This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," September 5, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: Coming up next, can President Obama make an autumn comeback. From health care to cap-and-trade, a look at the prospects for his domestic agenda and how he'll try to turn the sinking poll numbers around.
After the deadliest month of the war so far, calls from the left and the right to withdraw from Afghanistan. Can the president sell a new strategy there?
Plus, how Muslim immigration changed the face of Europe, and the lessons there for the United States.
"The Journal Editorial Report" starts right now.
Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
After a brutal August recess of angry town halls and slipping poll numbers, Democrats and President Obama return to Washington next week hoping to salvage what they can of a faltering agenda. The top priority, health care reform, a debate the president hopes to reframe when he addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. Can he make an autumn comeback?
Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; opinionjournal.com columnist, John Fund; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Well, Kim, are we going to see a big, different change of strategy for the autumn comeback or not?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: You know what, this White House is realizing it does not have the support it needs for some of its big, grand health care ambitions, but it also understands it would be deadly to not have some sort of health care legislation, having campaigned and worked on this for so long. So you're still going to see — he'll be giving this address to Congress, you're going to see a lot of town halls and a push out there publicly to gin up support. But what you're also seeing is the groundwork laid where they can maybe step this back a little bit. They're talking with maybe working with Republicans for a smaller bill, something that would more about subsidies or more subsidies for people, maybe rules saying that health insurers have to provide insurance to all Americans, a health care exchange where everyone could look and compare health care plans.
The question though, can they do this, and how do they deal with their left flank, which is demanding the whole mantra.
GIGOT: On that point, Dan, the Democratic left, 83 members of the House, sent a letter to the president this week, backed up by Speaker Pelosi, saying any bill without a robust public option will not pass the House. So caught between what Kim says, the demand of the larger country, and the demands of the left, which way does President Obama go?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, I think he ought to go right down the center. Look, he got elected to the presidency on the basis of tremendous support from Independent voters. So far, they have given those people nothing in this presidency, nothing at all. He's been running as a progressive president. That may be what he wants to do.
GIGOT: Progressive in the sense of liberal.
HENNINGER: Liberal, left, really, big government, growth in the state, for instance, the response to the economy, the nationalization of the auto industry. All of these things, I think, have startled people in the center and I'm not sure how the health bill gives those people anything other than to pull back on the public option.
GIGOT: On the health care bill, John, the White House really believes that when the public understands the details, support for it goes up and that there's the real problem here is confusion. So the president's going to go out there Wednesday and he's going to say, look, specifically, this is what we're going to do on insurance. Do you think that that is a winning strategy?
JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: I think the president's numbers will go up. and I think the president will have enough support then to pass a minimal bill. Insurance reform with massive subsidies to get people insured.
GIGOT: Insurance reform with massive subsidies. That's not a minimal bill. That's a big deal. We're talking several hundred billion dollars worth of subsidies, say 300 or 400 percent. That would be a huge victory.
FUND: That's right, and the left wing will be kicking and screaming and forced to vote for us. They won't like it, but they will.
GIGOT: Because they won't have the public option.