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Journal Editorial Report

Honeymoon may be over for Hillary Clinton; will crowded GOP field hurt nominee?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 6, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT,  HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Clinton scandals begin to take their toll in the polls. But without a viable alternative, are Democrats hostage to Hillary?

Plus, two more candidates jump into the Republican race with another big announcement soon to come. So does the crowded field help or hurt the eventual nominee?

And police prepare for a bloody summer as violent crime spikes in cities across the country. We'll take a closer look at what's behind this troubling trend.

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

The honeymoon may be over for Hillary Clinton with evidence this week that the drip of stories about her e-mails and Clinton Foundation dealings may finally be having an impact. A new poll finds American opinion of Clinton at a 14-year low, with just 46 percent of those surveyed viewing her favorably compared with 50 percent viewing her unfavorably, a big change from two months ago. And on whether Clinton is honest and trustworthy, the same poll found just 42 percent of people saying she is, with 57 percent saying she's not.

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

So, Kim, let's start with you.

You had a fascinating column this week reporting some links about people who have served time at the Clinton Foundation, the State Department, and now the Clinton campaign. What did you learn?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Well, I think the point here is when you take a big look at this foundation, the Clinton family foundation, which has been the center of all the new stories and causing a lot of headaches for Hillary Clinton, you begin to see this place is not really a charity so much as it is a place where the Clintons park all of their political operatives when they're not running some campaign so they can roll them back out when they are running for office again. One of the things I found is significant numbers of people that are senior management jobs at that foundation are long-time Clinton political operatives. They go to the foundation for awhile and then they go back and work on her campaign. That's what you're seeing happening at the moment.

GIGOT: The foundation itself spends a surprisingly large share of what it raises on administration and staff rather than giving the money away.

STRASSEL:  Yeah. And that lead to all these questions. Those donors who are out there, are they aware that so much of their money is basically going to pay for Clinton cronies and Clinton political operatives? In fact are some of them maybe even giving money for that reason? This seems to be a sort of shadow campaign organization for the Clintons.

GIGOT: Maybe they were aware of what they were doing and figured this was just another way of financing -- of showing they can support the Clinton political project.

STRASSEL: No. I think it raises very serious questions. The foundation is not monitored and looked at the way that other political organizations are and does not have to operate under the same rules as, for instance, any Republican candidate who's out there at the moment.

GIGOT: OK.

So, James, let's talk about the poll impact of all of this. Finally we're seeing some numbers impact on Hillary Clinton. How worried should her campaign be about these declines, particularly honest and trustworthy?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: That's a really troublesome number when it gets over 50 percent. Even though it's early, it's a ways out from the general election, obviously important impressions are formed. I think one problem for the Clintons is they've basically adopted the 1990s line during their previous scandals, is if you can't prove a felony, if you can't convict the Clintons of something, then you really need to shut up and --

GIGOT: This is their defense.

FREEMAN: This is the defense. This is what they've said when people raise all of the questionable fundraising at the foundation and all of these paid speeches. The problem is that, at that point, he was trying to hold onto the presidency. The question was, was he going to be thrown out. Now they're asking voters to give her the presidency. So I think voters are probably going to have a higher bar than OK, no felony conviction. Yes, it's OK what you've been doing.

GIGOT: But, Dan, this is what is the Clinton campaign aides are saying, look, this is what is happens when you become a candidate. She's no longer above the fray of secretary of state or first lady. This is what happens with partisan attacks. And look, at the polls, Democrats are still solidly behind her.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: No, that's what they're saying. So there's no threat to the nomination.

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Look, Paul, she's been in public life since at least 1992. And you've got, in this poll, 57 percent saying they regard her as a dishonest person? If I had a number like that I'd shoot myself.

GIGOT: But she's a politician, Dan. You're a journalist.

HENNINGER: That might be worse.

(LAUGHTER)

There is another number in that poll that I think should be troubling for them. Her unfavorable among Independents is 39 percent. That 40 percent is a benchmark. Once you fall --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: You mean favorability is or --.

HENNINGER: Her favorability --

GIGOT: -- favorability.

HENNINGER: -- is at 39 percent. That's a bad number. Even the Democrats are going to have to get some Independent votes. She's going to have to get some Independent votes to win.

GIGOT: But, James, they're also saying, look, at the polls, she's still winning head-to-head against every Republican in the field. What does that say about the Republican candidates?

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Are they weak, or does this not matter?

FREEMAN: I think at this stage, that's a largely meaningless poll. The Republican candidates are just getting started in a very crowded primary.  You have a lot of people who are in low single digits, some of whom could end up being the nominee. Others, even the frontrunners are mid-teens.  They're just beginning to define themselves. It's not highly relevant.

GIGOT: Kim, what about the Bernie boom? The Bernie Sanders media flurry saying Bernie Sanders getting big crowds in Iowa, the Vermont Senator.  Suddenly, is he really catching fire out there? Could he be possibly -- be a threat to Hillary Clinton?

STRASSEL: You know, Paul, I think when you start from a very low base and suddenly you double it, it seems very exciting. Still, we're talking about maybe 9 percent of Democrats out there supporting Bernie Sanders. This is a guy that not many people know. And he's not really a threat to Hillary Clinton. And I think that this is actually what is beginning to worry a lot of Democrats out there, that there is no competition in this race. She is just simply going to be their horse. And yet, she is racking up a lot of liabilities for when she goes into a general election.

GIGOT: I know Freeman's got Bernie fever.

(LAUGHTER)

Dan's more Martin O'Malley, I think.

All right --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER: Don't hold your breath.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: All right. When we come back, two more Republicans announce their White House bids as the GOP field hits 10 and counting. Polls show it's a wide open race. So what will it take to break away from the pack?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I'm Lindsey Graham, and I'm running for president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

RICK PERRY, R-FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: Today, I am running for the presidency of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

GIGOT: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former Texas Governor Rick Perry becoming the ninth and tenth Republicans to officially announce a bid for the White House. They follow former New York Governor George Pataki and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who both got into the race last week. We're certainly not done yet, with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush expected to announce his plans on June 15th.

So, Dan, are you announcing today, since everybody else is?

(LAUGHTER)

HENNINGER: I'm holding off. I'm going to wait for the field to shake out a little bit then jump in.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Why do so many of these Republicans feel-- this field is unmatched in terms of my view. I can't remember how many candidates with solid records running. Why do they think they can win?

HENNINGER: I think these numbers are a result of a variety of reasons.  One, there is no incumbent to run against. The presidency is an open seat.  Why are there so many governors? Maybe it's governors who have completed their first terms, re-elected, and they are able to run.

GIGOT: This is their shot.

HENNINGER: This is their shot. I think that's true of a lot of these candidates. This is their shot. If they don't go now, they're going to have to wait maybe four, maybe eight years, so they're in. Beyond that there's a fact the way the system is set up now, what they're trying to jockey for is polling numbers. If you can somehow elevate your polling numbers, you become a player in the run towards those first three early primaries. And then the game becomes finishing, win, place or show in one of those three primaries. And if you can do that you're in the game.

GIGOT: And because of the super PAC phenomenon, if you can get three or four wealthy backers who put a fair amount of money behind you, you can stay in the race. You can have enough money to play.

HENNINGER: And it's easier to do that now.

GIGOT: What does Rick Perry bring to the race, James?

FREEMAN: He brings a phenomenal record from Texas. Over a decade as governor there. During his time, Texas created basically a third of the jobs in the country, was responsible for a third of the job growth. You look at some extended period after the financial crisis, and Texas was basically the entire job creation engine of the country.

(LAUGHTER)

This is not just because it's part of Cowboyistan, as Harold Hamm likes to describe it.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Harold Hamm, he's the fracking entrepreneur.

FREEMAN: He's the fracking guy.

GIGOT: And oil drilling.

FREEMAN: So there's a tendency to think, or there was, that this is all just oil. But you see after oil prices have collapsed in the last year the Texas economy is hanging in pretty well. And it's really -- it's an amazing record of reform there.

GIGOT: Can he overcome the impression that he had with voters in 2012 when he -- he admits he flamed out? He wasn't prepared.

FREEMAN: That's right. He never really intended to run. I think he saw a weak field and decided there was a need and got in. He wasn't prepared.  He will be a much better candidate this time. I think people who have met with him have already seen it where he has studied more, he is prepared more. He's not coming off back surgery as he was last time, so he's not taking a lot of pharmaceuticals as far as I know.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: Always bad on a campaign.

FREEMAN: Yes. He's just going to be a much sharper contender. I think he's another guy -- he's in single digits right now. But this is a formidable candidate in a very deep field. We keep being impressed with this field. He's another serious player.

GIGOT: Kim, Lindsey Graham, somebody who I think two or three months ago, people didn't think would run. He's a third term Senator from South Carolina, big on defense. Hawkish. He and John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire, probably the three biggest hawks in the Senate right now.  What do you think of his chances?

STRASSEL: Exactly that. He is going to bring a big foreign policy focus to this race? And a time, by the way, when people and voters are very concerned about what's happening overseas. Lindsey Graham was one of those guys back -- you go back to 2006, things were falling apart. Everyone was wanting to cut and run out of Iraq. I mean, this was a guy who said, you cannot, you got to stay the course, go to stay there. He's going to make a very strong case for what needs to be done internationally to put America back in a leadership role. In terms of that, he and Marco Rubio are really going to fill that space. He's been very good on things like immigration.

And he's also just fun to watch, Paul. He is an interesting guy. He's very witty. He's got nice turns of phrase. And he's going to be a kind of fun addition to this race.

GIGOT: Dan, do you think either of these two guys, Graham or Perry, could have an impact?

HENNINGER: Yes, I think they could have an impact in the sense that both of them -- Rick Perry says this time he'll be talking about substance. The thing I like about this group of candidate is, by and large, it's not just rhetoric. They are talking about things, like what's going on in the world, immigration, domestic policy, the economy. The Republican side is so much more yeastier than what we described over on the Democratic side, which is just kind of a personality. I think out of this is going to emerge potentially a very substantial candidate.

GIGOT: But could it be a disadvantage having this large a field, James, in the sense no clear frontrunner, it's probably not going to have one until maybe close to Iowa next February. Could this extend the race out long enough so that the eventual nominee is bruised and battered and has no cash at the end of it?

FREEMAN: I see only upside here. It is a wide open field --

GIGOT: Really?

FREEMAN: -- which is why I started the draft tending a movement in the first place.

(LAUGHTER)

But this is very different from the last time around. What you had last time was an extended primary season, lots of debates, showcasing a bunch of very bad candidates exposing their weaknesses.

(LAUGHTER)

What we're seeing here is a bunch of very strong, impressive people with interesting messages. And I think they may come out of this process even stronger, whoever the nominee is.

GIGOT: All right. Interesting.

When we come back, after a two-decade decline, violent crime spikes in cities across America. So what's behind the trend? And what can be done to reverse it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Well, it's shaping up to be a bloody summer as a new crime wave hits American cities. In Baltimore, gun violence is up more than 60 percent compared to this time last year, with 32 shootings over the Memorial Day weekend alone. In New York City, murders are up 20 percent over the same period in 2014, and shootings are on the rise for the second year in a row.

A problem Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged this week in an interview with "The Daily Show's" John Stewart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL DE BLASIO, (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: We do have a shooting problem and a shooting problem last year and a shooting problem this year. Nothing like New York City had 15, 20 years ago. Let's be clear.

JOHN STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Correct.

DE BLASIO: But some things persist, particularly around gangs. And we have new strategies to go in there, both with aggressive policing but also gang intervention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: Heather MacDonald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at "City Journal." And I'm happy to say, contributing writer for the "Wall Street Journal," in a column last week --

HEATHER MACDONALD, FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE & CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, CITY JOURNAL & CONTRIBUTING WRITER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Absolutely. It's a privilege.

GIGOT: -- which had a big impact. Hundreds of thousands of readers called it the new American crime wave.

Is it really that bad? What are we really seeing here in terms of a change from the big decline in crime over the last 20, 30 years?

MACDONALD: Some cities, it is very, very bad. It's not every city. Some are holding stable with a little bit of an increase. But in enough significant cities, the percentage increase is so large as to really demand attention.

GIGOT: And what's behind it?

MACDONALD: I think what's behind it is the last nine months of obsessive anti-cop hysteria that this country has lived through based on a few isolated and questionable shootings of black men that should be, if they are criminal, prosecuted and paid attention to. But by no means represent the norm of policing in America or the way most black men die today, which is at the hands of criminals, not the police.

GIGOT: But is this criticism leading to changes in police practices? For example, are the police saying we're criticized so let's not do the kinds of things that we were doing before. Don't go into high-crime neighborhoods, for example? Let's not pursue Stop and Frisk, which you can stop somebody, then see if they have a gun. And sometimes that gets guns off the street, or so that's what the people who support it claim. Is it a change of police practices that's going on?

MACDONALD: Police are still responding to 911 calls. If they get a violent felony calling in, they are responding. But it's an informal change of officers that -- if they have an option to respond or not, to undertake a discretionary stop, to ask a few questions, the very policing that is responsible for the two decades-long crime decline. Officers are hesitant to engage. They're worried that they'll be indicted for a good- faith mistake. They're worried about the ubiquitous cell phone videos that rarely capture the resistance that led an officer to use force. And so officers having been told now, for the last nine months, that proactive policing, going out enforcing broken windows offenses, quality of life offenses against public drinking, that that is somehow a racist assault on minority communities, are understandably saying, well, then maybe we won't be as aggressive and active.

GIGOT: Now, are you hearing that from -- when you go -- you talk to police across the country

MACDONALD: Yes.

GIGOT: When you do that, is that what you're hearing them say privately?

MACDONALD: Absolutely.

GIGOT: They are telling you this?

MACDONALD: Oh, yes. They are very worried. They're worried about losing their jobs. The arrest situation in places like Baltimore is unbelievably hostile. When the police are responding to a 911 call, crowds gather, jeer at them, sometimes throwing things at them for no reason. There was an incident in Baltimore recently where a man with a gun started running, the police had been called to the scene because of a 911 call saying a man with a gun. His own gun went off, he fell to the ground, started writhing and saying the police shot him. The police, who had never discharged their guns, were pelted with Clorox bottles, bricks, water bottles. This is happening not just in Baltimore but the tensions are rising elsewhere

GIGOT: What about Bill de Blasio's argument that, look, there are -- shootings are up, OK, but it's gang-on-gang violence, and therefore it's not something that the broader community in New York needs to worry about.

MACDONALD: Most shootings are always gang-on-gang violence. But if they get to a level, and even at any level, there are innocents inevitably taken as well.

GIGOT: Shootings, crossfire, that sort of thing?

MACDONALD: Of course. You know what kills me? We all know the names of Michael Brown, who was falsely turned into a martyr. The Justice Department itself discredited the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" shot --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: In Ferguson.

MACDONALD: Marcus Johnson is a 6-year-old boy in St. Louis, who, on March 11th, when the protesters were converging on the Ferguson Police Department, again, demanding the resignation of the entire department, Marcus Johnson was killed by a stray bullet in a St. Louis park just a few miles away. America does not know his name. Why is that? Because the "Black Lives Matter" movement only applies to blacks who are killed by the police trying to do their jobs. The difference between most police shootings and gang shootings is the police do not have criminal intent.  Training must work incessantly to make sure that they use force only as last resort. But they're not the criminals we should be worrying about.

GIGOT: Heather MacDonald, thanks for being here.

MACDONALD: Thank you, Paul.

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.

Kim, start us off.

STRASSEL: Paul, a miss to Congress this week sending to President Obama a reauthorization of the Patriot Act which undermines our ability to conduct the war on terror. This new version of the law, it keeps letting us do metadata but it add layers of bureaucracy and delay to the process, making it that much harder to do surveillance of the bad guys. Congress did this because it lacks the guts to have an honest debate with the country about the merits of the law and also the phony arguments that it was being used to spy on them. So it's a bad day. Remember it.

GIGOT: Hear, hear, Kim.

James?

FREEMAN: This is a miss to President Obama. Yes, I am tagging him with the decline of 3 percent in U.S. productivity in the first quarter. He's been telling us for six years that by beating up business he can help the middle class. Here we're seeing a lack of business investment, hurting the middle class. Lower productivity means lower living standards.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Yeah, you need productivity to have wage gains, productivity growth.

Dan?

HENNINGER: Paul, a miss to the entire federal government.

(LAUGHTER)

This week's story was that the Army --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

HENNINGER: Well, the Dugway Proving Ground sent out 50 batches of live anthrax stores to perhaps 18 states. This brings to mind when Centers for Disease Control sent out live pathogens themselves to different sites. It reminds me of the Secret Service, which, these days, is allowing intruders to get into the White House. We used to call the enemy a clear-and-present danger. We've gotten to the point where our own government is a clear-and- present danger to our lives.

GIGOT: All right. Unfortunately, true.

Remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet us to us @JERonFNC.

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

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