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Journal Editorial Report

Are there any obstacles left to a Clinton nomination?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," October 24, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," fireworks on Capitol Hill as Hillary Clinton faces questions about the Benghazi terror attack.  But with Joe Biden out of the race, is her lock on the Democratic nomination already security or are there other obstacles ahead.

Plus, with a third Republican debate days away, Ben Carson knocks Donald Trump from the top spot in a key early state.  Is he the outsider to watch or does Trump have staying power?  

Find out after these headlines.

(FOX NEWS REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  
I would imagine I've thought more about what happened than all of you put together.  I've lost more sleep than all of you put together.  I have been racking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

That was Hillary Clinton this week in her much-anticipated testimony before the House committee investigating the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.  The former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate faced 11 hours of questioning Thursday.  So, did we learn anything new?  

Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.  

Kim, you followed the whole hearing.  What did we learn?  What's the most important thing we learned?  

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  The most important thing we learned that this line the White House put out immediately following the attack that it was inspired by this anti-Muslim video, what we learned is they knew all along that was not true.  We know this because of e-mails that were revealed at the hearing.  Remember, their argument going into an election was that --

GIGOT:  Right.

STRASSEL:  -- that Obama had killed bin Laden, al Qaeda was on the run, the economy was reviving.  They did not want anything to mess with that line.  But we now have e-mails that were released that show that on the night of the attack Hillary Clinton sent an e-mail to her daughter, Chelsea, saying, "I can't talk right now because two of our officers in Benghazi have been killed by an al Qaeda-like organization."  The next day, in a conversation she had with the Egyptian prime minister, she outright told him, we know this was not caused by a video.  This was a planned attack.  It was not the result of a protest.  

GIGOT:  Dan, is this going to be significant because what that shows is that the -- politically significant. because what that shows is the private story that she was telling people was different than the public story that the administration and secretary of state were communicating?  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  I think it's going to be significant next year.  Let's just set aside the incompetence of the State Department in protecting its diplomats overseas, which is not what anyone is interested in here.  It's how the politics plays for Hillary Clinton.  Look, the private version is like the private e-mail servers, it's a question of her judgment.  She displayed bad judgment in selecting per personal, political needs over the needs of the American people at that point.  Come next September and October, TV commercials are going to be cut, saying, A, B and this is about Hillary Clinton's credibility and her judgment, which is her biggest vulnerability right now.  

BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST:  Can I disagree for --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  The conventional wisdom, Bret, is the opposite of what Dan says that this is going -- she is a triumph and she rolled over the Republicans.  

STEPHENS:  I agree with that.  Look, think was Nixon/Kennedy debate.  Famously Nixon was said to have won the debate by those listening but Kennedy won the debate --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  You didn't see that?  

STEPHENS:  Well, I've seen it on --

GIGOT:  I did, as a matter of fact.  

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHENS:  It's similar.  If you're sort of thinking of these hearings of what they yielded, the point Kim just made, basically we just caught the administration in a gigantic lie, is true.  But what Americans watching this saga saw was a woman sitting there confidently, patiently, with all the right pained expressions, sitting in front of what looked like a bunch of munchkins trying to go after her.  

GIGOT:  But what about Dan's point this is going to show up next year because you'll see the sound bites --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHENS:  And the Democrats are going to say these are desperate attacks and they're old news.  

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHENS:  And that's what -- and that's going to work.  And it is unfortunate for those who were interested in actually getting at what happened in Benghazi that we had to have this -- the show that we had this week.  

GIGOT:  But aren't they about -- go to question of political care and judgment.  If she was, as secretary of state, her first instinct was, I'm going to protect -- preserve the narrative the administration wants so we can win re-election as opposed to my first instinct being, oh, my gosh, let's tell the truth about what happened with the deaths of American people-- American servicemen and diplomats.  Isn't that a question that people will want to hear about?  

STEPHENS:  Yes, that's an important question.  The problem is we gave her an opportunity to turn an important political and historical question into a matter of basically political campaign --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  So, we shouldn't have had her on -- they should not have had her --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHENS:  We should have had this information in some way other than this 11-hour marathon hearing.  

GIGOT:  Dan, you --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  I think this performance could have been duplicated by 100 skilled bureaucrats in the federal government.  This is what they do.  Assemble a lot of data and facts and statements in a fog of irresponsibility, which is what she did.  

GIGOT:  So, I think it's going to come back and be an issue?  

HENNINGER:  Oh, yeah, I think it will be an issue.  

GIGOT:  Kim, adjudicate this fight between Stephens and Henninger.  

(LAUGHTER)

What do you think?

STRASSEL:  I'm with Dan.  People are not going to remember this performance so much as the evidence that came out of it.  And the evidence goes, as you said, one, to her character and her judgment.  Those are going to be some of her biggest vulnerabilities in this race going forward.  That, and the question whether the FBI makes a move on any of this going forward as well.  

GIGOT:  On the e-mails.  We'll get to that.  

Anything else, Kim, that you learned at the hearing that you thought was significant?  

STRASSEL:  Well, this -- again, it goes to the judgment question.  There was a lot of discussion about why we were in Libya, and Mrs. Clinton's role in pushing us to be there and as a result, her interests in making sure this was a good news story, regardless of what was really happening on the ground.  And we heard a lot, took, about who was advising her, Sidney Blumenthal, an old Clinton crony, rather than respected and knowledgeable people within the State Department.  She put a lot of interest and emphasis on his judgment, which, again, goes to her own judgment.  

GIGOT:  That's scary when you think about Sid Blumenthal in the Oval Office.  

When we come back, with Joe Biden out of the picture, is the path to the nomination now clear for Hillary Clinton or are there still hurdles ahead?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Ending months of speculation, Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will not enter the Democratic presidential race, leaving Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as the only remaining challenger to Hillary Clinton to be polling in the double digits.  So is the path to the nomination now clear for Clinton or are there other obstacles ahead?  

Dan, so Lincoln Chafee gets out this week, so Joe Biden gets out this week, Jim Webb gets out this week.  There will be nobody on stage except Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton is they have another debate.  This is the least competitive open presidential nomination in modern history.  

HENNINGER:  Paul, I've got to give you my favorite headline from the past week on this subject, which was, "How Bernie Sanders plans to explain Democratic Socialism."  

(LAUGHTER)

Serious.  He's going to give a speech explaining what Democratic Socialism means.  

GIGOT:  Is that going to carry him over the top?  

HENNINGER:  No.  It means it's hopeless.  It means it's probably hopeless.  

(LAUGHTER)

I think there's another point here to make.  Bernie's support among young Democrats is pretty strong, especially among young women.  I think there's a problem here for the Democratic Party.  It suggests that younger Democrats are drifting away from standard liberalism towards the left and maybe even towards Socialism.  And I think the regular candidates like Hillary have to be acutely aware of that.  She has to appeal to that segment somehow.  

GIGOT:  She is.  She is.

HENNINGER:  Which is out of the mainstream of the American electorate.

GIGOT:  She is running to the left of Barack Obama on all kinds of issues.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah.  So his presence is there, no matter what.  

GIGOT:  Any other obstacles, Bret, to her nomination?

STEPHENS:  The most obvious obstacle is an FBI investigation of her e- mails.  That investigation is run by -- ultimately, by Jim Comey, and also run by the Justice Department --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Jim Comey being the FBI director.  

STEPHENS:  The FBI director, Loretta Lynch, so, I think the chances of this investigation yielding anything, any real trouble for Hillary Clinton are fairly slim.  Comey is a very political director masquerading as a straight shooter.  

GIGOT:  But if the FBI holds Hillary Clinton to the same standard it held Petraeus and Deutsch and others in mishandling classified information, it seems to me she should at least have to cop to a misdemeanor.  She had clear intent to evade Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Records Act, and she knew that classified information was very likely to come across that server.  That's mishandling classified information.  Why wouldn't the FBI act on that?  

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHENS:  As I said, Jim Comey is a very political director.  

GIGOT:  Wow.  OK, Bret.

STEPHENS:  This is the future -- they believe the future president of the United States.  So, she's being held to an entirely different standard from General -- or Director Petraeus, Director Deutsch, and so on.  It's simple politics.  It's the corruption of a system.  

GIGOT:  Kim, does this mean the Democratic party, with Hillary Clinton clearly the leading candidate, are they all going to marshal forces around her and she'll be able to march to the nomination with ease?  

STRASSEL:  Dan's point is actually really important in that Bernie Sanders is not going to win this nomination, but he is going to pull her left.  And one outstanding question is whether or not she can go left enough to satisfy what is a significant portion of Democrats out there who clearly are not energized or thrilled by Hillary Clinton.  She's also got a tough line she's going to have to walk in that she's got to figure out very carefully how she walks the line between embracing the Obama presidency and not upsetting those voters that still very much are fond of this president, while also suggesting that she would govern differently and she has different policies in some way, to satisfy those who are but to satisfy with his economy and his leadership.  

HENNINGER:  To Kim's point about Obama's -- Obama's presidency, one interesting thing that to me came out of that Benghazi hearing was, in her opening statement, in which she started talking about working towards a more bipartisan foreign policy and how we had to work with Congress, clearly trying to separate herself from Obama, who had basically gone alone on foreign policy, and I think that she was making a pitch that was showing us what she's going to be saying on the campaign trail.  

STEPHENS:  I agree.  I actually disagree with Kim.  I think this is an opportunity, because she's clearly going to win the nomination, barring something from the FBI, for her to attack right back to the center because she knows, from now on, she's fighting a general election and she'll have to fight for more than just the Bernie Sanders voter.  She has to fight for centrist Democrats and Independent voters.  On the other hand, because she once again has a coronation, she'll be making a lot of mistakes.  

GIGOT:  All right.

Well, when we come back, with just days to go until the next Republican debate, Ben Carson knocks Donald Trump from the top spot in Iowa and gains ground with a key voting group.  Could it spell trouble for Trump in the months ahead?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  As the Republican presidential candidates prepared to square off in Boulder, Colorado, in their third debate, a look now at the state of the Republican race.  The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows Trump maintaining his lead nationwide, but Ben Carson close behind, within the margin of error, heading into Wednesday night's showdown.  And thanks in large part to his support among women, a new Quinnipiac University survey finds Carson surging past Trump for the first time in the crucial early state of Iowa.  

So, Bret, what do you make of Ben Carson's rise in the polls, especially Iowa?  

STEPHENS:  Partly, it's a matter of Donald Trump exhaustion.  I think he made one comment too many with the 9/11 comment.

GIGOT:  Really?

STEPHENS:  But it's somehow the accumulation --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  And the attack on George Bush for 9/11?  

STEPHENS:  Exactly.  Ben Carson has a sterling obviously extraordinary reputation as a doctor.  He's the quiet man.  He comes across as the anti- Trump.  

But what's really happening here is Republican voters are sampling the outside candidates.  That's why you saw Carly rise so sharply when she did well in her debates.  She's now deflating a bit.  Now they're looking at Carson.  I think as they take a closer look at Carson, a lot of Republican voters are going to be alarmed and worried that he's not going to perform well in debates against Hillary because his political knowledge looks pretty shallow.  

GIGOT:  So he's extraordinarily likable in the polls.  And they all show that 80 percent favorable rating.  That doesn't happen, Dan, to politicians.  Maybe because people don't think he is a politician.  That's got to go down as he campaigns.  But it is extraordinary.  

HENNINGER:  Yeah, it is.  On the other hand, there's Trump, whose support among women in the recent Quinnipiac poll in Iowa is 13 percent, but he goes, "Women love me."  

(LAUGHTER)

Well, not so much in Iowa, right?  30 percent say they could never vote for him in Iowa.  I think Trump has reached a ceiling.  Ben Carson hasn't reached a ceiling.  

GIGOT:  So, Kim, you weren't up this week but we saw -- Rick Santorum came into the office and talked about the race and his race in Iowa and said that he thinks Carson and Trump, a lot of voters don't know what their positions are on the issues, particularly in Iowa, and as that becomes more vetted as the weeks go on, you're going to see some Republicans say, mm, I wonder if these guys are really who should be the Republican standard bearer.  What do you think of that analysis?  

STRASSEL:  There's something to that.  They probably won't be voting for Rick Santorum.  However, this is very much following what happens in past elections.  There is a big interest, especially in these early voting states, in outside candidates.  They start to tune in after the summer is over.  And they begin to understand the positions.  Then, they move and gravitate toward other more established candidates.  One of the things that you're seeing, for instance, in Iowa, is the rise of Marco Rubio, who is hardly an outsider to politics.  He's been in politics his whole life.  He does come across --

GIGOT:  I think he has 13 percent in that Quinnipiac poll.

STRASSEL:  Right, which puts him up way ahead of Jeb Bush, for instance, other people that are in the race.  But the point being is that what is attracting people to him more and more is that he looks like someone who knows his stuff when it comes to foreign policy.  He's got a plan on a lot of domestic issues.  In the end, that's probably going to end up trumping the outsider status that right now holds sway.  

GIGOT:  I'm going to probably disappoint a few people and agree with Bret -
-

(LAUGHTER)

-- on Carson's appeal to -- the challenge he faces, which is people like him very much.  They admire his career.  But they're going to have to sit down over time and say, can I see this man in the Oval Office?  He's going to have to demonstrate real knowledge of the issues.  It's not as if he's not smart enough to do it.  He obviously is.  But because of what he's been doing with his life, he hasn't been studying issues like Russia and the Middle East, you know, a lot of economics.  And yet, those are the biggest questions that a president faces.  You have a guy like Rubio who's been on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Committee, and so he's dealt with that for years.  Carson hasn't.  Is that, in your view, a big challenge for him?  

HENNINGER:  I think it is a big challenge, Paul, and he'll have to somehow maintain himself as we get closer to Iowa and New Hampshire.  I know people hate process, but we're only at the first stage.  Eventually, the candidates like Rubio and Bush are going to start dropping for TV advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire.  That stuff makes a difference.  Once they start pouring it into those states, somehow, we'll see if Trump spends money on it and Ben Carson is going to have to react to it.  

GIGOT:  Though attacking Ben Carson in a negative ad is dicey.  

HENNINGER:  They'll elevate themselves.  They're not going to Ben Carson --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHEN:  No, look, I think a lot of voters will say, you know, obviously, he's a really smart guy but the kind of smarts that makes you a great surgeon isn't necessarily what you need in the Oval Office.  I think that is going to show.  In politics, you get thrown questions all the time that you're barely prepared for.  You're going to deliver half-baked answers, and they're going to come back and haunt you.  

GIGOT:  What if, looking at Hillary Clinton, they say, you know what, let's elect an honest man.  

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHENS:  I wish the election in 1940 with Wendell Willkie had gone the other way, but it didn't.  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  So the outsider is a really tough road to go to the White House.  I'm afraid you're right.  But let's watch.  This could be the year.  

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Kim, start us off.  

STRASSEL:  A hit to Paul Ryan for stepping up to run for speaker.  Let's be clear, Mr. Ryan did not have to do this.  He didn't even want to do this.  He was very happy as Ways and Means chairman.  And this is a pretty thankless job, being speaker.  But it became clear he was probably the only person who could do it.  He's a principled conservative.  He's got a lot of respect among the members.  He's got a vision for the country.  Mr. Ryan, very shrewdly, made some demands of his caucus, namely that they all back him.  We're about to find out if that caucus understands the opportunity that they've been given to finally make some progress in the House.  

GIGOT:  All right, Kim, thanks.

Bret?  STEPHENS:  I'd like to pay tribute to Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler who was killed in Iraq in a very daring rescue operation of 70 Kurds who were about to be executed by ISIS in northern Iraq.  It's a reminder that we have 3,500 troops in Iraq.  They seem to be a forgotten force.  But they're putting themselves in harm's way and they're saving human lives and we ought to be mindful of that sacrifice.  And we ought to be mindful of what the stakes are.  So I just want people to be mindful of Master Sergeant Wheeler.  

GIGOT:  Hear, hear, Bret.  

Dan?  

HENNINGER:  Well, on a lighter note, last weekend, on "Saturday Night Live," Comedian Larry David did a perfect imitation of presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders.  Then a couple of days later, on Jimmy Kimmel, presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, did a perfect imitation of Larry David.  Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton was on SNL with the woman who portrays her as a comedian on SNL.  I'm getting a little bit confused here.  Who are the comedians and who are the presidential candidates?  But maybe at this point, what difference does it make?  

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT:  Well, Sanders and Larry David, they're both cranky.  

(LAUGHTER)

They're perfect personalities.  

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us 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.  Hope to see you right here next week.  

END

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