JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

Why are voters giving Weiner, Spitzer a second chance?

Disgraced politicians seek redemption in New York

 

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," July 13, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Obama administration declines to enforce a key part of its health care law and the GOP sees a new opening to delay the entire bill. Will they succeed?

Plus, an oil train derailment wipes out a Canadian town. Does the tragedy bolster the case for the Keystone Pipeline?

And former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer takes a page from the Anthony Weiner playbook and jumps back into politics. Voters seem inclined to give them both a second chance, but why?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The people who suggest that there's anything unusual about the delaying of the deadline and the implementation of a complex and comprehensive law are, you know, deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or just willfully ignorant about past precedent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

That was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Wednesday defending the Obama administration's decision not to enforce a key part of the Affordable Care Act, some say in defiance of the law. The administration claims it has the legal authority to delay the employer mandate until 2014 and insist that the rest of ObamaCare is still on track. But GOP leaders called on President Obama this week to extend the same break to American families and delay the individual mandate as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Is it fair for the president to give American businesses an exemption from the health laws mandates without giving the same break to individuals and families across the country? Hell, no, it isn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Bret Stephens; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

So, Joe, another charming aside from Jay Carney --

(CROSSTALK)

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Right, about Tom Harkin who -- a Democrat and running for the Senate.

GIGOT: Explain that, about Tom Harkin.

(CROSSTALK)

RAGO: Tom Harkin who runs the Senate Health Care Committee, Democrat, who wrote the employer mandate, coming out and saying I don't think they have the authority to do this. This is probably illegal.

GIGOT: He was attacking anybody who said they didn't have the authority to do it.

I read the statute. Doesn't look like they have the authority. It says plainly it should start on December 31.

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: It says it shall start.

GIGOT: It shall start. Yes, black letter law.

RAGO: Black letter law. The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that every piece of the bill is designed to solve allegedly a problem created by another part of the bill. If you delay the employer mandate, it has all kinds of knock-on consequences throughout the rest of the sort of ObamaCare architecture.

GIGOT: Let's zero in on this verification, refusal to enforce the verification. If you apply for it, they will not check your income to see if you qualify until somehow later. They may get around to it. What are the implications of that for bill?

RAGO: I think it will lead to a lot of fraud. They are just trying to get people to cram in here, even if they are not eligible for the subsidies.

(CROSSTALK)

RAGO: And if you look at something like the earned-income-tax credit, about 21 percent to 25 percent of those payments are made to people who don't actually qualify for them legally. If you are looking at the Affordable Care Act, that's a $250 billion problem.

GIGOT: If it is on that scale of --

(CROSSTALK)

RAGO: If it was the same fraud.

GIGOT: Kim, so what's the motive here, the political motive here for the administration to do this -- to wave these verification rules?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: They want to get as many people in the system and hooked on these subsidies as they can. They think that's what's going to build support for the law. That, combined with pushing off this employer mandate, which was incredibly unpopular, passed the next year's election. They are hoping again to get everybody in that they can while also pushing off some of the harder and more controversial aspects of this.

GIGOT: They're really afraid in particular that young people, who don't sometimes think they need insurance, won't sign up for the exchanges that will administer the law because if -- and if they don't sign up, then there won't be enough young healthy people to finance the older and sicker people. And you could end up with the exchanges really not being affordable or collapsing.

STRASSEL: And they should be worried about this, Paul. There are astonishing numbers. One in four Americans right now who are currently eligible for Medicaid, which is essentially free health care, do not take the trouble to bother to enroll. OK. You have under the age of 30, people under the age of 30, about one in three don't even take employer-provided health care. They turn it down because they don't think they need insurance. And so -- now you are talking about asking them to sign up for an incredibly complicated system that could cost them a great amount of money, and how you do that, that's what has the administration worried.

GIGOT: Bret, how do you think Republicans should respond to this? They say next week they will hold the vote to give the administration the legal authority and they say it is illegal but make it legal to extend the employer -- to delay the employer mandate. They will have to delay the individual mandate, too.

STEPHENS: Yes, I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Is that the right strategy?

STEPHENS: -- let's make a deal with the president and keep delays and delaying the various mandates as long as they can. Hopefully, pass the 2016 presidential election. But should be negotiating for things like the medical device tax. That's -- I mean, look, there is a view within the Republican Party that the worse the better. This is the kind of Trotskyite view --

(LAUGHTER)

-- sympathetic to another context.

GIGOT: But not in this one.

STEPHENS: But -- no, not in this one. Because there is power to the Democratic argument that the more people then role in the exchanges, the more popular the law is going to become and it's going to gain that kind of political clout.

GIGOT: So you would like to see this extended out if it is -- as long as possible. Delayed as long as possible. The more the delay, the less likely it ever takes --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHENS: And Republicans should be saying, why should we talk about a one-year extension in the employer mandate, because that creates all kinds of uncertainties for business. Let's delay it for five years to give the administration all the time it needs to make sure it has the architecture in place.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: But the alternative argument, Joe, is, look, if you help ObamaCare, you actually -- by fixing it in some way, you're giving the administration the power to do what it wants to delay, then you are making it that much more likely that Americans will respond and favor it.

RAGO: Well, Paul, you are right that there is a significant segment of the Republican Party who is opposed to any kind of fix but this is a fairly new position. If you remember, very early in the -- in 2010, Congress repealed something called the 1099 business recording requirements, which were a huge burden on corporate America. And we have gotten rid of the Class Act, which was an unaffordable entitlement designed to explode.

GIGOT: For long-term insurance.

RAGO: So the idea that we can't fix this, I think they should really be going for tangible improvements in the law, getting rid of the medical device acts, or some of the insurance tax that's will just passed on to consumers. I think they can -- they can't repeal it, but they can make it --

GIGOT: And by holding the vote, they will put Democrats on the spot --

STRASSEL: Right.

GIGOT: -- and force them to vote, which is its own form of accountability.

All right. When we come back, muted response from environmentalists after an oil train derails, all but wiping out a Canadian town. Could the catastrophe boost chances for the Keystone Pipeline?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: More than 20 people are dead and two dozen others are still missing after an oil train derailed 20 miles from the main border last weekend, destroying much of a Canadian town, and dumping thousands of gallons of crude into a nearby river. Canadian officials are calling it an unprecedented environmental disaster. And proponents of a Keystone XL Pipeline say the catastrophe is further proof that the project should move forward.

We are back with Bret Stephens and Kim Strassel. And Wall Street Journal columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, also joins the panel.

Bret, what lesson do you take away from this train derailment? Before we get to Keystone, just the lessons of the derailment itself.

STEPHENS: The basic point is if you are going to move oil over many thousands of miles, there's going to be -- there are going to be environmental safety hazards.

GIGOT: No matter how you do it.

STEPHENS: No matter how you do it. But some safety hazards are greater than others. This town, 20 miles from the Maine border, Lac-Megantic, which has experienced a kind of war-zone-like catastrophe, in the words of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Now, we are going to have an investigation looking at what kind of failure led to it. But the point is there will be failures one kind or another that lead to these kinds of spills. We had a 24-fold increase in last four and a half years of the amount of oil that's being shipped by rail from places like Alberta or North Dakota to the coast, and so naturally the number of environmental spills, oil spills, is rising.

GIGOT: What about the argument, Mary, that environmentalist would say, you know what, we just shouldn't develop the tar sands, oil sands in Canada because you are going to have -- if it is not going to be pipeline leaks, it is going to be rail car derailments or transporting the oil by ship and that has its own problems. Just don't develop that oil at all. Too dangerous.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: Actually, Paul, I think what's unfortunate in the Keystone case is that you and I and the Keystone people were thinking that if only we could address these risks of leaks, this would satisfy the environmentalists. What you find out is that's really not their issue at all. And the director for the international program at the National Resources Defense Council said last week that the question to the administration is not whether crude should be shipped by pipeline or rail. The question is whether we will deepen our reliance on dirty fuels of the past.

GIGOT: So any kind of oil is dirty?

O'GRADY: Yeah. They want what you refer to as clean energy solutions of the future. And we know all about those solution.

GIGOT: Are pipelines safer than rail cars, Bret?

STEPHENS: Yes. Look, there is no -- let's put it the table. There is no perfectly safe way to transport energy. There is no perfectly safe energy source to begin with. But on a --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Windmills kill birds.

STEPHENS: Right. Kills a lot --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Tens of thousands.

STEPHENS: But on miles-per-gallon basis, pipelines are more than twice as safe. They're subject to half as many leaks as rails.

O'GRADY: You know, not only that but what is interesting is that the newer pipelines, for example, Keystone, which is -- you know, will be 20 years newer than, say the Enbridge Pipeline, which had a big leak in Michigan, have amazing innovations in them where they can detect the tiniest kinds of leaks and shut off. They're really quite good. And President Obama talks about improving our infrastructure. But when it comes to improving the pipeline infrastructure, he's not interested. So the older the pipeline, the more the risk, and that's actually what he's inviting by not allowing Keystone.

GIGOT: All right, Strassel, get in here on the politics.

(LAUGHTER)

What do you think about this?

STRASSEL: I mean, the other issue here, though, is the environmentalists tend to focus on environmental risk of these different ways of transporting oil. There is the human risk, which is what we saw evidenced in Canada this week. The reality is that train tracks are designed to go through population centers. Pipelines, by contrast, don't tend to be that. So when you have leaks or spills, you are not putting humans at such huge risk as you are as when you are transporting massive amounts of combustible fuel through population centers where people can die.

GIGOT: Is this going to have any influence, Kim, on President Obama's decision, do you think? Or is it -- is he --

(CROSSTALK)

STRASSEL: I think we are beyond --

(LAUGHTER)

-- knowing what is influencing President Obama's decision here.

(LAUGHTER)

He gave this speech on climate a few weeks back and he seemed to lay out a new standard, saying that, you know, Keystone added to the climate change, he wouldn't approve that. That's a very fuzzy standard because of the ways you can measure things like that. It didn't really give any further indication of which way he's going. He seems to be putting this off as long as he can.

GIGOT: I will admit I have been the foolish optimist on Keystone thinking the best of the president, thinking he would approve. And I think you folks have been more skeptical.

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY: Well, not only that -- Kim knows this also -- that the Keystone Pipeline is a huge fundraiser for the president and for environmental groups. That, I think, will answer your question.

STEPHENS: Environmentalists treat Keystone as a kind of religious totem. And we are having two separate conversations. They should be talking about what is the safest, most environmentally sound way to move crude, because that crude will be moved.

GIGOT: All right.

When we come back, first it was Anthony Weiner. Now Eliot Spitzer attempts his own political comeback. Is there something in the New York water? And do these politicians deserve a second chance? Our own Dorothy Rabinowitz weights in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: A surprise announcement from former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who five years after resigning office amid a prostitution scandal, said he'll ask voters for forgiveness and seek the job of New York City comptroller. So far, voters appear willing to give him a second chance with a brand-new poll showing him leading his Democratic challenger.

He is not the only Democrat seeking redemption. In the Big Apple's September primary, former congressman, Anthony Weiner, who resigned in 2011 after a sexting scandal, is running for New York City mayor, and has emerged as a serious contender.

Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz, joins with us more.

So, Dorothy, how do explain these comebacks?

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: These comebacks come because Americans have long had this tendency to fall into fits of virtue. This virtue is everybody gets a second chance.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me tell you, the most memorable thing that happened this week was Anthony Weiner, in debate with a congressman, at a senior citizen center, and he was attacked and then the attacker said to the audience, "And of course, he lied about the sexting," at which point all of these elderly people were about to choke him.

(LAUGHTER)

They thought they would die.

(LAUGHTER)

Paul, it will not be long before mentioning Anthony Weiner's past would be equal to be called McCarthyism.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: Am I inferring that you don't think that they deserve a second chance?

RABINOWITZ: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

Well, let's say that I don't think that it is interesting to watch this display.

The point is it does tell so much more about the electorate to know they have been driven off into these parallaxes into virtue over giving someone a second chance. And it says a lot about -- may I use the word "narcissism". It -- (INAUDIBLE).

GIGOT: You may use that word, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Mary.

O'GRADY: You know, the thing that bothers me the most about this is that it is not clear to me that any of them deserve redemption. The process, as we Catholics know, is that there has to be contrition --

(LAUGHTER)

-- and there has to be an acceptance of what you did.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, Spitzer is saying he never did anything wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: And never had anything against anything. He was all fine and --

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY: Right. We know he lied in the 1990s about his campaign financing. In 2007, his staff went after Joe Bruno. And --

GIGOT: Republican opponent and -- and leaked stuff from the police --

O'GRADY: Yeah. Then --

GIGOT: -- investigation.

O'GRADY: -- he denied that. Then, with the Wall Street problem, I mean, here, really went after the scalps of the powerful people on Wall Street. Then he used the press to basically try them, rather than doing it properly through the attorney general channels.

GIGOT: Kim, when you were covering the New York, you had some personal experience dealing with Mr. Spitzer. What kind of a political personality do you think he is?

STRASSEL: Well, he is a bit thuggish. You've seen it certainly in the comments. You've had people like John Whitehead -- you know, John Whitehead, very respected, come out and say --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Former Goldman Sachs chairman.

STRASSEL: Right. Say that Eliot Spitzer said he was going to come after him and that he would pay dearly for defending Ken Langone (ph), another businessman, in the pages of our newspaper. I once spoke to Mr. Spitzer, and he in essence called me not a very polite name myself. So I know this is how he operates.

GIGOT: You use the phrase on the air.

STRASSEL: Yeah, we are a family network here, yeah.

GIGOT: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

STRASSEL: But these politicians are very clever because had ask forgiveness, which, as Dorothy said, puts the burden on voters that, as charitable voters, they somehow deserver a second chance. What they ought to be saying, because it is what they are asking, is trust me again. Despite the fact I broke the law and I lied and I misused my power and abused everything, this time I won't do it. When you put it that way, it is much harder to think they should be re-elected.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: Dorothy, is there something particular here about New York that this -- these folks are coming to the fore here?

RABINOWITZ: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I was watching those people gather around Mr. -- protect him, Mr. Weiner. They were like grandmothers and grandfathers. It's really pathology. This is a New York pathology. This is such a transcendent passion now. Everybody is going around forgiving these people. Of course, using this forgiveness, as Eliot Spitzer is doing, you have to talk about all of this bullying. He doesn't have to talk about that very dark past. All he has to do is focus on, hey, I'm in the forgiveness business now.

GIGOT: And voters should be a lot less forgiving of our politicians. I am not a believer in second chances for politicians. You get one.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First to you, Dorothy.

RABINOWITZ: This is a great big miss to all of those members of the media and all of those cable commentators, and you know who you are, who have been busy excusing Edward Snowden, who let all of those secrets out, and underground, that he is a great man of conscience and served the Fourth Amendment. This is one of those measly white washes of which the Libertarians fanatics are in our world are busy advancing. It has allowed Mr. Snowden, who is a traitor, and did all of this not the Constitution, but in order to attack the United States.

GIGOT: Thank you, Dorothy.

Joe?

RAGO: Paul, one hit and two misses this week. The first hit is to American, which is no longer the fattest country in the world, according to a new report from the U.N. The miss is to Mexico, which is now number one. The other hit is -- excuse me, other miss is to America, which isn't -- whose health is not improving. It is just other countries are getting fatter faster than us. Not a great place to be.

GIGOT: All right.

Bret?

STEPHENS: Joe, that's because the food in Mexico is better. But --

(LAUGHTER)

This is -- this is a hit to Pope Francis, who paid an unexpected visit to a little island in the Mediterranean, which has become a giant refugee camp for Africans fleeing North Africa. Many of those Africans have died en route in little rickety boats. And the pope went and gave a mass there in which he talked about the globalization of indifference. I think it's a rich and pregnant phrase and brings to mind our indifference to refugees out of North Korea, for example, or what's going on in Syria. Good for the pope.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Bret.

And remember, if you have your own "Hit or Miss," please send it to us at jer@FOXnews.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at JERonFNC.

That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and especially to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.

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