JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

US cities on high alert after Berlin Christmas market attack; Hits & Misses of 2016

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," December 24, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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

A pair of attacks this week capping off a bloody year in Europe. ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly truck rampage at a Christmas market in Berlin Monday. While Russia's Ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara by a lone gunman who shouted in Arabic, "God is great and don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria."

This week's violence adding to the wave of attacks that have rocked Europe in 2016 including the March bombings at the Brussels airport and the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France.

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and Deputy Editor, Dan Henninger, columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Jason Riley, and columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn.

So, Dan, I remember we had a visitor from the Counter Terrorism Group in The White House a couple months ago, telling us that this person telling us on, background, that they were very, very concerned about Europe. Now we see it manifesting itself here at the Christmas season.

DAN HENNINGER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Absolutely, Paul. I mean, I was thinking very much the same thing.

It was just a month ago, recall, that The Pentagon made it known that they were going to move on an invasion of Raqqah, which is the Islamic State headquarters in Syria. And this is at the time when the Iraq army and its coalition partners were trying to retake Mosul. I thought at the time, wow, that's a lot to bite off at the same time.

But The Pentagon said, back then, that they were concerned that the Islamic State was going to try to project terror into Europe and elsewhere, and clearly they were right. Not merely Europe, Yemen and Jordan have both experienced terrorist attacks in the last week. And so, obviously, the West has to be on alert.

The German situation raises the questions of if, in fact, some of these Western societies are adequately sensitive to the nature of the attack.

GIGOT: Well, and I think that in Germany in particular, Jason, you have a couple of problems. One is the migration issue. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor had brought in a million refugees from North Africa and Syria.  A year ago or two years ago, and some of those terrorists seem to have slipped in. And then you also have the problem of the Germans don't do very well, so far, from all reports on surveillance, and intelligence.

JASON RILEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. So far, Germany seemed (ph), you know, had avoided the fate of France and Brussels and some other places, but not this time. And this was, you know, the softest of soft targets. It's a Christmas marketplace visited, not only by native Germans, but tourists alike. I mean, this is a huge blow for the terrorists there.

Angela Merkel herself remains popular. She's well above 50 percent but the refugee policy is not popular. Around 80 percent of Germans want more restrictions.

Now, she's going to be coming up for election, fourth term, she's going to be running for, that's not until the fall. So there is time for her to deal with this situation. But, something like this does not help. And you have to think there will be pressure on her to reform this policy.

GIGOT: For all her popularity, and it's true, I think this is the sort of thing that could topple here, Mary.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, she started back pedaling in the spring, actually, about the immigration policy. But, the fact of the matter is that these incidents happen with home grown terrorists, as well as with migrants. So, I think the point about intel surveillance, yes, vetting migrants is important and Germany took a huge number relative to the size of the -- size of the country.

But, you know, in the end, really, this is something that is going to have to be fought in the Middle East.

The wins of ISIS or the potential or the perception that ISIS is winning is very empowering for terrorists in the West, and I think that's what Germany and the U.S. have to work on is action in the Middle East.

GIGOT: Yes. And on that point, the Ankara murder, that's the - really, the one consequence of Syria. I mean, obviously, the terrorist is responsible. But, not - well, Germany has not done very much at all to help us and help in Syria or the Middle East, because they just don't want to participate in any military operation.

WILLIAM MCGURN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think, further to Mary's point that, what we're seeing in Europe is the failure of Middle Eastern policy.  Even the most generous country cannot take everyone from all the disruptions there. And we need a reasonable level of stability in the Middle East, and a lot of people just wash their hands of it and, of course, Syria is the best example.

And I think, also, further to Mary's point, for the United States there's a lot of debate over whether we should let people in. I think the German example shows they are not very good once people are in finding out who's separating the good guys from the bad guys.

And one of the problems in the United States is that the people that are trying to do that with intelligence, remember, the mapping program in New York City and how much it was opposed. If we're going to take people, we need good intelligence --

GIGOT: Those (ph) mapping of people -- or groups that they thought, particularly students, some came from different countries who may have been - they wanted --

MCGURN: I think it was even more fundamental. It was trying to find out what neighborhoods had Pakistanis. And so, where would someone go if they were looking for somewhat sympathetic, and you're trying to separate the law-abiding majority from the minority. And the left just has a war on the kind of intelligence that could make us --

GIGOT: But, Mary, what do you think about Donald Trump's reaction? Donald Trump said, look, I was -- this proves that I was right all along, and I'm going to, in fact, be as tough as I said I was in the campaign in blocking immigrants from Muslim countries or terrorist Muslim countries that have -- Muslim countries that have a terror problem from coming into the United States.

O'GRADY: Well, he's never been very clear about exactly how he plans to do all this. Yes. I mean, he's spoken very forcefully, but very vaguely.  And I think the one thing that makes everybody uncomfortable whether you're on the left, as Bill describes, people who don't want this intelligence, the one thing that unites people is that we need the local, the Muslim communities, the good Muslims in this country to help us on the intelligence scene. So if he institutes a policy that alienates all Muslims, that's going to be counterproductive.

GIGOT: Here's the other thing. You - as you said, you can't stop this problem unless you go to the source in Syria and the Middle East. So if you just think this is just an immigration problem, you're not going to solve it.

RILEY: True, but this is one of the reasons he won, Paul. He -- people are scared that what happened in Germany will become a regular occurrence in this country. They've seen San Bernardino, they've seen other instances, the - ISIS or ISIS sympathizers seem to be able to strike at will.

President Obama says this is this norm now, get used it. Donald Trump is saying, no, we're not going to get used to it.

GIGOT: We'll see how he actually decides to implement it, and that will be another big debate.

All right, law enforcement in the U.S. on high alert following this week's attacks in Europe. So just how much progress are intelligence officials making in combating the terror and cyberterror threat here at home?

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Cities across the United States bolstering security around holiday events following Monday's attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. But as intelligence officials deal with the ongoing terror threat here at home, they're also facing another danger with a growing number of cyber-attacks including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee this year.

Mitchell Silber is the head of Geopolitical Intelligence at FTI Consulting, and the former director of Intelligence Analysis for the New York City Police Department. So, Mitch Silber, welcome back.

SILBER: Thanks a lot.

GIGOT: So this German attack, is this the future we're going to see, not just in Europe, but here for these terror attacks which are basically people grabbing a truck, grabbing a car, grabbing a gun, and just making individual or small group attacks?

MITCHELL SILBER, FMR NYPD INTEL ANALYSIS CHIEF: You know, we saw a preview of this in Israel whereas Israeli Security Forces were able to increase their intelligence and increase their capabilities, the type of attacks that they faced in a sense become less sophisticated. People grabbing a truck, people grabbing a plow, driving into a crowd.

GIGOT: Right.

SILBER: So now --

GIGOT: Or knives on a bus.

SILBER: Exactly.

So we saw last summer in France for Bastille Day, and now a second example of it, you know, relatively simplistic, grab a truck and plow it into a group of people.

GIGOT: But does this mean the threat overall is getting better and it's not as bad as it was? Or is it, in fact, just changing in a way that actually spreads more terror, because if you're walking down the street and you think you could be just grabbed by a knife or hit by a truck, in a way it's more terrifying.

SILBER: It is because of the, you know, sort of diversity of the threat.

GIGOT: Right.

SILBER: But I think what you are seeing is a diminution of the capability of terrorist groups to carry out that massive casualty kind of thing.

GIGOT: The 9/11 attack.

SILBER: Yes. I mean -- and that's a -- that's a credit to intelligence and security forces being that much more advanced in their capabilities and having much better, you know, connections worldwide with other entities.  So, what you're left with, is you're left with, sort of, atomized actors, individuals or duos acting on their own who may or may not be inspired by ISIS or Al Qaeda.

GIGOT: So there's a report that the suspect in this case had been tracked in advance by German Intelligence. We've done that in the -- and then dropped it.

SILBER: Yes.

GIGOT: We've done that in the United States too, the Tsarnaevs were on a list of the Boston bombing, and then the Orlando bomber, Omar Mateen he was on a FBI list and fell off it.

Is it -- are the - are the agencies that have to follow these people just simply overwhelmed by the numbers?

SILBER: Well, it's two things, Paul. One is that there are limitations in resources. You can follow someone all the time for a number of years. So, ultimately, there is some type of vetting process that says, OK --

GIGOT: That's a priority list?

SILBER: Yeah, there's a priority list, even the 7/7 bombers all the way back in July of 2005 in London, they too have been monitored by British Intelligence but they were vetted and, sort of, put down -- further down on the list, categorized as less of a threat.

So, I think number one, you know, there's limited resources. You can't track everyone all the time, and number two there are thresholds. If someone fails to cross a certain threshold after monitoring them for a period of time, most investigations have to get shut down. And I think that may have been, you know, the case, you know, in some of these other examples of Tsarnaevs and in Orlando, still waiting to learn more about how this preceded in Berlin.

GIGOT: Do we need to change our rules therefore to allow for a more extensive monitoring instead of having expressed limited periods?

SILBER: We might. We might have to reconsider that. I know -- for me personally, one of the most anxiety inducing events was closing down an investigation when you didn't have sufficient intelligence to keep it going, knowing that that could be a person who surprises you in six to 12 months.

GIGOT: Did that ever happen? I mean, did you -- did -- was there actually an event after that?

SILBER: Unfortunately, there wasn't -

GIGOT: OK.

SILBER: -- but it is always a fear for any intelligence official.

GIGOT: All right, let's talk about cyber, because it's been so much in the news with the Russian hacking of Democratic politicians, the Democratic National Committee. They tried to get into the Republican National Committee, apparently, did not succeed in that. This is a growing threat generally you would acknowledge, correct?

SILBER: Yeah. And I think that when we're talking about cyber hacking, it takes a number of different forms, you know, one is intelligence gathering.  But what we're seeing here is not only the gathering of information, but then the putting it out on social media which is a, you know, sort of a whole another strategy.

GIGOT: Which is a disruptive strategy they're trying.

What do you think the Russians were really up to? You don't doubt that the Russians did it, do you?

SILBER: No, I don't.

GIGOT: OK. What do you think they were up to, just to spread the misinformation and reduced confidence in the American electoral process?

SILBER: Yes. I think it was two-pronged. One was to hurt the U.S. electoral process. I think the second was to potentially wound Hillary Clinton as a -- as a presidential, you know, candidate, and then it, you know, morphed as things moved along to provide opportunity to assist Donald Trump.

GIGOT: So, you know, as I followed the Obama administration's response, they haven't done much as all. They filed a couple of lawsuits, you know, again, indicted some lower level Chinese officials. President Obama said at his news conference last week, "Well, I told Putin to cut it out, and then he did it. And I told the same to Xi," and that seemed to do something good, the Chinese president. But, what -- shouldn't we respond more forcefully?

SILBER: It's all about deterrence, right?

GIGOT: Yes.

SILBER: Deterrence was such an important element during the Cold War on so many different factors, nuclear or otherwise. We have not established what our deterrence, you know, doctrine is in the United States.

There's been something that was released last year in 2015, it said, we might do sanctions, we might do indictments, and we might do covert actions, but, you know, there's really no uns as to what thresholds will trigger what reactions. Now, the administration would say, well, listen, we want to maintain full flexibility, so we don't want to necessarily lay it all out there, and that's understood.

But, you know, if you go back to 2011 and Iranian hackers attacking the U.S. financial system. 2014, North Korea and Sony and you say -- and then the Chinese, we've got a couple of indictments, we got some sanctions on North Korean officials. What really have we done to demonstrate that there is a price to pay for hacking the United States? It doesn't seem apparent that there is a price to pay, so therefore, there's no deterrent.

GIGOT: Well, and that's something that the next administration is going to have to face. Mitch Silver, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

SILBER: Thank you.

GIGOT: Much more to come as we take a look back at the year in politics.  From the stunning Brexit vote in the U.K. to Donald Trump's upset victory here at home. What's behind the populous wave sweeping the west?

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: If people want to take their country back, they want to have independence in a sense, and you see it with Europe all over Europe. You're going to have, I think, many other cases where they want to take back their borders back, they want to take their monetary back, they want to take a lot of things back. So, I think you're going to have this happen more and more. I really believe that. And I think it's happening in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: That was then, candidate Donald Trump in Scotland this summer following the United Kingdom stunning vote to leave the European Union.

The now president-elect predicting his own upset victory here in the United States as a wave of populism sweeps goes across the West.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Mary Anastasia O'grady, and Bill Mcgurn.

So, Bill, what do you -- what do you think is behind this populous thing?

MCGURN: Well, I think, for one thing, people used populist (inaudible) and no one really defines it. It's not as popular --

GIGOT: It's not necessarily a good or bad word.

MCGURN: Right. And it's not always -- I think -- I there are a lot of different motivations for people going around. The one thing they have in common is, it seems to be rebellion against the governing classes or what they consider the ruling elite. And, in the classic sense of populism it's we the people are pure and these people are corrupt and we're going to sweep them up.

But I think it's very different in Britain. I think they had the sense they were chafing under the European Union rules and regulations and so forth.

In Germany I think it's a lot more about migration and so forth.

And in France I think it's very interesting. Because, you have Le Pen on the -- on the right with the, kind of, German anti-immigrant message, but you also have the (inaudible), a free market catholic that could be an alternative.

GIGOT: Well, I think, Mary, it's -- a lot of this is economics. When you have growth of 3 percent, 4 percent, a lot of these anxieties go away.  When it looks like the political class is failing to deliver peace and prosperity or failing to deliver security, that's when these tensions exist and the -- and populism rises.

O'GRADY: Yeah. I think the populism that we're seeing right now is, largely, a pushback against centralization and disappointment in the United States, for sure, with Washington. They feel like Washington has failed them. And they want a return to something where they feel like they have some power. And Donald Trump is promising to return power to them.

Now, whether he does that by, you know, centralizing power in other aspects, for example, industrial policy --

GIGOT: We'll see (ph).

O'GRADY: We'll see, yes. But, for sure, people are -- were rebelling against the establishment.

GIGOT: Well -- yes. And it seems to me, Jason, that if you have -- if populism mobilizes people to break up the status quo that isn't working, particularly, if it leads to faster growth or economic reform, breaks up some of these special interest groups, it had -- can do a great deal of good against elites that aren't listening.

RILEY: That's one way that populism can push things, although, in some of these European countries, I don't think it's that kind of populism that is going on. When you look at France and the National Front Movement there, or, even, in Germany with these alternatives for Deutschland or German part. I mean, you talk about an alt-right, Paul, what you have going on there.

And then -- so, it's different. It depends on the country. It depends on the type of populism. I think in Europe, you're dealing with a lot of ethnic nationalism going on. I don't think we have that in the United States to the extent that they have that in Europe. So it depends.

O'GRADY: But it's also --

RILEY: (Inaudible) correct them. You have to define populism.

O'GRADY: But it's also true, I think, that if you had faster growth, I mean, in both Europe and the United States, you've had slow growth since the financial crisis. And I think when that happens, people look for scapegoats, they look for someone to blame. So it might be blaming immigrants, but it might be just pushing back against the existing economic policy. Give them growth, you don't have that problem.

GIGOT: Yes. Bill, mentioned Francois Fillon in France and it strikes me that that is a -- this coming election in France is a very important one because he is pushing a -- the most aggressive free market reform that I have seen coming out of a French candidate in my lifetime. You just never see that in France where they have socialists on the right is even -- is almost as socialist as the left.

So you've got that message, and that's an alternative to the -- to the -- to the blood and soil nationalism that Marine Le Pen is pushing.

HENNINGER: Yes. It will be a key election in that respect, Paul. Because here is the paradox of populism, I mean, by and large, it could be summed up as people saying, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.  Except when the government starts suggesting that they pare back (ph), say, labor regulations and rules that protect people, and at that point a lot of these mad as hell people say, woah, wait a minute, I'm not giving up any of the stuff that protects me. Let somebody else take the burden.

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GIGOT: Yes, I'm not giving up my entitlement payments.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER: -- Spain, Germany -- not Germany, Italy, France. It has been the same thing (inaudible). So that Fillon election will be very key in suggesting whether people are ready to bear (ph) that burden.

MCGURN: Yes. I think Dan is right on that. France is very exciting for that reason.

However, I give the populist movement a little more credit in diagnosing a problem. People don't feel that the governments -- their governments are keeping them safe, and they're right about that, or delivering growth, and they're right about that too. The question is there are prescriptions.  That's what makes the French election so exciting.

GIGOT: What do you think, Jason?

RILEY: Growth in America, I think, can solve a lot of our differences. In Europe, it's a different matter because you're dealing with huge (ph) welfare states and growth in and of itself isn't going to solve all of Europe's problems.

GIGOT: America's is getting bigger too.

RILEY: It's getting bigger.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Still ahead, it was the biggest story of the year and one very few in politics and the press saw coming. So just how did we get the 2016 Election so wrong and what can we learn for next time? We'll ask Larry Sabato next.

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GIGOT: The 538 members of the Electoral College met this week in 50 state capitals official voting to make Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States. It was the final chapter in what was, no doubt, the biggest story of 2016, and the biggest surprise to pollsters, pundits and many -- even in the media.

Larry Sabato is the director of the University of Virginia, Center for Politics. He joins me now from Charlottesville. Good to see you again, Larry.

SABATO: Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT: And so, you have owned up that you got it wrong and -- so have I.  So have most of us. But as you look now a couple of months - you know, a month, five, six weeks later, and you look back, why do you think we got it so wrong?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Paul, because all of the usual indicators misled us, and then we misled our readers and viewers. The usual indicators being, not just polling, but other metrics that we've used for years when the rules of politics applied. Well, the rules didn't apply this year. That's fundamentally what happened, and it happened starting with the primaries.

You remember when Donald Trump entered and you had 16 other Republicans in there, you couldn't find a leader in the Republican Party who thought Donald Trump would even be one of the finalist, much less, the nominee.  And then the general election, look, even Trump and his people thought he was going to lose on Election Day. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Election evening - election evening - election evening.

(CROSSTALK)

SABATO: So let's be honest, this was a surprise to everybody.

It's really our generation's 1948 Dewey defeats Truman, when Truman actually beat Dewey. Well, it's -- that's the same thing all over again.  Because the polls, although there weren't many of them back then, were wrong in '48. And 300 plus polls at least in the battleground states were wrong this year.

The national polls, some of them were way off, but the polling average, interestingly, was pretty much on target and had Clinton up by 3.2 percent.  She won the popular vote by 2.1 percent.

GIGOT: OK. But, you're a political scientist and you know some of these political science models. Allan Lichtman's, for example, Ray Fair (ph), some of these people who build in economic factors in, you know, the previous four or eight years. And then they look at, well, is this -- is this a party seeking a third term. Some of those models looked like they were saying a Republican, a normal Republican could win. Were we just misled so much that -- because Donald Trump wasn't a normal Republican and said some things that would normally be disqualifying that somehow, we said, well, he can't win one.

In fact, if we look at the fundamentals of this being a change election, we would have said, you know what, he has a very, very good shot.

SABATO: Sure, I buy that. We carried 13 political science models on our Crystal Ball website, and some of them were very accurate in predicting a Republican victory. But, you know what's interesting, the authors of the more accurate models spent most of their space explaining why their models were wrong, this is (ph) in advance of the election.

GIGOT: This would be the exception to their rule.

SABATO: Yes, the exception to their rule. And that was true, at least, of one of the two people you mentioned.

So I think, essentially, we all as a system, as a group of analysts, maybe, we gather together too much and we try to establish a mean (ph) and we all hug it.

GIGOT: Yes, I think that that's part of the problem is -- we in the press corps (ph) and in a lot of academia, we talk to each other too much maybe and not enough to actual voters who are -- who are -- who would be giving us other information about this election, and maybe too slavish as well to pollsters. We look at the polls and say, oh, well, they can't possibly be wrong. And yet, when you look at what has happened across the West, whether it be Brexit, whether it be the Israeli election, whether it be a couple of British elections, the polls have not always been right.

SABATO: Well, that's correct. I always call polling the science of ABC, almost being certain, and the most important word there is almost.

They are right most of the time, but every now and then you have an election that, as I suggested, violates the rules. What's interesting about this year other than Trump himself is that we learned that maybe increasingly, the Electoral College and the popular vote are going to be separate, at least, in close elections.

Normally when a candidate like Clinton wins by nearly 3 million votes, it carries the Electoral College with it. It moves with the popular vote.  Well, guess what, it didn't, and I don't think it was a fluke. The more I study the actual voting patterns on Election Day, the more I think that we've established a new rule which will eventually be broken, of course.  

GIGOT: What ever happened to the coalition of the ascendant was called on the Democratic side of the Obama coalition, minorities, young people, women? That seems to not have been able to deliver. Hillary Clinton thought it was going to deliver for her, but she couldn't replicate it. Is that something that is still coming or is that now broken up?

SABATO: Well, the demographic suggest that it is coming, eventually, and states like Arizona and Georgia got uncomfortably close for the Republican this year. It -- they stayed with Trump. So I think -- I think the coalition of the ascendant is still part of our future.

But I'll tell what. One of the problems is that they're -- they gather mainly on the two coasts, and there are so many excess Democratic votes on the West Coast and the East Coast that don't help Democrats pull in extra electoral vote. The other thing comes down to a basic that did apply this year, candidates really matter. Hillary Clinton was a boring candidate.  She couldn't get minorities to turn out. She couldn't get millennials to turn out.

So, you know, when you're looking for a candidate, it's important to find somebody who stirs the base, and she didn't.

GIGOT: All right, Larry Sabato, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT: Still ahead, the blame game continues as Democrats search for answers to November's election loss.

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GIGOT: Still reeling from Hillary Clinton's election loss, Democrats are looking for answers, and continuing to point fingers. Bill Clinton is even getting in on the action telling a local paper in New York this month that president-elect Donald Trump, "Doesn't know much, but one thing he does know is how to get angry white men to vote for him." The former president went on to blame his wife's defeat on the FBI's decision to reopen the investigation into her private e-mail server, telling the paper, "James Comey cost her the election."

We're back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Mary Anastasia O'grady, and Bill Mcgurn.

So, Dan, you know, Bill Clinton, I don't think he's an outlier here. I think he's -- he's speaking for a lot of Democrats about what they think really happened.

DAN HENNINGER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah, but I think Bill still in his own way remains an outlier. I mean, this thing about angry white men, Bill Clinton was the guy who, back during the campaign was telling his wife's campaign, you got to go out there and campaign more among those blue collar workers in places, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, and they told him, don't worry about it -- as you were just discussing with Larry Sabato, "Don't worry about it. The coalition of the ascendant is locked. We're going to win."

And, so Bill himself campaigned in those (inaudible) areas two times in the 1990s, he got himself elected president. So I think bill Clinton understands what's going on inside the Democratic Party. The question is, whether the Clintons have any relevance to that party anymore.

GIGOT: Jason, Russian hacking, Jim Comey, racism, bigotry, you know, everything, except for the fact that maybe we should have campaigned in Wisconsin, for example.

JASON RILEY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY: I have -- I have a little sympathy for the Democrats here.  Because, the election was relatively close. I mean, in the Electoral College, you know --

GIGOT: And she won the popular vote.

RILEY: You're talking about 100,000 or so votes in three states that could have swung this thing her way. And so, the Democrats -- you know, all of these factions have a plausible explanation here. Did the FBI stuff (ph) tip it a little bit? Did WikiLeaks tip it? Was it Bernie Sanders? Was it Jill Stein?

You can -- if you're in -- whatever faction you're in, you can plausibly point the finger and said, it wasn't my fault, it was your fault. And so, I think, the Democrats do need to decide on why they lost so that they can move forward and learn how to win.

The other mistake they want to worry about making is, you know, maybe they're all right, and maybe Donald Trump is a unique political figure, and should they change their entire game plan because of -- you know, to take care of the next Donald Trump? Maybe they didn't do anything wrong.

GIGOT: Well, there's no examination so far, Mary, at all about the agenda.  No examination about the economic policies the last eight years. No examination about their identity politics of focusing on ethnic and gender groups as opposed to the broader public.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think, first of all, they would like to delegitimize the Trump win so that, you know, he -- there's a sense that he really doesn't have a mandate to govern.

But, the other problem is that, they are not looking at the fact that, you know, Trump was a very unpopular candidate in many ways. This should have been a walk in the park for Republicans. You had eight years of Democrats.  You had very low growth over that period. And, if you had a -- you know, a reasonably mainstream Republican candidate, he probably would have won quite handily.

So, the surprise was partly in the fact that Trump was so unpopular.

GIGOT: Well, but I think that's part of the problem the Democrats are having now, Bill. It's a little bit like Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live back in 1988 with Mike Dukakis, saying -- you know, looking at George H. W. Bush, saying, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy." How did we possibly lose to Donald Trump? We can't quite get over it.

WILLIAM MCGURN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. I have a slightly different view. I don't think it's clear that another Republican candidate would have done better. I think Donald Trump might have done better if he didn't step on himself several times.

But, you know, John Kasich got two votes in his own party, and, you know, even the other candidates when they had him one-on-one, they couldn't -- they couldn't move the ball. Trump fights.

And then, the other thing is, to put that in perspective, it wasn't just Trump who won. The Republicans won -- I mean the Democrats are in a big, big problem now if you look at the makeup of the country. And I think the -- though we've had all these skirmishes (ph) with Bill blaming Comey and, you know, Jennifer Palmieri blaming racism and so forth. The real e-mails I'd like to see would be between the Bill Clinton camp and the Hillary camp, because you can bet that there is some analysis going on. And I think a lot -- as Dan said, a lot of -- not just Bill Clinton, but a lot of those people probably felt ignored and that they could have won.

O'GRADY: But I think there were really two main things going on here that no one's talking about. OK, they broke down the blue wall and, you know, rural and working class whites voted heavily for Trump.

However, Catholics voted for Trump in numbers that they normally wouldn't.  I think because they cared about the court. And, white college educated males voted for Trump, and I think a lot of that had to do with going into the voting booth on the last day and saying, I can't take eight more years of this.

GIGOT: Dan, you know what, I'm going to disagree here a little bit in the sense that. I think the Democrats actually -- I mean, I do think they need to do something on energy, they do need to adjust their message somewhat.  But, you know, the truth is they're going to come back. The opposition party always comes back.

I mean, the Republicans were written off in 2008 and 2009, look what happened in 2010. I mean, if the Democrats simply admit that they lost, accept the defeat and then move on and look like they're accepting it and being the opposition party, I think they have a very good chance of doing very well in 2018.

HENNINGER: Well, I guess I'm going to disagree a little bit with that.

I think they do at the national level, Paul, at the presidential level for sure. And the Democratic Party seems to be wholly focused on the presidential level. But, boy, they're really taking in the neck below that level. Certainly, at the level of the Senate, governorships, state legislatures. The political map is looking very red out there.

And unless they figure out a way to broaden their appeal in a way that has relevance beyond just the presidency, I think that blue wall out there is going to continue to erode for Democrats, and, you know, it's hard to see them doing that. The party is basically owned by the Grassroots, the political left and the climate left. There's no charismatic leader like Bill Clinton in sight. So, I think they've got their work cut out for them.

GIGOT: Another leader will show up. They always do.

When we come back, our Hits & Misses of 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIHOT: Time now for our Hits & Misses of the year, and we're going to start with misses. Dan.

HENNINGER: Well, I think the miss of the year is pretty obvious, Paul.  It's the person who lost the presidential election. She was supposed to win in 2016. And that, of course, would be Hillary Clinton. And it goes beyond that, Paul.

Back in 2008 when she was running in the primaries against Barack Obama, it was expected she would win back then. Nobody could challenge the Clinton Machine. Now, Hillary Clinton has lost two big presidential elections.  I'm not sure how she sleeps at night.

But, I think this also raises questions about the future of the vaunted Clinton machine. Are they going to have a roll (ph) in the Democratic Party or are they not? Are they finally washed up?

GIGOT: Well, you know, it's interesting. I -- there are a lot -- some people are saying that maybe this attempt by John Podesta and others to delegitimize Trump suggests that he's -- was her campaign chairman that she wants to give it one more try, Dan, in 2020.

HENNINGER: You can't keep the Clintons down. But, boy, just think about Hillary four years from now, it ain't going to happen.

GIGOT: All right, Jason.

RILEY: Paul, this is a miss for the media coverage of the election. When so many people are shocked by the outcome, perhaps including even the winner of the election, we're doing something wrong here. And the gap between what the public and voters were looking for in a president and what the media was looking for in a president was simply epic this time.

So, I think we have to do a better job going forward.

GIGOT: Well, OK. I didn't predict a Trump victory. Did you?

RILEY: No.

GIGOT: OK. So, what are you going to do differently?

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: I mean, I know my lesson, the lesson I got from this, humility.

RILEY: I'm going to try and not --

GIGOT: OK. That's the lesson I learned.

RILEY: I'm going to try and not project my sensibilities in terms of what is appropriate in a president onto voters. I think that's what I'll do going forward.

GIGOT: Good lesson. All right. And maybe even actually talk to a few of them more often. OK.

RILEY: We (ph) should.

GIGOT: Mary.

O'GRADY: Paul, this is a big fat miss for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when he found out that Fidel Castro had passed, sent out a message saying, among other things, that he and his wife join the people of Cuba in mourning the loss of a remarkable leader. He also said that Fidel Castro was a man who loved the Cuban people very much.

The good news is that it spawned a series of messages on social media that mocked him mercilessly by posting parodies praising people like Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler. And in the end, Mr. Trudeau did not go to the Castro funeral.

GIGOT: He didn't go to the Castro funeral?

O'GRADY: No.

GIGOT: So, you think that he -- I mean, has he really been damaged by this in the sense the perception of him as a serious leader?

O'GRADY: Absolutely. I mean, even people that I know on the left in Canada were embarrassed by the ridiculous praise that he gave to a guy who just had such a terrible track record.

GIGOT: All right. And William?

MCGURN: Paul, among the biggest misses of the year has to go to Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore State's Attorney who indicted six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was a prisoner who was being transported in a police van when he suffered a spinal injury that was fatal. It helped cause the riots. She indicted these officers on outrageous charges and made statements at a press conference that you'd, kind of, hear at an Al Sharpton rally.

And this year, she had her come up and -- when a judge threw out the charges against some of the first officers, then she was forced to abandon the other ones. And she still blames everyone but herself.

GIGOT: All right. My miss of the year is the tragedy, the catastrophe of Aleppo, Russia, Syria -- the Syrian regime and Iran are laying siege (ph) to that city. Now they seem to have won a victory in Aleppo, but at tremendous human cost. Tens of thousands of people dead. The Syrian civil war continues. It's one of the greatest nightmares, maybe of this whole century.

And the United States stood by and did almost nothing about it. President Obama said we couldn't -- he didn't have a solution. This is what happens -- Aleppo is what happens when the United States decides to backs off and then not execute world leadership. And I think we're going to see -- you get peace, but you get the peace of the grave.

MCGURN: Yes. Well, people say there's no military solution, Vladimir Putin is imposing a military solution right now with Assad.

RILEY: The ambassador, it was the Russian ambassador that was assassinated and that's significant. They are now seeing -- the Russians are now seen as the heavy in that region and that's what the -- that's (inaudible) they're targeting.

GIGOT: All right. We have to take one more break.

When we come back, our panel Hits of 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Time for our "Hits or Winners" of the year. Dan?

HENNINGER: Well, my winner of the year is the flipside of my miss to Hillary Clinton. And no, I don't mean Donald Trump. I mean Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee.

Paul, as any political figure in recent times, has been more vilified, booed, run out of town? I mean, first, the idea was he allowed 17 Republican candidates run for the presidency. What idiot would allow that?  Then he throws in with Donald Trump, and the idea is he's taking the Republican Party to perdition.

Hey, Reince Priebus is now chief of staff for the next President of the United States. Whatever your politics, this was an amazing story of political survival.

GIGOT: And, how many months do you give him working in The White House as chief of staff? When Donald Trump doesn't really like a chief of staff, let's face it, he has -- he wants to talk to everybody directly.

HENNINGER: Priebus himself says, he thinks maybe two years.

GIGOT: If he's lucky. All right, Jason?

RILEY: This is a hit for the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball.  Paul, we could not have asked for a more exciting World Series, a comeback, a game seven, extra innings. It's a reminder of why baseball became the national pastime. And the players even stood up for the national anthem.  Imagine that.

GIGOT: Now, I know you're a big football fan. So - and a long-suffering one with the Buffalo Bills.

RILEY: Yes.

GIGOT: But, are you saying that you think the NFL could potentially be in trouble in terms of its popularity relative to baseball?

RILEY: No. I don't think we've reached that point yet.

But I do think that what happened this year is something to pay attention to and that the NFL shouldn't write it off.

GIGOT: Okay. All right. Mary?

O'GRADY: My hit for this year is the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial is up 9 percent since November 8th. The total value of Global Equity Markets is up roughly $3 trillion. All of that new wealth is pouring in to 401(k)s and other kinds of savings accounts.

And of course, what really is left to be seen here is whether Donald Trump will deliver on his promises, and that will be sustainable.

GIGOT: Well, I think some of our viewers would say, you know what, isn't that the Barack Obama economy, paying off for people, Mary?

O'GRADY: Well, it didn't happen until Trump was elected. So I think it --

GIGOT: The most recent run-up. But there's been a huge run-up in the stock market during the Obama presidency, no?

O'GRADY: It moved back to where it was, but I think -- what you're seeing now is an expectation of much greater growth.

GIGOT: OK. Are you up short or long for 2017?

(CROSSTALK)

O'GRADY: I don't have to hold through the year, do I?

GIGOT: No, you don't. No.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: At the start.

O'GRADY: I'm going to be a trader.

GIGOT: You're going to play short. OK. Wow. All right, interesting.

I think I'm going to go long.

O'GRADY: I think you have to wait and see until everyone is in and that's when it comes down.

GIGOT: William?

MCGURN: My hit of the year goes to a tremendous American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Anton (ph) Scalia. Justice Scalia, of course, left us too soon when he died in February. But instead of being quickly forgotten, his sudden absence sparked a newer and fuller appreciation of his role in the Supreme Court. Mrs. Scalia understood this. When in October she put a Trump sign on her front lawn.

And, I'd say in the end, Justice Scalia even in death helped dominate this election.

GIGOT: I have -- I think that Donald Trump would not have won the election if the Supreme Court had been so directly in play. You agree with that?

MCGURN: I agree with that. And --

GIGOT: That made a lot of conservatives come out --

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURN: And I'd go -- I'd go further. I think the pressure on Donald Trump to name someone in the mold of Justice Scalia is a benefit, too, by coming up with his list.

GIGOT: Is this the easiest victory that Trump is going to have going into the New Year?

MCGURN: I think the first one. Because he can claim -- I mean, you can't think of an election before where a Supreme Court nominee has played such a role. And I think he -- by releasing his names, he can claim he has a mandate.

GIGOT: All right. My hit or winner of the year, Ron Johnson, a senator from Wisconsin, who was all but written off -- even by Republicans, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee said, you're done, man, we're not giving you any money.

So what he did, he threw out all of his Washington handlers, he decided he and his brother, decided to create some ads on their own - they're great ads, some of the best of the campaign on Obamacare, on the Joseph Project, the jobs connection project he has in Wisconsin. And (inaudible) great these ads, he came out of nowhere, and he won when nobody expected to. And he outperformed Donald Trump in the -- in the State of Wisconsin.

MCGURN: And I think he outperformed a lot of the expectations, right?

GIGOT: For sure.  

(CROSSTALK)

MCGURN: You know, he's written off as the businessman and so forth and showed he could do it.

O'GRADY: I'll give Ron Johnson a lot of credit, but I think there's some Wisconsin chauvinism going on here.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: Wisconsin chauvinism? I mean, come on, it's a bellwether state, man. It was -- it was right on the money in terms of predicting this election as some of the rest of us were not, I might add.

Okay. And remember, if you have your own "Hit or Miss," be sure to Tweet it to us @JERonFNC. That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and thanks to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Merry Christmas, we hope to see you right here next week.

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