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Journal Editorial Report

Hillary Clinton hailed as America's steady hand at the DNC

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," July 30, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  Yes, the world is watching what we do.  Yes, America's destiny is ours to choose.  So let's be "Stronger Together," my fellow Americans.  

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  Welcome to this special edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.  

That was Hillary Clinton accepting her party's nomination president Thursday and capping off a final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where she was hailed as a change maker by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and an experienced, steady hand by the man she hopes to succeed.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, D-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill, nobody, more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.  

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist, Bill McGurn; associate editorial page editor, James Freeman; "Opinion Journal" host, Mary Kissel; and "Best of the Web" columnist, James Taranto.  

So, Bill, I think the Democrats had three goals, they needed to unite the party, raise Hillary Clinton's favorables, and they needed to reduce Donald Trump's favorables. Let's take them one at a time.  How did they do at uniting the party, getting the Sanders people on board?  

BILL MCGURN, BEST OF THE WEB COLUMNIST:  They did well on two points.  They rallied the hall, lots of enthusiasm. Not so sure for the folks back home if you're watching this had quite the same impact.  They also rallied another important constituency, the media, gushing over Hillary Clinton and the goose-bump moment.  

GIGOT:  But are Sanders voters on board?  

MCGURN:  We don't know.  There was a lot of protests outside.  I think a lot of them will vote for Hillary in the end.  

GIGOT:  They couldn't have asked for much more than Bernie Sanders.  He really delivered, Mary, for Clinton.  

MARY KISSEL, OPINION JOURNAL HOST:  Yes, he certainly did.  And there wasn't a Ted Cruz moment there like there was in the Republican convention. I think, though, one of the harder tasks that they had was to humanize Hillary Clinton.  I'm not sure we can believe Bill when he gets up and tells a wrenching personal story about how much he loves her given his personal history.  Chelsea Clinton clearly adores her mother but isn't that great of a political communicator.  I think that was a tough task for the Democrats.  

GIGOT:  Somebody being in public life, James, for 25 years, a fairly fixed view of her in the American public.  I think that the negatives were high enough that the Democrats looked at that and said we have to do something. They devoted all of Bill Clinton's speech to that task, when usually Bill Clinton is the contrast man, right, it's here's what we favor, and then a caricature of what they favor.  He's very good at that.  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSOCIATED EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  He is.  But the underlying problem, as you said, is people don't like her, they don't trust her.  And in a sense I think the convention kind of underlined that problem, because it was sending out all kinds of different, often contradictory messages, where one moment they were honoring Black Lives Matter, the next they were honoring police officers.  Her speech obviously
--

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  That's the tension within any political coalition, isn't it?  You give them their moment, you give Sanders, you give Warren, all those people their moment, you do it on Monday, so get them out of the way, so on Wednesday and Thursday, you can appeal to the middle.  

FREEMAN:   I think what it lacked is what her speech lacked, focus.  Donald Trump has been criticized but he sticks to what Americans are telling pollsters they care about right now, number one, terrorism, number two, the economy.  

JAMES TARANTO, BEST OF THE WEB COLUMNIST:  I just want to go back to the party unity question.  I think there was a Ted Cruz moment when Sanders spoke.  I was in the hall and distinctly heard him get booed when he endorsed the party's nominee, which was the opposite of what happened to Cruz.  He got booed when he declined to endorse the party's nominee.  Mrs. Clinton's speech on Thursday was interrupted by hecklers at least a dozen times.  I understand that didn't come through at home.  But what you heard these chants, these seemingly spontaneous and unusually timed chants of "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary."  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  There was a particularly nasty moment when Leon Panetta was making the case for a hawkish foreign policy.  They booed him.  

MCGURN:  That goes to the stuff about the military and the cops.  You can't fool all the people all the time.  They put police officers up there, they put military up there.  This is equivalent to the Clintons before supporting traditional marriage as Barack Obama.  It's a wink at the convention.  We know they don't believe it.  I think they made a good decision.  They went with the Hillary they've got.  I don't think they tried as much to humanize her.  She's a policy wonk.  That's what she presented herself as.  I think they realize the unlikables are kind of baked in.  This week there's a poll showing Donald Trump slightly ahead of her, he has 58 percent unfavorables, that's a huge improvement.  

FREEMAN: I'll just add on the bio issue.  I know they wanted to tell the whole story of Hillary Clinton.  One thing that came clear, even with Morgan Freeman's beautiful narration --

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  -- there are no tangible achievements.  The signature achievement they were telling us about was the deal that Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy cut over children's health care 20 years ago when her husband was president.  So I think that's a problem.

GIGOT:  A fascinating strategy, Mary, the Democrats didn't try to make this a classic left-right ideological battle.  They basically said -- tried to separate Trump from the Republicans and the conservatives, saying Trump's uniquely unfit to be president and a threat to our democracy.  That's very rare for what the Democrats did.  They didn't do that in 2012 or in 2008, they haven't run that kind of campaign in a long time.  Smart strategy?  

KISSEL:  Yeah, I think it's a smart strategy for now, insofar as they want people to be afraid of a Trump presidency, so afraid that they turn out to vote.  

TARANTO:  But there is a risk as well.  I notice Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders' wife, was quoted saying, "We have to unite against Donald Trump because he's different kind of Republican."  Well, he's "a different kind of Republican" could be taken either way.  The Republican Party isn't so popular.  

GIGOT:  The brand isn't so great.  So maybe that plays better with some of the Democrats he's trying to get but --

(CROSSTALK)

KISSEL:  They're trying to get Republicans.  

GIGOT:  Exactly.  

KISSEL:  He's trying to get Independents and Republicans, Never-Trumpers.  

FREEMAN:  But the Republicans aren't happy with the people who have been running the Republican Party.  That's why they picked him.  This idea that he's outside the establishment, I think that cuts in his favor.  

GIGOT:  But on the other hand, there are a lot of suburban Republicans and college-educated Republicans who are really nervous about Trump.  They don't like his foreign policy, for example, his temperament.  

MCGURN:  One thing that's very different -- and you see the Democrats reacting, for the first time in 30 years, maybe even longer -- the Democratic presidential nominee is going to face a Republican, who is relentlessly on offense.  That doesn't happen.  That didn't happen with Mitt Romney.  That didn't happen with McCain.  

GIGOT:  We'll talk more about this later.  

When we come back, Donald Trump enjoyed a post-convention bounce in the polls this week.  Just how big was it?  And should Hillary Clinton expect the same in the days to come?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  After a post-convention bounce for Donald Trump, the presidential candidates are once again neck and neck in the latest Real Clear Politics poll average.  With Democrats wrapping up their own convention in Philly, should Hillary Clinton see her own bump in the coming days?  

Republican pollster, Ed Goeas, joins me from Washington.  

Ed, thanks for coming in.  Great to have you back.

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER:  Good to be here, Paul.  How are you?

GIGOT:  Good.  So where do you think this race stands after both conventions?  

GOEAS:  First of all, I think the bounce from the first convention, the Republican convention, was somewhat overstated.  Hillary had been running about four or five points ahead of Trump in the average of all the polls. But after the FBI director's statement, she had declined to -- she was only about a point and a half going into the Republican convention.  Quite frankly, the thing I think everyone is looking for is to keep looking for big movement in the polls.  Both these candidates when they got in the race a year ago had a 55 percent unfavorable rating.  

(CROSSTALK)

GOEAS:  Trump is at 57, she is at 56 percent unfavorable rating.  I don't think we're going to see big jumps in the data.  We'll see inches as opposed to yards in the movement, maybe with the exception of the first debate.  

GIGOT:  So Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster, wrote for the Wall Street Journal today that -- this weekend that Hillary Clinton is now the underdog because of Trump's bounce in the polls and the desire in the electorate for change.  Do you agree with that?  

(LAUGHTER)

GOEAS:  We have to make it interesting.  

(LAUGHTER)

The bottom line is that it's all new territory with having two nominees now that have an overwhelming majority being negative towards both of them. It's going to be very hard to tell where this is going or what direction it's going to take.  

The polling numbers, you know, there's just too many polls out there that are using different sampling, and we compare apples to oranges.  The Wall Street Journal poll is very good.  The Fox News poll is very good.  The CNN poll tends to be very good.  But, for example, in that average of polls out there is The L.A. Times, which not a random poll.  It's a panel back. It is going back to the same people and asking.  

GIGOT:  Right.

GOEAS:  So I think there's plenty of room for stories out there.  But expect this to move in inches, not yards.  

GIGOT:  One of the fascinating things I've been looking at is the extent to which 20 percent of the electorate still seems to be undecided.  That sounds to me like a lot at this stage in the race.  Are they really undecided?  Maybe they're just saying because they don't like each one and they'll come around to their party favorite in the end.  But does that tell you anything interesting?  

GOEAS:  It does.  You know, the closing that we saw, whatever closing we saw during the Republican convention, was Trump catching up with Republicans voting for him to where Hillary was with Democrats.  But we do have that 15 to 20 percent of undecided, when normally in this period of time, it's about 7 or 8 percent.  

GIGOT:  Right, yeah.

GOEAS:  And I think the big question is, you know, those Independent voters out there are really the ones that don't like either one of these candidates.  And I think the question is, are they undecided or are they going to end up being nonvoters.  I think that will be a key question we'll have until the end of the campaign.  

GIGOT:  What about the Midwest strategy that Trump is talking about, he and his campaign are saying we're going after states that Romney didn't win, Ohio, Pennsylvania, even Michigan, Iowa, perhaps even Wisconsin, because they have a lot of white working class voters, didn't go to college, have really felt economic pain these last eight years.  Is that a plausible path to victory for Donald Trump?  

GOEAS:  Ohio and Iowa is always in the mix.  It's always kind of plus or minus a couple of points as you go through.  The new ones, the blue states, the real blue states, are the Michigan, the Pennsylvania, the Wisconsin.  

GIGOT:  Right.  But is that plausible for Trump?  

GOEAS:  It is, but in the same token, we're also beginning to see -- Missouri was added as a toss-up state today by Real Clear Politics.  You have Arizona.  You have Missouri.  You have Georgia.  The map is expanding on both ends, both in terms of he is not doing as well in some of the red states, Utah being another one --

GIGOT:  Right.

GOEAS:  -- and he's doing better in some of the blue states.  I think it's going to be, again, anything can happen in this election.  

The one thing I will say, there's nothing in the data to say either Hillary will win or Trump will win or both of them will not lose.  So right now, it really is a toss-up between the two, and anything can happen.

GIGOT:  You really think it's a toss-up?  You really think it's a 50/50 toss-up?  

GOEAS:  I do.  The one caveat I would give is, having done this for 40 years, I believe real campaigns matter.  And I do get concerned sometimes what I hear from the Trump campaign that they are not going to put as much into the ground game in terms of the campaign, because at the end of the day, that could be the deciding factor if this is a dead-even race.  

GIGOT:  The Trump people are saying flat-out, we don't think advertising on the airwaves matters as much because we get all this free publicity, and we have such a better use of social media.  But if you're outspent to such a great extent and you can't respond to those attack ads, they really hurt.  

GOEAS:  They can.  Again, I think the negatives are so baked-in on both of these candidates.  He may be right on not spending as much money on TV, because it may not, in fact, move things, just like I don't think you're seeing it move as much with the conventions.  I think where he may be wrong is saying I'm not going to put as much into the ground game, voter I.D. and turnout.  And at the end of the day, we're still going to end up with about 70 percent of registered voters voting.  And whichever side does a better job of getting their voters out may be the whole difference in this campaign.  

GIGOT:  All right, Ed Goeas, thanks for coming in to see us.  

GOEAS:  Thank you.  

GIGOT:  Still ahead, with the polls closed and the conventions behind them, the presidential candidates will hit campaign trail, stumping in the battleground states that will decide the November election.  Our panel's take on how the race is shaping up when we come back.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  We have 100 days to make our case to America.  

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  The presidential candidates are wasting no time barnstorming the states that are likely to decide the outcome in November.  Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are hitting the campaign trail in Pennsylvania and Ohio this weekend while Donald Trump will hold a town hall event in Columbus on Monday.  Polls in both those battleground states show a tight race heading in the final three months of the campaign.  

We're back with Bill McGurn, James Freeman, Mary Kissel and James Taranto.  

So, James, you heard Ed.  What do you think is Trump's best path to victory?  

FREEMAN:  I like that he's focused on the economy and terrorism.  I think he needs to focus even more on the economy, specifically not just talking about the problems created by Washington politicians.  He needs to talk about growth.  We got this terrible report on GDP on Friday, the economy barely moving now.  If he's talking about tax, regulatory reform, how do we grow, that's how he wins.  

GIGOT:  Can I push back on that?  I don't hear him talking about that.  I hear him talking about immigration, number one, so you shrink the labor supply, illegal or legal.  Second, trade, shrink the supply of goods to raise the cost of goods.  Those are his two main economic themes so far. How does that help the economy?  And how is that taking -- I agree with you totally --

(CROSSTALK)  

FREEMAN:  You asked me, what is his path --

(LAUGHTER)

-- so I've just given Donald Trump the key to victory.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Do you disagree with me that he's not focusing like he should on the economy?  The campaign issued one statement on the GDP figure from Friday, one, by a policy adviser.  Did you hear Donald Trump come out and say, I'm the guy who can restore the economy?  I don't think you did.  

MCGURN:  He did tweet --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  He tried to talk more about how do we grow.  

MCGURN:  Yeah, He did talk about taxes today.  There's a tweet saying Hillary's going to wreck the economy and so forth.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Ari Fleischer --

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURN:  That's how he communicates.  Ari Fleischer said that he should stop talking about Crooked Hillary and start talking about 1.2 percent Hillary, representing the anemic growth rate.  

TARANTO:   To some extent, you, Paul, and you, James, are arguing about different things.  You're arguing about the politics and you're arguing about the policy.  I think Trump benefits passively from the 1.2 percent economic growth.  That certainly runs counter to the "Morning in America" message we just got from the Democrats at their convention.  

GIGOT:  There's no question.  That's a fair point.  

But Hillary Clinton has come out of her convention saying we're going to make the biggest investment in jobs, Mary, since World War II, a huge investment, they're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars.  If Trump doesn't have a comparable "here's how I can fix it" message, all right, then Hillary Clinton's argument might carry the day.  

KISSEL:  It might.  Hillary Clinton is clearly trying to keep the Obama coalition together, trying to appeal to women, minorities, college age students.  But she is, too, trying to appeal to the Trump base, those disaffected economically depressed workers, principally along the Rust Belt, which is also where Trump thinks he can motivate people to come out. She's trying to put forth a unifying message with these sloganeering, which the Democratic Party is always so good at, "Stronger Together."  

GIGOT:  And a laundry list of ideas in that speech, James, which was a really pretty liberal agenda.  The Sanders voters aren't going to dislike what they heard when she talked about expanding Social Security, for example, and a lot of mandates and new regulation on business.  

FREEMAN:  Yeah.  That's where I think she went off track is going through that.  It was kind of a harangue of the progressive wish list, climate change, alleged institutional racism.  So I don't think she has a focused message on the economy.  And I look at that Friday Reuters poll, which was touted as good news for her because it was --  

GIGOT:  A five.  

FREEMAN:  -- a five.  But look a little deeper.  Nearly 70 percent of the country says we're on the wrong track and nearly 80 percent of Independents are saying that.  So --

MCGURN:  I think the economic argument on both sides will be highly negative.  I also think we ought to really take the polls with a grain of salt.  Ed was talking about this when he talked about the electorate.  All the polls are the same in how they crunch their numbers.  But they start with an educated guess about who's going to turn out.  

GIGOT:  Right.  

MCGURN:  So the person who has the right number, the right makeup of the electorate, is going to be right about this.  With 20 percent undecided, no one really knows.  I just find it humorous, the polls say within a margin of error of four points, and there's 20 percent that haven't made up their minds.  We read too much into them.  

GIGOT:  And we know from the Brexit vote in Britain, they didn't have the majority, they were two down, yet they prevailed.  

MCGURN:  Look, a lot of this negative stuff on Trump -- I'm not saying Trump is going to win.  He can win.  Jesse Helms used to say, never won a poll, never lost an election.  

GIGOT:  James, I want to talk about the Democratic strategy.  One of the things that really struck me is it looks like they're going to go after Trump by mocking and taunting him and trying to get under his skin.  His politics, Trump's, are personal, right.  He talks about winning, and I can win, and I can deliver for you.  But he has a thin skin.  I think they're taunting him to try to blow him up.  

TARANTO:  I think that's right.  And they're trying to disqualify him. It's a big message people got from the Democratic convention.  If their big message was Ronald Reagan, "It's Morning in America," it was a failure.  If their message was the Lyndon Johnson message, "My opponent is an unstable lunatic who will start a nuclear war" --

(LAUGHTER)

-- then they may have done well.

GIGOT:  Really, you think that could work?

TARANTO:  I think that that's the more effective message for the Democrats.  

GIGOT:  OK, a real positive --

(LAUGHTER)

TARANTO:  Very dark.

GIGOT:  Much more to come on this special one-hour edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report." Still ahead, new evidence the Clinton campaign was a target of cyber-attacks on Democratic Party organizations.  So is Russia trying to meddle in the U.S. presidential race?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  Russia, if you're listening, a hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.  I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Welcome back to this special edition of the "Journal: Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.  

And that was Donald Trump this week, courting controversy when he encouraged Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails from her time as secretary of state.  Trump later told Fox News that he was being sarcastic.  But the comments came amid questions about the role Russia played in the hacking of computer servers at the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and now, officials say, computer systems used by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.  Is Vladimir Putin attempting to meddle in the U.S. presidential race?  

We're back with Bill McGurn, James Freeman, Mary Kissel, and James Taranto.  

So, James, you wrote this week that you thought the furor over the Trump e- mails comment was overdone, how so?  

TARANTO:  First of all, he said he was being sarcastic.  That's the way it came across to me.  

GIGOT:  You believe that?  

TARANTO:  Yes.  Second, if you think about what he actually said, he said I hope Russia finds these 30,000 e-mails.  People say, oh, he's encouraging Russia to spy on Mrs. Clinton.  It is our understanding that the e-mail server has been offline for years now that the e-mails have been destroyed now.  So if Russia finds them, it's because they've already spied on her because her server was so insecure and they already have them in their possession.  He's just asking them to return them to the United States.

GIGOT:   Do you give him a pass?  

KISSEL:  Yeah.  No, I have to take a different view from James here.  I think Trump thought he was being clever in changing the news cycle to bring attention back to the e-mail scandal.  But I think it made him look incredibly irresponsible.  It also allowed the Democrats to look like defense hawks.  It also allowed them to change the story from Hillary Clinton not keeping her e-mails secure to, wow, Donald Trump once again cozying up to Vladimir Putin.  I don't see how that plays well for the Trump campaign.  

GIGOT:  GIGOT:  The Trump/Putin bromance, James, not a good look.  

FREEMAN:  I guess I'm more toward Taranto.  If we're looking for this question of was it a joke, when he said it, I laughed.  I thought it was pretty funny.  I don't think anyone who was watching the whole thing really thought he --

GIGOT:  OK.

FREEMAN:  -- was encouraging espionage against the United States.  

GIGOT:  And I'll take that --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  But beyond that, in terms of changing the subject, I don't agree. What the media is very eager to do is bury stories like the e-mail scandal, like the Democratic e-mail scandal.  It's hard to keep track of e-mail scandals with Hillary Clinton.  I think what he did, again, Donald Trump, is what he's been able to do from day one of this campaign, which is absolutely dominate the media discussion and the agenda.  A lot of it, some of it, I don't necessarily agree with, but he sets the agenda and makes other people talk about what he's talking about.  

GIGOT:  But isn't it creating an opening, Bill, for the Democrats to pose as hawks, as Mary suggested, if they can say, see, he's so tight with Putin.  And it allows them to change the subject from the e-mails, which after all, were exposed.  

MCGURN:  Yeah.  I'm not sure they're successful in portraying themselves as hawks.  In 2012, the Republican nominee was mocked for considering Vladimir Putin an enemy.

GIGOT:  Mocked by Barack Obama.

MCGURN:  Obama and the Democratic Party.  

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURN:  Now the Democrats have discovered, in 2016, the Republican nominee is mocked for basically having the Barack Obama position in 2012.  

That said, I think it's like a lot of things with Donald Trump.  He's missed an opportunity to take on the Democrats' greatest weakness, the reset with Russia and the foreign policy.  I'm not sure if people really buy this hawkish Democratic Party and so forth.  

And let's add one last thing about the e-mails.  If this really did compromise national security, I thought these 30,000 missing e-mails were about yoga and weddings.  

(LAUGHTER)

It kind of highlights again another Clinton falsehood.  

KISSEL:  But it allows the Democrats to underscore a real concern about Donald Trump, which is, what does he think of Vladimir Putin, what kind of relationship does he want to have.  Just in these last days, he said he might consider recognizing Russia's domain over Crimea.  He said he might consider lifting sanctions on Russia.  He's said in the past several times that he thinks Putin is a strong man, he admires him, he likes what he's doing fighting terror in Syria.  

(CROSSTALK)

TARANTO:  Of course, remember, George W. Bush said early in his tenure as president, he looked into Mr. Putin's eyes and saw his soul.  And then the Obama administration and the reset --

(CROSSTALK)

KISSEL:  This is not an election about Bush.  It's an election about Donald Trump.  

(CROSSTALK)

TARANTO:  -- Trump may be repeating the mistakes of the people who would like to be his predecessors.  

GIGOT:  Precisely.  We've had the experiences with Bush and Obama.  One would assume you would learn something.  

FREEMAN:  We're talking, certainly in terms of policy, we would like Trump to focus a little more on strengthening NATO, thinking about those responsibilities.  But if we're arguing the politics, I don't think Americans want to go in to war over Crimea right now.  I don't think that's really --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  But that's not the issue.  Nobody's saying yes, go to war over Crimea.  What we're saying is, are you going to recognize Russia's invasion and illegal takeover of it.  That's a different story.  

KISSEL:  If this were so politically astute, then why did Mike Pence come out and effectively disassociate himself from what Donald Trump said if this was such a political winner for Trump?  

MCGURN:  I don't think it's a political winner.  Donald Trump has a naive view of Putin.  I think he's boxed in by it.  But let's be clear, when was Crimea invaded?  Under whose administration?  Who's been soft on Vladimir Putin?  Who led him into the Middle East, and all this?  So a lot of this stuff that hurts Donald Trump hurts Hillary, too.  

FREEMAN:  Talking about the Trump/Putin bromance, as we go on, we'll learn more, as we always do, about Clinton connections and their business associates' connections to Russia.  

GIGOT:  Thank you, James.  

Still ahead, Europe's summer of terror.  This week's murder of a Catholic priest in Normandy is just the latest in a string of ISIS-inspired attacks. So, are European leaders serious about stopping them?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  The Islamic State is claiming credit for Tuesday's horrific attack on a village church in Normandy, France that left an 86-year-old Catholic priest dead, his throat slit after he celebrated mass.  It's just the latest in a string of atrocities in Europe linked to the terrorist group, including a suicide bombing at a music festival, an axe attack on a train in Germany, and the Bastille Day murder of 84 people in Nice, France.

Sohrab Ahmari is an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal in Europe.  He joins me now from London.

Welcome, Sohrab.  Good to see you.  

SOHRAB AHMARI, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER, WALL STREET JOURNAL, EUROPE:  Hi, Paul.  

GIGOT:  So these attacks have been increasing in frequency and just -- they get worse.  Does anybody there think they'll subside or are they expecting more as the days and weeks go on?  

AHMARI:  Well, as far as average people go, everyone feels it in their bones, you sense the insecurity when you get on the underground train in London or if you're out and about in Paris or any other major city.  What's worrying is that a lot of the political leadership has adopted this tone where they talk about Islamist terror as though they're talking about smoking-related cancer.  It's such a terrible problem but we'll be resilient, and eventually, we'll beat it, but not in a sense that conveys this is an ideological war and a low-grade Islamist insurgency, where there seems to be an attack every day and we're going to defeat this ideology by doing X, Y and Z.  That's still what's missing.  So we're lurching from attack to attack, one happens, a certain set of social media memes come about and we get used to it until the next one happens.  

GIGOT:  So why are France and Germany, why do they seem to be the main targets in recent weeks?  

AHMARI:  Well, for slightly different reasons.  I think Germany has been where most of the refugees went --  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  From Syria.  

AHMARI:  Yes, more than a million refugees from Syria and also Afghanistan and elsewhere.  And some of those, I mean, the two attacks, the axe attack on a train in Bavaria and the suicide bombing at a concert, both were by -- were perpetrated by refugees or by asylum seekers.  

In France, it's a slightly different case.  France has a large Muslim minority that, from my assessment and many others, is one of the least assimilated, least integrated, and therefore most prone to radicalization.  

GIGOT:  President Hollande, of France, he says France is at war with these terrorists, with Islamic terror.  What does that mean in practical terms? For example, is Hollande -- are they stepping up their campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq?  Or what are they doing that really suggests they're serious about this?  

AHMARI:  Paul, not much yet.  I mean, what they've done after every attack, as I said, they lurch.  For example, Nice happens, earlier than that the massacre in Paris, and they'll increase the number of sorties targeting Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq.  Nice happens and they'll increase shipments to the Iraqi government of artillery and assistance to the Kurds.  But you don't see that proactive, strategic effort that takes into account the ideology that's involved that really says we have to own Syria and Iraq and Libya because these are within Europe's periphery and it's in Europe's neighborhood.  As long as these places fester and become Jihadistan, then we won't be safe in our western and European homelands. That's what's missing from their reaction.  

GIGOT:  Right.  But one of the things the French say they're doing is stepping up intelligence.  And we know that one of the attackers, it's been reported, was on the terror watch list, one of the killers of the priest. And yet they didn't stop -- they weren't able to stop it.  Is French intelligence maybe not as good as they say it is, or how did they drop the ball here?  

AHMARI:  I think the problem is capability versus need.  There are just too many jihadist cases.  Francois Hollande came to power, they had a handful or less than a hundred, let's say, of these types of cases.  Now you're monitoring thousands.  For each one, it takes X many man-hours of intelligence officers and security forces.  It's just not enough.  That's one failure.  

In Germany, I should mention Germany is the epicenter of hysteria about Edward Snowden and the NSA's activities and so forth.  

GIGOT:  Right.

AHMARI:  So, they've deliberately defanged their own security and intelligence apparatus.  

GIGOT:  But if you can't play defense like that and they're not willing to play offense in the Middle East, it suggests maybe they'll end up having to close the borders and shut down immigration.  And you see that politically, parties are already asking for that in Europe.  Is that going to continue?  

AHMARI:  Absolutely.  So Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, after the series of attacks said, I'm sticking by my open borders policy, as many as want to come.  But, of course, within her own party, there's this rebellion.  

In France, Marine Le Pen, of the National Front, which is a hard right nationalist, isolationist party, is gaining in the polls.  She's number one for the presidential race.  So, because the mainstream parties are failing so dismally, the irresponsible parties are making gains at the polls, and rightly so.  

GIGOT:  All right, Sohrab Ahmari, thanks so much for coming in.  

AHMARI:  Thank you.

GIGOT:  Still ahead, GOP leaders setting their sights on Congress, where the battle for control of the House and Senate is heating up.  Can Republicans hold on to both?  A look at the races to watch when we come back.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALI., HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  We will fight to restore Democratic majorities in the Senate and in the House.  And I tell you this, we can do it.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  With the convention behind them, congressional leaders are looking ahead to November and battle for control of the House and Senate.  With Republicans in control of both chambers now, Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to win back the House, but just four to take control of the Senate if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, and five seats if Donald Trump wins.  

We're back with Bill McGurn, James Freeman, Mary Kissel and James Taranto.  

So, Mary, you heard Nancy Pelosi say we can do it.  They've broadened their target list to 38 seats from 16.  Is she right?  

KISSEL:  Well, much to the horror of many conservatives out there, I fear that it's not outside the realm of possibility for the Democrats to take back both houses.  Here's how I think it happens, Paul.  If you have historic, Paul, if you have historic Latino turnout --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  In opposition to Donald Trump.  

KISSEL:  In opposition to Donald Trump.  If you have decent African- American turnout at the polls, I think it's tough to get the levels that Obama got, but I think Hillary can motivate those voters to get out there at a reasonable level.  But most importantly, if you have women, if you have educated, suburban voters, who are Republicans, stay home because they don't want to vote for Trump, they don't go to the polls and they're not voting in the House and Senate races.  If it's a blow-out for Hillary, it is possible that the Democrats could take over the Congress.  

GIGOT:  John McCain lost by 7.5 points and they lost 21 seats in the House, Republicans.  Mitt Romney lost by a little more than four, I think, and they lost eight seats so it's possible.  

FREEMAN:  I don't see that happening.  The question is, where are all these new votes for Hillary Clinton going to come from?  As we've said, she's been in the public eye a long time.  She's essentially -- I view her as running as the incumbent.  She, more than anyone else, represents the establishment of the American political system.  It's the third term of President Obama, as he told us the other night, essentially saying she's going to carry on the work.  Given that, normally, when an incumbent is way below 50 percent at this point in the race, you say they're in big trouble. And I think that applies to her.  What does that mean for the rest of the ticket?  If this is even close, Democrats are not taking the House and Republicans probably --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  That conditional clause that is a big if.  

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  It is.  It's what I'm telling you.  It is going to be a close race and she might win.  

GIGOT:  Fair enough.  That's true.  If that's true, then they probably don't take it.  

What about the House?  What about the Senate?  

TARANTO:  Well, I think it's worth noting that the Republicans did very well in the House in 2014 and very well in the Senate in 2010, which means that they have a lot of seats coming up.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Very tough states for them to hold.  

TARANTO:  Right.  So the Democrats were always likely to make gains just because of regression towards the means.  

GIGOT:  Just let me list them:  Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire.  Those are all swing states they're trying to defend.  

TARANTO:  Yeah, and there are a couple of other states that are considered toss-ups by some of the handicappers, like North Carolina, Missouri, and Indiana where Evan Bayh, the former Senator, is running.  Looks like --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  What do you think?  How well are Republicans holding up so far in those seats?  

TARANTO:  So far they seem to be holding up pretty well.  It looks like Illinois and Wisconsin, they're in real trouble.  But in all the others, they seem to be competitive.  Indiana is hard to know because it's difficult state to poll because their telecommunications laws and Bayh just got in.  But I think the Republicans probably have about an even shot of holding the Senate.  

GIGOT:  Mary, I think that, so far, Rob Portman, Senator from Ohio, seems to be doing quite well.  He just got the endorsement of some unions, for example, even a local Black Lives Matter group.  

KISSEL:  Amazing, isn't it?  

GIGOT:  Which was quite surprising.

KISSEL:  But Rob Portman is a different kind of candidate.  He's not only getting labor unions, he's viewed as a bridge builder and uniter.  He has a gay son, so he's reached out to communities that Republicans don't typically reach out to.  It differentiates him from Donald Trump.  But, remember, too, Portman goes back to Ohio.  You look at a state like, for example, Wisconsin, Ron Johnson is underwater because he didn't pay a lot of attention to Wisconsin.  Now he's going back to the state and I think voters there are viewing him as just another Republican in Washington that didn't do anything for them.  

GIGOT:  Well, I would push back a little bit on that on Ron Johnson.  I think he's been a really good Senator --  

KISSEL:  He's great.

GIGOT:  -- in trying to press national issues.  Also he's been talking about the Veterans Affair scandal.  He's been talking about what he's been trying to do in and around Milwaukee to create jobs.  

KISSEL:  But compare him to a Kelly Ayotte, who is, for example, back in New Hampshire every weekend doing a town hall on Saturday.  

FREEMAN:  I think the difference, I think the contrast is with Portman. Portman -- I guess the nice way to put it is he knows when to move left on certain issues to get re-elected.  Ron Johnson doesn't.  He believes in small government.  I wouldn't say he doesn't understand.  He understands the game.  He's not willing to go there.  He thinks the government ought to be smaller, that Americans should be free, and that's what's giving him trouble.  But I think in his corner, this is increasingly a race about terrorism.  And that is a strong suit for him.  It's a weakness for his opponent, Russ Feingold.  

GIGOT:  Do you think briefly, Bill, they're going to lose the Senate?  

MCGURN:  I think it's definitely a possibility.  I think that if it breaks one way, it's going to break for all.  They need four seats.  Six are in states that Obama carried.  And the margins are all within four points.  

GIGOT:  All right.  

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

William, start us off.  

MCGURN:  Paul, a double miss to two thieves, WikiLeaks and Ed Snowden.  

(LAUGHTER)

After the week with the e-mail dump by WikiLeaks, Ed Snowden tweeted his displeasure, said he didn't like the way WikiLeaks had gone about it.  

(LAUGHTER)

They weren't responsible.  

(LAUGHTER)

WikiLeaks responded by accusing Snowden of trying to curry favor with Mrs. Clinton in hopes of getting a pardon.  In other words, each side is calling the other self-indulgent and obnoxious, and both are right.  

GIGOT:  All right, Freeman, top that.  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  I keep hearing liberal media folks talk about WikiLeaks isn't what it used to be.  

(LAUGHTER)

But certainly a hit to Amazon, Paul, Americans online shopping mall.  We've been talking about how the economy is terrible, earnings are terrible, businesses don't want to invest.  But here's a company that just set another quarterly record for profit.  Sales are up, big.  And they're investing.  They're building warehouses, investing in TV, movies.  So let's hope we see more companies like this.  

KISSEL:  Go Amazon.  

GIGOT:  Mary?  

KISSEL:  Well, I'm giving a big miss to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for striking down North Carolina's voter I.D. laws.  The Supreme Court has consistently found these laws to be constitutional.  But, Paul, what you have here is a panel of judges that has now put this state, an important state in November, for the election, put this issue in focus.  And it's going to, I think, motivate minorities to come out and vote in that state. Not good for Trump.  

GIGOT:  All right.  

James?  

TARANTO:  Paul, a hit to law enforcement in both Cleveland and Philadelphia.  A lot of people had worried that we'd see a repeat of Chicago 1968 when political anger boiled over into violence at that year's Democratic convention.  But the police kept peace and order in both cities, and hats off to them.  

GIGOT:  You saw that.  You followed the demonstrators.  Where were they worse, Philadelphia or Cleveland?  

TARANTO:  There were a lot more of them in Philadelphia.  In Cleveland, the police presence was amazing.  I went there to Public Square, the five-acre park.  There were maybe 400 cops there.  

GIGOT:  And no incidents in both places?  

TARANTO:  Very few.  

GIGOT:  All right.  

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

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

END

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