This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," September 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: Coming up next, the administration gives the back of its hand to two more American allies, shelving plans for a missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
And lessons from the Lehman collapse. One year later, what have we learned? And are we better prepared to stop the next financial meltdown?
Plus, President Obama risks a trade war with China to help his union friends. Are there more favors to come?
The "Journal Editorial Report" starts right now.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report," I'm Paul Gigot.
Well, it may be risky to be an American adversary, but more dangerous these days to be a friend. The latest allies to get slapped by the Obama administration, Poland and the Czech Republic. The administration announced this week that it is shelving plans to install a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, citing a change in the perceived threat posed by a nuclear Iran. Plans for the missile shield had angered Russia, a country President Obama promised to reset relations with.
Joining the panel this we go, Wall Street columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; and deputy editor and foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens.
So, Bret, the president pitched this as saying, look, we needed to change the policy because the intelligence changed. That is the threat from Iran became more urgent regarding short and medium-range missiles, not the long-range missiles that the defense system that the Bush administration put in place. So why shouldn't the policy change if the intelligence does?
BRET STEPHENS, DEPUTY EDITOR & FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: Well, because there's some disingenuousness to that claim.
GIGOT: You're not buying it?
STEPHENS: No, I'm not buying it for the following reason, Democrats, people close to Obama were putting it about, even before he took office, that he intended to make precisely this kind of deal, which was to shelf these anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, which had angered the Russians, in exchange for Russians cooperation on sanctioning the Iranians at the United Nations. So if this intel — this intel would have to be over a year old for that to make any kind of sense whatsoever. This is something they've wanted to do, and they're fitting the intel simply for their political purposes.
GIGOT: Boy, that's a pretty serious charge, Dan. Basically, he's saying that they're skewing the intel interpretation to fit the policy with the new policy?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, it's been a longstanding position of the Democratic Party, even since Reagan, you know, denounced what Ted Kennedy described as "star wars," to get rid of missile defense. They don't really believe in it. And I think what they've done here smacks, as much of the Obama foreign policy does, of being basically not Bush. In order words, they simply reverse something that George Bush did.
I think one of the biggest problems is it's very difficult to discern the strategic rational behind Obama's foreign policy. When you do something like this, all the other players in the world, Poland, the Czech Republic the Eastern Europes (ph), are trying to figure out why you are doing this. and there is no really underlying intellectual rational.
GIGOT: Wait a minute. Here is the rational as I understand it. They're whispering this. Never mind the missile-defense thing for a second. They're saying, look, Iran is a more urgent threat. We need to stop their nuclear weapons program. We can only do that if we're going to impose sanctions and everybody agrees so we have to get the Russians on board. If we need to pay them off with this, if we get Russian supports on sanctions and we stop Iran, that's a much bigger strategic victory.
HENNINGER: Why then would the Russian foreign minister, the day after it was announced say that sanctions against Iran, would be a mistake?
GIGOT: Well, because you can't sell — because the Russians maybe do this on the Q.T., a private deal, not a public deal. That's the thing.
MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: Well, the thing is, I think this is a calculation about a way to lower the tensions with those regimes around the world that the Bush administration, quote, "was able to get along with." We're going to show that we can get along with these guys and we're going to bring the world together against really what we consider to be the really bad actors. The problem with that is that, you know, it's sort of— first of all, it's alienating the Eastern Europeans.
GIGOT: Our friends. That's for sure. They're very upset.