JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

Obama's ISIS strategy: Is the US doing enough?

Jordan vows a relentless war after pilot's murder

 

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," February 7, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Jordan vows to wage a relentless war on ISIS after the brutal murder of a captured fighter pilot. Could this be a turning point in the fight against the terror group? And will the U.S. back up its Middle East allies?

Plus, the vaccine debate proves to be a political minefield for two potential GOP presidential candidates. But Democrats aren't immune from the controversy. Where Candidates Obama and Clinton stood on the issue in 2008.

And Washington conquers the Internet. What the FCC's new rules mean for the future of the web.

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

Outrage spread across the world this week after a video was released showing a caged Jordanian fighter pilot being burned alive by Islamic State militants, an act that King Abdullah vowed to avenge with a war. And President Obama denounced ISIS at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, calling it a brutal and vicious death cult, but he told the attendees that violence rooted in religion isn't exclusive to Islam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. And in our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

So, Dan, let's start with you.

We'll get to the president's remarks in a bit, but what does this week and the -- and this brutal murder of the Jordanian mean for the war and the alliance against ISIS?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST, DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, you raise the possibility it might be a turning point. We seem to have successions of turning points in this war.

GIGOT: We're hoping.

(LAUGHTER)

HENNINGER: Yeah, well. Remember, the Yazidi were isolated up on that mountain, that was a turning point, the beheading of the two U.S. reporters, that was another turning point, and now this horrific scene of the burning of this pilot is yet another turning point. In a sense, they're real, but in a sense, they all end up in the same place, which is the White House.

Let me take you through it shortly. As a result of that, all 26 members of the House Armed Services Committee unanimously voted that we should ship more arms to the Jordanians --

GIGOT: Right.

HENNINGER: -- who clearly appear to be willing to take the fight to ISIS.

GIGOT: And need the arms.

HENNINGER: Right, and need the arms.

GIGOT: And King Abdullah said this week, look, we're short, we don't have the kind of firepower we're going to need, and we're on the front lines.

HENNINGER: He said we want airplane parts, night vision and some precision munitions. The White House was asked about this, and Josh Earnest says we will undertake any request we receive, we haven't received one from the Jordanians yet, but if they send one to us, we will take a look at it. And in other words, status quo.

You have a coalition over there in the Middle East right now that looks like a pickup basketball team, which is a lot of people running around with no real coach or leader. Right? The United States is not committed yet to shaping a strategy and leading it. That came out of Ashton Carter's confirmation hearings this week to be defense secretary. So we're back to the same spot we have always been in.

GIGOT: And, Mary, the Jordanians are on the front lines now. They're committed. They're -- if we would back off at all, that ally might fall.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: You know, Paul, you have to go back and think about what President Obama has done since he took office. I mean, he gave Iraq back. He drew the red line and the Syrians backed off of it. So he's not at this point -- at this point, he's not a credible leader for the region. And they need American leadership, but they're not getting it from this president. I think a big part of that is he doesn't have a good understanding of who this enemy is.

GIGOT: I suppose the White House would say, look, we pushed them back from Kobani, with the help of the Kurds on the ground. We just don't want to commit American forces there on the ground again. These countries have to take care of it themselves so we're waiting for them to get ready to be able to do this offensive against ISIS.

O'GRADY: Yes.

GIGOT: So be patient, it will happen.

O'GRADY: I think you call that leading from behind.

(LAUGHTER)

We have heard that before. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: I'm trying to be fair to their argument. I think that's what they would say.

O'GRADY: Yeah, I know that's what they would say, but the fundamental problem with that is that if you think about how the enemy looks at it, right, they look at the Arab nations that are not strong enough to defeat them, don't have the weapons that are necessary, and a president that has neither the commitment, nor the understanding of who this enemy is and how important the struggle is, that is supposed to be backing them up.

GIGOT: And the key point is ISIS has to be seen to be losing to lose its attractiveness in getting new recruits.

O'GRADY: This is valuable propaganda for them.

GIGOT: They have to be rolled back from the territory that they have and we haven't seen that yet.

Dorothy, I want to talk to you about the president's remarks at that prayer breakfast, suggesting that Christianity -- Christians have been blamed for similar barbarity over the time. What do you think about his remarks in that context at this time?

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, when I could think, it was breathtaking. After all, we have heard the beginnings of this. We had an apology tour. This is an extension of an apology tour that took place when the president assumed the presidency years ago. Now we are facing a new time when a passage of thousands of years does not deter the president from finding fodder to present the same message. And he used these memorable lines. He said, in the middle of the discussion of is horror, he said, "Let's not get too full of ourselves." Think of this as presidential rhetoric, to compare the United States, the passage of time, the progress of civilization, and then nothing. If only he could achieve his rhetorical goal, which is we are not equal.

GIGOT: The analogy to slavery, Christianity and slavery, I -- I'm not a historian but I do recall that Christians led the fight against the slave trade. William Wilberforce, for example, in Britain, the great politician, anti-slave trader, and succeeded. And in this country, the abolitionists, if I remember correctly, were Christians.

RABINOWITZ: You're asking a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

You're asking for facts.

GIGOT: Am I wrong?

RABINOWITZ: No, you're not. But the relevance of fact has nothing to do with the rhetorical imperative here, which is to say Americans have no place in the world, claim superiority over the most beastly tyranny that exists in the world. Think of this. He is there to stop us from feeling superior to the world.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Briefly, Dan, we have only a second.

HENNINGER: Christianity went through a reformation, accommodated itself to the modern world, and that's what radical Islam desperately needs, is to join the modern world. If the president had said that it would have been a huge contribution on the subject he was talking about.

GIGOT: Exactly right.

RABINOWITZ: If the president said that, it would have been a miracle.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: All right.

When we come back, the vaccinate debate proves to be a political minefield for two presidential candidates, but Democrats aren't immune from that controversy. We'll tell you where Candidates Obama and Clinton stood on that issue in 2008.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: A dangerous outbreak of measles in California is causing some political headaches for two potential GOP presidential candidates, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul both saying this week that parents should have a say in whether to vaccinate their kids. Paul took his comments a step further, claiming in an interview that, quote, "I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccinates." But such sentiments aren't limited to the Republican politicians. Although President Obama is now telling parents to vaccinate, as a candidate in 2008, he called the science on vaccinates and autism "inconclusive." And that same year, Hillary Clinton promised to invest in autism research, including, quote, "possible environmental causes like vaccines."

We're back with Dan Henninger and Dorothy Rabinowitz. And Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Joe Rago, also joins the panel.

So, Joe, first of all, the science of this, vaccines and autism, very clear, numerous studies, no link?

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: No link. This is about the most effective public health intervention in human history. There hasn't been anything studied on a large scale with such rigorous scientific methods. The sort of vaccine and autism link that's missed, it was originated in a 1998 article in a journal called "The Lancet." That study --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Which is a serious journal.

RAGO: Which is a serious journal. It was later repudiated. The author was disbarred.

GIGOT: Stripped of his medical --

(CROSSTALK)

RAGO: Excuse me, stripped of his license to practice, and turned out to be on the payroll of the plaintiff's bar. So this is really a pernicious superstition.

GIGOT: What about the argument, Dorothy, coming from Rand Paul and Chris Christie, that, hey, parents do have a choice here? They should be given a choice. They shouldn't be coerced or mandated.

RABINOWITZ: Well, it goes right down to, if you say parents should have a choice, you're saying essentially it's OK to be a little pregnant, you know? No. You get a vaccine or you don't. You cannot have -- there's no vaccine against this infection of ignorance and junk science, which is too flattering a term for this. The sense of --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Wait. Parents don't get a choice? What about that argument - - I mean, because should you have to be required to get a child a vaccine?

RABINOWITZ: Yes, yes. Here's the thing. We should not only have to be, I think that if the president really wanted to do some job on this, he would go for legislation, which is in the end the only thing that is going to conquer --

RABINOWITZ: I disagree with you. I think it should be handled by the states, which it is now. It should not be a federal government issues, Dorothy. I think the states can handle it very well.

RABINOWITZ: This is not my religion. It's yours. But let me say that there is no way of getting through to the kind of basic narcissism, smugness. And these are all nasty terms but they are the motivating factors. We know better what's good for our children. You cannot have public health succeed with this kind of feeling, that there are no constraints.

HENNINGER: But, you know, one question I raise is, Paul, how did it come to this point? I mean, Joe is right. The vaccination process is one of the great achievements of science. Some of us remember the post-World War II polio children --

GIGOT: Right.

HENNINGER: -- which paralyzed and killed children. Wiped out by vaccinations. So why do people now hear things that they think that the scientists are lying to them? And I think it's because we have seen the politicalization of science in the last 15 or so years. I would certainly cite climate warming. They claim that Republicans can serve as anti- science, but they don't buy it, but the campaign on behalf of climate warming has been highly politicized by these scientists. Or you have something like the Endangered Species Act or some of the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called scientific studies. All of this causes the pubic to think science is just politics, and so how do we know that they're telling us the truth about these vaccinations? It's been very destructive.

I think the scientists have an obligation to step forward and say, we're going to stay in the business of telling what we know, not trying to drive politics.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Go ahead.

RABINOWITZ: Sorry. Example "A," who is the greatest climatologist reformer? Robert F. Kennedy Jr, also among the earliest people to spread the message against vaccines.

GIGOT: Joe, I should say that states -- the mandate on vaccines does not -- it allows for exemptions, a religion exemption, for example. Some states have what's called the philosophical exemption, which is a pretty broad one. You can say I don't want to vaccinate my child. So parents aren't forced to vaccinate their children if they really don't want to.

RAGO: I think what states are trying to do -- look, parents obviously have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children. But states are trying to balance the rights of the minor, who can't consent to needed medical care, and also the danger to others --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Like, let's take an infant who goes to Disneyland with their parents, too early to be vaccinated, to young to be vaccinated, but it happens to be exposed to measles from somebody who wasn't, that child is in peril.

RAGO: That's right. People with immuno-compromised disorders, things like that. So what the states say is you cannot -- you can opt out of this. But oftentimes, you're barred from using public schools, for example, public amenities. So they're trying to strike a balance here with science and individual rights.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you all very much.

When we come back, Washington's Internet power grab. The FCC introduces new rules to regulate broadband like a public utility. What it means for consumers and the future of the World Wide Web.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Well, President Obama demanded it in November and, this week, the FCC fell into line, with Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiling a plan to regulate the Internet as a public utility, using century-old rules, meant for railroads and telephone monopolies, to rein in today's broadband communications companies.

"Wall Street Journal" assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and editorial board member, Mary Kissel, join us with more.

So, James, for -- since going back to the Clinton years, the Internet has been regulated lightly as an information service. Why now change it to a potential monopoly regulation?

FREEMAN: That's the question, because this policy has worked so well. It's become this amazing instrument of international and interstate commerce. So what the president is proposing and now the FCC is going to implement is a massive expensive solution to a problem that doesn't exist. It's a theory that your traffic on the Internet is going to be blocked and you're going to be discriminated against as a customer. And this has got a lot of legs with a very misleading Internet video and TV show from a comedian named John Oliver last summer. A lot of people had this idea that big companies are about to stop you from launching what you want on the Internet. So the solution to the problem that doesn't exist is telephone- style regulation for the Internet.

GIGOT: So try -- yeah, I want you to answer my question.

(LAUGHTER)

Why are they doing this now?

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Is this an irrational fear or it is something more? Is it about politics?

MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: As James, it's an irrational fear. The Internet is not broken. But the Obama administration wants to expand bureaucratic power before they leave the office. So what the FCC is saying is we want the ability to set prices and also eventually to tax. So it's like what we saw with ObamaCare. It's a bureaucratic takeover, politicization of health care. They have done the same thing in banking. It's part of larger pattern.

GIGOT: So the way that this law allows, it allows the regulators to set rates, terms and conditions. Now, you can drive a lot through those three words, including price controls, and including maybe content regulation. Now, the FCC chairman says, well, it will be a light touch.

FREEMAN: Yeah, he's promising forbearance for now on the taxes and the prices --

GIGOT: Isn't that what they all say?

FREEMAN: That's what they all say.

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN: It's massive shift in power. You're asking, where is this coming from. It's basically it's an unholy alliance between progressive activists and Silicon Valley, which is --

GIGOT: Progressive activists like -- they like the political control that Mary mentioned?

FREEMAN: Right.

GIGOT: What about Netflix, Amazon, Google?

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: What's in it for them?

KISSEL: Well, Google had a change of heart here because the irony is -- the administration says, well, you know, we want to help the little guy, but by increasing regulatory uncertainty, what are they going to do? They're going to help the big incumbents, Verizon, Comcast, all the people entrenched in the big lobby interests in Washington. And Google is a good example. Google is trying to compete with these people. And all of a sudden, now, Google is against this.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: What is in it for to the companies like Netflix, which is a huge player --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN: Netflix and YouTube together generate more than half of Internet traffic.

GIGOT: OK.

FREEMAN: What they don't want is to have to pay for that service that they're using at market rates. So and I think now they realize this monster they have created will end up hurting them, too, and that's why you see --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN: -- Google is stepping back a bit. But the general idea was Silicon Valley wanted Washington to force providers of communication services, broadband networks, to give them a better deal. So what they did is they aligned with progressives who want the government to control the Internet. And I think Silicon Valley is going to regret this. I think they're already regretting it. They're already stepping back. But the loser is the customer because this is going to be more expensive service, less innovation. I mean, the old telephone system, a lot of the young people who are into this movement don't understand, roughly a century, the technology did not change. You had a choice of a phone, either black or very black.

(LAUGHTER)

You know? The big innovation, after years, was you could turn up the volume on the ringer.

(LAUGHTER)

People do not understand how bad it was and how bad it can be.

GIGOT: The only way to change this, though, is -- if they go through with this, the only way to take it is on in court by challenging it legally, which will be and happen in many cases. And then elect a new --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER: Elect a new government.

GIGOT: Yeah, elect a new government.

All right. We have to go.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Mary Kissel, start us off.

KISSEL: I can't believe I'm saying this, but a big hit to a big bureaucracy, the Food and Drug Administration, which said this week that it's going to help terminally ill patients get faster access to experimental drugs or at least go through the application process faster. Of course, the bureaucrats aren't going to make it easier for the drug companies to provide those drugs, but for now, it's a great first step. So a hit to the FDA.

GIGOT: All right.

Mary O'Grady?

O'GRADY: Paul, this is a hit for the late Ronald Reed, who died last year, and it turns out -- he died at the age of 92, and it turns out he left $6 million to his local library in Vermont and the local hospital. Now, that's a lot of money for someone who worked at a gas station and as a janitor for his life -- all of his life. How did he do it? He was very frugal, but he was also an investor, and he was a regular reader of the "Wall Street Journal."

GIGOT: Amazing. Millions you can make.

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN: Yeah. We can't guarantee those results for everyone --

(LAUGHTER)

-- but it helps.

GIGOT: Thanks for the legal disclaimer.

(LAUGHTER)

Yeah?

GIGOT: I want to give a hit. Kudos to the Internet users of China. The Chinese regime recently said that too many of them are guilty of violating core socialist values. What a worthy activity. What a great thing to be doing on line, criticizing the regime. The government is cracking down. But I think freedom is going to find a way. So keep it up, Internet users of China, and keep violating those socialist ideas.

GIGOT: And read the "Wall Street Journal." You could get rich, too.

(LAUGHTER)

All right.

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us on JERonFNC.

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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