been left at the altar now a couple of times. And I think that, you know, one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything?

RAZ: Jim, this is the first time I've heard the president explicitly go after Republicans. Normally, he says things like, some folks in Congress or some on the other side. But now, he's really saying what a lot of Democrats have wanted him to say, that this standoff over the debt ceiling is because of Republican intransigence.

FALLOWS: I agree. That was a significantly different tone than we had heard from the president in quite a while, where usually he's tried to cast himself as the person who's looking for the moderate, reasonable ground, listening to good ideas wherever they come from, but he was now addressing just the objectively true fact that the main impediment to an agreement is the group of House Republicans who were elected largely against the idea of compromise at all and with this, sort of, subcategory of having no revenue increases whatsoever.

And so, we have known a number of things about this drama. We've known about the tension within the Republican Party between the very strong no tax group and some of the more mainstream elements there. We haven't known exactly where the president would draw a line and say this far and no farther because that's not his normal MO. I think we may be seeing that in the next couple of days.

RAZ: Jim, I wonder how the breakdown in talks between the president and Speaker Boehner ultimately affects the way he does business with Republicans from this point going forward or, you know, whether any business can get done before the next election.

FALLOWS: In normal circumstances, to the extent we ever have those, the year leading up to a presidential election often is more politics than policy. But think for example of something that happened just this morning, where the Federal Aviation Administration had to furlough 4,000 of it's employees because the House and Senate couldn't agree on a continuing funding bill, not for any disagreement on policy about the FAA but some provisions on anti-union measures that were being put in by the House. It doesn't affect air safety, but it's a sign of just not being able to get basic operations continued.

RAZ: That's James Fallows. He's national correspondent for The Atlantic. He joins us on this program most Saturdays. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, thanks so much.

FALLOWS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.