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Journal Editorial Report

Will Republican attacks work or is Trump unstoppable?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 5, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: Welcome to this special edition of the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Stuart Varney in this week for Paul Gigot.

Donald Trump taking fire from fellow Republicans after winning seven states on Super Tuesday, establishing himself as the clear favorite for the GOP presidential nomination.

Mitt Romney, the party's losing 2012 nominee, he went on the attack Thursday, calling Trump a phony and a fraud. And his 2016 primary opponents tried to derail the Trump train again in the Fox debate by hammering away at his conservative credentials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For 40 years, Donald has been part of the corruption in Washington that you're angry about. And you're not going to stop the corruption in Washington by supporting someone who has supported liberal Democrats for four decades from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry to Hillary Clinton.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not going to turn over the conservative movement or the party of Lincoln and Reagan, for example, to someone whose positions are not conservative. To someone who last week depended Planned Parenthood for 30 seconds on a debate stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: So as Republicans voted in four states make their choice this very day, did all of those attacks work? Or Is Donald Trump unstoppable?

Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger; Washington columnist Kim Strassel; assistant editorial page editor James Freeman, and columnist Bret Stephens.

Dan, is he unstoppable?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think he's capable of stopping himself to tell you the truth. Look, we are at a point now where you need a majority of the delegates, 1,237 delegates to win. Trump would have to win 52 percent of the remaining delegates to gain that majority. He's got three people competing with him. Theoretically, it's going to be difficult for him to get to the majority.

Now, in the debate this week, he brought up a subject. He usually talks in very broad stroke terms about every subject. But the question of immigration and H1-B visas came up for highly-skilled workers and he offered that he was going to be flexible on that because they need those kind of workers in Silicon Valley.

Right after the debate, his campaign put out that he did not mean that because he didn't mean it, because we're immigration opponents, those H1-B visas are a very sore point so as Donald Trump gets deeper into this primary campaign and starts talking about some of these subject, he runs the risk of losing conservative support at the margins. And he cannot afford to do that.

VARNEY: He responds to that directly. He says I am flexible. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've never seen a successful person who wasn't flexible, who didn't have a certain degree of flexibility. You have to show a degree of flexibility. If you're going to be one way and you think it's wrong, does that mean the rest of your life, you have to go in the wrong direction because you don't want to change?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: Let me raise this issue, you can't take Donald Trump at face value. What he says today is just his opening position in a bargaining and negotiation. He'll change tomorrow. That is flexibility.

What's wrong with that, James?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Well, I think Cruz pretty effectively Thursday night made the case that what Donald Trump is flexible about is basic principles. Basic principles about the shape of our government, the institution, personal liberty. And I think you asked the question, can Trump be stopped. I think he can. I think he will be stopped when these gets down to a one-on-one race.

I think Cruz with his Tuesday results and his Thursday debate performance shows he should be the guy. I think it's time for Kasich and Rubio to get out and allow Cruz to take on Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, the politician that most resembles Donald Trump is Barack Obama. Back in 2007, you're looking at me funny, but it's the case. In 2002 --

VARNEY: Barack Obama won.

In 2007 and 2008, people projected on Obama whatever it was they were feeling. They wanted hope and change. He was vague. He kept it vague and that's how he won.

Right now, the mood of the Republican Party is we're angry. We want to get rid of the establishment and that's what has propelled Donald Trump so far, but soon, he will be exposed. This is the process that's begun belatedly, but it's happening. His bankruptcies are going to be exposed. Trump University is going to be exposed. His tax returns are going to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Stuart, Stuart, Stuart --

VARNEY: I've got to bring, go on. Go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a candidate who tells it like it is or a candidate who is flexible and says whatever comes into his head? Whatever suits his purpose?

VARNEY: The latter is working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he is supported because he tells it like it is.

VARNEY: OK. Come on, Kim Strassel, you got to get into this.

(CROSSTALK)

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: All of this --

VARNEY: Where's the vulnerability?

STRASSEL: OK, he's got a lot of vulnerabilities. People have been talking about how he got beat up on in this debate. The bigger point is that Trump made mistakes in that debate. He brought up the H1-B visa thing, which some of his supporters who are single-issue voters care about it deeply.  That concerned them.

A lot of veterans and active duty military heard his comment out there saying that if he asked the military to perform an unconstitutional act, well, they'll just do exactly what he said. That sent up some red flags.

He has to go with all of these, into these races now that the primaries and caucuses that are happening today in Kansas and Kentucky, Maine and Louisiana caucuses have never been his strong suit. Worse, these are closed caucuses. Republican-only voters. That's been tough on him, too.  If any of that helps to stall his momentum combined with the added tax that Brett was alluding to, he could have a difficult road going forward in the next two weeks.

VARNEY: OK, let me throw this out. If Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee, if they oust him in some way, the Republicans cannot win.

Dan?

HENNINGER: Well, this is a very interesting question. I mean, they do have big problems right now. Trump has all of these supporters, but because Trump has engendered so much opposition inside the Republican Party, arguably, a lot of Republicans are either not going to vote for Trump or even vote for Hillary Clinton.

I think if he were out and if Cruz or Rubio were in, whose credentials are unimpeachable, all of these on the fence, Republicans about Trump would undoubtedly get behind the candidate.

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST: What is absolutely clear is that if Trump is the nominee, Republicans cannot win. Maybe they can't win with Rubio or Cruz or Kasich. We don't know. But what is absolutely certain is that with Hillary Clinton locking up the Democratic base, she is going to win unless she has a strong contender who is going to be able to pull -- not only bring the entire Republican Party on the side, but win moderates. Donald Trump cannot do that.

VARNEY: OK. We've got to get to a commercial break and on that note, Donald Trump cannot and will not win.

There's going to be more on this, Bret Stephens. I absolutely promise you.

All right, still ahead, Donald Trump, the unifier. There's a subject.  It's been a nasty primary battle, oh, yes, it has, but he's promising to unite the Republican Party and take the fight to Hillary Clinton if he's the nominee. So can he?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: Two-thirds of the people who have cast a vote in the Republican primary or caucus have voted against you. They do not want you to be our nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LELAND VITTERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A Fox News alert. Good Saturday afternoon to you. I'm Leland Vittert here in Washington along with Elizabeth Prann.

Big day in the GOP, caucuses in number of states including Kansas.

ELIZABETH PRANN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're looking live now. There is Donald Trump speaking to a very eager crowd in Wichita, Kansas, so let's now listen live.

TRUMP: Make America great again. We are going to make America great again. That I can tell you. That I can tell you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

When you look at what's going on with deals like we made with Iran. A deal where we give them $150 billion, where we don't get our hostages back until years later, years after, it's a disgrace. We're going to change that.  We're going to do so many things. We're going to get rid of common core, bring education local, which we have to do. Have to do. We have no choice. We have to do.

We're going to repeal and replace ObamaCare very, very quickly. I don't know if you know, but your premiums are going up like a rocket ship. Your premiums are going up 25, 35, 45 percent and it's going to fall of its own weight very soon anyway. We're going to rebuild our military. Our military is depleted. Our military is frankly, our military is in trouble.

We're going to make our military so strong, so powerful. That nobody, nobody, is going to mess with us, that, I can tell you. We're going to take care of our vets. They are forgotten people. They've been the forgotten people. And we're taking care of our vets. Finally.

After years that I've been hearing this, even long before I was in the world of politics, I've been hearing this for years. Our vets are going to be, these are cherished people. We're taking care of our vets.

On trade, our country is a disaster. We have political hacks. People that give money to politicians. That's how they get their jobs. We have the worst people negotiating our trade deals. We're going stop that. We're going to have the greatest business people in the world and we have them.  We're going to have the greatest business people in the world negotiating our trade deals with China.

If you look with China, we have a trade deficit of $505 billion this year.  That's going to end. With Mexico, $58 billion. With Japan, hundreds of billions of dollars. They send the cars in by the millions and we send them practically nothing. We're going to change all of that.

[12:10:16] And by the way, many other countries, every country, the fact is our country doesn't win anymore. We don't win. We don't have good leadership. We don't have the right people. Everything's politically correct. We have a country that's lost its way. It's going to change.  It's going to change.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

On our borders, we are going to build a wall, that, I can tell you. We are going to build a wall.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And as sure as you're sitting there, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.  They know they're going to pay for the wall and just so you understand, people come off the stage and they say, Donald, politicians, they say Donald, you can't get Mexico really to pay for the wall. I'll say, 100 percent. Mexico will be paying. We have a $58 billion a year trade deficit with Mexico. The wall is going to cost $10 billion. Unless you're really bad at business, let me tell you, it's going to be very, very easy.

Nobody can understand when you saw Vicente Fox --

PRANN: All right. You are listening live to Donald Trump. He is speaking to a crowd in Wichita, Kansas. Bringing up leadership, veterans and the wall he will build on the border. But I want to switch gears now and I want to take you to the National Harbor in Maryland where we listened to Senator Marco Rubio speaking to what you can see there a very packed crowd.

Take a listen, live.

RUBIO: The greatest nation to begin, to begin with. And that's why the theme of this gathering that our time is now forces us to answer a second question. And that is what does it mean to be a conservative in the 21st century?

I can tell you what it can never mean. Being a conservative can never be about simply an attitude. Being a conservative cannot simply be about how long you're willing to scream, how angry you're willing to be or how many names you're willing to call people. That is not conservative.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Conservatism has never been about fear or about anger. Not at its best.  Do people have a right to be fearful of the future right now? Yes, because for over two decades, leaders in neither party have solved the problems before us.

Do people have a right to be angry about, not just the political class, but every institution in society? Absolutely. But neither anger nor fear will solve our problems. They can serve to motivate us, but it will not solve our problems.

What will solve our problems is a specific set of ideas built on bedrock principles that made America the greatest nation to begin with and applying those principles to the unique challenges of this new century. And those principles are not complicated. It begins with a notion that this nation was founded on a powerful spiritual principle, that our rights do not come from government. Our rights do not come from our laws. Our rights do not come from our leaders. Our rights come from God.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Our government does not exist to decide these rights, nor to grant them.  Our government exists to protect them. And that is why we have a constitution that limits the power of the federal government to a few specific, but important things and we have abandoned that. We have abandoned it in both political parties.

We have reached a moment in our history where we think that every problem in America has to have a federal government solution. Every problem in America does not have a federal government solution. In fact, most problems in America do not have a federal government solution and many of them are created by the federal government to begin with.

(APPLAUSE)

And so, to move forward in the better direction, it does mean re-embracing and following the First Amendment for what that stands for is not just the right to believe anything you want, but the right to live out the teachings of your faith in every single aspect of your life.

(APPLAUSE)

It means understanding that the Second Amendment was not a nice suggestion.  It is a constitutional right to protect yourself and your families from terrorists or criminals.

(APPLAUSE)

It means adhering to the Tenth Amendment in which power, if it even belongs in government, is reserved to the states, not because we don't care about our problems, but because we care. We know that when the federal government tries to solve these problems, it often makes them worse, not better, so let's return power back to the states.

(APPLAUSE)

Conservatism means re-embracing true free enterprise. True free enterprise, which I believe and not because my parents were wealthy, not because I inherited millions of dollars because I did not, but because as I walked on to the stage here today, I walked through the kitchen of this hotel and I met people and shook the hands of people who are doing the jobs my parents once did.

(APPLAUSE)

You know why they have a job? You know why they have a job? You know why my parents had a job? Because free enterprise works. Because someone created those jobs and with those jobs, they are able to feed their families and raise them and buy homes and a better future.

Free enterprise is the best economic system in the history of the world, because it is the only system where you can make poor people richer and you don't have to make rich people poor.

(APPLAUSE)

It means -- conservatism means believing in a strong national defense. Not because we want war, but because we love peace. Because history has taught us a painful lesson, that weakness is the enemy of peace. That weakness invites violence, that weakness invites war.

(APPLAUSE)

And so conservatism -- conservatives believe that the U.S. military should always be the most powerful on earth because the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

Conservatives believe we stand by our allies, especially allies like Israel. They are the only pro-American free enterprise democracy in the Middle East.

(APPLAUSE)

Conservatives believe that we need to defeat radical Islam not because we want war but because ISIS and other radical Islamist are enemies of peace and that's why we need a president, who in which under whom the best intelligence agencies in the world will find terrorists and the best military in the world will destroy them. And if we capture them alive, a president that will bring them to the United States. A president that will grant them a court-appointed lawyer, a president that will send these terrorists where they belong, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

(APPLAUSE)

And conservatives believe we take care of our veterans, because we have a sacred obligation to take care of them after they've taken care of us.  It's something that's not happening now.

(APPLAUSE)

And yet, conservatives believe in traditional values. Not because we want to impose our views on anyone, but because to abandon those values would be to ignore our history. Americans are not the most generous people on earth because our laws make us generous. People do not contribute to charity in this country in record amounts because we have a tax break from it. We do so because this nation has been shaped by Judeo-Christian principles that teach us that we have an obligation to care for one another.

(APPLAUSE)

And we believe in traditional values because without them, without the belief in an all-powerful God, then the very founding of this country was meaningless. It was founded on the principles that our rights come from God. If there is no God, then where do your rights come from other than what your leaders decide they are?

You do not understand American and you do not understand our history, if you do not understand the role that our faith community has played in making us the greatest nation in the history of all nations.

(APPLAUSE)

So I am preaching to the proverbial choir on this issue. Why? Because I think there's a growing amount of confusion about what conservatism is.  And it is time for us to understand that conservatism is not built on personalities. Conservatism is not simply built on how angry you might seem from time to time. Conservatism is built on a set of principles and ideas that our nation desperately needs.

And perhaps the most important moment in a generation. For over 200 years, this has been an exceptional country. I know this personally and so do many of you, because for me, America is not just the country I was born in.  It is the nation that literally changed the history of my family.

But we have to remember that what made that possible was not an accident. America is not a special country by accident. It did not happen on its own. It happened because for over 200 years, each generation before us did what needed to be done.

For over two centuries, each generation of Americans before us confronted and solved problems. They embraced opportunities and Americans have never had it easy. This was a nation founded by declaring independence for the most powerful empire in the world. This was a nation that faced a divisive and bloody civil war, two great world wars, a long cold war.

The 1960s were difficult for this country. The civil rights movement divided us regionally. The Vietnam wars divided us generationally.  Americans have never had it easy. But each generation before us confronted their challenges and solved their problems and that's why each generation before us left the country better off than the one that is meant for them.

My fellow conservatives, the time has come for this generation to do its part. The moment has arrived for us to do our part now. And the stakes could not be higher because the future of the greatest nation on earth is at stake.

And I want to speak specifically to the younger people here today. Because I know there's a lot of negativity out there. I know that times are difficult. I want you to know that I believe something with all my heart.  I believe that today's young Americans are on the verge and have the chance to become the next greatest generation in American history.

(APPLAUSE)

I believe -- I believe that the 21st century, the 21st century is tailor made for America. There are now hundreds of millions of people on this planet that a decade ago were starving and now, they want to buy things from you. They want to trade with you. They want to partner with you and collaborate with you and these young Americans are the best collaborators in the history of mankind.

These young Americans are the most technologically-advanced people that have ever lived. On the campaign trail, unless you're under 25, no one knows how to use their camera phone.

(LAUGHTER)

These young Americans have the chance to fulfill an incredible potential and destiny, but we have to give them a chance, and they won't have a chance if a Hillary Clinton or a Bernie Sanders is elected. And they won't have a chance --

(APPLAUSE)

And they won't have a chance if the conservative movement is hijacked by someone who is not a conservative.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And so -- and so, I'm already over time, so let me close with this.

Well, I got to answer questions. I get to answer questions in a moment from Dana Bash. So let me close with this.

I know that all the news today sounds bad. And, by the way, for young Americans know this the one thing that's always true about history is that every generation believes the next generation is really messed up.

(LAUGHTER)

I want you to believe and know if we do what needs to be done, I want you to know what history is going to say about you. I want you to know what history is going to say about us. If we make the right choice now.

It will say that this generation of Americans live in the early years of this new century, in a very difficult time. The world was changing. And we struggled to keep pace with it. And it will say the truth. We almost got it wrong.

After eight years of Barack Obama and one crazy election, we almost got it wrong. We came this close. But then we remembered who we were. Then we remembered what America was. Then we confronted our challenges and embraced our opportunities. And because we did what needed to be done in 2016, our children became the freest and most prosperous Americans that ever lived.

Because we did what needed to be done, the American dream didn't just survived. It reached more people. It changed more lives than ever before.  Because we did what needed to be done, the 21st century became greater than the 20th century. It became the greatest era in our history. It became a new American century.

This is what we have the chance to do together and our time to do it is now. Thank you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Thank you. And now, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

CROWD: Rubio! Rubio! Rubio!

And now, I'm going to -- I'm going to answer some questions from a journalist many of us respect very much. CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash is here. So I look forward to answering her questions.

RUBIO: Thank you, guys.

CROWD: Rubio!

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. That's OK.

RUBIO: I don't want to get you sick.

BASH: Thank you for that.

RUBIO: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

BASH: That never gets old, does it?

RUBIO: My running mate right here.

BASH: I just want to say that it's definitely the first time I have ever been introduced by a presidential candidate. I have a whole list of questions I want to ask.

RUBIO: Yes, ma'am.

BASH: The one thing that you were just talking about struck me that I want you to talk about because I, too, came in through the back, through the kitchen and, you know, that is definitely how you approach a lot of these events. And people don't really realize that, but for you, it is personal.

RUBIO: Yes. I mean, my parents, this is the jobs they did. I always a tell people my parents were incredibly successful people because the American dream is not about how much money you make or how many buildings have your name on it.

The American dream -- the American dream, I wasn't talk about anybody in particular. I'm just saying.

(LAUGHTER)

The American dream is about achieving happiness. When you become a fire fighter, a police officer or a teacher or a nurse, you know you're not going to become a billionaire. What you want is what my parents achieved.  And what my parents achieved working as a bartender and a maid at a hotel after arriving here with nothing, no education, no money. The first words my dad learned in English where I'm looking for a job.

You know what my parents achieved? They owned a home in a safe and stable neighborhood. They retired with dignity and they left all four of their children better off than themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

That's the American dream.

BASH: I know you weren't talking about any particular person when you just said that.

RUBIO: I probably was, but I mean, you know -- I'm trying to be nice. I'm trying to be nice. So let's go there.

BASH: Donald Trump was supposed to be here this morning. He backed out.  Instead went to Kansas.

(CROWD BOOING)

I sense that the crowd has an opinion on that. Do you?

RUBIO: Yes. I mean, this is the American Conservative Union. And so, I mean, it's usually reserved for conservatives and --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

This matters. I mean, look, either the idea behind conservatism matter or they do not. And if they do not, then that's fine, but I believe they do.  It is not enough to say vote for me because I'm angrier and over the top and I'm going to do and say things no one else is going to do. I get that anger and frustration. I really do.

But let me tell you something. I have said this before. It is not a coincidence that there are people, plethora of young conservative leaders in this country, in their 40s and 50s -- myself, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Susana Martinez, Nikki Hailey, Paul Ryan. Why? Why?

Why are there so many young conservatives now serving our country? I'll tell you why? Because we grew up in an era of Reagan. And Ronald Reagan looked and acted nothing like Donald Trump and look at the Democrats.

Who is the young and up and coming Democrat? Bernie Sanders.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Senator, let me ask you a question about that, though. And I asked Ted Cruz about this this week as well. You're stepping up your rhetoric big time against Donald Trump on the question of whether or not he is a true conservative. You started doing that at CNN's debate last week.  You're calling him a con artist and a fraud.

If you believe those things, why did you wait until February of 2016 to say so?

RUBIO: Well, a couple of reasons why. Number one is because for much of this campaign, I've been fighting off other people attacking me and so that takes a little bit of time, too. And the other is, look, I didn't get into this to beat up on the other candidates. I really didn't.

I had hope that voters -- if you had told me a year ago that the front- runner at this stage in the Republican campaign would be a supporter of Planned Parenthood, who says he doesn't stand with Israel, who says that -- who has a long record of supporting government sponsored health care, I would say on what planet would that be, that Republican front-runner, but it's happened. And I think we have to ask ourselves why have we allowed that to happen.

So I don't think any of us anticipated it.

BASH: And why is that? Why have -- why have -- the Republicans have voted and voted for him.

RUBIO: Well, I mean, part of the reason, and I think you're one of the reasons why. And I don't mean to take you on this, but I want to be clear because I've now been sitting here for five minutes and two of the three questions have been about Donald Trump. That's the reason why.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: That's fair. That's fair. But he is the frontrunner.

RUBIO: The last .

BASH: That's fair but he is the frontrunner and you've been making your campaign about Donald Trump.

RUBIO: No but even before he was the frontrunner, even before, Donald would offend someone personally. He'd make fun of a disabled reporter or attack a woman journalist and even dominate news coverage. Of course he's going to get all this attention. It's fine. I'm not complaining about it.  All I'm saying to you is the reason why we talk about it and the reason why a lot of this has happened is the other night at the debate, I didn't do the count but over half the questions I asked were somehow related to my opinion of Donald Trump. I'm more than happy to share with you my opinion on Donald Trump but I'm running for president because I think this country needs to reembrace the Constitution. This country needs to reembrace free enterprise and it needs to a reembrace the strong national defense.

BASH: OK. We have some questions from Twitter. People were submitting questions on Twitter and Lisa Gary Ella asked this question, how are your children responding to your campaign? Do they understand how important and serious this is? And before you answer that question, I want to put my mom hat on for a second because you're the proud father of four, I'm the mother of a four-year-old son and I'm having trouble letting him watch the news because things had gotten so vulgar and so over the top that I don't want him to think that it's okay to act like that.

RUBIO: Right.

BASH: How do you -- and I'm not alone. I know a lot of people have said that. How do you feel as father and a presidential candidate about how low things have gone?

RUBIO: Well, I mean, no, but I'll tell you, this is related to the real question. I'm glad you asked it. My kids were with me on the campaign trail a lot from New Hampshire -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.  Every day when I woke up, I was glad they were there, not just because they were my kids, but because I looked at them and they remind to me, this is what it's about. You're literally trying to decide what kind of country will it be like when they're my age, when they're a little younger but doing things for the first time. I mentioned this in the speech.

You know, God has blessed my family. He has protected our children. He has protected us. They handled it extremely well. I don't think we've ever had a negative moment on the campaign with them. But that's because God has protected us and shielded us. I really believe that he's done that for us and he's done that for other families as well. And -- but for me, it is a daily reminder that we are fighting for here, ultimately, is we're deciding now in this election, we'll decide what America looks like in 10 years. And yes, I think it is -- one of the things you asked me, I don't want us to have a president that we constantly have to be explaining to our kids, I know that's what the president did but you shouldn't do that. I don't want that. We actually had a president like that not long ago. It was really bad.

BASH: But the -- I'll leave that one alone. But just a follow up, but the rhetoric has been, I mean, I understand you're saying that you are trying to answer him in some of the things that he has been saying, but you know, I can't explain to my kid about the talking the -- you're talking about hands and things like that.

RUBIO: Well, look, I don't -- I'll be more than happy to answer another Trump question. I don't know -- Donald Trump, he might have grown up the way he did with a lot of money and going to boarding schools. I can tell you this, where I grew up, if someone keeps punching someone in face, eventually, someone's going to have to stand up and punch them back, so.

BASH: I want to ask another question from Twitter. This is on the Supreme Court from @SarahLeeAnne. Do you think President Obama should appoint a justice to SCOTUS, the Supreme Court, prior to the end his term? Why or why not?

RUBIO: No, absolutely not. And the reason why is -- first of all, I agree with Joe Biden in 1992 when he said we should not be electing Supreme Court or nominating Supreme Court justices in an election year, much less in the eighth year of this president

First of all, the Supreme Court can function with eight justices. The number nine is set by Congress. I'm not advocating we do this but if we wanted to change it to eight or seven, we could. There's no magic number nine. Number two, this president is completely unaccountable. He is going to be nominating someone who is basically a lifetime appointment and we can't hold it against them in an election.

So we're going to have a debate in this country over this. There's going to be an election in November. God willing, we're going to nominate an elect conservative and that conservative will then appoint, I hope, someone more like Justice Scalia than the kind of nominees we've gotten out of this president.

BASH: So do you think that all candidates now, Republican and Democrat, should pledge not to nominate a Supreme Court justice in their last year of term?

VARNEY: That's Marco Rubio at CPAC and for those of you not familiar, CPAC is the annual pilgrimage of conservative activists that all come to Washington to give you an idea of just how important this event, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz all took time out of their campaign schedules to come speak. The one person who was not there at CPAC, who canceled his appearance, was Donald Trump and perhaps the biggest applause line that we heard from Marco Rubio during his speech was that he is not going to allow the conservative movement to be hijacked by someone who is not a conservative.

So without mentioning Trump's name, it was a brutal attack on Trump and we saw that from Marco Rubio throughout his speech really Elizabeth (ph). He had all of these veiled references to Trump. I don't measure success by how many buildings have my name on it, those kinds of things.

PRANN: Yeah, he didn't mention his name.

VARNEY: But never said Trump until the question and answer session.

PRANN: And it was probably was still about two minutes into that Q&A session before he said Donald Trump by name. But we certainly heard him addressed the crowd and addressed conservative values which, like you said, would expect with the venue.

He talked a lot about limited government, military and our allies. And then during the first part of the Q&A, he really spoke about where he came from which was a way for him to connect with a lot of the young voters and he talked about how the first words his dad learned in English was, you know, where can I find a job? How can I get a job?

VARNEY: I'm looking for work.

PRANN: You know, he's really distinguishing himself from the frontrunner, and like you said, it took a couple of minutes before he mentioned his name. But he's really setting himself apart.

VARNEY: Well, he's certainly setting himself apart in you and you heard this personal story. And that's what everyone sort of talked about Marco Rubio over the past three or four years. You heard him in small groups that he had this unbelievable personal story about how his parents worked in hotels and he drew that back today. He said, you know, I walked into this convention center which is a large hotel outside of Washington. He said I walked in through the kitchen and I was reminded of all the folks who were working there because that's what my parents did. And you're seeing him transition back to this personal narrative. About a week ago, we were sitting here watching him almost in a comedy act going after Donald Trump talking about spray tan and those kinds of things. We didn't see any of that today. And you have to imagine the calculation.

PRANN: Well, he explained himself at the same time on why he did that. He said -- because Dana Bash asked him specifically a number of questions about Trump but mostly about his demeanor last weekend which we all saw.  We all were a little taken aback at something that we hadn't seem before.  And he said, "You know, where I come from, when you get hit enough, you eventually hit back, which really explains where he's coming from. It's almost as if he had enough of taking the heat from Donald. Yeah.

VARNEY: A little bit of a street fighter at the same time took a swipe at Trump and said, "I don't know how it works in prep school and those kinds of things."

A lot more political coverage to come. We have caucuses in caucuses in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska. The primary in Louisiana, Journal Editorial Report now and we're back at the top of the hour. We'll see you then.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Every other country we do business with, we are getting absolutely crushed on trade. With China, we're going to lose $505 billion in terms of trades. You just can't do it. Mexico, $58 billion. Every country, we lose money with. As far as I'm concerned, we've got to reduce, we have to redo our trade deals 100 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAN SPRINGER, FOX NEWS REPORTER: Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, he says, he doesn't mind trade wars. Critics even call him a protectionist and the democratic presidential candidates both are against President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bernie Sanders even opposes NAFTA. So is the U.S. on the verge of renouncing its trade leadership? And what would it mean for the economy?

We're back with Bret Stephens and Mary Kissel, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member, Joe Rago, also joining the panel.

I'll go to you first, Joe. Isn't it kind of obvious that on both sides of the aisle, there is a withdrawal and a retreat from the idea of free trade which we've held dear for two generations but we're retreating from that, are we not?

JOE RAGO, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I think we are and I wouldn't say two generations, I'd say about 80 or 90 years since the 1920s.  You know, the paradox of trade is it's most important when it's least politically popular. So, if you look at world trade flows right now, they're running very low. Normally, trade growth is much larger than GDP.  So that means we could be looking at a recession in the next year or so.  This -- a trade war right now, would be very, very bad for the American economy and the American public, so.

STEPHENS: Well, that can be bad for the United States internationally, globally. I mean, we have been the global leader in moving towards a freer trading world ever since World War II, ever since the Bretton Woods agreements.

People -- this is, I think, partly, the result of a certain kind of historical illiteracy that's sunk in. People don't remember the Smoot- Hawley Tariff, the beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies that contributed to the great depression of the 1930s.

I mean, if you are, you know, minimally, economically literate, you understand the trade would benefit both sides of the equation. Donald Trump is not minimally, economically literate. Donald Trump thinks that Japan is beating us in terms to the trade which is like, you know, the 1980 sort of screaming.

Look at -- by the way, kind of this idea that some other Chinese are beating us, the Mexicans are beating us. What complete nonsense is that?  By the way, the Chinese economy is slowly going into a tank, because of, you know, excessive spending, excessive taxes all the regular reasons. But we benefit from open trade with China.

SPRINGER: But isn't the bigger picture that Donald Trump is simply saying, we've got leverage with China and Japan and Mexico but we're not using it.  Is that what he's saying?

STEPHENS: Yeah, but he wants leverage to lower prices for consumers to bring the greater quantity of goods and services to the table so you have choices whether it's Apple or Samsung.

MARY KISSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: And it's clear that he doesn't understand how the global economy works. When he says the China is somehow, stealing our jobs, that's a nonsense. He talks about .

(CROSSTALK)

SPRINGER: He's establishing an administrating position.

KISSEL: No, but two points here, Stuart. He seems to think that running trade deficit is necessarily bad. That's actually not the case. We are usually growing and expanding when we're running trade deficits because it shows that U.S. consumers and businesses are saving money, buying cheaper foreign goods. He also seems to think that you can devalue your way to prosperity and that's what China is trying to do. Also a nonsense. He should look at the agent financial crisis and what happened to those countries when they tried to devalue. The only reason there is downward pressure on the Chinese Yuan is because capital (ph) is fleeing China and they're taking economy, as Bret pointed out, in actually the coming years.

SPRINGER: All of this goes over the head of many, many people who simply say, "Hey, I lost my job to Mexico. We're exporting high paid manufacturing jobs." That is a political winner. It might be an economic loser, I got you, I think you're absolutely right, but, it's a political winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's why .

SPRINGER: But you don't want to jump in. Less than a minute ago .

VARNEY: It's not a political winner. I mean half the things we bring in from China are parts and raw materials. That powers American manufacturing. If you look at Mexico, he says the Mexicans are beating us economically but yet we have to build a wall to keep all the Mexicans from coming here. It's totally incoherence.

SPRINGER: Last word, Bret.

STEPHENS: Look, I mean, what would you like to hear Donald Trump say is when a Nabisco or a Ford are going to put plants in Mexico, what we need is an American economic program that makes it easier for those companies to continue to employ Americans in the United States. Cut -- you know, cut tension cost, cut the power of labor unions, bring back right to work laws in some of these northern states. That's the kind of agenda that you need to make sure that jobs are being kept here instead of having companies make perfectly rational economic .

SPRINGER: Now you're talking to me. Now you're talking loud. I mean, you're coming around. Very good.

When we come back, the battle between Apple and the FBI heating up as both sides head to Capitol Hill. Why your security could be on the line in this high stakes showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Our need for public safety and our need for privacy are crashing into each other and we've got to sort that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE SEWELL, APPLE GENERAL COUNCIL: They are asking for a back door into the iPhone, specifically to build a software tool that can break the encryption system which protects personal information on every iPhone.

COMEY: I hear folks talking about keys and back doors. I actually don't see that this way. I mean there are issues about back doors. This is about -- there's already a door on that iPhone. Essentially, we're asking Apple take the vicious guard dog away. Let us try and pick the lock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: All right. You heard it, Apple's general council, Bruce Sewell, and FBI Director, James Comey squaring off this week as the fight between Apple and the Justice Department made its way to Capitol Hill. You saw it.  At issue, unlocking the iPhone of the San Bernardino Jihadi, Syed Farook.

Joe, the FBI says just -- I just want to take the guard dog away, just want to unlock that one iPhone. What is so wrong with that?

RAGO: Well, there's two things, Stuart. One is Apple is being asked, demanded, required to create a new version of its operating software to defeat its own encryption. This is a legal tool that could be used again and again. The encryption on the iPhone is perfectly legal. Apple saw nothing wrong. And it really sets a bad legal precedent here.

The other thing is, it's not just this one phone. The FBI is asking Apple to unlock at least a dozen other phones in public cases. State and local prosecutors have hundreds of cases to achieve the same thing.

SPRINGER: So if they unlock that one, who else wants in to other phones?

RAGO: Right.

SPRINGER: That's San Bernardino. If you do unlock that one iPhone, does that automatically mean that the cat is out of the bag and now you can unlock the whole lot? Does it automatically mean that?

RAGO: As a legal matter, it does. And as encryption science progresses, as these methods gets stronger, what you don't want is building a back door into everyone's phone because that's a security vulnerability. It would let the FBI in, but would also let in foreign spies .

VARNEY: Right.

RAGO: . hackers and criminals. So it could weaken security for all concern.

VARNEY: There's also -- there's a question here about what the biggest -- where are the big threats lie and there's no question that in some perfect world the FBI could safely look into the communications of terrorists.

On the other hand, if you think about the hack of the office of personnel management of the government, millions of government records probably in the hands of Chinese spies, all of the other hacks that we have suffered.  These too are major problems for our security, when China or some party hacked into the operating systems of the F-35. That too was a huge breach of security. So encryption, people think that somehow encryption is a bar to better security. It's in fact, protecting our security.

SPRINGER: Look, in the age of nuclear terror, Dan, and we are in that age.  Don't we want to move heaven and earth to get the authorities' every opportunity to find everything they need to know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I agree. And I think it would be good to know what's in Farook's phone. I mean if we want to protect ourselves. Look, we need some rules of the road here. And I think eventually Congress is going to have to step in, rather than letting the courts try to sort it out on a case-by-case basis.

The internet, when it existed, when it began, was of its nature vulnerable to hackers, the back door. It was -- we all know how easy it is for hackers to get in. The solution has been encryption. That's a solution to a very serious problem. Now we have arrived at another dilemma.  Terrorists can use encryption to protect themselves just as we are protecting ourselves from them. And I think Congress is going to have to somehow sort out this dilemma and create some guidelines for how the national security can be protected.

SPRINGER: Joe, politically, it looks like Apple is preserving and putting its own commercial interests above the security interests of the nation.  That's the political view. Do you disagree with that?

RAGO: I think it's a little bit silly. If Apple really wanted a test case, I'm sure they could find more sympathetic, more sympathetic case than one that features 14 dead Americans at a time when public anxiety over domestic terrorism is at an all-time high.

VARNEY: Legally, you're an Apple's side on this, correct?

RAGO: That's right.

VARNEY: Legally. Got it.

RAGO: Legally .

VARNEY: And the way out is through new legislation through Congress, correct?

RAGO: To solve this dilemma, because we do need to protect ourselves from these terrorists.

VARNEY: Now, we've got to take one more break and when we come back, hits and misses of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VARNEY: Favorite time, hits and misses of the week. Kim, it's you up first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stuart, this is a miss to top house Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. For this week claiming that Speaker Paul Ryan's new anti-poverty initiative was a sham. Anyone who has watched Paul Ryan knows that he has intent on completely overhauling the government's approach to welfare, lifting people out of it so that they can stand on their own two feet. He has won rave reviews across the spectrum.  The sad thing is that Democrats only definition of compassion these days is keeping people forever dependent on government handouts.

VARNEY: All right. That was a miss and we hear it. Joe, what do you got?

RAGO: Well, Stuart, a hit this week to Scott Kelly, the astronaut who returned to Earth this week after 340 days in space, the longest stretch for any American.

The mission was designed to test the effects of long-term spaceflight on human genetics and physiology. And obviously, this is a hit for our scientific advance and scientific progress. But it's also a reminder that if things don't work out with this presidential race, there is always outer space.

SPRINGER: You know, his spine stretched by two inches after a year in weightlessness.

RAGO: Yeah.

SPRINGER: That was extraordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing.

VARNEY: Mary, you've got a big miss.

KISSEL: Yeah. I have a big miss in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio who is beating a big retreat from broken-windows policing, this is the idea that you go after minor crimes with the hope of deterring bigger crimes.  Turns out, the NYPD is no longer going to prosecute people for things like littering, public drinking, public urination. So if you miss those days when you boarded a graffiti, stinky train with bums all over the place taking up three seats, well just wait.

VARNEY: That's a miss on their half.

KISSEL: It's coming back.

VARNEY: Dan, what do you got?

SPRINGER: My miss is the Time magazine who in its recent list of the 100 most read female authors on campus, included Evelyn Waugh at number 97. Of course, Evelyn Waugh's first name was Arthur. He is the author of Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One.

Number one on the list was Kate Turabian the author of A Manual for Writing Term Papers." Mr. Waugh, would have love that.

VARNEY: That was a very good one. All right. Remember, please, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at @JERonFNC.

That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and all of you for watching. I'm Stuart Varney. You can catch me weekdays on "Varney & Company" on the Fox Business Network. We start at 9:00 sharp.

Paul's back next week. Hope to see you then.

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