This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," January 17, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the Paris terror attack as France's prime minister says they're at war with radical Islam. So why won't the Obama administration use that term? And does it matter?
Plus, Mitt Romney hopes the third time is the charm as he eyes another White House run. Will it be different this time around?
And ahead of his State of the Union address, the president previews his latest government give away. We'll look at his plan for free community college and other goodies on the agenda for Tuesday night.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
The Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen claimed the responsibility this week for the deadly terror attack on a Paris magazine by two French brothers, and warned of more tragedies and terror to come. That threat came a day after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told members of the National Assembly that France is, quote, "at war with terrorism, Jihadism and radical Islamism," a term that the Obama administration will not use.
White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, says because it isn't accurate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out act of terrorism and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam in their own deviant view of it. We haven't chosen to use that label because it doesn't seem to accurately describe what had happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining us the panel this week, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens; and editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz.
So I want to get to the Valls/Josh Earnest exchange, debate, if you will, Bret. But first, what have we learned in the past week about the Paris terror attack and this later attack on Belgium that is most important in your mind about the terror threat?
BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: Well, that the terror threat is intimately connected with events in the Middle East. The claims by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that they were responsible. Obviously, we have to investigate --
GIGOT: You find that credible?
STEPHENS: Of course, I find that credible. This is a long-standing pattern we have, a tremendous amount of evidence that the Kouachi brothers were -- and the collaborator who attacked the Jewish supermarket had spent time in Yemen. They had known Anwar al Awlaki, the later America-born extremist preacher, who has also radicalized people like the Ft. Hood shooter. So it's a reminder that's what happening in the Middle East with the consolidation of the so-called J.V. team of terror, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and also Islamic State is having immediate consequences for the security of Europeans.
GIGOT: I would add Syria, the Syrian civil war, because it looks like there's ties between the -- the Belgium plot that was uncovered, looks like it had its roots in people who had returned to Europe from Syria. We don't know that for sure but the --
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I think that point has to be emphasized. That video that Al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula put out are well produced. They are now recruiting individuals in Europe. They were European, speaking individuals to be trained in Syria and Iraq and go back and become sleeper cells in England and across Europe. I would guess probably eventually in the United States. That is part of the strategy.
GIGOT: It's changing the European security calculus, because the whole modern European vision has been cross European borders. You have been able to move freely. Now if you get the people who have passports, they can go anywhere, so they don't just threaten France, if they're French. They don't just threaten the U.K., if they're British. They threaten the whole continent.
STEPHENS: Well, the U.K. is different because the U.K. Is not part of --
(CROSSTALK) STEPHENS: -- of the free travel arrangement. I think a lot of Brits will be very relieved by that fact. But there's an agreement, which allows for this free travel. I think you'll hear political voices not just on the far right, but among conservatives, among a lot of Europeans saying this has to end. Unless there's a European-wide security agreement that makes sure that people who are traveling to the countries and certainly those who are trying to come back are blocked, are detained, investigated or followed.
GIGOT: Dorothy, let's talk about the debate over whether or not we should talk about this as somehow related to the -- the terror threat is somehow related to Islam. You heard the quote from Josh Earnest. You saw the quote from Prime Minister Valls. Who has the better argument?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Who has? Well, the prime minister of France has. You not only listen to him say that we are -- we are at war with radical Islam, we are at war with the jihadis, but he said we want to segregate jihadis in prison. Can you imagine anyone in the Obama administration even mentioning the word jihadis, saying, yes, this is the specific action we are going to take?
GIGOT: What about Earnest's point it isn't accurate? Because these people do not --
RABINOWITZ: Paul, there's one answer to this. It is a kind of social, clinical insanity that we are representing to the world. This is - -
GIGOT: This is so obviously false, is that what you mean?
RABINOWITZ: Yes. It's not nothing. We may say, yes it's important to fight it. It's very important that we are presenting the spectacle to the world.
RABINOWITZ: Let's just say this. You have Boko Haram --
GIGOT: In Africa.
RABINOWITZ: -- that has murdered hundreds and hundreds of children, women. What were they saying during this slaughter? We are killing you because you are not the right Muslims, because you are infidels. They do not conceal this list of things. You are not allowed to vote, according to the interpretations given by these groups to Islam. That is why the Taliban is slaughtering people.
GIGOT: But it doesn't matter to the war on terror, what does it matter to the threat of terror? Let's assume the White House said this, what does it matter?
STEPHENS: Because this is an ideological struggle as much as it is a military or an -- or an intelligence battle that we're fighting. Imagine if Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt's adviser in 1940, said we are not at war with the good German people or with nationalism, an ideology, which is perfectly acceptable in many ways. We are certainly not at wars with socialism. We are just at war with a small band of militants who have seized this country. Or during the Cold War we said we don't have a struggle with communism. Communism is an honorable ideology. Many communists eschew militarism and it's this group of people who happened to seize the Kremlin. That's the problem we are facing. We are not confronting the Islamists at the level at which they're challenging us.