• With: Matt Kaminski, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," August 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the tide of war rises around the world, and the U.S. struggles to respond. Can America still influence events abroad?

    Plus, the House votes to sue President Obama over executive actions. But is the White House really hoping for an impeachment vote instead?

    And the battle over teacher tenure comes to New York State. We'll talk to one of the forces behind the latest reform challenge.

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

    Well, the tide of war continued to rise this week along with doubt about whether the U.S. can still influence events abroad. In the Middle East, Israel roundly rejected Secretary of State John Kerry's botched attempt at brokering a cease-fire last weekend, calling up 16,000 reserve troops and promising to finish its mission in Gaza. And as fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, growing evidence of Russia's direct involvement in the conflict led to the announcement of a new round of sanctions. A reminder, President Obama said Tuesday, that the United States means what it says when it comes to standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world.

    "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; and editorial board member, Matt Kaminski, join me with more.

    Matt, the president and White House hailed the sanctions, the E.U.'s tougher sanctions this week against Russia, saying the world is united against Russia, but Putin isn't backing down. Why not?

    MATT KAMINSKI, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Because Putin has too much on the line already. I think this actually was a breakthrough in sanctions. Unfortunately, it came five months into this crisis.

    Another important thing is that the U.S. is still playing we're going to lead from behind. We want the E.U. to act first, and we're always going to act second. I think Putin has not seen the full resolution of the U.S. either with the full extent of the sanctions, but nor with the commitment to help he Ukrainians defend themselves by arming them or giving them --


    GIGOT: OK, but let's talk about Putin, first. You said he's got too much at stake. What is it at stake for him -- because it's not his country. It's Ukraine. He's helping these separatists. Why can't he just back down from that?

    KAMINSKI: I think Putin believes that his own survival depends on him not losing in Ukraine.

    GIGOT: How so?

    KAMINSKI: That if he were to give up, to cut loose these Russian-backed rebels, that he has spent months now saying that, in Ukraine, you have a fascist regime which is going after ethnic Russians, we are defending our interests, we are recreating the Great Russia that you all once knew. For him to step back from that, he makes himself vulnerable at home to a backlash. There's very little to go on in Russia. There's no growth. There's no more modernization. So Putin is not the Great Russian tsar, then what is he?

    GIGOT: And nationalism is his real source of legitimacy. It has been economic growth, particularly oil-based growth. But as that falls, if it does, that nationalism is the only legitimacy he has.

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, that's right, Paul. But I think he also understands that the sanctions -- sure, we're together this week, but how long will we be together? When the United States sanctioned Iran, it was really hard to hold the Western countries together to comply with those sanctions. And so far, you do not see the United States organizing the Western powers to maintain -- there's going to be pain. There's going to be costs. And --


    GIGOT: Economic costs.

    HENNINGER: Economic costs. And the United States has given no evidence that it is willing to lead in that sense and say we will take some of these costs as well. For instance, that French warship, the Minstrel-Class warship that France insists on selling to the Russians, the United States should be finding a way to absorb those costs for France, but they're doing nothing like that. So sanctions are easily broken. And I think Putin understands that if he waits them out, it will start to erode around the edges.

    GIGOT: Let's turn to Gaza, Matt. John Kerry's cease-fire attempt really blew up this week.


    GIGOT: Yeah. His struggled to triumph. Why does the U.S. Have too little leverage. it seems, even over Israel?

    KAMINSKI: Because we've actually have been so negligent for the last five years in the Middle East. The Israeli's have very little to -- don't rely on us. They don't see us as a reliable ally.

    GIGOT: Why is it? You're saying they don't trust us?

    KAMINSKI: They don't trust this administration. Because we've been trying to play equal, sort of honors brokers, saying that Hamas has the same rights as Israel does. We have not been backing our allies. And not just Israel. This holds true for the Arab allies that actually don't want Hamas to --


    GIGOT: But here's what the White House would say. They would say, you're crazy, we're as solid behind this Israel as in administration has ever been. We've backed them at every crucial interval. We're continuing to say they have the right to defend themselves. Where is this lack of support and revolve?

    KAMINSKI: It comes in -- last weekend, when John Kerry went to the region and proposed a cease-fire plan that was widely rejected by Israel as basically handing Hamas a victory. They came back later in the week with a 72-hour plan that fell apart within hours because that was not a plan that Israel needs to change the status quo in Gaza. We are trying to maintain the status quo in Gaza. And I think that's where the fundamental conflict is.


    GIGOT: Go ahead, Dan.

    HENNINGER: Well, the United States, the goal is, and whether it's in Ukraine or here or in the Middle East, is to stop the bloodshed. That's what the president himself keeps saying. This government, the White House and State Department, have stopped thinking strategically. Of course, you want to stop bloodshed, but you want to arrange things in the region, whether in Eastern Europe or in the Middle East, so that you can sustain a peace going forward. Those countries all have self-interests and they're going to act on those self interests, which is what Hamas and Israel are doing. But the United States is proposing nothing that would suggest that they understand there's a larger -- a group of forces taking place in this region.

    GIGOT: And in this context briefly, Dan, that would mean an Israeli military victory, achieving its strategic goals, destroying the tunnels, destroying the rockets, and reducing Hamas as a military force so that it emerges weaker, not stronger.

    HENNINGER: Right. Especially because, strangely enough, it now appears that's what the other Arab nations in the region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, would like to achieve.

    GIGOT: All right. Thanks, Dan.

    When we come back, the House votes to sue President Obama over executive action abuses. But would the White House and fellow Democrats rather see an impeachment vote instead?