This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," April 8, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Donald Trump Thursday night following the launch of more than 50 cruise missiles at an air base in Syria, a response to this week's deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians there. The strikes came hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pinned blame for Tuesday's sarin gas attack squarely on President Bashar al Assad and warned Russia to rethink its support for his regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no doubt in our minds and the information we have supports that Syria, the Syrian regime, the leadership of President Bashar al Assad, are responsible for this attack. And I think further, it is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens; and editorial board member, Mary Kissel.
Bret, I gather you support this military action. Why?
BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: First, it's retaliation for a barbaric attack, and one we should have conducted when the sarin gas attack started almost four years ago. Secondly, it's a very important signaling exercise for the Trump administration to distinguish itself, to our adversaries, from the Obama administration, to put Putin, the North Koreans, the Iranians and perhaps even the Chinese on notice this isn't a president who is going to wring his hands indefinitely before taking military action. But the most important thing is, is this a change in policy for the U.S. when it comes to Syria? Does this administration recognize that the root of our Syria problem is the Assad regime, not ISIS?
GIGOT: I want to get into that. But as far as you are concerned, this is important because it signals, apart from a change of policy, but just on its own, saying, look, I'm not Barack Obama.
STEPHENS: It was morally and strategically right.
All right, this is being received, Mary, by and large, around the world. But to Bret's point, a lot of people are saying this was proportionate. It didn't go overboard. It just responded to that one airfield where the Pentagon thinks the chemical attack came from. But what about the fact there are five other airfields that Assad uses that we didn't attack.
MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It was proportionate because it was where the chemical weapons attack was launched. It looks like the Trump administration took steps to avoid unnecessary casualties. Judging from the reporting, we gave Russia a heads up.
KISSEL: So it's significant that Russians were at that airfield. Recall, Paul, that Russia has provided key support to the Assad regime and has targeted U.S.-backed forces there.
Look, what do we do about the other airfields? We'll see. A lot depends on how the Syrian regime and Putin and Iran respond. But have no doubt, this was certainly a warning that Trump means what he says.
Also, importantly, just to add to Bret's point, it's a sign Trump can learn while he's in office. Trump has never backed military action in Syria. He was against it before he became president. Now he's sitting in the Oval Office and it looks like's taking a more responsible approach.
GIGOT: Dan, what about the Russian response? They denounced the attack, not surprising. They cut off coordination militarily that we have been working with them on in terms of the anti-Islamic State campaign in Raqqa and eastern Syria. Now we get reports there is a ship going into the Med, the Mediterranean. What do you make of the U.S.-Russian relationship here?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I guess you could call it a reset of a reset. Because whatever Donald Trump's relationship may or may not have been with Vladimir Putin, it's not the same as of this strike against Syria.
I think it was striking that his national security director, H.R. McMaster, who was with him in Mar-a-Lago when he made that announcement, said this is, quote, "a big shift." And I think that includes the Russians as well.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's statements the last few days, especially on Friday, against the Russians, was absolutely blistering. I think the Russian ambassador sitting there was taken aback at the intensity of her remarks.
And what this allows I think Trump needs to send a message to our allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, perhaps Turkey, that we are going to take a leadership position, and that leadership position can be directed at suppressing Islamic State, perhaps removing Assad, and we don't need the Russians to do that if we have our Arab allies are willing to back us.
GIGOT: But if there's any criticism I've seen, Bret, it's that this complicates that anti-Islamic State campaign because it means now Assad could decide to do something against American soldiers. The Russians could complicate things for our aircraft. Is this something we should be concerned about, the chances of --
STEPHENS: No. And the truth is that you can't solve your ISIS problem without solving your Assad problem and vice versa. As we said before, they're symbiotic enemies. One depends on the other for its legitimacy.
GIGOT: But explain that when it comes to Assad because he claims --
STEPHENS: Because Assad's base of support within Syria and internationally is hate. I'm what's standing between you and ISIS. What is it that stands up ISIS among -- in Syria and the rest of the Arab world? Hey, we're the guys who are fighting this awful --
STEPHENS: We have two problems in Syria, one is Assad and one is ISIS. We have to fight both of them. Yeah, there will be tactical complications, not question about that. But the Russians have more to fear from our Air Force than we have to fear from theirs.
GIGOT: So what is the next stage? What should the U.S. do not, the Trump administration do now if they want to advance that goal, the twin goals of our twin problems?
KISSEL: You start to enforce the safe zones in the north, on the Turkish border, and in the south, on the Jordanian border.
GIGOT: Syrians, themselves?
KISSEL: Correct. You also start to address the problem of Sunni radicalism. Sunni moderates have had no place to go, because the Obama administration didn't support them. So if they are against Assad, the only choice they have is to go to a radicalized group, like the Islamic State, like al Qaeda. You can accomplish two things by creating safe zones. You can allow people to flee, sending a message to Assad, but you also to construct the internal support you need for a future freer democratic --
STEPHENS: We need to create a reputation of being a reliable friend and a terrible foe. We need to give people incentive to be on the side of the U.S. and to disincent the Irans, the Hezbollahs, the Russians and the Assad regime from opposing it. We should reward Israel by recognizing their possession of the Golan Heights. We should reward the Kurds who have been doing a lot of the fighting for us in northeastern Syria. We should finally start supporting elements of the Free Syrian Army that we can trust. Shrink the tumor.
GIGOT: That would require quite a degree of intervention. I'm not sure that Donald Trump has quite bargained for yet, but we'll see where it goes.
STEPHENS: With time comes wisdom.
GIGOT: Still ahead, after a bitter Senate showdown, Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court. A look at the partisan path that took him there and what it means for future nominees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There's a reason to top the nuclear option. It's the most extreme measure with the most extreme consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: After a bitter showdown in the Senate, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed Friday by a 54-45 vote a day after Senate Republicans broke a Democratic filibuster and triggered the so-called "nuclear option," voting Thursday to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority.
We are back with Dan Henninger. And Washington columnist, Kim Strassel, and editorial board members, Joe Rago and Colin Levy, also join the panel.
Colin, big, big victory not only for Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch, but also Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, who kept all Republicans together not only for the support for Gorsuch but to break the filibuster.
COLIN LEVY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: For sure, Paul. No question. This is really a legacy for Mitch McConnell, the way he managed to keep everyone together. Even while there were rumblings of some sort of deal that might have been going on, he kept it together. I think getting rid of the filibuster, in the long run, there is a lot of hooting and hollering now about how this is a big change, but in the end, you will see this will bring the judicial confirmation process back to what it used to be, back to something a little more normal. It will take it out of this extreme partisan wrangling we have seen the past year. So I think that's good.
GIGOT: You mentioned something about a deal. Behind the scenes, there were some Republicans negotiating with Democrats. Chuck Schumer said, oh, we can't have a filibuster here and we don't want to break the filibuster, so let's cut a deal that would have given Chuck Schumer and Democrats some leverage over Donald Trump's future appointments.
LEVY: That's right. It would have basically said we'll get Judge Gorsuch through in exchange for an agreement not to filibuster the next one. That just would have been a terrible deal for Republicans. And President Trump has to be looking at this one now as a significant victory. This is a great judge. He will be great on the court for many years. On a political level, this is something good the administration has gotten done. And judges are something that unite the Republican coalition across the board. So that's important.
GIGOT: Kim, did Schumer miscalculate here? Because now the filibuster is gone for Supreme Court nominations. Next time Trump makes an appointment, it's 51 votes.
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNNIST: Yeah. If this was Mitch McConnell's shining hour, it was Chuck Schumer's Alamo or Waterloo. Choose your metaphor. Had Chuck Schumer played it cool, had it recognized this was an extremely qualified judge, had he not rallied his Democrats instantly to go out and filibuster, not join the resistance, there is a chance he could have peeled off some Republicans to come over and made the deal Colin was talking about. Instead, by being unrelenting in opposition, it made it clear and Mitch McConnell was able to make the point to his members, though they would prefer not to do this, there was no choice, Democrats were leaving them no choice, and he aided Mitch McConnell in keeping Republicans united.
GIGOT: Dan, what's the political lesson here for Trump?
HENNINGER: For Trump?
HENNINGER: Well, that you can trust Mitch McConnell, for one thing. He wonders who can trust in Congress.
I think another political lesson is to see the reality of what's going on with the Democrats. Yes, Chuck Schumer probably should have let this one through. But the question is, who is in charge of the Democratic Party right now? It doesn't look to me like Chuck Schumer. He was leaned on heavily by the left, by progressives, who did not want to do a deal like this. They decided they need to make the Supreme Court a bigger political issue.
GIGOT: So they did this for their own partisan reasons.
GIGOT: To fire up their base.
GIGOT: The resistance base says you must oppose all things Trump and we'll give you what you want, even if it makes it more likely that there is another Neil Gorsuch coming if there's another Supreme Court opening.
HENNINGER: That part of logic doesn't hold up to me, but that's what they are thinking. Within seconds of that filibuster being broken, a fundraising letter went out from some left-wing groups saying, because of this, you have to send us money. They are going to run on the Supreme Court now.
GIGOT: One of the things here, Joe, this was a subcontracting operation to some extent. Leonard Leo, from the Federal Society - who we're going to hear from soon -- he gave that list to Donald Trump, with Don McGann (ph), general counsel at the White House. Gorsuch was off the list. It worked.
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It did work. It's a lesson for Trump that sometimes doing things in the conventional manner can actually succeed and produce results. I think going forward, you know, the more normal part of the Trump administration maybe will get some more power out of this.
GIGOT: You really think so?
RAGO: Certainly. And we might have another Supreme Court opening very soon. Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84. There's a chance the next pick could change the intellectual coloration of the Supreme Court in a much more consequential way.
GIGOT: Colin, do you see the next pick coming from this list of 21 they prepared for Trump, that Gorsuch came off of?
LEVY: Yeah. There are a lot of great names on that list. Obviously, that could change. But another thing we should talk about, Paul, it's great Judge Gorsuch will be sworn in Monday. We have big cases coming up at the Supreme Court just the second week after that. So a big religious liberty case coming called Trinity Lutheran. We know Judge Gorsuch had strong opinions in the Hobby Lobby case on religious liberty. So it's great he will be on the court now and be there sitting for those cases.
GIGOT: Who on the court does he most resemble, Judge Gorsuch, as a judge?
LEVY: I would say somewhere between Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. He has Justice Thomas' principles, originalism and opinions. But he has that flair, that gift for argument that is able to engage lawyers and law students like Justice Scalia did. So I think he's somewhere between the best parts of both of them.
GIGOT: That sounds pretty good to me.
All right, thank you, Colin.
Much more to come on this week's Supreme Court showdown and the future of the court under President Trump. What kind of justice will Neil Gorsuch be? And who could be the next nominee? We will ask one of President Trump's Supreme Court advisors, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Our Democratic colleagues have done something today that is unprecedented in the history of the Senate. Unfortunately, it has brought us to this point. We need to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate and get past this unprecedented partisan filibuster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, just before Republicans voted to break the Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. It was a history making vote and one that will likely shape the Supreme Court for decades to come.
Leonard Leo is currently on leave from the Federalist Society where he is executive vice president. He is an advisor to President Trump on the Supreme Court.
So welcome, Leonard. Good to see you.
LEONARD LEO, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY & TRUMP SUPREME COURT ADVISOR: Good to see you, Paul.
GIGOT: So what's your biggest lesson, the lesson you take away from this battle over Neil Gorsuch?
LEO: Well, I think it's very important that the president and the Republican Party continue to pick individuals for the Supreme Court who are committed to the kind of ideals Justice Scalia stood for. Those play well with the American people. Those are the right ideals for bringing the court forward. And that worked. It worked very effectively. Judge Gorsuch was an incredibly forceful advocate for the idea that our structural constitution, the separation of powers and so forth are inextricably intertwined to the preservation of freedom and human dignity. I think he stood for all the principles that are so important to our court.
GIGOT: OK, here's -- given all of that -- and I certainly agree with you on the merits -- but here's the question. You only got three Democrats. Why only three Democrats? I know you were trying and the White House was trying and the Republicans were trying to get more. Gorsuch met with most of them. He visited them. Why so much trouble getting Democrats?
LEO: Well, because much of the Democrat Party is in line with the hard- left groups that understand all too well that their policy agenda depends on the court being a super legislature. As long as the Democrat Party represents values that aren't going to be largely adopted by a Republican Congress or the states, they will have to fight tooth and nail to make sure the court doesn't become more conservative or constitutionalist. That's really what it's all about.
GIGOT: How much of it was bitterness over the fact that Merrick Garland never had a vote?
LEO: That was a little bit of it. You saw some of that during the filibuster they staged. I think it was probably a combination of that and the simple fact they desperately need the court. They need the court for their agenda, particularly looking at the next couple of years.
GIGOT: Privately, you say we need to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed and we don't want him filibustered, but, you know what, for the next pick, it's not so bad, from the point of view of the president, that the filibuster is gone, is it?
LEO: As far as I'm concerned, the world is still spinning on its axis, Paul.
The nuclear option has not caused the nuclear winter everyone thought it would. We'll get back to simple majority up-or-down votes on the Supreme Court. Senators will always fight it out with Supreme Court seats. They're highly coveted. But the fact of the matter is things will move forward. President Trump will have the opportunity to nominate people like Neil Gorsuch, who believe in originalism and textualism and the structural Constitution. That's a good thing for the country. I think the majority of the American people embrace that, at least in a general way, because they believe in self-government. I think this is very good for our country, actually.
GIGOT: Doesn't the president now have a freer hand?
LEO: Oh, yes.
GIGOT: What he really needs now is basically say, look, if I can get all of the Republicans to support my next nominee, then he or she is confirmed.
LEO: He has a freer hand, there's no doubt about that. There will always be a few moderate Democrats -- sorry --- moderate Republicans you have to be careful with, but that's OK. That's something that can be worked through. It's been worked through in other confirmation proceedings. So, yes, he's much freer to appoint the kinds of people that reflect the Scalia jurisprudence and legacy.
GIGOT: Is the choice going to come off that list of 21, now 20 I guess with Neil Gorsuch off the list, or are you going to expand that list, look at some other names, maybe fiddle with it?
LEO: I think the president promised during the campaign he would pick from the list. But I don't see a reason why the president can't refresh and expand the list. It's been a year since the list was developed. I think he's -- given the success of this particular confirmation process, he has some running room to refresh and expand it if he wants.
GIGOT: Neil Gorsuch going Monday to the Supreme Court. He will start hearing cases right away. What kind of justice should we expect him to be? How is he going to change the court?
LEO: What you get is what you saw, Paul. This is a man who really cares very deeply about the traditional judicial role, originalism, textualism. And most important, from my standpoint, he understands the relationship between the separation of powers, federalism, limited and enumerated powers, and the preservation of freedom. That was really, when you think about it, the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia, the idea that the structural Constitution matters and, you know, that any dictatorship can have a Bill of Rights but, ultimately, what you need is a structural Constitution. He did a fine job presenting those principles. I think that's what you're going to see on the court from him.
GIGOT: Some skepticism, perhaps, about executive power and agency power to interpret statutes.
Leonard Leo, thank you for coming in. We appreciate it.
LEO: Thank you so much.
GIGOT: When we come back, Susan Rice unmasked. We'll look at what we now know about President Obama's national security advisor and her role in surveilling the Trump transition team.
GIGOT: Two major developments this week in the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election with news that Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice, unmasked the identity of at least one Trump transition official who was listed in U.S. intelligence reports. This, as House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes stepped aside Thursday from his panel's Russia probe amid criticism by Democrats that he is too close to the White House and cannot lead an impartial inquiry and after the House Ethics Committee announced he was under investigation for mishandling classified information.
We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Joe Rago.
So, Kim, let's start with Susan Rice. Why does this unmasking news matter?
STRASSEL: It matters because Susan Rice was the national security advisor. And the thing people need to understand is White House officials don't conduct investigations. They don't run sting operations out of the White House. So normally, when you have law enforcement unmasking American citizens, requesting the identities of those caught up in surveillance with foreign officials, it's done as part of an investigation to see if there is some sort of counterterrorism or espionage problem with the American in question. Susan Rice was unmasking Trump transition official names. People who have seen the document suggest that maybe there was valuable information in there about the Trump team and its policies and its intentions when it got in. So this is potentially the Obama administration snooping on an incoming administration.
GIGOT: Do we know who she unmasked?
STRASSEL: We don't know who she unmasked. And separately we - but we know it's an official other than Michael Flynn. Whether she also unmasked Michael Flynn, we don't know. But this is yet another transition official in addition to Michael Flynn.
GIGOT: But the critics say, of people who have covered this story, including us, oh, no big deal, this is a routine operation for national security advisors. They do this all the time. No news here.
STRASSEL: Most of the people I have spoken to on this say this is not routine at all. It's quite odd she would be doing this. See, there is also the news, Paul, people -- Devin Nunes, who did see these documents, also saw some dozens more that seemed to have lots of details about the Trump transition team and what it was doing, but had nothing to do with Russia. Remember, this was their argument, that this was why Susan Rice would be looking at papers like this, because government was conducting a probe about Russian interference in the election. But they appear to have been monitoring Trump transition officials' conversations that had nothing to do with Russia.
GIGOT: Now, Susan Rice has said -- she all but admitted she unmasked these names. But she said she never did it for political purposes and she didn't leak any of the names. So let's concede the point on this. But does the political purposes-line wash?
HENNINGER: No, I don't think so as all. She told NPR she had no idea what Devin Nunes was talking about, she had nothing to do with any of that.
GIGOT: This was a couple of weeks ago.
HENNINGER: A couple of weeks ago. We've proved a lot further than that.
And obviously, there was something political going on. The whole point of this is whether somebody was meddling in the U.S. election, the politics of the U.S. election. And we are also talking about this because, going back at least a couple of months, there were a torrent of stories in the press and the media based on anonymous sources. Leaks.
HENNINGER: The leaks don't drop from heaven, Paul. They come from the government or former government officials. And --
GIGOT: You mean that what we covered as journalists, somebody gives information to us?
HENNINGER: Well, that's right.
HENNINGER: Here is the problem with that. If the source of a lot of these leaks were, in fact, say, Susan Rice or former Obama administration officials, why is the press going to chase that story, because that would involve exposing their own sources? I think the Obama people were shrewd here in more or less immunizing themselves from being chased by anyone covering this story.
GIGOT: So even if Susan Rice didn't leak it, the fact that it was unmasked and widely distributed could have made it easier for other people to do it.
HENNINGER: We know Obama administration had distributed what the NSA was looking at to 16 other intelligence agencies. That's a sieve.
GIGOT: All right, what about Devin Nunes, Joe? Why did he recuse himself, and should he have done so?
RAGO: Yeah, so Nancy Pelosi set up something in Congress where outside groups can make ethics complaints about specific measures. This office was deluged with complaints that Nunes had improperly leaked classified information in the course of his investigation.
GIGOT: But there is no evidence he did that.
RAGO: There's no evidence of this but it became a distraction. The investigation will still be in capable hands, Trey Gowdy and so forth.
GIGOT: This is the Russia probe?
RAGO: But he's been run out of town on a rail for doing his job.
GIGOT: And, Kim, should he have recused himself? If every time somebody makes a political accusation against you in Washington, you recuse yourself, you won't last at any job very long.
STRASSEL: It's a pity he recused himself. As Joe said, he was doing his job. If the measure of whether or not you're talking about classified information is that you have to recuse yourself, then everyone that mentioned Michael Flynn's name in that transcript should be recusing themselves from Washington.
GIGOT: All right.
Still ahead, a closer look at a disappointing March jobs report. What's behind the hiring slowdown and what can the Trump administration do to reverse it? We will ask former fast-food executive Andy Puzder, next.
GIGOT: U.S. hiring slowed sharply in March with the economy adding just 98,000 new jobs, down from 235,000 in February. The unemployment rate still falling to 4.5 percent.
Andy Puzder is the former chief executive of CKE Restaurants. He withdrew in February as President Trump's nominee for Labor secretary.
Andy Puzder, welcome. Great to see you again.
ANDY PUZDER, FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CKE RESTAURANTS & FORMER TRUMP LABOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: Good to see you, Paul.
GIGOT: What's going on with the economy? How do you read this jobless report for March? A real slowdown.
PUZDER: It was a slowdown in the establishment report. It really was the tale of two surveys. If you look at the household survey, it was good. The employment rate went down to 4.5 percent. It went down for the right reasons. Labor participation didn't drop. It held consistent. We created -- 472,000 more people were employed. 326,000 fewer people were unemployed. So when you look at the establishment survey, with 98,000 jobs, it was a big departure from ADP. So I'm hoping that number will be adjusted up. Again, it was a tale of two surveys.
GIGOT: I think the backdrop economically, we have had a lot of soft data and some hard data, strong data for a time, and then some of the softer stuff. Are we in another economic slow patch as everybody waits to see what kind of policy changes we are going to get out of this new government?
PUZDER: There's that. There's policy changes and what's going to happen with interest rates. In "The Journal," there was an article on a week or so ago, how the return on the 10-year treasury had exceeded the return on the S&P 500, which impacted the stock market.
PUZDER: So we've got a lot - there's a lot going on in this economy. Hiring is difficult because labor costs have been driven up so high it's eliminating a lot of lower-wage jobs. We've got people buying on the Internet, so you have got retail suffering in that respect. You see a lot of companies closing outlets. A lot of companies in trouble, like Sears, who aren't able to compete with Amazon.
PUZDER: There's a lot of things going on in the economy. If you look at it that way, these jobs numbers this month weren't that bad. They just weren't the establishment survey number, 98,000, just nowhere near as high as we would have liked it to have been.
GIGOT: As I read these numbers, it puts a premium on the Republicans to get something done on tax reform, to keep going with their deregulation agenda, to start repealing some of these rule that raise the costs of business. They've really got to get that done.
PUZDER: You were mentioning the 2015 election with respect to what happened with Obamacare. If they don't get tax reform done and Obamacare, if they don't get the ACA repealed and replaced or at least amended so it has less of a negative impact on the economy, they will be in trouble as a party. This is part of the Republicans learning how to govern. They haven't had the pressure to learn how to govern in the House and Senate with President Obama because he would veto whatever they did. Now they have to govern and that takes compromise. And the Freedom Caucus better come to grips with that in a big hurry or else they're going to be in a lot of trouble.
GIGOT: I want to talk to you about the op-ed you wrote for us this week, which was interesting, which -- you said that minimum wage should be called the Robot Employment Act.
Tell us what you meant by that.
PUZDER: Well, if you look at what happened over the past year, McDonald's is now rolling out 14,000 ordering kiosks in its restaurants. Wendy's is rolling out 1,000. There is a highly automated restaurant company out of San Francisco, not coincidentally, called Eatsa, that's now in four cities, all of which are going to a $15 minimum wage in the next 24 to 36 months. Then you have a company called Kelly Burger, which invented a burger- flipping machine that it's going to roll out to its 50 restaurants worldwide. So you really see automation -- and this automation is an indication that labor costs are getting to the point where it's worth it to spend the capital and to assume the risk that your consumers won't like it, and to assume the risk you'll be able to keep it in good repair, it's worth all those risks to try and replace to keep your labor costs down.
GIGOT: You are telling me it's not just -- in the restaurant industry, it's not just the kiosks or where you order that is going to have robots or automatic, it will be the people making the food.
PUZDER: Yeah. In fact, I want to make it clear, I got criticized pretty roundly for people who thought I was promoting automation because I explained the up sides of it. I'm not promoting automation. I'm complaining that when you take actions that drive up the cost of hiring people, particularly entry level employees, you really hurt young Americans. I'm saying this trend towards automation is bad for young Americans because they are not trained for the jobs that exist now. We need to get them trained. And while we are trying to train our workforce to take the jobs of the 21st century, we shouldn't be trying to kill jobs they can get currently, which is exactly what we're doing.
GIGOT: But a lot of people, people on the left might say, look, these are low-wage jobs anyway. They don't feed -- they don't support your family, and they're not a living wage, so why do these anyway? Why not turn them over to the robots?
PUZDER: That's a good point. Janet Yellen gave a speech last week where she talked about the importance of young Americans getting job skills in low-income communities. If you look at Chicago, 40 percent of young African-American males are both unemployed and not in school. That number is 30 percent in New York, 30 percent in Los Angeles. We need to get these kids into jobs so they understand what it means to show up on time, how you deal with people socially, how you learn the skills of working as a team. And there is a program that's being tested -- she kind of praised this program -- in Summerville, Massachusetts, they call Pocket Change --
GIGOT: All right, Andy --
PUZDER: -- which gives kids these jobs. But why not let the private sector do it? Why do you need another government program?
GIGOT: Andy Puzder, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.
PUZDER: Thank you.
GIGOT: When we come back, some last-minute maneuvering in the House this week as Republicans struggle to move forward on a health care bill. So are they close to a deal on repeal and replace?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We have made some real progress this week. That's why we are all here today. We have come together on a new amendment that we all believe will lower premiums and provide added protections for those facing real challenges getting access to affordable care. This brings us closer to the final agreement that we all want to achieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday insisting that Republicans are making real progress on a health care agreement two weeks after he was forced to pull the bill to replace and repeal Obamacare amid objections from the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
We are back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Joe Rago.
So, Joe, you heard the speaker. Are we really any closer than we were two weeks ago?
RAGO: No. I think the chances of a bill passing are higher than zero, but that's all I'll say.
GIGOT: Not a lot higher?
RAGO: Not a lot higher.
RAGO: We have a pretty intractable divide within the Republican conference. On the one hand, you have repeal and replace, what they campaigned on, what they promised, willing to make progress and compromise. I think you have another faction that's repeal only, or specializing, insisting on the impossible.
GIGOT: This is the Freedom Caucus?
RAGO: This is the Freedom Caucus.
GIGOT: They don't want to replace at all.
RAGO: No, a lot of them don't. They don't want to create an entitlement. Now, to be fair, there is a part of the Freedom Caucus that has been very constructive. They helped develop the amendment that Speaker Ryan rolled out this week, but the amendment really doesn't resolve this split within the Republican Party.
GIGOT: Kim, you are talking to some of the groups, talking to the Freedom Caucus, and you are getting more optimistic noise out of them. What are they telling you?
STRASSEL: A lot more optimistic. A lot of these groups, their hang up was they believed the original bill, the one Ryan pulled, did not do enough to reduce premium prices. Their particular grief was that it didn't get rid of some of the regulations in the bills, things like guaranteed issues and community ratings, and they wanted that pulled. The problem was the moderates in the caucus were concerned about this. They're coming up -- the whole point of this amendment Paul Ryan put forward to create high-risk pools was to reassure some of the moderates there is a way to reduce premium price and still provide help for some of the sickest Americans out there. Also put in something to get rid the regulations. They feel as though they are getting much closer to getting moderates and conservatives on board with this.
GIGOT: Here's the thing, Joe -- and you have done this reporting -- every time the leadership or Trump would make a concession to the Freedom Caucus, it's, oh, sorry, got another one. Make that concession, got another one. And then you have people saying, oh, I just want to do repeal only. Do they really, really want to get to yes or is this just a ruse to shift political blame?
RAGO: I wonder, because the previous bill had high-risk pools. The previous bill had -- Tom Price, at the Health and Human Services Department, has the regulatory authority to relax these regulations they are talking about. And the previous bill did a lot to reduce premiums. They didn't get any credit for it from the congressional scorekeepers. But there was a lot in that bill that would have stabilized the health insurance markets and started to bring things down.
GIGOT: Their argument would be, OK, fine, Price can do that. But if you get a Democrat coming in, in four years, they can reverse it. But, on the other hand, four years is a long time
RAGO: Four years is quite a long time. It's enough time to fix the problem, provide a tangible solution in people's lives.
GIGOT: Meanwhile, in Iowa, real problems with the market. People are leaving the market, Dan, the exchanges, and you could end up with a market place with higher prices, fewer choices, and the Republicans blamed because they did nothing about it.
HENNINGER: Yeah. I think this is the reality that some of the members of the Freedom Caucus, it seems to be, have not come to grips with, that Donald Trump is right, Obamacare is a disaster and catastrophe happening right before our eyes, in places like Iowa, involving real people who have insurance policies that need to be addressed. I think the problem is, if you don't get the legislative piece that Joe is talking about, it all falls on Tom Price. Yes, he can do something with the regulations but, ultimately, he will be patching and fixing it the same way Hillary Clinton's HHS secretary would have been doing.
GIGOT: The conceit that the Freedom Caucus indulges in is, oh, we can blame it all on the Democrats, we can blame, oh, it's all Obamacare. But in 2018, they will have been in power for two years --
GIGOT: -- the Republicans, and the voters might hold them responsible.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.
Dan, start us off.
HENNINGER: Well, Paul, I'm giving a hit -- or a miss to the guy in New York who's on trial for planting bombs last year in lower Manhattan and New Jersey. This is Ahmad Rahini (ph), who now says he can't get a fair trial in Manhattan, so he would like the trial transferred to Burlington, Vermont. Which I would find very embarrassing if I lived in Burlington. If I'm a terrorist, send me to Burlington for trial? Doesn't work.
GIGOT: All right.
COLIN LEVY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Paul, a hit to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who signed a bill this week expanding the state's school choice program to 1.1 million school children. That lets all those parents apply to get their public-school money sent to the school of their choice. These sorts of things really annoy the teachers' unions, because it breaks up their public-school monopoly, but they're great for kids. So let's hope it's a trend.
GIGOT: All right, cool.
STRASSEL: Wednesday morning, a fighter pilot with the D.C. Air National Guard gets in his F-16 for a routine training mission and, within moments, has total mechanical failure. He could have just ejected, but he looked out, he was over acres of Maryland's suburban houses. He manages to jettison his jet tanks, land the plane in a wooded area, only ejected at the very last moment. So this is a hit, again, to all of our brave service members who are so well trained and self-sacrificing.
GIGOT: Thanks, Kim.
RAGO: Paul, a hit this week to the life of Don Rickles, who died at 90. The comedy legend got his start in the 1960s by insulting his audience, and it was hilarious. It was also a real contrast with modern comedy, which seems to exist to flatter the sensibilities of the audience. The only people you can insult are Republicans.
So Don Rickles, all right --
GIGOT: You can still insult Catholics.
What about -- do you remember Rickles? You're too young for that, Joe.
RAGO: No, he was on Letterman.
GIGOT: That's right. And you love, love David Letterman.
All right. And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us on, @JERonFNC.
That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel. Thanks to you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.
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