• With: Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger; James Freeman, Matt Kaminski, Bret Stephens

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 22, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," President Obama's approval rating takes a hit, especially among Millennials and Independents. Are recent scandals finally taking their toll?

    Plus, sharp divisions over Syria lead to an icy encounter at the G-8. Is U.S. involvement in the conflict too little too late? And does Russia have the upper hand?

    And Governor Rick Perry takes aim at New York and Connecticut in his bid to lure jobs to Texas. Could your state be his next target?

    Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report," I'm Paul Gigot.

    Some troubling poll numbers for President Obama this week indicate that recent controversies including NSA surveillance and IRS targeting may finally be taking their toll. The president's overall job approval rating dropped 8 points in one month according to a CNN/ORC poll released this week, with 45 percent approving of the job he's doing and 54 percent disapproving. That brings his real-clear politics average well under 50 percent. But perhaps most worrisome for the White House is 17-point drop over the past month among people under 30.

    Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    So, Kim, how do you read this poll drop? Is it the scandals? And which one in particular?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Well, I think what you're seeing is different scandals are resonating with different groups. Looking at the Independents that CNN poll, you know, going back a month ago, 36 percent of Independents thought that this was somehow -- tied the IRS scandal to the White House. That number is more than 51 percent. Then you go over to the Millennials, that 17-point drop you mentioned, that seems to be more related to the NSA. These are Facebook, Twitter crowd people and -- and they are concerned the claim of Big Brother. That is -- when you put all these together, and feed it in, it's why you see an overall erosion of the president's jobs approval rating.

    GIGOT: Interesting.

    To what extent, Dan, does this affect presidential leadership and the perception of presidential leadership and credibility? Is that -- are those central issues here?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Oh, absolutely, Paul. I think what it affects is presidential stature and authority that the -- this is the president that he's supposed to be able to lead the country, but for that, he has to have support and authority. And I think that this -- these things are eroding that authority, not merely in the country but in Washington, among the insiders on Capitol Hill. This is a cumulative effect. First, you had Benghazi. Then you had --

    GIGOT: But the Democrats say, oh, that's just Republican parsing.

    HENNINGER: That's that they say publicly, Paul. We had stories about the Democrats doing the immigration bill, asking the president not to get involved because they are doing just fine.


    HENNINGER: That's because when he got involved in the deficit negotiations, they went south.

    The problem is that this president simply does not have significant political skills at that level. He does not like to do that sort of thing. So he pulls himself away from the hurly burley of politics. And in this case, like the NSA scandal where he has refused to come forth and defend a defensible program.

    GIGOT: For a full week he didn't.

    HENNINGER: For a full week.

    GIGOT: He gave a little press conference and then he just for eight days radio silence. Nothing.

    HENNINGER: Nothing.


    HENNINGER: All of that is eroding his support.

    GIGOT: Finally -- finally, he went on "Charlie Rose" and said we created the support. No, we didn't.


    GIGOT: Carter created the FISA court in 1978. And in 2008, it was applied to overseas wiretaps. He inherited that program.

    James, where is this IRS scandal now going? A lot of Democrats saying, you know what, it is over. We've talked to a couple of people in Cincinnati in our investigation. They say that, you know, no big deal. Is that true?

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: It is not over. I think that CNN poll tells you that the American people don't want this to be over. Really striking findings, not just in terms of how much distrust there is about the administration's story, but a full 25 percent of self- described liberals in that poll think that the IRS targeting was directed by senior officials and the White House. We are going to find out what to any extent there was political, White House or -- or political appointees involved in this.

    GIGOT: Are we really going to find that out?

    FREEMAN: Well, this is the question. And -- the question of leadership and President Obama -- whether or not you think that the political leadership was involved, what has been absolutely true is that his leadership on this issue has been terrible. The moment it came out, he claimed that the IRS was an independent agency. It is not. They work for him. This was a way to try to distance himself --


    GIGOT: But he's saying -- he said let's investigate it. He's got Eric Holder investigating. He's got the FBI investigating.

    FREEMAN: Well, hold on. Mr. Holder, last month, announced an investigation. A month later, the head of the FBI goes to the House and says I don't know who is running that, I don't know how many people are working on it. This week he, before the Senate and had a little more answers, then, OK, he has some agents on it. But what we are not seeing is any evidence that there is actually an investigation happening in terms of witnesses being interviewed. You don't see Tea Party people being interviewed by the FBI agents. I think if the president wants to work on these polls, he has to show leadership and say I recognize this is a big problem and if the government is targeting my political enemies, I want to find out what happened.

    GIGOT: Kim, how is the investigation on Capitol Hill into the IRS going behind the scenes? Is it percolating along? Is it making progress?

    STRASSEL: It is. I think what the Republicans learned, there's prior investigations. You can call in the big-name officials like they did with Lois Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt organization, and she ended up taking the Fifth. That's good theater but it does not get you much. What they've learned is you've got to go and start at the bottom and you've got to interview the people. What we have seen from some of the transcripts that have been released or portions of the transcripts released is that those people on the ground are beginning to give some real information, name some names, explain how this process actually worked, and who was making the decisions. Now, that's not been released in full, but that's what the House Republicans are working on behind the scenes. That's why you have seen a bit of a lull is because this is a heavy duty investigation.

    GIGOT: OK.


    FREEMAN: We are still trying to figure out how exactly it all started. But one thing that's clear is that Washington sat on a lot of the applications and, to this day, is still sitting on them.

    GIGOT: All right.