This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," a new pope from the new world. What the election of Francis means for the Catholic Church's influence in the United States and around the world.
Plus, the Obama charm offensive continues. With his poll numbers slipping, the president heads to Capitol Hill. But is he really looking for common ground? And how should Republicans respond?
And Hollywood activists embrace them, and President Obama wants to put a million of them on America's roads, but are electric cars all that green?
Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
Well, some surprising firsts this week for the 2000-year-old Catholic Church as the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Maria Bergoglio as their 266th leader. Pope Francis, as he is now know, is the first Jesuit, the first pope ever from Latin America, and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. The 76 year old pontiff was chosen on just the fifth ballot to replace Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope in 600 years to resign.
So what does the choice mean for the Catholic Church, its influence around the world and the 70 million faithful right here in the United States?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; and Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan.
So, Peggy, we've had a few days for the choice to sink in. We've learned more about this new pope. What do you make of the choice?
PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST: I continue to marvel at what a surprise it was because of his age, because he wasn't on anybody's list. That said, I think the key fact of him is that he took the name Francis. He's the first Francis ever, took it from St. Francis of Assisi, one of whose great stories involved being told by Christ, "Clean up my church which is in ruins." This suggests to me that this very humble seeming man, even a shy seeming man, a guy with little show biz. It suggests to me, he knows the trouble the church is in, the scandals, the Vati-Leaks, all of this stuff. And he will, at age 76, move urgently, my sense is, and try to clean up the stables.
GIGOT: Dan, there were some stories saying he won because another reformer, Archbishop Scola, was overlooked. Do you think that he's going to come in with the reform mindset that Peggy talked about?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I think that reform mindset is inevitable. It's obviously the biggest problem the church had in the last 10 or so years so he will have to address that.
I think it goes beyond that, Paul. I think there's much to be said about this pope that resembles Pope John Paul, II, Carol Wotilla, who came from Poland. This pope comes from Argentina. Both men could be called politically astute and morally astute. And given the fact that the pope is responsible not merely for the abuses in Europe and the United States, but Africa, China, the Middle East, where religious freedom is not just an idea, it's a public policy. And from the days of the catacombs in the earliest years of the church, it has been the pope's responsibility to protect his people. And I think this pope background suggests he'll be good at doing that, dealing with these other foreign countries.
GIGOT: It's interesting, the Argentina background. He's had an uneasy relationship, Mary, with the Argentine government, the center left government of the Kirchners there. What has that taught him?
MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Paul, there's an old joke about the Argentines that says they're Italians who speak Spanish and think they're British.
I think one of the things this pope brings is sort of a bridge between Argentina, being the most European of Latin American countries, and Latin America itself, and the developing world, as Dan says. And I think what he -- what he's learned there is that the threats to the church are not just evangelical -- they're inroads that the evangelicals have made in Latin America, but also secularism, which is more of a problem in Argentina and in Europe than it is in other parts of Latin America. And I think what he -- the reason he ran into trouble with the Kirchners, the current president and the former president, is because he was challenging them on issues of corruption and basically materialism. And these are the key points that made him an enemy of the government. He never says specifically to the government, you know, you are -- you should do this, that or the other thing.
O'GRADY: He talks about values and he talks about basically materialism.
GIGOT: You made an interesting point in your column this week, Peggy, the distinction between -- sometimes the tension that exists between the so-called social-justice Catholics and the more traditional doctrinal Catholics. And you think this pope could bridge that difference. What do you mean?
NOONAN: I just have a feeling, as I first watched him speak, I thought clearly -- I'd been reading about him a little -- this is a man, as they say, who has a heart for the poor. Now, all Christians are called to have a heart for the poor, but he has demonstrated it. It's characterlogical with him. He has concern for the vulnerable. At the same time, he is, in my view, marvelously strongly pro the forces of life, pro the culture of life.
In the Catholic Church, there's been a little division between the social justice, worry about the poor, and the more traditional worry about all human life. I hope I didn't put that unfairly or tangentially. And this man seems to himself fuse those two tendencies. And maybe just by being, he could help the distance between the two groups be healed a little bit.
GIGOT: Because those aren't necessarily contradictory. They're both tendencies --
GIGOT: -- central tendencies within Catholic doctrine.
NOONAN: Yes. It gets messed up in regards to politics.
Could I say something with regard to what Mary said? It's so interesting to me, but I think that George Weigel made the point that this new Pope Francis also comes from a nation in which the church has real and profound tensions with the government. And that gives him an experience that applies to the Catholic Church in China, the Catholic Church in Cuba, the Catholic Church in all nations that are not fully free.
O'GRADY: And it clashes with the government are not -- I mean, they're about corruption, but they're also about the life issues that you're talking about. And in this government, first the city of Buenos Aires approved gay marriage and then the government it on a national basis and he had a lot of struggles with them on that point.
GIGOT: That's it for our own college of cardinals here.
When we come back, President Obama's charm offensive continues as he meets with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Is his outreach sincere or an attempt to prop up sagging poll numbers? And how should Republicans respond?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're doing our very best to reach out to the other side. And I think there's a genuine desire on the part of Republicans and Democrats to try to get something done. I think there's a weariness among the membership in the Senate and the House about this constant grind, day in, day out, of argument and crises instead of productivity and movement forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: President Obama, sounding a bipartisan tone as he spoke to supporters Wednesday night in Washington. With the sequester cut now two weeks old and his numbers dipping, the president continued this week with what many are calling his charm offensive, heading to Capitol Hill to meet with members of the House and Senate from both parties. So is outreach sincere? And how should Republicans respond.
We're back with Dan Henninger and Peggy Noonan.
So, Dan, two weeks ago, the president was attacking Republicans for these supposedly horrible spending cuts, and now he's reaching out to them. What do you make of the change in strategy?
HENNINGER: Well, what I make of the change in strategy is that the Republicans called his bluff and allowed the sequester happen, and the sky didn't fall. The apocalypse he predicted didn't happen.
A couple of things did happen. His approval rating dropped about 6 points in one week. It's dropped 12 points among women. And a 15 point lead over the handling of the economy is now a dead heat with the Republicans.
If you're -- he doesn't have to run for reelection again, but a lot of Democrats do. And if you're a Democrat who needs to get reelected, you're getting very nervous. And I think the Democratic elites in Washington have conveyed to the president this isn't working, you've got to do business with these people.
GIGOT: Do you think it's cosmetic, rhetorical, or do you think it's actually sincere?
NOONAN: Well, if it were deeply sincere, it would suggest a sea change with the president. And I don't think that anyone is running around Washington saying, my god, do you believe how he's changed?
It's called a charge offensive. That's a weird name for this. He's not being especially charming. And his own White House seems to find it somewhat offensive that they have to deploy him --
-- out to talk to crazy Republicans.
GIGOT: There was a background quote this week --
NOONAN: There was.
GIGOT: -- on one story, saying -- you know --
GIGOT: -- this is not going to -- to the A.P. reporter, this doesn't mean anything. It's not going anywhere. We're almost embarrassed to --
NOONAN: Yes. We're just doing it for you and the media.
NOONAN: But this is the thing. I mean, the president's funny. It is in his interest in 15 different ways to get some sort of deal with the Republicans. The Republicans find him interesting. They talk with him. They would love to negotiate with him, but they need him involved so that he can bring his Democrats in. And Democrats and Republicans together so the imprimatur of the presidency can move forward. There's no reason to believe the president is going to do that. He seems just to high-profile dates, so everybody can say, isn't that nice.
GIGOT: Dan, I've talked to probably about a half a dozen senior Republicans who met with the president. It's interesting. They said, basically, the same thing, he told us what he thinks of us and we told him what we think of him. And it was frank discussions, as they say in the diplomatic world, not terribly friendly, and not a lot of ideological bridging going on. Mostly, a statement of principles. All right, if you want a deal let's stop attacking each other. At least that's sort of a minimum. I didn't get a sense that there's a lot of progress on the policy.
HENNINGER: Well, look, Paul, as we've said on this program, Barack Obama has taken federal spending up to near 25 percent of GDP. Paul Ryan, in his budget, proposed putting it down to 19.5 percent over 10 years. The gap between what Barack Obama is willing to do and what the Republicans want to do is enormous. These are huge numbers. And the idea that Obama is going to do a compromise with them in the space in between, I think, is very unlikely, Paul.
GIGOT: The other thing the president said this week that was interesting to Republicans is, you need me, you need me to be able to sell and reform of Medicare and Medicaid and these giant programs to Democrats. They'll never go along with it otherwise. Is he right about that?
NOONAN: Look, if he's right or he's wrong, he shouldn't say it. One shouldn't say those taunting things to a group one --
-- is trying to do negotiation with.
Could I add, by the way, to Dan's point? One of the problems I think that the president has had in the polls is that he seems very often now not to be telling the truth. And in ways that are apparent to the American people. Terrible things will happen with the sequester, nothing bad happens. Well, we are going to cancel White House tours.
Oh, by the way, I didn't cancel the White House tours, somebody else did. Somebody else says, no, actually it was them.
There's a sense of card playing that seems old-fashioned and tacky, too. I don't think it's playing well.
GIGOT: How should Republicans respond, Dan, and briefly?
HENNINGER: I think they should respond by sticking to what they have done. They will only negotiate in public with this president. They emphasize transparency. And I do think of that 19.5 percent number as a goal for federal spending. Within that context, you can discuss the details. I think if they say the same thing over and over as they go forward with the president, they will be on stronger ground.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you both.
Still ahead, Hollywood loves them, environmental activists tout them, and President Obama wants to help put a million of them on the road by 2015. But as it turns out, those so-called green electric cars have a dirty little secret. Find out what it is, next.
GIGOT: Well, it's the vehicle of choice for Hollywood activists like Leo DiCaprio, and the president would like to see a million of them on America's roads by 2015, but my guest this week says that those so-called green electric cars have a dirty secret.
Bjorn Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Washington and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming."
So welcome back to the program.
BJORN LOMBORG, DIRECTOR, COPENHAGEN CONSENSUS CENTER & AUTHOR: Thanks, Paul.
GIGOT: So when you say that green cars may not be all that green, electric cars, what do you mean?
LOMBORG: Fundamentally, everybody thinks that electric car has zero emissions. That's what we're sold. That's true on the road but there's two important parts. First, when you produce the car, it actually uses a lot of electricity and a lot of energy, especially to produce the battery. So once it's rolled off the factory floor, it's like you've already driven it 80,000 miles. So, you've already put out a lot of CO2 simply by buying the car.
GIGOT: And the production -- is there more green, more carbon emissions produced --
GIGOT: -- for the battery than produced for a regular car?
LOMBORG: Yes. It produces more than twice the amount of CO2, producing the electric cars than a regular gas car. So, it's clearly behind already when it rolls out the factory.
But also, while you're driving, you still recharge it with electricity.
LOMBORG: And there, of course, put out less CO2 than a gasoline car, but you have a lot to catch up. Unless you drive it for a very long while, at least, 60,000, 70,000 miles, you don't get ahead because they have very, very short ranges. And that's not a possible outcome.
GIGOT: You have to plug into the electric grid --
GIGOT: -- essentially and the electric power is produced by, right now, substantially things like coal and natural gas, which are carbon- emitting fuels.
But what if we move to an electric power grid that was fundamentally powered by wind and solar -- that's what a lot of Californians are trying to get to -- and then wouldn't electric cars pay off?
LOMBORG: Then electric cars would be much better. They would pay themselves back much quicker. So, yes, the electric car is a good idea in the long run. But --
GIGOT: Define the long run.
LOMBORG: We don't know. There's two things you need to do. One, you need to get to an electricity grid that's much greener than it is today. That's not going to happen in the next couple of decades.
GIGOT: Next couple of decades?
LOMBORG: Well, certainly, if you look at the International Energy Agency, they estimate that right, the world gets about 0.8 percent of its energy from wind and 0.1 from solar.
LOMBORG: But if you look to 2035, when we think, oh, we're all going be to be green, no, the answer is 2.4 percent wind and 0.6 percent solar.
So we're still going to be majorly fossil fuel based even in 22 years. S the reality is, this is, if anything, a tiny addition to tackling global warming.
GIGOT: So batteries also have to be replaced much as they are in your cell phones, for example. What's the environmental impact of getting rid - - what would it be of all those electric batteries? They have to go somewhere.
LOMBORG: They've actually looked at that and the energy impact is not very big of the disposal of the batteries. Obviously, there are some concerns that you need to dispose of them correctly. But the real problem is, if you drive very, very far in your electric car, you have to change your battery.
LOMBORG: And then, of course, you put on a whole new load of CO2 emissions.
GIGOT: Every time you reload the battery.
LOMBORG: Yes. Or if you drive around in the huge cars that have lots, lots of batteries and, therefore, a very extended range, then you'll never get ahead with the CO2 emissions. So the reality is green cars are not very green.
Even if you take them at the optimum value and if you make the nicest assumptions for them, they will probably end up emitting about 8.7 tons less of CO2 over the lifetime. If you take the damage estimate of that, that means that you avoid about $44 of carbon damage in their lifetime.
GIGOT: And that's minuscule on a grand scale of things.
LOMBORG: Well, we're paying them $7,500 in subsidies and people are paying a lot more beyond that for the privilege of running the cars.
GIGOT: Each consumer gets a tax credit that's -- $7500, if I go out and buy an electric car. The government's actually paying me something to buy this, also subsidizing the producers of those cars with subsidies. Is that a good deal for taxpayers?
LOMBORG: No. Fundamentally, you're paying $7500 or more for a benefit that's environmentally worth about $44.
Not a good deal.
GIGOT: That's not a good deal. What about if you really care about climate change and want to have an impact, what should you drive? Does it matter?
LOMBORG: You should definitely drive a smaller car. You should definitely be focused on, do I really need -- should I take public transport? There's a lot of ways that you can do this. But what you need to recognize is this is not about you or me or anyone else in particular what we're trying it do. It's about how we organize our societies and, especially, how do we get the Chinese to drive in the next 20, 40 years? And that's about technology.
So I'm all for an electric car in the long run, but it's an electric car that's going to be much cheaper, much more efficient. We need much better batteries. So by all means, let's focus on research on batteries. But, please, let's not spend lots of money doing very well.
GIGOT: Bjorn Lomborg, thanks very much for being here.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.
Mary, first to you.
O'GRADY: Paul, this was Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. And I want to give a hit to basketball point guard, Chris Wright, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks, making him the first person with the disease to play in the NBA. When he was diagnosed, playing pro ball in Turkey, in 2011, most people thought his career was over. But he persevered and now has got this chance in the NBA. I think his achievement this week is a testament to his own strength, but also modern medicine.
GIGOT: Thanks, Mary.
NOONAN: I had a miss. It's a very small thing, but it's a trend. We should nip it in the bud. Rand Paul wore jeans at CPAC the other day. A shirt jacket, tie and jeans, looking a little like a farmer, according to me.
Earlier, Marco Rubio took to comparing the comparative work of Tupack and Biggie Small, to, by now, classic rappers. I think we are going for the youth vote in the GOP. I say, calm down. Nothing is uncooler than trying to be cool.
Forget demographics. Go to Brooklyn where the immigrants of America are. Cast it broad.
GIGOT: Thanks, Peggy.
HENNINGER: I'm going to give a quick hit to the politicians in Afghanistan who hit back at President Karzai's accusation that the American troops were colluding with the Taliban. They said that was an insult to their international friends. That's a big hit to the Afghan politicians.
GIGOT: All right, thanks very much.
That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. We hope to see you right here next week.
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