JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

114th Congress: Cooperation or business as usual?

New session convenes with a leadership fight and veto threats

 

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," January 10, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," terror in Paris. As Islamic jihadists set their sights on Western targets and West principles, what the changing nature means for the threat here at home.

Plus, the 114th Congress convenes with talk of common ground, but does this week's leadership fight and President Obama's veto threat signal politics as usual as Washington gets back to business.

And a battle in the Big Apple. As New York's finest stage a work slowdown, what the mayor can do to mend fences.

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

Terror in Paris this week after heavily armed French nationals stormed the offices of the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on Wednesday, killing 12, including the editor, in the deadliest terror attack on French soil in more than a decade. The massacre and two ensuing hostage crises follow a string of plots foiled in the U.K. and France and elsewhere, and serves as a stark reminder of the changing and deadly nature of the jihadist threat in the West.

For more, I'm joined by Wall Street Journal Global View columnist, Bret Stephens; and editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz.

So, Bret, in some sense, this is similar to other attacks. There have been many over the years since 9/11. In another sense, it's different. It resonates in a more horrifying way because of the direct assault on people for criticizing Islam, for exercising free speech. In that sense, it's a direct assault on Western values.

BRET STEPHENS, GLOBAL VIEW COLUMNIST: Yeah. And maybe the media is paying more attention because of the direct assault on a media institution. Paul, it's a reminder that terrorism doesn't spring because of terrorist objections or militant objections to Western policies in the Middle East. It springs for a deeper reason, which is a deep ideological, even civilizational clash. These terrorists, who assaulted the offices of Charlie Hebdo, were inspired by a political ideology of Islamism that seeks domination over the West, which categorically rejects not Western policies but core Western values, like democracy, like liberalism, like freedom of speech, like the right to provoke the sensibilities of an audience without being shot as a consequence.

GIGOT: I think Ayim Ershacli (ph), she has been a target of death threats herself, wrote, in our pages a point about this, this is rooted in this political ideology, that the challenge is a political ideology rooted in Islam. Is this event and others, the Peshawar event where the massacred those children at point-blank range --

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yes.

GIGOT: --are these episodes going to change the nature, the debate in the United States about Islam? Are we going to be willing to address in a more forthright fashion that Islam has a problem?

RABINOWITZ: I think that you can't help that. Nobody can stop the fact that citizens are sitting around feeling in their breast and their heart in France and in the United States what is going on here. No matter what the constraints are that we keep getting, I have to say that you'll be surprised to learn that in the midst of all of the bloodletting we became instantly the objects of warning and ministerial urgings not to become hostile, not to have a backlash. This is the kind of thing that shows us how desperately the effort has been undertaken to keep from confronting the Islam issue.

GIGOT: This is not to say, to tar all Muslims --

RABINOWITZ: Of course, not.

GIGOT: -- with these kinds of beliefs. But el Sisi, the president of Egypt, said this week -- maybe it was on the weekend -- in a speech to clerics, that Islam itself can't be the enemy. How has it been that Islam has become in the minds of so many the enemy of the world?

STEPHENS: Right --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: It needs a revolution?

STEPHENS: It was a really landmark speech to the religious clerics at al Azhar University, which is the center of Sunni Islamic learning. And he said, how is it that 1.6 billion Muslims now terrorize the world? And he went to the core of the problem, which is that there is a problem among religious clerics in doing any kind of theological interpretation or modernization of Koranic scripture, of Islamic scripture, that this cannot be a religion that becomes a license for fanatics of the kind that attacked "Charlie Hebdo" to do whatever they please, to terrorize the rest of the world. So it's the first time you're seeing a major Muslim leader put the challenge to Muslim clerics that there needs to be a reformation, dramatic reformation in the Islamic religion.

GIGOT: Right.

STEPHENS: It really hasn't happened before.

GIGOT: Dorothy.

RABINOWITZ: Look, this isn't doing -- going to be cutting any ice with hoards -- with the hoards of Islamic fanatic armies like you see operating in France now, because they are on their own. They are in a competition to kill. They are also the exponents of a kind of power drive that really is political zealotry above Islam. Islam is the medium. They are going to be -- we are an army of political winners, essentially.

GIGOT: Right.

STEPHENS: And that's being turbo charged by the fact that the Islamic State, or caliphate, has now taken root in Iraq, in Syria. There's, I think, a real perception of a West in disarray, in retreat. Al Qaeda certainly not on a path to defeat. So these guys feel like they are winners.

GIGOT: And that success is mobilizing, could be mobilizing a new wave of attacks and militant soldiers in the West. There are 40 million Muslims in the West, Europe and United States, elsewhere. And Ral Garrett (ph) wrote in our pages about something he called the "new charismatic jihad," which is the fact that people, these young men in particular, look at Islamic State and its successes and, you know what, the West is losing, the future is ours, so we need to join that fight in the streets of the West.

RABINOWITZ: Yes. But let me just say, Paul, we've been brought to this day largely by the fact that the West has quelled, has retreated from this threat. What have we heard? We've heard about the lack of integration. We've heard about these great big --

GIGOT: Integration of Muslims in the West.

RABINOWITZ: Integration. Let's just remember that 9/11 was committed by very wealthy sons. The British attacks --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Second-generation --

(CROSSTALK)

RABINOWITZ: Second-generation Muslims in Britain blew up all the subways. They were teachers and sons of merchants. And yet, we had an instant and continuing tirade of, "It's our fault." But it is not our fault. It is their fault. And that focus has been continually shoved to one side. The president failed even to mention Islam in his genuine outpouring of concern. What can this mean?

GIGOT: Yeah. We need more Western self-confidence about our values, more forthright honesty --

RABINOWITZ: Yes.

GIGOT: -- about the nature of Islam so there can be a debate in Islam about its own fanatics. And we need to go after Islamic State in a much more assertive and comprehensive way.

STEPHENS: Right. Look, "Charlie Hebdo" was all about being politically incorrect. We need to be a little politically incorrect in our own thinking about the nature of the threat we face.

GIGOT: All right, thank you, both.

When we come back, the 114th Congress convenes with renewed hope for progress, but does this week's speaker fight and President Obama's veto threat signal more politics as usual?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And we'll begin our work on this common ground, taking up measures to develop North American energy, restore the honors of middle class workers, and help small businesses hire more of our veterans.

And I'm going to invite the president to support and sign these bipartisan initiatives into law. It will be a good start, and more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: That was House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday promising to focus on common ground legislation as 114th Congress begins its work with Republicans assuming control of both houses for the first time in eight years. But with conservatives mounting a challenge to his leadership this week and President Obama already issuing three veto threats, are we looking at more partisan gridlock and GOP infighting as Washington gets back to business?

Let's ask Potomac Watch columnist, Kim Strassel; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

So, Kim, let's talk first about the challenge to the speaker, 25 votes, a lot of votes against the speaker, I think it was, in the end. What point were these rebels trying to make?

KIM STRASSEL, POTOMAC WATCH COLUMNIST: Look, I mean, yes, there were 25 votes. On the other hand, there were always 200 members of the Republican Party in the House that were always going to vote for the speaker. And there wasn't really a candidate who was gripping anyone's imagination. This was never going to be much more than a side show. But the point they were trying to make is that they feel John Boehner has not been aggressive enough in putting the test to Barack Obama. And it does portend his biggest challenge going forward, which is going to be managing his own caucus.

GIGOT: Does this signal more Republican disorder to come, even with their fortified ranks of additional 14 seats or so? Is this more trouble to come?

STRASSEL: Well, getting the extra 14 seats does give Boehner some leeway, in that he doesn't have to get all of those rebels every time he has a vote. But I think it does go back to why he is going to focus, as you said, these first six weeks in particular on issues that do tend to have a lot of unanimity not just among the Republican ranks but there were a lot of Democrats that support the bills as well, too.

GIGOT: Good early sign of unity on a couple of bills, including one to change the rules of ObamaCare to allow movement from a 30-hour week defining full-time employment to 40, which would help low-wage earners and companies that employ them. How do you see this intra-GOP fight?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: I think this is what is going to unify them and is what is even going to pull some Democratic votes and put pressure on Barack Obama, is sending him bills getting rid of the least popular pieces of ObamaCare and getting rid of pieces of ObamaCare that inhibit job creation, sending him economic growth packages that he then has to either veto or sign.

GIGOT: So you think that's going to unify the Republican Party and the conference?

FREEMAN: Yes. But this was an ugly win for John Boehner. Losing a couple of dozen votes in your own party when there's really no organized opposition, this is not a sign of strength for him. But you would hope what it does for him is makes him listen a little bit more maybe to conservatives as they press, but I think for conservatives, they also have an idea here that the White House is still occupied by Barack Obama and you need to achieve what you can.

GIGOT: You take this challenge to Boehner seriously, Jason?

JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: It is what it is. I mean, as you said, the most --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Purely symbolic and it didn't accomplish a thing.

RILEY: And the people that were running to replace him were not serious contenders.

GIGOT: Not in the least.

RILEY: If he was facing a serious challenge, we would have seen someone like Jeb Hensarling or Paul Ryan going for the speakership. That is not the caliber of candidate that we saw coming out of this.

Plus, as it's been noted, Republicans picked up 14 seats. They have the largest majority in the House in nearly 80 years. Voters seem to like the job that John Boehner is doing.

GIGOT: So, what about the president's response here, Jason? He's now issued three veto threats already, one against the Keystone approval rate and one against the 40-hour work week initiative and one against another jobs bill. This is the first week. What does this tell you about his political strategy?

RILEY: Well, he's counting on infighting among Republicans. I don't think they should reward him by doing that. But I don't think this can last. And I think the pressure is going to come from Barack Obama's own caucus. This is a president that has lost his party both the House and Senate.

GIGOT: But what kind of pressure, from the left, in saying don't give an inch, or from moderates, saying we want to do business with Republicans?

RILEY: Both.

STRASSEL: Left.

RILEY: Well, I think mostly, though, from the latter. You're going to have -- we have a presidential election coming up in two years. They do not want this president to go out of the office with low approval ratings that will not help for Democrats to succeed him. And they are going to put pressure on him to rack up some accomplishments. And it's very hard to paint Republicans as obstructionists when they keep putting bills on your desk. And that's what I think Boehner and McConnell should continue to do.

GIGOT: I'm not sure I agree with Jason about that. I think -- because the president himself really is signaling that he's going to make it very, very hard on Republicans and I think -- and the Democratic left may just decide, look, we don't want anything to -- we want as little as possible to pass.

STRASSEL: I think the president wants as little as possible to pass and that that was what was behind these veto threats, is that he was trying to send a message to Democrats, don't work with Republicans, don't go down that road because I'm going to send the bills back to you anyway. But that's the pressurize going to face. Look, there's a lot of Democrats who felt as though in this last election they did not have any accomplishments to run on because nothing happened in Congress for a long time. There's going to be a huge pull for some of them to work with Republicans. And you saw it this week. That 40-hour work week bill in the House, you had a dozen House Democrats sign onto it. There are six --

GIGOT: Right.

STRASSEL: -- Democratic Senators who are already co-sponsors of the Keystone bill, possibly 10 votes there. That's what the president is worried about.

GIGOT: OK, we're going to follow this.

When we come back, arrests in the Big Apple drop dramatically as New York's police register their displeasure with Mayor Bill de Blasio. So who's likely to suffer from the NYPD's work slowdown, and can the mayor mend fences?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: No truce in sight in the battle between New York City cops and Mayor Bill de Blasio. As a NYPD work slowdown continues, traffic tickets and summons for minor offenses have reportedly dropped by over 90 percent with arrests down by more than half. The slowdown began shortly after the murders of two officers in Brooklyn last month, ambushed into their patrol car by a shooter citing the recent police killings of unarmed black men. Union officials have blamed de Blasio for contributing to anti-police rhetoric. And rank-and-file officers turned their backs on the mayor at the funerals of both men.

We're back with Dorothy Rabinowitz and Jason Riley.

So, Dorothy, you heard about this, this week. The feud between police and de Blasio isn't letting up. Why not?

RABINOWITZ: That's right. Why not is because the mayor has yet to do what he has to do, which is to recognize what he has been, what he has looked like from the moment he's taken office, which is to say, as an adversarial force that recognizes there's an undertow of police misbehavior. This has been so evident from day one of the mayor's administration. And de Blasio's problem has been that he has no idea what he sounds like.

GIGOT: He actually believes what he's saying?

RABINOWITZ: Yes, yes.

He has no idea, living in his ideological bubble. He is a completely progressive left force such as we have not had in memory. And when you live in this world, you're very accustomed to this as the norm. This kind of propaganda becomes a reality. Meanwhile, out there, police are listening to this description of them. If you tuned in to local radio stations when the attach went on against Stop and Frisk, you would have thought that --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Method of policing --

(CROSSTALK)

RABINOWITZ: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

RABINOWITZ: That the police effort to stop crime in high-crime neighborhoods was essentially the most important problem in the Western world. It was a nonstop drum beat.

GIGOT: Jason, but what about this work slowdown? Are the police potentially -- I get the point they are upset with de Blasio. I agree with that and I agree with their disagreement with de Blasio. But is a work stoppage like this, or slowdown, really the best answer they have, because you're telling people that we're not going to protect them.

RILEY: Well --

(LAUGHTER)

-- it does no one any good. And we should note that there is a contract dispute going on between the police union and the city right now. And the city is arguing that this is part of the negotiating tactics.

GIGOT: But de Blasio is not tough on unions.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, he likes unions. He likes to give as much money as he possibly can.

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY: True. And I don't think that's what's driving this. You're right. This -- and it's not -- predates the administration. It dates back to his campaign --

GIGOT: Right.

RILEY: -- when he ran against police and painted them in a bad light by going after Stop and Frisk. But it is a war on cops. A war on cops really translates into a war on blacks and low-income minorities because those are the victims of crimes overwhelming in these cities and these ghettos and so forth. And so, no, it's not doing any one good. The members of these communities need effective, aggressive policing. And they are not going to get that until de Blasio, I think, does the right thing. And I don't see any signs that he's going to.

GIGOT: Briefly, Dorothy, in the meantime, shouldn't police do their jobs and say we're going to do our jobs effectively and honor our oath, but, Mayor, you need to support us?

RABINOWITZ: Yes. I think they do -- they do need to do that. But let me say that the whole attack on the little crimes that cause the big ones --

GIGOT: Right.

RABINOWITZ: -- which is under attack, this is in the police mind. So windshield wipers, aggressive types that are bothering you, yeah, well, we're not going to give them any summons. This works very well, considering what they were lectured to. They are going to stop that.

GIGOT: Well, they shouldn't.

RABINOWITZ: Right.

GIGOT: All right, we have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Bret, start us off.

STEPHENS: Well, you may know that drug-resistant bacteria killed 23,000 Americans every year and it's a growing problem. Doctors just don't have antibiotics they need to treat some of these diseases. Very good news on the research front. Scientists with -- scientists from Northeastern University finding ways to grow very -- seemingly promising, very effective antibiotics from dirt. The research is innovative. And it's a demonstration that the march of progress does, in fact, go on and that we will conquer the next generation of disease.

GIGOT: Terrific.

James?

FREEMAN: Paul, this is a hit to Mercedes Benz for rolling out at the Consumer Electronics Show this week its new concept car, a driverless vehicle. This is going -- driverless cars will save a lot of lives. They're going to save a lot of time. Huge productivity boost. The main barriers now are legal and regulatory, not technological. So these are coming soon. And with its lounge-like interior, this has the possibility of transforming the evening commute to happy hour.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: All right, so much good news here.

Kim?

STRASSEL: A miss to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, now under fire for accepting free plane tickets and game tickets from the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, a guy who also happens to do business in the state of New Jersey. The governor's office says this is kosher, that Jerry Jones is a friend. And, indeed, there's no evidence of any ethical mischief. But if you are a public official and you are thinking of running for president, you simply cannot afford to court such controversies.

GIGOT: Hate to tell you, Kim, but his real problem is he's losing all Wisconsin electoral votes by rooting for the Cowboys this weekend.

(LAUGHTER)

STRASSEL: That is there, too.

GIGOT: And remember, if you have you own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JER on FNC.

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

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