This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," February 22, 2014. 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 pressing ahead with his climate change agenda. Will he soon be getting some help from a hedge fund billionaire?
Plus, Republicans say that taking back the Senate is within their reach but could internal divisions keep them from victory.
And a stunning defeat for the UAW as Tennessee autoworkers vote against union representation. Can big labor survive without the south?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
President Obama, making good on his State on the Union to act with or without Congress, ordered tough new fuel efficiency standards for American trucks this week, a move aides say is just part of a push to address climate change through the use of executive power. The announcement came days after Secretary of State John Kerry attacked global warning skeptics as shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues and called global climate change one of the top threats of our time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all challenges that know no borders. The reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and assistant editorial page editor, James freeman.
So, Dan, that language looked calculated. That didn't look like he was speaking off the cuff. Meant to say it. So what is Secretary Kerry and the administration trying to do here?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Let's put it this way, Paul, I don't know whether you can possibly be too cynical about what John Kerry was doing here. It's about politics. And I think the closer we get to the November elections, the more we're going to see the standard Democratic play book, which is to try to position Republicans as in an awful light as opposed to what is undeniably good, as the president did in his re-election campaign. And the idea here will be that climate change is -- and you're trying to move voters. And in this case, they're trying to move younger voters, people in their early 20s, the way Obama did in his reelection campaign.
Second thing, I would not doubt at all that John -- this suggests that John Kerry is actually thinking of running in 2016. Why would he say these things? To signal the funding base in the environmental movement, which has got a lot of money now, that he's on their side and he's in the game.
GIGOT: So, Kim, but some people were saying maybe this was a way to get out ahead of a decision to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and State Department, as you know, has to make a formal recommendation to the president. That secretary of state is John Kerry. Could this be a little jujitsu, talk tough on it rhetorically but then approve the Keystone?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Absolutely. Here's the problem, Paul. The president needs to shore up support among his environmentalists on his left flank. They're not happy with him for all manner of reasons. He never passed a Cap and Trade bill for climate through Congress. He's been talking up natural gas. His administration has approved export terminals for natural gas. And, indeed, he may support, in the end -- we don't know -- the Keystone Pipeline. So this is his way of saying, no, I'm really still do, I'm on board with your agenda. And he's talking about this fund he wants to promote, all this money to study climate change. He's out making case that climate change is a fact, blaming things like the drought in California on it. This is about making nice with that crew.
GIGOT: James, we had a piece this week in "The Journal" by a couple of climate scientists, John Christie and Richard McKnighter, saying that while -- no question that the earth has warmed some. In fact, the real mistake or the real bad science has been practiced by the people putting together these climate computer models upon which all the estimates of future warming are based, and they really overestimated the amount of warming we've had considerably.
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: That's right. I think maybe it's possible that Mr. Kerry may not have appeared so frightened in that speech if he had seen --
FREEMAN: -- all of these models predicting doom had not panned out. And what you see is a moderate warming suggesting, over the next century, a moderate warming, perhaps a little bit more than one degree. And the models showing catastrophe year after year after year have proven wrong. I would just add that if they're pressing this as a political issue, I think it's mainly about the money they can raise because --
GIGOT: So you guys are also cynical? Don't you think they --
FREEMAN: No, no, no. I'm not -- this is not an opinion.
GIGOT: I don't mean that as a -- you know, obviously, political calculation plays into it. Politicians, OK?
But do you think they actually might believe that?
FREEMAN: Are they true believers?
GIGOT: Do they believe that?
FREEMAN: It's in every Obama speech. So you do wonder. But if he believes it, he's acting at least in part on old information. He talked the other day about how we've got to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. He seems unaware that we've had a boom in this country and we're now the world's largest energy producer.
But just the point I was making on politics is Wall Street Journal recently surveyed voters. Dead last among a list of more than a dozen priorities was climate change. People don't want this.
GIGOT: Tom Steyer, the hedge fund billionaire out of San Francisco, is going to spend $50 million of his own money, he says, and raise another $50 million to distort this issue in the election and help the Democrats keep the Senate. What do you make of that?
HENNINGER: What I make of it, it reflects how the environmental movement has changed since it's beginning in the middle '70s or so, up until now. Back then, people were trying to integrate the environmental with humanity and the private sector. This is the environmental left. Their agenda is to impose their ideas on the environmental on the population. To do that, they have to win elections and gain control of legislatures. I think that's what's going on here.
GIGOT: Kim, do you have any objection to Tom Steyer spending this money? Because I'll tell you what, I think spend it all. Spend half a billion. Spend a billion.
STRASSEL: Spend more. Spend it all.
GIGOT: The more the merrier.
And I don't think you're going to see the liberals criticizing Tom Steyer like you do see them criticize the Koch brothers for their spending.
STRASSEL: No. This is about free speech and elections. I would just add one thing to what Dan said, which is that Tom Steyer, he does wants Democrats to keep the Senate but he also wants a particular type of Democrat to be in the Senate, one who is on board with his climate challenge religion. That's why it's interesting, one of the people he has suggested he might campaign against, put this money towards, is Mary Landrieu down in Louisiana, who's up for re-election.