This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," May 24, 2008.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Up next on the "Journal Editorial Report," Hillary may still be in the race but Barack Obama is turning his fire on John McCain and linking the Republican nominee to President Bush. Will the strategy work?
Plus, oil hits a record high as industry execs gets grilled on Capitol Hill. But will congressional hearings ease your pain at the pump?
And the continuing saga of Harvard and the ROTC. Will that school's president use an upcoming ceremony to score political points?
Find out, after these headlines.
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
Hillary Clinton may still be in the race but Barack Obama has his sights set on the general election and John McCain, and he is doing his best to link the Republican nominee to an unpopular president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other. That's a contest that John McCain won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist and former Bush speech writer, Bill McGurn; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Kim, let me go to you first. With the presidential approval rating at 30, 32 percent it seems like a good strategy to try to link an unpopular president to your opponent. What does John McCain have to do to counter that?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: You know, one of the reasons John McCain continues to do well in national polls is because he already has a reputation as being a bit of a maverick, not being tied to the party. He has been taking a smart policy so far, which is to point out positions where he has always had differences with the party, on earmarks, on pork barrel spending, the conduct of the Iraq war. And so far, this has suitably distanced himself.
Something he needs to be careful of is not just trying to distance himself from President Bush for distance sake to the point where he is actually alienating some core Republicans.
GIGOT: He is. Kim makes an interesting point and he is running, Bill, about 16 points ahead of Republicans nationally in terms of how the House and Senate Republicans are doing. Clearly, doing much better than President Bush. Does he have to do more than Kim says?
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST & FORMER BUSH SPEECH WRITER: I think he can't let Obama define it as a Bush third term. However, He can let the Democrats define the issue. I think he has to run against Congress. Congress has an approval rating half the president's.
Whatever it is, John McCain cannot look afraid to be with President Bush. He is a great card to play. He was partly responsible for the surge and the turn around in Iraq, and I think he should play those things. He cannot let the Democrats define it and he cannot look on the defensive.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I think, yes, that's right. I think John McCain should probably blow the whistle on this anti-Bush mania that's out there and describe what the successes were and what the failures were. But the country is never well served when it works itself into an anti-presidential mania.
GIGOT: But, Dan, that would look defensive. It would look like he is trying to defend the Bush presidency instead of looking forward to his own. The voters know what they think about George Bush. They want to know what the next four years will be like.