This is a rush transcript from "The Journal: Editorial Report," October 21, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, "JOURNAL: EDITORIAL REPORT" HOST: Welcome to "The Journal: Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
A big step forward this week in the Republican tax reform effort as the Senate passed a budget blueprint Thursday night that paves the way for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and blocks Democrats from filibustering a final deal. So can the GOP deliver on that deal before year's end?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal deputy editor, Dan Henninger, Washington columnist, Kim Strassel, editorial page writer, Kate Bachelder Odell, and columnist, Bill McGurn.
So, Dan, let's start here. Are the Republicans getting act together after health care fiasco?
DAN HENNINGER, DEPUTY EDITOR: I guess the short answer would be, yes, Paul. They actually got 51 votes to pass a budget rather than 48 or 49 and failed --
GIGOT: Everybody, but Rand Paul.
HENNINGER: Everybody, but Rand Paul. It's too bad that Senator Thad Cochran had to be wheeled all the way from Mississippi on his sick bed. You'd think his other fellow Senators, like Collins, Murkowski and McCain, could have committed themselves to voting for this and not make him come. But that's the way the Senate Republicans work now.
The budget was basically a conceit at this point, a steppingstone to get towards tax reform. And I do feel that these Republicans now have the sense that they are embarked on something very serious, had a little bit wind at their back, and now we are going to go forward to tax reform and do something that the president and every member of the party, perhaps with the exception of Rand Paul, really wants to do.
GIGOT: Kate, the key is $1.5 billion bogey here, which lets them cuts taxes by that amount. So they are not hostage to the scoring from the Congressional Budget Office entirely. They are not hostage to the joint tax committee, these institutions created by Democrats years ago that tend to make it harder to reform taxes.
KATE BACHELDER ODELL, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: That's right, yes. Basically, that's a conservative number on how much revenue we could expect to flow at the Treasury for growth.
ODELL: CBO says for every .1 percent you add to GDP, you get about $270 billion in revenue. CBO is not a pro-growth institution, so those are conservative estimates. And CBO also assume that is the economy grows at 1.9 percent over the next 10 years.
GIGOT: That's their estimate.
ODELL: Which is very weak. It would return to 3 percent growth, a historical norm, would produce more than $2.7 trillion under CBO's calculation. So $1.5 trillion, which is what the Senate is considering, is relatively conservative.
GIGOT: But there's no guaranty that the House Budget Committee, the House budget passed its own reform and they've had deficit neutral. There's no guaranty right now that the House will accept the Senates?
ODELL: That's right. They need to stick to this $1.5 trillion because it's the only way to finance lower rates, and they have to pay for the rates. So the House can either can pick up the Senate's version or go to conference and, in my view, they should just pick it up and pass it and we can be done with it.
GIGOT: Bill, what do you think?
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Yes, I agree. I think the Senate version is the best vehicle for getting to where they want to be on tax reform. Look, the passing of the budget is mostly symbolic. It's not so much a big victory as its defeat would have killed tax reform. That's the real importance.
GIGOT: Well, and you have to have it to get to the 51-vote threshold.
MCGURN: I'm optimistic because, look, you never know what John McCain is going to do. He voted against the Bush tax cuts when he was Senator and then ran on tax cuts when he was running for president. But I think Republicans are much more -- they're two things. They are much more comfortable making this argument about growth, incentivize and taxes than they were about ObamaCare, which was cast ObamaCare repeal, which was cast as taking insurance away from people. I think they are more comfortable on this. And I think they understand the downside of, first, the humiliation on ObamaCare repeal and then on tax reform would -- would personally come back to haunt a lot of them in 2018.
GIGOT: Kim, do you give much credit here to the much-maligned majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who behind the scenes was working with Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Bob Corker of Tennessee on the Budget Committee to try to get together a budget hawk, like Corker, and a tax cutter, like Toomey, to be able to put together this deal. Does McConnell get credit for that?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: He gets immense credit. People like to talk about the Senate as the graveyard where all good legislation goes to die but, in this case, it was the House that could not get its act together. In part, because of what Dan said, there was the conceit that the budget really matters in terms of the deficit or spending. Of course, what we all know is it bears no relationship in the end to actual spending. This was a solely a vehicle for tax reform. So McConnell went, and not only did he get Corker and Toomey and set the blueprint, which I do think the House is going to take, but he also got a lot of Senators this last week to start talking about the fact that this is only a vehicle for tax reform, to drop the allusion that the budget part of it matters, and that should pressure House Republicans to go along.
GIGOT: All right. Peer inside, if you can, Dan, the mind of Rand Paul, who is a Libertarian, claims to be, be for small government, like tax cuts. Why would he vote against something that would have -- makes tax reform possible?
HENNINGER: You know, you had me thinking there of Johnny Carson for a moment, the Great Karnack, what's in my head. Rand Paul, it's difficult to know, other than it seems to be about Rand Paul. On either health care or taxes, there was a sense in which you were doing this for the good of the country.
GIGOT: One hopes.
HENNINGER: One would hope. So Rand Paul, by definition, seems to be doing for the good of Rand Paul. And there's he's become the biggest outlier in the Republican Party and the Senate that we have seen in a very long time.
GIGOT: All right, thank you all.
When we come back, a final push by U.S.-backed forces in Raqqa ousts the Islamic State from it self-declared capital. So does the U.S. have a post- ISIS strategy for the Middle East? We will ask General Jack Keane, next.
GIGOT: American-backed forces in Syria declared victory this week in the northern city of Raqqa, dealing a major blow to ISIS in its de facto capital. Raqqa's liberation by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias, may mark the end of Islamic State's self- declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But does the U.S. have a strategy for a post-ISIS Middle East?
Let's asked retired four-star general, Jack Keane, a FOX News military analyst.
So, General, welcome. Good to have you back.
Let me ask you first, before we get to Raqqa, about General John Kelly's statement at the White House on Thursday. What did you make of that statement?
GEN. JACK KEANE, FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I've never seen anything like that 17-minute message that he delivered to the American people. The eloquence of his conviction, sincerity and his emotion was a powerful civic lesson to the American people, letting them understand the most sacred process we have in this country, dealing with our fallen. And I agree with his rather crushing rebuke of Congresswoman Wilson, and entering into that process and discrediting the soldier and his family as a result of exposing it to a public discussion and debate.
GIGOT: All right, thank you.
Now, on Raqqa, how big a defeat is this losing that territory, the second capital, after they lost Mosul in Iraq? How big of a defeat for ISIS?
KEANE: Yes, it is. They're the first terrorist organization in some time that took a safe haven right in middle of a very active country like that. This is a very resilient organization. Several hundred fighters move into Syria because of the stalemated civil war. They were all Iraqi fighters in 2012. A year and a half later, under al Baghdadi's leadership and his other leaders, they grew to 30,000 when they invaded Iraq in 2014. This organization is not going away. The caliphate certainly is. They will still be a challenge for us in the Middle East. They've expanded to 30 other countries.
KEANE: They have attacked NATO, either inspired or directed, 39 times in the last two and a half years. Nonetheless, this is a major accomplishment for the United States. We should feel good about it. We should feel good about the coalition that did this. But we have to take their finances away. We have to take their virtual caliphate away, and stay on top of them.
GIGOT: How much credit here do you think the Trump administration gets for this victory, as opposed to the Obama administration, because the Obama administration folks say, look, all the Trump folks are doing is basically following through on our strategy. Yes or no?
KEANE: Well, the Obama administration made a strategic error. The main effort should have always been the caliphate in Syria because that was their headquarters. We made the main effort Iraq, and yet, we had to wait for a year and a half to get the troops retrained to be able to do it. During that entire time, we should have taken the caliphate away. And in my judgment, ISIS would not have become this significant iconic force it became and be able to direct activities worldwide. Five years in that caliphate was much too long.
All that said, the facts are that the Trump administration came in, took the Obama plan, but made it more effective. Easing up on the rules of engagement, putting artillery in there, Apache helicopters, giving the commanders on the ground full authority to conduct a war. No micro managing in the White House. So they deserve credit for changing how we operate and making those operations more effective.
GIGOT: OK, now let's move on from here. What now, because I don't detect, frankly, any U.S. -- clear U.S. strategy of what happens next, what we want to do next in Syria or Iraq, can you decipher one?
KEANE: Yes, we have to clear the rest of the Euphrates River Valley, southeast of Raqqa, where the leaders of Raqqa are still.
KEANE: They -- they have been out of Raqqa for some time. Secondly, agree with what you just said. I don't see a strategy to deal with Syria, writ large. In other words, the western part of Syria, Iran, Russia and Assad, they are in total control, and there's no taking that away from them without conducting a major military operation where there's no political will for that. But the eastern part of Syria, we should be containing Iran's ambitions to take full control of Syria by taking the east. And I don't see any strategy to stop that, Paul. And I think that's a strategic mistake on the part of the administration.
GIGOT: That's right. OK. I agree with you on that.
Now the Kurds are saying, the Kurds -- they were our fighters on the ground in clearing out ISIS out of Raqqa. And they are saying, hey, you know, we would like to keep this territory. We have a right to at least some autonomy here. Can the U.S. -- how should we treat the Kurds in -- in their ambitions going forward?
KEANE: In Iraq, the issue has always been the political end state. Can the Iraqis keep a country together with the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Kurds operating, at least coexisting together? And we knew that the challenges would be there after ISIS. And here they are right in front of us. I think the United States has got to get involved in this. The Iranians are in full, backing the government of Iraq, stomping all over the Kurds. We've got to stop that from happening. I think, yes, the Kurds should have more autonomy than they currently have. It's something we should negotiate. I'm not talking about complete independence.
KEANE: I think the fact that they were the fighters on the ground for 18 months while the Iraqi army was trying to get act together, there should be major concessions to them. I think maybe a higher percentage of oil that they should receive as a result of that. They -- the government of Iraq has to make some concessions to the Kurds, or else we will find ourselves likely in some kind of civil war here. The Iranians could care less about the Kurds. They have considerably more political influence over the government of Iraq than the United States have, and that's a strategic mistake the Obama administration has. And I'm hoping the Trump team steps up here and realizes how important U.S. political influence on the government of Iraq is to the future stability of the country.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you, General Keane. Appreciate it.
KEANE: Yes, good talking to you.
GIGOT: When we come back, our panel weighs on America's post-ISIS strategy in the Middle East, as well as John Kelly's powerful defense of President Trump's condolence calls to a Gold Star widow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I said to him, sir, there's nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. But let me tell you what I tell them. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunsford (ph), told me, who was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: That was White House chief of staff, John Kelly, in an emotional and very personal defense of President Trump's phone call this week to the widow of a slain Army soldier. Mr. Kelly describing on Thursday what it was like to learn about his own son's death in Afghanistan, and calling criticism of the president unfair.
We are back with Dan Henninger, Bill McGurn, and Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Mary Kissel.
Bill, you have been in the White House. You know presidents have to make calls like that. What did you make of --
MCGURN: Yes, when I was in the White House, I saw President Bush do this quite often, meet with the families. And in fact, I brought in two different moms of Marines that had been killed, one Jewish mom from Vermont, and one Catholic mom from Massachusetts. It's an incredible thing to watch people deal with the commander-in-chief, on whose order, son, husband, brother probably died. John Kelly brought two terrible attributions into that. One, he's the father of a Marine, so he's gone through it that way. Also, he was a Marine commander who gave orders knowing that it would result in the deaths of very good Marines.
GIGOT: He speaks with tremendous moral authority.
MCGURN: I urge people to Goggle it, to read the transcript. To go back and read another speech that John Kelly gave the day after his son was killed, about two Marines who stood their ground against a truck bomb. It's just an incredible kind of thing.
GIGOT: Dan, do you think there's going to be any fallout from this in the good sense that we have kind of reached the low here when we are politicizing grief and sacrifice from soldiers, which is what has happened, and politicizing a phone call from Trump? Will we all have a step back and give a pause here or are we just going to keep going down?
HENNINGER: I think most of us will step back, Paul. But the question is, are the two main parties to this fiasco going to step back? And that would be the White House press corps and the president of the United States. All right?
Look, what John Kelly was trying to say here is the he could not believe that we have reached a point where the press was playing gotcha, as they do every day of the week, and then the president was cracking back with tweets against this Democratic congresswoman. Where is the level of seriousness about the nation's business? And I think John Kelly felt he had an obligation to come forward and say, this has got to stop, if you cannot even be serious over the death of a fallen soldier, how can you be serious about the rest of the nation's business.
GIGOT: All right, Mary, let's move onto ISIS in Syria. I want to pick up where General Keane left off. What do you think about the strategy here? Do you detect one on the part of the Trump administration? What we do know now that the caliphate is gone?
MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I think I'm with you and General Keane, Paul. I don't think that there's a strategy for Syria or for Iraq. And actually, in some respects, the president's strategy in the Middle East is a little bit schizophrenic. One the one hand, h did a deal with Russia in Syria, which also gave shelter to Iran and jihadi's in Syria.
GIGOT: This is for the cease-fire in southern Syria, near Israel.
KISSEL: That's right. And then on the other hand, he came out with a big speech in these last days saying, you know what, we are going to contain Iran's ambitions in the Middle East. There isn't a strategy. The war on Islamic State has not been won. We still have thousands of fighters straddling the border --
KISSEL: -- between Syria and Iraq, and as General Keane said, in many, many countries around the world. And, look, I just don't think you can get rid of the ISIS threat in Syria without getting rid of Assad. And it's a truth that this administration doesn't want to talk about. But I'm afraid to say, Paul, I think that's -- I think that's how it is.
HENNINGER: Another potential casualty of this is that both Secretary of Defense Mattis and NSC director, General McMaster, have made a point about the United States reconstituting the association with our allies, whether in Asia or in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia. But if the administration, the president has the kind of half in/half-out attitude towards something that Mary just described, our allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the Kurds, who we just more or less abandoned to the Iraqis, are going to stand back and say, I don't know if we can get into this fight that you will try to take to the Iranians.
GIGOT: But, Mary, the president just, in the campaign, basically, what he said about the Middle East is, I'm going to defeat ISIS, I'm going to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. He didn't say anything else about what to do in Syria. He had no strategy, no plan. And I don't see any real willingness to deploy any American troops back there.
KISSEL: Well, the president also said he was going to get out of Afghanistan. Remember that? And he spent six months studying the issue and he went on national television and he said, you know what, I made a mistake during the campaign, I was wrong, here's my comprehensive strategy, we are changing tactics here in the White House. And hopefully, he will do the same thing when it comes to policy --
MCGURN: I agree with that. I think we might never get a coherent Trump doctrine. I think that what we're likely to get is some of what we have now, where the parts are better than the whole.
I will say this victory in Iraq, in Raqqa, one of the things that it does is it exposes a complete falsehood that our choice, as Obama used to say all of the time, was between a full-scale invasion or doing nothing. It should give us hope that if you can support local forces with some troops, engineer support and some operations capacity, you can accomplish a lot. So I think we have to hope for Donald Trump. I don't think he's going to give us the kind of Reagan doctrine or Bush doctrine that we got before.
GIGOT: I think that's a fair bet.
Still ahead, two officials behind the so-called Trump dossier take the Fifth before the House Intelligence Committee as the wide-ranging probe in Russian's influence in the 2016 campaign continues. We will have the latest, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN, D-MINNESOTA: First, it was, I did not have communications with Russians, which was not true. Then, it was, I never met with any Russians to discuss any political campaign, which may or may not be true. Now, it's, I did not discuss interference in the campaign.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me just say this, without hesitation, that I conducted no improper discussions with Russians at any time regarding a campaign or any other item facing this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: A heated exchange this week between Democratic Senator Al Franken and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over then-Senator Sessions communications with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election. That exchange at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday came the same day as two top officials at Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the unverified dossier alleging Russian ties to the Trump campaign, invoked their Fifth Amendment rights before the House Intelligence Committee.
The FBI this week also posted a document suggesting that former Director James Comey began drafting his statement exonerating Hillary Clinton in the e-mail probe months before his July 2016 announcement.
We are back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Bill McGurn.
So, Kim, let's start off with Fusion GPS. Why should we care about this company?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Well, look, Paul, we have House investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller looking into allegation that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians. We need the answers to that question. But it's also reasonable to want to know where some of those allegations came from. And a lot came from this dossier that Fusion GPS commissioned with the help of a former British spook, who we now know was working with some Russians. We need to understand the extent to which Russia influenced that dossier, if at all, and whether or not our law enforcement then relied on a piece of disinformation to conduct its probe into Trump.
GIGOT: So it could be, Kim, and what we are trying to find out is, did this American company commission this document and, therefore, promote -- included a lot of Russian disinformation, and then that could have actually started the FBI investigation back in 2016 into the Trump campaign? Could that have been the start of it all?
STRASSEL: It's unlikely that it started it. But it seems very clear that the FBI, in some form or fashion, may have relied on this document to ramp up its investigation, potentially, even to get some of the warrants that it used. And the House Intelligence Committee is struggling not just to get Fusion to give it information about the origin of this document and what went into it, but struggling to get the FBI to hand over information about how it ended up using the document.
GIGOT: All right, Bill, this Steele dossier -- Christopher Steele was the former spy that Kim talked about. Has this been corroborated or is it largely discredited?
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: No. A lot of us call it discredited because there's been individual aspects, such as Trump's lawyer meeting in Prague, and he's never been to Prague, and so forth. So a lot of it -- I think Fusion says that they stand by it. And, again, if we are going to understand Russia's role, we would like to know who paid for this. It looks like, at one point, Christopher Steele had a relationship with the FBI to pay for some things, and they didn't pay. But we need to know that. The FBI has been very uncooperative. And, of course, Senator Al Franken would like to keep us stuck in November 2016, and focusing on Jeff Sessions. There's been no other information showing Jeff Sessions did anything improper and he rescued himself. We need a lot of answers on the other side. What's mystifying for Jeff Sessions is that the Donald Trump Department of Justice is stonewalling congressional efforts to find out about this damaging dossier on Donald Trump.
GIGOT: Well, sessions has rescued himself.
GIGOT: So that responsibly would fall to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy A.G.
GIGOT: Why don't they turn it over, Dan? I don't understand?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I don't either, except these are the security intelligent services, the FBI, and usually the wagons get circled under circumstances like this. But this is one instance in which the circle should be broken because I think -- I think one of the Democrats here do protest too much. The reason they are cranking it up to this level is because, I think, A, we need to know where the dossier came from. And, B, I think there's a big question of whether the Obama administration, if I may put it this way, was colluding with the security and intelligent services. They're the ones who distributed some of this information about the possibility of Trump having involvement with the Russians, that got leaked with the press, and that's how all of this started.
GIGOT: Well, the intelligence services, they worked for the Obama administration.
HENNINGER: Well, it's supposed to be basically independent operations that make judgments on their own. They aren't a tool, a political tool of a presidential administration.
MCGURN: To Dan's point, we also have, at the same time, this parallel scandal of unmasking. And Samantha Power, we know, asked for hundreds of --
GIGOT: Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
MCGURN: Now she's saying she didn't quite ask for them. It's unclear whether she asked on behalf of other people or other people used her name. All this is coming together.
Look, the president tweeted out something, again, to Dan's point, that's outraging the Democrats, saying who paid for this Fusion dossier, was the Democrats, the Kremlin or the FBI. And it's reasonable questions, given what we know.
GIGOT: Why do we want to know this, Kim. And do we -- and are we going -- let me put it this way, are we going to get to the bottom of this? Are these people going to get away with not testifying and not cooperating?
STRASSEL: Look, let's just back up for a second. The question we need to answer is, how did Russia or did Russia influence or interfere in our elections. If it turns out that there was a document that Democrats paid for or commissioned, that Russians ended up influencing to plant disinformation about a presidential candidate and inspire law enforcement to take action, that would definitely be interfering in our election process. So we need to know.
Now, the House has sent out subpoenas. Fusion has refused today testify. But there's other ways that the House can try to get some of the information that might explain who paid for everything and -- and we will see. They could be held in contempt. We still have a long way to go on this.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you very much, Kim.
Still ahead, Facebook is under fire amid the growing furor over Russia's use of social media to influence the 2016 presidential race. But could a $100,000 in ads really swing an election? We'll ask a former Clinton adviser, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, D-FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Some of the Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two of the states that decided the election by razor-thin margins, which suggests that the Russian strategy was even more sophisticated than we knew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, made the rounds on Capitol Hill last week amid the growing furor over Moscow's use of social media to influence the 2016 presidential election. The company revealed last month that a Russian firm with links to the Kremlin bought more than $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook between June 2015 and May 2017. But would that be enough to influence the outcome of a presidential race?
Mark Penn is managing director of the Stagwell Group. He was the chief strategist on Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential campaign and Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign and Mrs. Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
So, Mark, welcome. Good to see you.
MARK PENN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, STAGWELL GROUP & FORMER STRATEGIST, BILL CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Thank you.
GIGOT: You wrote an intriguing piece for us this week suggesting that $100,000 can't buy an election. Why don't you explain that?
PENN: Well, the premise of the piece is enough fake news about fake news. That if you just took a little simple math, Facebook told us that 56 percent was spent after the election, so only $44,000 could even have been in the application, period, that most of it didn't refer to a candidate, that most of it was not in swing states. But by the time you do simple math, you get down to about $6,500 may have been in swing states during the year of the election. It's incredible that we are spending all of this time talking about something like that, that just a little math explodes.
GIGOT: All right. There's a sense that I get talking to Democrats that this election was so close in those key midwestern states, so close in Wisconsin, that if foreign agents, foreign sources just poured a little money into those districts with a message that looked to be anti-Clinton or anti-Obama, then you could actually influence the election in those states and turn the Electoral College?
PENN: I wished that it was so easy. I mean, $2.4 billion was spent on this presidential election. Hillary Clinton had a $400 million advantage over Donald Trump. And just in the last week, her super PAC put $6 million into Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Florida. To suggest that a few thousand dollars of these incredibly targeted ads, which they weren't, they didn't even know when the Election Day was, is ludicrous. And we have to be honest with ourselves. Whether this argument hurts or helps Democrats, we have to have some honest fact-based discussions in this country.
GIGOT: All right. You compared this in your piece to what the Chinese tried to do in 1996. We know that there was an attempt by foreign agents there to influence the campaign on behalf of Bill Clinton. But you say that wasn't decisive either.
PENN: Well, it wasn't decisive. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was probably bigger. And, of course, money meant a little bit more in 1996. It was probably bigger, but we kept it in proportion. We did investigate it. There were fundraisers who were prosecuted. It was clear that the Chinese government had a, quote, "China plan." No, it wasn't decisive. But we didn't make it a national fixation. We tightened up validation procedures about foreign countries. And we should tighten up fake accounts and, you know, clearing ads and things like that. We should clear that up. We should take this as a warning that this wasn't something that really made a difference. But somebody could in the future.
GIGOT: All right. Your advice to Facebook, Twitter and social media sites would be basically you're going to have to dig into who the sources of these ads are in next election and make sure you screen out these foreign- sourced ads. Because, obviously, if we knew that a Russian ad -- was buying a full-page ad in the "Wall Street Journal," for example, attacking a candidate, we wouldn't take the money.
PENN: Well, technically, the Supreme Court has protected non-candidate- issued communications. So Facebook has a lot of issues to consider.
I guess the point is, look, in good faith, you should have the basic procedures that a lot of TV stations have for ads that you run through political ads. You should really do your best on fake accounts. And make sure this doesn't become a real problem because -- you know, because we got so overheated here in doing this. It could become a problem, but it wasn't.
GIGOT: Your party, the Democratic Party, are they paying too much attention here, in your view, to Russia's role in the election and saying, look, the idea that that made Trump's victory illegitimate, is that just focusing too much on that the last election and not enough on the next one?
PENN: Yes. Look, I think where the Democrats have had the strongest ground so far on health care. They clearly won the argument on health care. I think, as President Obama went out yesterday, I think they seem less divided. I think to the extent to which everybody attacks our democracy or calls it illegitimate or divides the country, I don't think anybody wins in that discussion. The people who win in the discussion are those who unit the country. Ninety-one percent in my Harvard Harris poll want Democrats and Republicans to work together, even though they dislike them all in these polls.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you for being here, Mark Penn. Appreciate it.
PENN: Thank you.
GIGOT: When we come back, a bipartisan bill on ObamaCare facing opposition from some Republicans on Capitol Hill. So how good of a deal is it for Republicans and Democrats?
GIGOT: A bipartisan deal to temporarily prop up the Affordable Care Act appeared to be on thin ice late this week after President Trump signaled his disapproval. The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, would fund for two years the subsidies to health insurers that the administration cut off last week. After initially signaling his support for the plan, President Trump appeared to change course, tweeting, quote, "I am supportive of Lamar as a person and also of the process, but I can never support bailing out insurance companies who have made a fortune with ObamaCare."
We are back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Kate Bachelder Odell.
So, Kate, what do Democrats get out of this deal?
KATE BACHELDER ODELL, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: They get two years of cost- sharing subsidies, which let's insurers defray the cost of deductibles and copays for low-income people. They also get about $100 million in ObamaCare advertising, funding. And it's funny to imagine --
GIGOT: To sign people up?
ODELL: Yes. It's funny to image that the marketing is really the problem. But on the GOP side, what they get is more state flexibility. ObamaCare proponents will always tell you that states can just send in a waiver and do whatever they want, but this is not actually true. The laws have all sorts of restrictions on -- the benefits have to be comprehensive as what ObamaCare requires. They have to be at least as affordable. Essentially, is says, governors, try whatever you want as long as it's ObamaCare or single payer.
GIGOT: OK, but does this language change in this compromise actually deregulate those restrictions?
ODELL: Well, the problem is it doesn't do enough. It basically is a small language change on affordability that would allow some waivers that have been held up in this long, lengthy application process to move through, but it doesn't throw off the shackles of ObamaCare and say try to experiment with health savings account or anything else.
GIGOT: Why would Republicans like Lamar support it?
ODELL: It's basically a political choice. It amounts to, are Republicans going to take the blame for these subsidies getting cut off. Is there going to be chaos in the individual insurance market?
GIGOT: You argue that there won't be chaos because the subsidies will go up to compensate -- the subsidies, to compensate for the lack of the subsidies to insurers, but prices will go up, right, premiums?
ODELL: Premiums will go up. You're right. The tax credits will cover the cost-sharing subsidies, so insurers get paid anyway. I guess it's really more the perception of chaos. Are we going to have headlines for weeks and months about 20 percent premium increase and what do Republicans think about that? Also, this money was being spent illegally. And I think Congress should try to appropriate it and make it legal.
GIGOT: Because a federal judge -- Congress sued President Obama for the subsidies, and a federal judge said this violates the Constitution because there's no appropriation for them.
So, Kim, what do you think of the politics here? Are you with Alexander or the skeptics?
STRASSEL: With the skeptics. Look, the Republicans have this amazing opportunity right now to offer the Democrats one of the only things the Democrats care about, which is more money to spend. And if they're going to do a deal, they should drive a pretty hard bargain. So either that can be done by Lamar Alexander and continuing negotiations in the Senate. And I think that that is what President Trump is trying to push happen, with some of its skepticism, saying get a better deal here. Or, probably, even better, it would be a great thing to see House Republicans attempt to redeem themselves on health care by coming up with a stronger bargain in the House and then sending it over to the Senate and putting some pressure from that direction.
GIGOT: But, Dan, they don't want to vote on this in the House because it's not going to be repeal and replace. It's going to be essentially we are propping it up in return for some reform?
HENNINGER: Yes. I think the White House has begun to recognize that. I think probably what President Trump was saying, not being able to support this, he understands that the really big important vote coming up for him in the House is on that tax bill.
HENNINGER: Since they opposed ObamaCare the first time around, he does not want a repeat of disaffected House Republicans saying, they are forcing a bad ObamaCare reform on us, now we are going to have problems with the tax bill. He's not going to take that risk.
GIGOT: Kate, do you think the Democrats are going to go along with any kind of reform that Kim suggests that Republicans should seek?
ODELL: I'm not sure. I doubt it. I think what we are getting at is essential health care problem, which is can't pass the House, can't clear the Senate, and what clears the Senate can't get through the House. What's the alternative? Give up? They have to try something. I think there's a lot of reformers putting good ideas on delaying the employer mandate, on loosening or delaying or repealing or just getting rid of the individual mandate or allowing more health savings accounts or other arrangements. They have an obligation to keep trying to negotiate.
GIGOT: Kim, briefly, are you worried at all about -- I mean, the politics for Republicans is that they could get blamed for premium increases. You think they should worry about that?
STRASSEL: They should worry about it, absolutely. This is not necessarily the pottery barn rule anymore. Democrats broke it, but Republicans now own it, and they are going to have to take some efforts to fix it.
GIGOT: OK, thank you all.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for "Hits & Misses" of the week.
Kim, first to you.
STRASSEL: This is a miss to California, where Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill that allows residents -- and this is a first ever in the country -- allows residents to choose a third non-binary gender option on all of their state I.D.s, so birth certificates, driver's licenses. Paul, I'm a big fan, in our personal relations, we need to respect each other. But that's a far cry from forcing state officials to have to choose to deal with people on their feelings rather than the facts of their birth.
GIGOT: All right.
MCGURN: Paul, a big hit to Tom McCabe and the Freedom Foundation in Washington State. He and his merry warriors have been trying to inform home health care workers they don't need to join a union to do their job. When they did, 10,000 people opted out of the union. And the SIU (sic) sued.
GIGOT: The SEIU.
MCGURN: The SEIU. So now a judge has thrown out that suit. The SEIU was complaining that they were interfering in their business model. The judge has thrown it out. A big victory for workers' rights. It tells you something about the argument that it's the unions trying not to let workers know their rights.
KISSEL: I'm giving a miss to Quebec for banning face veils. This is aimed at Muslim women who wear things like hijabs and burkas. If you have gotten to the point where you're banning things, I think you have lost the argument. I think it goes to shows two things, Paul. Controversial things do actually happen north of the border. But, secondly, look, identity politics is not just an American affliction. It happens in Canada, too.
HENNINGER: OK, Paul, a big hit to a comedy group at Brigham Young University called Studio C. They have amassed one billion views on YouTube, mostly college students, despite the fact that their comedy is squeaky clean. Hard to believe you can actually still make people laugh without wallowing in the gutter. I think this Studio C at Brigham Young University, this could be the start of something good.
GIGOT: All right. Dan, thank you.
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. Thanks to you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.
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