• With: Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago

    HENNINGER: The fly in the ointment, Paul, is the unemployment rate and the growth rate. He's got four years. If unemployment stays above seven percent or gets worse again because of his policies -- because there's no growth incentives in the Obama agenda -- it's going to start eroding his popularity. It's going to start leaning on him as he tries to achieve the social revolution.

    GIGOT: Kim, the writer, Ron Brownstein, from The National Journal, a good political analyst, wrote this week that the president is likely to be more aggressive and he predicted it, because there's assumption in the White House that they now have essentially a real liberal majority in the country, that his coalition that showed up on election day is such that they don't need to worry anymore the way that Bill Clinton did about losing conservative voters, particularly white swing voters anymore, because they have a new coalition. And that's driving the president to say, look, we can satisfy these long-term pent-up liberal demands. Do you see that as true?

    STRASSEL: I would argue that that analysis is probably the best way of looking at this president and understanding what he's doing. Democratic presidents in the past -- you've looked at Bill Clinton -- they understood and they believed there was a real benefit to being somewhat in the middle, a centrist, working with Republicans and getting things done and getting that vast bipartisan approval quotient. But this president hasn't done that. You have to assume it's because he believes that he does have what it takes to continue -- have the Democrats continue in office with just a liberal majority. And I do think that brings up this huge question of how sincere he is over the next two years about some of the item agenda --

    GIGOT: Right.

    STRASSEL: -- agenda items he's put forward like immigration, whether or not he really wants to get that done, or whether or not this is about taking issues that show Republicans as disunited, make it look like they're unable to govern, and so you can route them out of the House in 2014 and have all of Washington unified under control in the last two years.

    GIGOT: And then it's party time in the last two years.

    RILEY: Well, one check on Obama's aggressive lurch to the left might be that there are Democrats and some Republican-leaning seats in the Senate, states that need to win their Senate seats in order for the Democrats to continue holding majority in the Senate. So we're talking about Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina and so forth. And if Obama wants to pursue an aggressive agenda in the second term, he can't afford to lose the Senate and not have either the Senate or the House.

    GIGOT: You know, Dan, I agree with you about the one essential here, and that is economic growth. The president can't come close to financing his ambitions --


    GIGOT: -- with two percent growth. And he can't come close to raising middle class incomes, which have been falling --


    GIGOT: -- since the economic recovery started, without getting growth to 3, 4 percent. That will seem -- that seems to me to be what will determine whether or not his second term is ultimately a success.

    HENNINGER: Well, tax receipts have been historically low in his first term. If he doesn't get it up, it's not going to happen, Paul.

    GIGOT: I agree with you, Dan.

    When we come back, a 26-year-old computer hacker commits suicide after a federal indictment that could have put him behind bars for decades. Supporters say that Aaron Swartz was the victim of an overzealous prosecutor. Was he? There's a debate ahead.


    GIGOT: The tech world was rocked last week by news of the suicide of 26-year-old Internet activist, Aaron Swartz. The computer programmer and free information advocate was facing up to 35 years in prison if convicted on federal charges of computer hacking and wire fraud over the illicit downloading of millions of academic articles from a subscription data base at MIT, charges his family and supporters say amount to prosecutorial overreach and contributed to Swartz's decision to take his own life. But the U.S. attorney in the case is pushing back against the claims, saying her office acted fairly and responsibly, and had offered Swartz a six-month prison sentence in exchange for his guilty plea to 13 felony counts, a deal Swartz rejected.

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Joe Rago, has been following the story and joins us now.

    Joe, who was Aaron Swartz and why was this such a big deal?

    JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: He's an important figure in the digital world in the sense that he's an open-source activist. He advocates an ideology that says that information wants to be free. So the data base that he went after, called JSTOR, charges universities and libraries a subscription fee as high as $50,000 a year. What he did was he downloaded all of these articles and was going to release them kind of into the Internet wilds, and it was about digital democracy and open access to information.

    GIGOT: Versus the copy right and intellectual property, which are protected under law. How big a crime, though, really is this?

    RAGO: Right, well, he was stopped in the act so he never actually released the articles. And while a lot of people find his -- his ideas deplorable in the sense that intellectual property is for its owners how to decide how to use for it, how much to charge --

    GIGOT: And he essentially disavowed intellectual property laws, at least, in the Internet age.

    RAGO: Right. As a concept, he opposed to it. On the other hand, he wasn't charged with violating copy right, with violating intellectual protection. He was charged under 1986 law, a very vague law about essentially wire fraud. Very overbroad statute. And which, you have to ask, was 35 years, decades of incarceration, in any way commensurate with what he did, which was essentially political civil disobedience.

    GIGOT: And your view would be this was not commensurate. This was a clear case of overreach.

    RAGO: Absolutely.

    GIGOT: Kim, how about that? What do you think about that? I mean, raising the charges from four felony counts to 13? Is that -- did that really fit the crime here?

    STRASSEL: Look, it wasn't just wire fraud. It was computer fraud. It was unauthorized access. It was all sorts of things. You have to look at the intent here, and this gets glossed over. This kid bought a computer to do this. MIT blocked the I.P. addresses he got, so he got new ones. They blocked that. Then they blocked his computer. He got a new one. When it wouldn't work on the wireless, he broke into a closet on the campus so he could plug into the network. He knew what he was doing. And if you want to have a debate or an argument about whether or not these crimes and the penalties that they contain are overbroad, that's fine, except for that the crimes that he committed, he did them, and this is what he was setting himself up for in deciding to take the actions that he did for an ideological reason.

    GIGOT: Don't prosecutors do this all the time, Joe, in the sense that they, you know what, we're going to make an example for somebody who is loud and aggressive on this, so everybody else gets the message not to do it?

    RAGO: Right. Absolutely. I mean, look -- actually, they don't do it all the time. If you look at something like Google books in the mid 2000's where Google tried to start digitizing all these books, what happened was publishers sued, the Authors Guild sued. They came to a resolution. That seems like a better than going after this kid, throwing the entire book at him.

    And prosecutorial overreach, prosecutorial abuse I think is a big problem in this country that doesn't get enough attention. If you look at the late Ted Stevens case --

    GIGOT: Former Alaskan senator.

    RAGO: Right -- prosecutorial abuse denied the people of Alaska free and fair election and literally shifted the balance of power of the U.S. government. This is a problem that needs more scrutiny.

    GIGOT: Kim, fair point?

    STRASSEL: Google wasn't breaking into data bases. Again, you have to look at intent here. This young man knew exactly what he was doing. He was attempting to go destroy a business model, OK? And he was doing it with great purpose.

    And we can't forget there were other victims of this. People keep talking about him. What about the families of people who worked at JSTOR, who would have been hurt if all of this had been damaged and he had been successful? So, got to look at that, too.

    GIGOT: All right, Kim.

    And our condolences to the Swartz family, whatever side of the issue you're on.

    We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.