• With: Dan Henninger, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, James Freeman, Dorothy Rabinowitz

    GIGOT: Syria.

    RABINOWITZ: -- the Syrian -- 1,400 Syrians are murdered by poisoned gas and everything is going forward essentially take a strike and Kerry is almost saying this is going to happen tomorrow or the next day, President Obama comes in and says, well, we're going to turn this over to Congress. By the way, they're on vacation, they have time.

    (LAUGHTER)

    And Kerry chimes in and says, yes, we have time. You have to think, well, what could have happened if Obama had been president in 1941 and sending those destroyers when Britain was on its way out, about to be defeated? Well, you know, turn it over to Congress. Leadership, the idea of leadership which is you take a stand, go ahead of the people, never mind what they're feeling about isolationism, when there is a point in the crisis. We are now seeing the reason for American retreat.

    GIGOT: Another development in the world this past year was China's new aggressiveness in the East China Sea against Japan, South China Sea against some of the Southeast Asian nations as the new president, Xi Jinping, consolidates power and seems to be giving the People's Liberation Army what it wants to do to press its advantage in the Western Pacific and drive the U.S. out. On this point, I give the Obama administration better marks. They are actually beginning to push back.

    HENNINGER: But back to the Middle East, I mean, some of the post war alliances, such as with Saudi Arabia that existed for 40 or 50 years, are breaking down. Egypt is now doing deals with Russia. Any time you have an alliance system like that disintegrating, the world becomes more disordered. I think that is what is happening in the Middle East and that, as Dorothy suggested, the result of the Obama government not paying close enough attention to those relationships.

    GIGOT: All right, I get it a say here, too, of the biggest story and I'm going to pick the Edward Snowden leaks, stolen documents on the national security surveillance programs. Did enormous damage to our national security, created big diplomatic incidents with Germany and others because we were discovered to be listening in on Angela Merkel's phone calls, but also I think greater damage domestically, politically, because it's broken, it threatens to break the post-9/11 consensus across the parties to fight terrorism. I think this is very dangerous.

    O'GRADY: But, Paul, you know, you can hardly expect any different outcome when you have a president who has created an environment where nobody trusts what he is doing in Washington. And so if the American people are pushing back against, you know, NSA listening, it's because they really don't have any confidence in how they're using the data they collect.

    FREEMAN: I agree, given the ObamaCare consumer fraud, IRS, hard to trust the government, hard to trust this president.

    GIGOT: But --

    (CROSSTALK)

    FREEMAN: But it is important to remember that there are still people in the world trying to kill us, and we can't defend every soft target in the United States. We have to be on the offense on intelligence. This is our great advantage over our adversaries, is we do have technological abilities.

    GIGOT: But despite the leaks, there has not been a single abuse of civil liberties discovered in the surveillance program.

    O'GRADY: Well, there had not been a single use of the IRS the way it was used by Obama until there was. So I don't think that's a good defense. I think basically --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: Well, how about punishing the IRS offenses so we can have some confidence --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: -- that if people abuse the NSA, then they will be punished.

    O'GRADY: Precisely. But I think what you have to -- the way you explain the failure of this consensus is the fact that this president has abused his power.

    FREEMAN: It is a great irony of this era, Paul, that President Obama wanted to restore trust in government, has really brought it to a new low since, I don't know, Nixon perhaps.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RABINOWITZ: But --

    GIGOT: Go ahead, Dorothy.

    RABINOWITZ: I just don't understand how we can find any exculpation of Mr. Snowden at any point, including President Obama. That one just won't work.

    GIGOT: All right. We're going to give you a shot here at Snowden again.

    RABINOWITZ: Yes --

    (LAUGHTER)

    GIGOT: Still ahead, as we look back at 2013, our panel's pick for "Hits and Misses" of the year.

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the year.

    Let's start on a high note with the hits -- Dan?

    HENNINGER: Well, Paul, I'm going to give a hit to the good old American economy. I mean, what has been the watch word around the economy for the past three years? Uncertainty. And uncertainty has occurred because of ObamaCare, the fact we've only had about 2 percent growth for three years, Dodd/Frank was introduced. For all that, the economy has begun to push back towards 3 percent growth. The tech sector is thriving. Companies are well managed. I think the potential upside is tremendous. If, as Ronald Reagan used to say, the government will simply get out of the way.

    GIGOT: You think gridlock in Washington, such as it is, with not much happening, it may actually be a benefit?

    HENNINGER: No question. There's a school of thought, they should be gridlocked forever, the economy would boom.

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

    GIGOT: Go ahead, James.

    FREEMAN: I was going to say the good news I've learned from reading Mary's columns is it's actually very hard to kill an economy. You have some room for error. There's been a lot of mistakes. And in this season of hope, looks like the economy is managing to keep growing.

    GIGOT: All right, Dorothy, your hit.

    RABINOWITZ: Yes. This goes, oddly enough, to Mayor Bloomberg who is about to exit. And --