This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 24, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to also extend our congratulations this evening to Karen Handel of Georgia.
TRUMP: And we can't forget Ralph Norman in South Carolina.
If Karen Handel had lost, they would have blamed it on me, which is fine. But if she had lost, they would have been there for weeks talking about this. This would have been the greatest defeat of American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm David Asman, in this week for Paul Gigot.
That was President Trump taking a victory lap on Wednesday night at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa following two big special elections wins this week for Republicans. Karen Handel staved off a strong challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff in a closed watched race for HHS Secretary Tom Price's seat in Georgia. And in South Carolina, Ralph Norman held on to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney's seat for the GOOP.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, under fire from a lot of fellow Democrats, downplaying this week's losses as well as special election defeats earlier this year in Montana and Kansas. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, R-CALIF., HOUSE MINIORITY LEADER: By all accounts, if you're a Republican, this is not good news to you, tonight's pyritic victory, two pyritic victories, because it shows where the vulnerability is on the Republican side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnist, Bill McGurn; editorial board member, Mary Kissel; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.
Dan, a lot of fun stuff to talk about. But I love Nancy Pelosi saying it was a pyritic victory. Oh, wait, it was four pyritic victories. Maybe you can have one pyritic victory, but four in a row, that's kind of hard to take.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Yeah, the old saying goes, David, four more victories like this and we are undone.
Why is Nancy Pelosi, a savvy politician, saying such ridiculous things? And I think the reason is because she has nothing else to offer. What they have been doing in all of these elections is teeing it up on a national election, a referendum on Donald Trump. And since the election, the Democrats, whether in Washington or anywhere else, have been running solely against Donald J. Trump. What we discovered in Georgia, that's not working. The Democrats have to come up with something else, and at the moment, it is well known, they don't have much of anything else in terms of substance or policy.
ASMAN: And, Bill, the question is whether they need somebody else, and particularly somebody other than Nancy Pelosi. Donald Trump is having a field day. He came out with a tweet about Nancy Pelosi, kind of pleading with her to stay. Let's put up the tweet if we can. Essentially, please let -- "I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P. out, that would be very bad for the Republican Party. Please let 'Cryin' Chucky; stay!"
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: He set up a race as special election. The arrogance of the Democrats running a guy who didn't even live in the district and so forth, you're going to get Donald Trump gloating when he's vindicated. He's going to fun with this.
In fairness, I say Nancy Pelosi herself isn't the problem. And if you look at how they played her in the election, the Republicans, it was San Francisco values. So the problem, I think, the Democrats have so twofold. On the one hand, they have liberal values that are not the values of most Americans. America is a center-right country. So it doesn't play outside San Francisco.
Second, what's their strategy? Resistance. It's just not -- it's not a persuasive thing. I don't think there's anyone, maybe -- well, Jon Ossoff doesn't live in the district --
I was going to say, whether there's anybody who cares about the Russian investigation of Trump. And if you look at the -- if you take Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi out of the equation, the Democrats lost a thousand seats.
ASMAN: It's extraordinary.
MCGURN: That's not because Republicans are geniuses. It's because people saying what you're offering is not for me.
ASMAN: But, Mary --
ASMAN: There is also the attack on the brand of Trump. They thought that was a winning thing even though that brand, by the way, the Trump name has made billions of dollars for the Trump family over the years. It was part of the reason he was elected. But now some Democrats are having second thoughts about beating up on the brand itself. Democrat Tim Ryan, who, we should mention, is looking for Nancy Pelosi's job, came out with an interesting comment saying that, essentially, the Democratic Party is now more toxic than Donald Trump, to which you say?
MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: To which I say, again, it's not just the brand. It's the ideas that are behind the brand. And essentially, the Democratic Party is a party of coastal liberal elites. A third of the House delegation is from New York, California and Massachusetts. And I'm waiting personally for the Democratic Party to rediscover its inner Bill Clinton, you know, the pragmatist, the guy who doesn't just resist, who is genial, who identifies with average Americans, who doesn't just want to spend money all of the time, who could get on board with something like welfare reform or a pragmatic fix to ObamaCare. I just don't see those people in the Democratic Party anymore. Jon Ossoff tried to go there late in the campaign in Georgia --
KISSEL: -- and nobody believed him.
ASMAN: Well, where do there go? By the way, the four losses they've had, James, two of those candidates, the Democratic candidates, where on the left of the spectrum, two were trying to convince people they were moderates, so they don't succeed no matter which ideology they try to use.
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: I think they do want to rebrand. They want a more moderate image. But they do have the challenge. And the reason Nancy Pelosi is still the leader and the public face is she's the greatest fundraiser in political history outside of presidential candidates.
ASMAN: That's true.
FREEMAN: More than 500 million bucks over the years. She has pulled money out cities like this, L.A. and San Francisco. So are they really going to turn away from that funding constituency more towards a voting constituency? And that's not an easy thing to do.
ASMAN: Well, Dan, one point is this may stop the obstructionism. At least the Democrats seem to realize that just being obstructionist, having no message, just being anti-Trump doesn't win elections.
HENNINGER: Yeah, it might at the Senate level. I think they are pretty dug in over in the House. But at the Senate, you know, moving forward to tax bill, it's possible that some of the Democrats that are on the bubble, like Manchin in West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp, in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, may decide they have to move towards the center. The difficulty there is, the economy is strengthening, and if the Republicans do pass the tax bill, give another booster shot to the economy, the Democrats, unless we have been saying here in the past five minutes, come up with something stronger, they could have a really difficult time in 2018.
ASMAN: Bill, very quickly, incentives matter, whether you're talking economics or politics, and the one incentive that politicians have above all others is getting reelected.
ASMAN: If they try obstructionism and it doesn't get them elected or reelected, they are going to turn to something else.
MCGURN: Yeah, although I think, look, something like 95 percent of guys get elected. Now we have been so polarized that a lot of people are in semi-safe seats and so forth. Mrs. Pelosi, she doesn't have to change. Her seat is safe. It's just not going to play in Iowa. They freaked out over a guy running in the mayoral primary who was pro-life in Omaha. This is not a party that is open to diversity.
ASMAN: Very interesting task.
When we come back, as the GOP tries to push ahead with its agenda, Senate Republicans releasing their health care bill. Details coming next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans believe we have a responsibility to act, and we are, for our constituents, for our states and for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: Senate Republicans released a much-anticipated discussion draft of the health care plan on Thursday seven weeks after the House passed their own plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. So what's inside the Senate's bill and how does it differ from the House's version?
Let's ask Tevi Troy. He is the president of American Health Policy Institute and the former deputy secretary and Health and Human Services under President G.W. Bush.
Tevi, first of all, how would it change ObamaCare?
TEVI TROY, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN HEALTH POLICY INSTITUTE & FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY, HEATLH & HUMAN SERVICES: David, thanks for having me on. In contrast to Nancy Pelosi, as you say, what they want is not any anything less. They want an actual victory. How this would change in contrast to ObamaCare is it would reduce taxes and reduce spending and reduce mandates and reduce the overall size of the deficit and, hopefully, reduce premiums, thereby, requiring the government to subsidize less. That's the overall big picture of the bill. Let's hope it works out once they start to release details.
ASMAN: One thing it would not reduce, and some it's critics have pointed to this, some conservative critics, is money for insurance companies. There's an extra $50 billion, by my account, over next five years help for insurers that are going to be forced to continue to pay for folks with preexisting conditions, right?
TROY: Yeah, I think you're talking about the Stabilization Fund.
TROY: The fear is that the insurers will continue to exit the market as they have been doing in the Affordable Care Act. We just saw Anthem recently. So the problem is that the insurers are very nervous about the markets remaining stable and so they are putting this money into make sure the insurers stay in the game for now.
ASMAN: Is it fair for critics, whether on the left or right, to call this aa bail-out of insurers?
TROY: You know, politics being politics, you're definitely going to get some of that. But I think the overall goal, if you can get the markets stabilized, then over time, you won't need to provide any additional money for insurers, but they can get their money through premiums or reduced that so people are incentivized to purchase them on their own again without subsidies.
ASMAN: The dirty little secret about ObamaCare, among others, was the fact that Medicaid was used, an expanded version of Medicaid, to ensure people who couldn't be insured directly within the ObamaCare system. What's happening with Medicaid in the Senate bill?
TROY: That's a really good point. We've had a little bit of a game where we've had people in Medicaid and expanded Medicaid be cynical, kind of gets rid of that fiction, if you're in Medicaid or you're in Medicaid as it is, and other people are supposed to get tax credits to get them into the individual market. Also, the big changes in Medicaid are coming a little later, so governors can deal with it. And you're having a little more experimentation by governors so governors can be innovative in having to design the system as they see fit and not necessary what the federal government wants to do.
ASMAN: Then there are things that are not that big in terms of money, but have a lot of significance for social conservatives, things like eliminate at least for one year, the money for Planned Parenthood, right?
TROY: Yeah. It's only for one year, so it's a symbolic victory for Republicans, but there's divisions within Republicans. Again, the game is to get to 50 Republican votes. They have no Democrats working with them. They've got to make sure they get 50 Republicans on board, and I think the Planned Parenthood compromises a way of getting the symbolic support that they want, but it's not necessarily going to change the game long-term for Planned Parenthood.
ASMAN: The key political factor in what they want to do is lower premiums. That's the thing that hurts Americans most. In fact, premiums have gone up, deductions, Medicaid has gone up more percentage-wise, but will this do anything to get premiums and deductions down?
TROY: The theory is that it will. We have some evidence in that the CMS Actuary, part of HHS, but a non-political part of HHS, scored the House bill, which is similar but not the same, and said that would reduce the growth size of premiums, reduce the amount of premiums, and so that is a good thing. If you reduce premiums, you don't have to subsidize as much. But you never know how these things are going to play out until the legislation is actually written and signed by the president and implemented.
ASMAN: There's another thing. Since a lot of doctors tell me that they are thinking of quitting being doctors because of malpractice laws are so generous in this country. England has ways to prevent that, loser pays and stuff, that maybe won't be a part of this. Anything in the Senate bill that would adjust frivolous lawsuits brought as malpractice suits?
TROY: You're talking about malpractice reform, which is a part of the Republican plank overall. It's not something they could get in this bill because of the 60-vote threshold. It's not something that would fit with the so-called budget reconciliation rules, or as I call them, the budget reconciliation limitations. That's something that Republicans are going to continue to pursue, but it's a very heavy lift as the trial lawyers are big funders as the Democratic Party and so they're not going to give up on that easily.
ASMAN: Democrat and Republican, they own the Beltway, let's be honest about it. It's a tough haul.
All right, selling insurance across state lines, on the House side, they said is going to have to wait for another -- another version of an ObamaCare clean-up before we get it done. Does the Senate address this at all?
TROY: It's the same problem, David. It's the budget reconciliation limitation that don't allow them to do something that's not within the budget context. That's not going to be in there.
However, I think that's something that could be attached to a piece of legislation down the road, a must-pass piece of legislation, and put it up for a vote and see if you can get it that way. So, I think, "The Journal" editorial said this is not a free market utopia, but I think this is a step and then they can do additional steps down the road, given the regulatory powers they have, in trying to do it.
ASMAN: So this is not the end, but it's the beginning of the end, right?
TROY: Perhaps the end of the beginning.
ASMAN: Tevi Troy, great to see you. Thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate it.
TROY: Thank you.
ASMAN: When we come back, Republicans are facing a long, hot summer as they try to deliver on some key campaign promises. So from the health care overhaul to tax reform, can they count on members of their own party to move their agenda forward?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's not enough just to pass a bill that has ObamaCare repeal in the title. We've got to actually have legislation that fixes the underlying problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: I just didn't run on ObamaCare lite. I didn't run on replacing it with more government programs. I didn't run on allowing the death spiral of ObamaCare to continue just to subsidize with taxpayer money. I think we can do better than this. And my hope is not to defeat the bill but to make the bill better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: That was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, just one of the Republicans opposing the health care plan that was released this week. As the GOP tries to move forward this summer on two campaign promises, repealing and replacing ObamaCare and overhauling the tax system, can they count on support from their own members?
We are back with Dan Henninger, Bill McGurn, Mary Kissel and James Freeman.
Mary, it's not going to be a slam-dunk?
KISSEL: It's a do-or-die moment for the Republican Party. Either they are going to repeal or replace ObamaCare with something better or they're going to have to prop up ObamaCare because the exchanges are failing and, politically, you cannot afford that millions of people in American without access to insurance.
Look, Donald Trump is going to do a deal. If he doesn't do a deal with the right, he is going to do the deal with the left.
ASMAN: That's right.
KISSEL: And health care is going to be key to the tax reform.
ASMAN: And, Bill, the president has already begun to sell the plan and he's talking nice about some of his Republican critics, which he hasn't always done. Let's play a little snipped of an interview he had an "FOX & Friends" on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They are also four good guys, and four friends of mine, I think they will probably get there. We will have to see. But I think we will get there. We have four very good people that -- it's not that they are opposed. They'd like to get certain changes and we will see if we can take care of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: We are going to take care of that, we can make a deal.
MCGURN: Look, he's the deal-maker and you don't get a deal by trashing the people that you want to persuade to support you.
I think Republicans have to realize this is an Irish choice, not perfect --
-- verses something that is probably going to be a lot worse, like -- the alternative is not a better bill. It's not a better bill. I think that relates to the elections later.
You know, we talk about the symbolism or the politics of the moments. At the end of the day, the Republican's fortunes are going to be made on whether ordinary people, who are now struggling in this economy, feel more opportunity and better about the future, and that means lower premiums for a lot of people, and it means tax cuts, you know, that help revive the economy. And that's the reality. It's not just the legislation. We need to do something to do this. And I hope President Trump realizes that this legislation is not just something Congress is doing. At the end of the day, he's going to be judged by this, by whether he can produce.
ASMAN: James, Bill just talked about taxes. Paul Ryan came out this week and talked about, you know, really pushing forward on taxes, in a way that I haven't heard from anybody except from people in the Trump administration. That was great to hear. He did not mention the border tax. Is that --
ASMAN: Did they finally weak up to the fact that people don't want another tax?
FREEMAN: I think they are waking up to the idea that they are going to jump this Beltway custom that, if you're going to cut some taxes, you to raise other taxes over here. I think that's what you're hearing from Paul Ryan, from the Freedom Caucus, not just tax reform, but tax cuts. And I think that ought to be their focus. If he's --
ASMAN: Not creating a whole new tax that didn't exist before, like the border tax.
FREEMAN: Right, right. And I think they have to focus on their political futures. We've been talking about what these special elections mean, what's going to happen next year. They have got to get the economic reform, the economic revival program going if they want to get reelected next year, if they want to keep control of the Congress, and that starts with a big tax cut.
ASMAN: Dan, it is across the board. Paul Ryan was saying it's going to be corporate, it's also going to be individual. He mentioned the fact that eight of 10 companies in America are not incorporated. They pay taxes as individuals. So it's a real sort of Reagan-esqe plan across-the-board tax plan.
HENNINGER: Yeah. It's across the board. They try to extend it out as far as they can. We have to point out that in the health care bill, they have taken a start. They have eliminated ObamaCare's taxes. They also eliminated the 3.8 percent surcharge on investment income for higher-income people. That will help the economy. So I think between the two bills, they are headed in the right direction.
I have to say, Senator Rand Paul sounds like a man from Mars, as though he wants to just start all over again, that there's no Congress to deal with. They have got an opportunity to show that they can get something. If they don't, the Democrats are sitting there with universal health care, which they will propose immediately.
ASMAN: But, Mary, interestingly, there were some Democrats -- we use today call them blue dogs -- the more moderate Democrats who, this week, announced that they were meeting with the Trump team. In fact, they met with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and some others on tax cuts. So is it conceivable, particularly in light of the Georgia election, that they may get some Democrats coming on their side?
KISSEL: Well, I would hope so. What has been lacking, of course, is bipartisanship, and it's not on the Republican side. I think the Republicans are very happy to do deals with Democrats, for instance, on the tax plan, getting tax cuts in exchange for more infrastructure spending.
ASMAN: There's a deal.
KISSEL: Look, Democrats want to get reelected. They are not going to get reelected on the platform of Barack Obama. We have seen that in the last several races. There's an opportunity for them to step forward and say, look, we want to have policy victories to take to our voters, too, to run on next year.
ASMAN: Very quickly, Bill, I think it's likely that they're going to get some Democrats on taxes, but it doesn't seem that they'll get any on health care, right?
MCGURN: Probably not. Look, to me this is a scene from "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden.
ASMAN: One of my favorites.
MCGURN: Marlon Brando is all upset and he wants to shoot the gangster, and Karl Malden says, "You want to get even, you really want to get even? Testify in court." That's what they have to do to President Trump. This is key not just to the Republicans in Congress but to the president. He wants to get even, stop worrying about Russia, stop worrying about James Comey. Gets these two bills through and they can --
ASMAN: Well, Russia's not getting Democrats anywhere.
So maybe it's smart on that one.
Still ahead, tensions between former Cold-War rivals are heating up, with Russia saying they're going to target U.S. war planes in Syria. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joining us next.
ASMAN: The long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and Russia erupting this week following the American military's downing of a Syrian war plane. Moscow is now threatening to target aircraft flown by the U.S. and its allies west of the Euphrates River.
John Bolton is the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor.
First of all, Ambassador, what happened to the narrative of the Trump administration and Russia being hand in glove?
JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I don't think it ever was hand in glove. I think Vladimir Putin pursues, with absolute clarity, what he sees as Russia national interest, and the only appropriate American response to that is to do the same on our side. And right now, I think, in the context of the war against ISIS and in the region more broadly, I think the Defense Department, the State Department are still basically on auto pilot from the Obama administration. There is not a new administration strategy, and we need one, not one that's dictated by the tactics of Russian or American planes in the sky over the region, but by a notion on how we want to defeat ISIS and what's going to come after it.
ASMAN: Right. Well, ISIS -- as I mentioned, Russia now created this new rule that no U.S. or NATO planes can fly south of Euphrates. That's essentially Assad territory, the guy who controls Syria, the guy who they're allied with. Is it possible, can we just stay north of the Euphrates and avoid any conflict with Russia?
BOLTON: It's not for Russia to tell us where to fly.
BOLTON: And this is one of the legacies of Barack Obama. He allowed a Russian air base to be built at Latakia. John Kerry famously said, when asked, what's that base for, he said, oh, for force protection. What, to protect the Russian forces that ought to be in Russia and not Syria? We are not looking for military action, let's be clear, but I think we want to build up an American presence that says to the Russians, we will fly where we want to fly. And the people you ought to worry about de-conflicting are Syrian and Russia pilots. But again, this has to be a piece of a larger post-ISIS strategy to prevent Russia's key allies, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Iranians, from building an arch of control through the Baghdad government in Iraq, through Assad's control in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, to set the stage for the next conflict in the region. I'm afraid that's where they are going. I don't think we have a response.
ASMAN: Well, we have taken out a Syrian plane, in air. We don't know what happened to the pilot. We've taken out many planes on the ground when they used chemical weapons. What happens if, somehow, a Russian gets in the mix and there's a Russian death? What happens between our two nations?
BOLTON: Well, again, we are not looking for it, but rule number one is we will protect American forces. We will protect them against Syrian military, against Syrian planes, Syrian drones, or anybody else's planes or drones that we deem threatening to them. But to me, this is one argument why we have to have a better understanding of what exactly the forces we are using to help destroy ISIS, the Kurds. Yes, some have their own trouble but, by in large, the Kurds are with us. Helping the Baghdad government is equivalent, sad to say, to helping the ayatollahs in Iran. I think we need more Arab forces from the gulf states, from Egypt, from Jordan, and less reliance on some of the dubious Syrian groups. But that strategy has not yet emerged from State or Defense.
ASMAN: By the way, it's not just in the Middle East. There was confrontation over the Baltic Sea in which a Russian fighter jet came within five feet of a U.S. plane. That's pretty damn close.
BOLTON: It's extraordinarily dangerous. And they have done this in numerous instances both with respect to plane and our ships in the Baltics. The Russians are still pushing for -- let's not mistake Vladimir Putin here for somebody warm and fuzzy. He's tough as iron. He's totally cynical. He's still pushing to see how far he can get. As of yet, he is still to see any material pushback from the administration.
ASMAN: Meanwhile, the shake-up in the Middle East, to kind of realignment, continues with the Saudi king appointing his 31-year-old son as the crown prince, kind of taking out an older guy, a cousin that was in there before. I'm just wondering, any connection between the Trump visit a few weeks ago and this move?
BOLTON: Well, it's possible, but I think this has also been in the making for a while. I have to say, I am worried about it, not because I disagree with the modernizing agenda of the king and the new crown prince. There's a lot to be said for what they want to do. But the balance of power within the extraordinarily large Saudi royal family has been negotiated out for a long period of time. I don't think we've seen the end of this succession struggle. And while I certainly welcome modernization in Saudi Arabia, let's be clear, the Salafist clerics, the Wahhabis still hold enormous power. And I very much fear that if the modernization is not done carefully, we are going face a shah-of-Iran situation in Saudi Arabia. And to see that project collapse and to see a religious extremist regime take power would wreak havoc with the global economy.
ASMAN: I want to put a little more optimistic spin on this, and maybe it's not political spin, but the fact is the realignment does bring together former enemies. I mean, Israel and Saudi Arabia have never been closer, because they have this common enemy of Iran. And, of course, the United States is much stronger in the mix, not only because of what we did, what we proved we would do in Syria, but because of our commitment to our Arab allies in the Middle East. This realignment could be the beginning of something extremely positive, no?
BOLTON: Well, if it continues. There's nothing like a religious extremist with nuclear weapons to concentrate your attention in Saudi, in the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel. But if the Saudi regime, through personal ambition or family ambition, ends up destabilizing, everybody in the gulf on the Arab side could be trouble, and the opportunity for both Sunni extremists and the ayatollahs in Tehran could be formidable.
ASMAN: I try to give you an out so you could end on a positive note. You didn't take it.
But, Ambassador, it's good to see you anyway. Thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate it.
BOLTON: Thank you, David.
ASMAN: Still ahead, the horrific death of Otto Warmbier just the latest reminder of North Korea's brutal ways. So what's the next step in reigning in that rogue regime? Can we count on China at all to help?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You look at North Korea, what's going - look at Otto, beautiful Otto. Went over there a healthy, wonderful boy, and you see how he came back. You see how he came back. So we've been given a bad hand but we will take that bad hand and it'll all be good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: President Trump reacting this week to the tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who was held in a North Korean prison for 17 months, who died on Monday, just less than a week after he was released and returned home to Cincinnati. Just the latest reminder of the brutal nature of that rogue regime and the urgent need to stop its nuclear ambitions. So can the Trump administration count on China for help?
We are back with Dan Henninger, Mary Kissel and Bill McGurn.
Mary, first of all, the focus on Otto Warmbier, sometimes when you focus on one American, who has been terribly mistreated, as he was, to the point of death, it's personal. We got to know the family. We got to know Otto. We were pulling for him to pull through, which, of course, he didn't. The significance of that?
MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, North Korea is a closed regime and foreign journalists who go to North Korea are not allowed to go deeply into the country, so we are not shown the reality of the life in North Korea today. What happened to Otto is happening to tens of thousands of North Koreans. And you said in the introduction, David, that we have to stop their nuclear ambitions. Let's remember, too, that there are working on biological, chemical weapon. We saw the chemical weapons used in Kuala Lumpur to kill Kim's brother. And, look, they have the delivery systems now, too. They are working on ballistic missile programs. They could take balloons and send them over Seoul and drop chemical weapons all over Seoul. This shows the kind of individual, the kind of regime that wants those nuclear weapons.
ASMAN: You can't negotiate with these people. I mean, Otto Warmbier's father, Bill, was very clear about the fact -- I mean, he pulled no punches in saying that he had no respect for the Obama method of dealing with then with kid gloves. It was only when Trump got tough with them that they got anything --
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Two points. One is, absolutely right. This is more than an individual strategy. It also illustrates the world is a more dangerous place when regimes like this think they can molest Americans. When you look at countries like Iran, taking hostages, releases them and take more, it's not a coincidence that the most belligerent guy in Asia, is a guy that has brutalized Americans.
Second, Donald Trump also had a statement about China not being helpful. And a friend of mine, Mark Simon, from Hong Kong, suggested, you know what might be a good measure for China? Revoke the student visas for all those children of --
MCGURN: -- Chinese leaders coming to the United States. That might get their attention.
ASMAN: Dan, the president did take this very personally, as we all did, as I think all Americans did. When he takes things personally, he does act on them. So the chances there will be some change in our relations with China, no?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: You just showed meeting with President Xi of China and he tweeted earlier this week that it hasn't worked out in getting China to help with North Korea. The next day, however, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said we are still working the problem. What they mean is they are working on imposing sanctions on about 10 companies, Chinese companies that do business with the North Koreans. This is not a large problem.
HENNINGER: The issue is whether the Chinese will help us with that and, if not, whether we should unilaterally impose sanctions on Chinese companies.
ASMAN: You know, Mary, no American, after what happened, has any doubt of the horrible nature of this regime. It might be Otto Warmbier's legacy. He might actually have left behind a legacy that will allow an American president to deal with North Korea in a way other American presidents haven't.
KISSEL: I agree with Dan that we need to increase sanctions on companies or banks that do business with North Korea. There's a lot more we can do. North Korea gets tens of millions of dollars from its slave labor income all over the world. We can stop the kids of North Korean elites from studying abroad. We could stop and search their ships. We've had ships stopped by, for instance, the Panamanian authorities. They found two disassembled MIG fighters in the belly of a North Korean ship. There's a lot we can do, short of an attack, or what Obama did, nothing.
ASMAN: And, Bill, the fact is that Americans use to care, it seems to me, or at least politicians used to care more about what happens to a single American than they do now. This may have changed this week.
MCGURN: Let's be clear, when we look out for American citizens -- it's a dangerous world. I spent more than 12 years of my life overseas. Those ex-pat Americans are very exposed. But when we go after regimes that go after our people -- you know, like Roman citizens, don't touch them -- other people are safer, too. It's not just the Americans who benefit.
ASMAN: When we come back, Amazon ruffling feathers in the retail community with its acquisition of Whole Foods. So is this move good for consumers or is the online giant betting too big? Our panel weighing in, next.
ASMAN: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos looking to extend his already vast empire, announcing last week that the online giant would like to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The acquisition could have a huge impact on eCommerce as well as brick-and-mortar retailers.
But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney this week he didn't see any anti-trust issues with the deal. Take a listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I think it's a very clear move to marry together a very good, high-quality niche retailer with the very broad-brush approach of marketing everything that Amazon has done so well, but I surely don't see any anti-trust implications in that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASMAN: Sounds like a green light to me.
We are back with Dan Henninger, Bill McGurn and James Freeman.
James, Silicon Valley did not greet the Trump administration with open arms. But did they finally realize that maybe they have a friend in the White House?
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSITANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: It is nice to see a change in tone, where businesses, kind of look at generally as a helpful productive thing, instead of --
FREEMAN: -- something that needs to be controlled and really diminished. So I think in any administration, there's really no anti-trust case here, because although Whole Foods takes a lot of your paycheck when you shop there, it doesn't have a huge market share. You're talking about still Amazon and Whole Foods together, single-digit percentage of the U.S. grocer market. But really interesting to think about what Amazon is going to learn from all the consumer data that they can get out of these affluent, often, liberal customers at Whole Foods.
ASMAN: Dan, the Obama administration killed off dozens of deals. There were tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars just in kill fees alone that these corporations and we, stockholders, had to pay for that. This administration, it's day and night, is it not?
HENNINGER: Well, it is day and night, David, for sure. But the Obama administration was basically attacking banks and airlines and things like that.
I am really intrigued by the fact that you've got three massive companies, like Amazon, Google, Facebook, absorbing all of the business in their space, and nobody on the left is screaming about the robber baron this time, the way they did about 125 years ago when we were building steel and auto industries.
HENNINGER: And I think that's because everyone sort of feels these companies are doing something good in their lives. And mainly, with Amazon is doing is giving us the seeming idea that we have more time. Instead of having to go out shopping, you click. And everyone who sort of feel like tum is rushing upon them these days think that Amazon is creating time for them. And the big goal here is to do that with shopping for food as well.
ASMAN: Well, Bill, Dan brings up a great point, the fact is that the profit margins of Apple have always been 20 or 30 times bigger than the oil companies who got nothing but disdain heaped upon them for decades, and they don't care about profit if it's so-called green company, right?
MCGURN: We'll see. I think, sooner or later, if they're successful and innovative, you become an enemy of the people.
ASMAN: Even Bezos and Amazon?
MCGURN: Maybe. We will see. What we have is not just about food. I'm old enough to remember Amazon when it first started, and it was just books. And now so much my family's life is geared -- I hardly -- I go --
ASMAN: Even if you want to buy a pack of chewing gum --
ASMAN: -- you're Amazon Prime, you order from Amazon.
MCGURN: I have a Whole Foods two blocks away from me, so it may not change that. But we don't know where this is going to lead, where the innovation is going to lead and where you find certain things that can be adaptive to other areas as well. So it's exciting. That's what innovation is. You see the competition is no longer between two people in the industry. It's a cross industry. It's just changing everything.
ASMAN: James, bringing it back to the top of Silicon Valley and their initial disdain for the Trump administration, they still have problems with the social views of the -- the conservative social views. But will that be trumped, if you pardon the pun, by the focus on allowing Silicon Valley to do whatever they want?
FREEMAN: I would think they would -- when they look at it, they would see a lot to like in the Trump administration. When you think about tax reform, lowering that corporate rate, inviting to bring cash back from overseas to invest in the U.S., the biggest names on the list in terms of cash, stuff overseas, is Apple, Microsoft. These are companies who really would benefits and could invest a lot more in the U.S. with tax reform. And then on the immigration stuff, Trump really is no worse than Obama on letting the high-skilled workers come here. I wish he was a lot better, but it's really status quo, basically.
ASMAN: The last word from James.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.
ASMAN: And it's time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.
James, first you. Hit or a miss?
FREEMAN: This is a hit, David, to the president of the United States for his tweeting. I know we often criticize him, saying the tweets are a little maybe misguided, impulsive, but we've got to give him credit. Five years ago, this week, he said now's the time to buy housing before values are fully recovered.
FREEMAN: Remember, I told you so. He was right on the money.
ASMAN: I wish I had followed his advice.
Mary, you've got a surprising hit.
KISSEL: Yeah. Surprise, I'm giving a big hit to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for bringing in a man named Joe Loda (ph) to fix that seventh level of hell known as the New York City subway.
ASMAN: Which both of us use every day.
KISSEL: Yes. Every day, I'm strap hanging every day, and Penn Station. We're going to have a summer of hell here in New York as they try to fix both of these messes. Joe Loda (ph) kept the trains running after Superstorm Sandy. He says he's going to do it again. Again, as a strap- hanger, I hope he's successful.
ASMAN: He wasn't a great candidate for mayor. He didn't win --
ASMAN: All right, Bill, hit or miss?
MCGURN: Big hit to John Cass, "The Chicago Tribune" columnist. This week, he wrote a piece on how to solve the problem of a bankrupt Illinois, which he calls the Venezuela of the Midwest.
His answer is very simple. Dissolve it and let the surrounding states, you know, Iowa, Kentucky --
ASMAN: Oh, my gosh, actually, we have a graphic on it, don't we?
MCGURN: It's a great solution.
ASMAN: Have it melt away into the adjoining states.
MCGURN: He leaves little carveouts, like Romania, named for Rahm Emanuel.
I think he envisions a country where he could be the --
MCGURN: Anyway, great column.
ASMAN: Our sympathies, by the way, to the taxpayers in Illinois. They are suffering.
Dan, you've got a hit or a miss?
HENNINGER: Well, I have a miss for Mary Jane, also known as marijuana. And everyone has been wondering, since legalization, how that was going to work out. Well, the Highway Loss Data Institute has been looking into it, and they have studied the states of Washington, Colorado and Oregon, where marijuana has been legalized, to see what the collision rates look like. Well, they've gone up about 3 percent compared to states without marijuana. So I think the lesson here is, high on the highway, David, does not work.
ASMAN: Yeah. Intoxication, no matter how you cut it, doesn't work when you're driving.
That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm David Asman. Catch me on weekdays on "After the Bell" on the Fox Business Network. Paul is back next week to the bring some order to this crowd.
We hope to see you then.
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