Corker on what foreign policy will look like under Pompeo

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," April 28, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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

A victory for President Trump Thursday with his secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, narrowly winning approval in the Senate following a contentious confirmation fight. Pompeo taking the reins of the State Department at a critical time as President Trump prepares to meet with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un and faces a May deadline for pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Welcome, Senator. Good to have you here.

So let me ask you about the Pompeo fight. Secretaries of state nominees usually are a lot easier than this. Why was this one so difficult?

SEN. BOB CORKER, D-TENN., CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: You know, Paul, I think it's a sign of the times. He obviously was very well qualified, first in his class at West Point, patrolled as an Army patrolman, the Iron Curtain. He ended up being editor of the Law Review at Harvard after serving his country, where he learned about diplomacy, I might add. Ran two companies and now he's director of the CIA where people give him lavish praise. It shouldn't have been this hard, but it happened. He got one more vote than Secretary Tillerson but it's just where we are.

GIGOT: John Kerry passed easily, Hillary Clinton did. Is this a sign of the resistance to President Trump and the partisan nature of our politics now? Is that it?

CORKER: Whenever that is discussed, Paul, my friends say absolutely not. They have legitimate concerns. I do think that the base of the Democratic Party does view this as a proxy of support for President Trump and I think it made it hard for their members to vote for him. But, look, he's confirmed. He's now off immediately dealing with some major issues around the world. I'm glad we were successful. And I'm glad in committee we were able to push him out with a positive recommendation instead of what looked like might have been a negative recommendation. He still would have been confirmed but it would have been somewhat historic and a little bit of a blight. So it all worked out well and, hopefully, he'll move ahead very successfully.

GIGOT: Let's take one of those issues in particular, which is Iran and the nuclear accord. And Emmanuel Macron was in Washington this week and he seemed to be open to the idea to renegotiating the pact, that nuclear deal, at least renegotiating the terms with the United States, meeting some of President Trump's demands, otherwise, he's threatened to pull out. How do you view the Macron concessions?

CORKER: I talked to his principal advisor, obviously, talked to the president also, but after his speech, and it's a little fuzzy as to what they actually are talking about. You all had a great editorial, I think, just in the last day or so, about it. The sunset provision, as you know, has been the big issue with the Europeans. And Merkel's coming in and she's been most resistant to that. They view it as re-trading the deal, they view it as a violation of the JCPOA. We do not. I don't think our European counterparts really believe it's a violation. If we can move to where that sunset provision can be addressed and have a new framework, I think the president will stay in the deal. Short of that, I think on May 12th, he pulls away from it.

GIGOT: The sunset provision says things start to end in 2025 which isn't that much further away from here.

CORKER: That's right.

GIGOT: Macron told all of you in Congress Iran will never get a weapon, ever.

CORKER: He did.

GIGOT: Ten years, ever, so 2025 is not never. That's pretty soon.

CORKER: No. As you know, they can -- they're limited to 5,060 centrifuges a day, 300 kilograms of LAU. But after that point in time, they're off and running. And centrifuges are limitless. They're off and running with all kinds of research and development. So we do need to deal with the sunset provision. If we can get across that hurdle, that will be a major achievement by the administration and for our country. So we'll see what happens this week and, if not, again, I think we will pull away from it.

GIGOT: Let's talk about what happens in either case. If you get a deal with the E-3, Britain, Germany and France, that includes the sunset provision, would you then -- and other things -- would you then be prepared to go to your fellow members of Congress and say let's add those to your legislation in 2015 that supervised, reviewed the deal?

CORKER: Absolutely. We've been working for a year with the National Security Council. And look, Paul, this whole three-point issue really came from our office, early on, about a year ago. We knew where the president was because the election. We began working with Rex Tillerson and General McMaster to craft legislation. The legislation that we would pass domestically, we've already sent -- we sent it to the Europeans five months ago OK --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: So they know it?

CORKER: They're very aware. I think that, again, the resistance is the Democrats do not want to enter into any kind of domestic legislation that they feel is violating the JCPOA or, more importantly, that the Europeans don't support. If we have the European stamp of approval, my guess is we could pass legislation domestically. Again, it's already been written and crafted, working closely with the administration.

GIGOT: How do you think the Iranians will respond if there's a request to add these terms to the JCPOA?

CORKER: They're going to say it's a violation. We know that. In my private conversations with the Europeans, if we can get there, they have planned to say that it's not a violation. But they'll raise a lot of cane. But, Paul, it's still, as you know, and you've reported this and editorialized on this, the agreement is still to their benefit to stay in. Will they move away from it, even with these changes? I don't think so.

GIGOT: Senator, thank you very much for being here. And we look forward to what happens next.

CORKER: Thank you.

GIGOT: Two European leaders courting President Trump this week in Washington. What Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel hope to come away with from their White House visits, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: France will not leave the JCPOA. It's already decided.

(CHEERING)

MACRON: Your president and your country will have to take in the current days and weeks its own responsibilities regarding this issue. That's what I want to do. And what we decided together with your president is that we can work on a more comprehensive deal, addressing all his concerns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: That was French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech before Congress Wednesday, urging President Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal without having a more comprehensive plan in place. Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel making back-to-back visits to the White House this week with trade in Iran topping the agenda for both leaders ahead of some key deadlines. The European exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs is set to expire on May 1st and President Trump has until May 12th to decide if he's staying in the nuclear deal.

Let's bring in Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, columnists, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn.

Dan, you heard Bob Corker and that bite from Emmanuel Macron. What do you think of Macron's offer here? Can there be a deal between the Europeans and the Americans?

DAN HENNINER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I do think there can be a deal, Paul. What Emmanuel Macron has done is changed the status quo, which is the current Iranian deal. He altered that, to many peoples' surprise by announcing, while he was in Washington, that we were going to add to the deal, or attempt to, tighter nuclear inspections and the Iranian's ballistic missile system, long range, not intermediate range, long range ballistic missiles, as well as their cyberattacks, as well as their sponsorship of terror, which would be Hezbollah, and their imperial ambitions in the Middle East. Those things are not in the original agreement. Clearly, he has altered the status quo. Angela Merkel will have to react to that. My guess is, Paul, that the Brits and Theresa May probably, ultimately, will go along. It turns on Mrs. Merkel.

GIGOT: This is fascinating in Europe. A year ago, Angela Merkel was the big leader in Europe. Now she's weakened because of her election result and the coalition government. Macron, his surprise big victory, much stronger than Theresa May and Merkel. He's, in many ways, the leader in Western Europe.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: He did a very good job while in Washington, understanding how to play to President Trump. I mean, I would say, how don't know how smart he is intellectually, but he has a lot of emotional intelligence.

(LAUGHTER)

I think he played that well. The big problem is that there's still a sticking point in terms of the sunset provision in the agreement and that's where the Europeans, including Macron, are saying we made this deal and we have to stick with it. With the sunset in 2025, which sounds like it's a long time away, until you realize it's seven years. That's a serious hurdle.

GIGOT: Yes.

Bill, I guess the question is, if this is something that they can agree to, then you have a united front that you can take to the Iranians, take to Russia, and say, look, we want to add these things in it, we'll keep the deal, otherwise, we won't re-impose sanctions. Iran will be displeased but that's a more powerful position to be in.

BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Yes, exactly. The objection to the deal is that it's not going to do what it pretends to do, which is stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons, right?

GIGOT: Right.

MCGURN: So if you could come up with something that makes it stronger, I think they'd be interested.

Look, I thought what Mr. Macron did was very smart. It's called representing your country. He came, and he proved he had profound disagreements with President Trump in a host of areas, trade --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Climate change in particular.

MCGURN: Climate change, the climate change deal, Iran and so forth, and he voiced them. But he didn't come with sneer. Maybe there's a little bit of, I think in French, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANUAGE), "drain the swamp."

(LAUGHTER)

That was a little bit of Macron himself. But I think he showed that if you want President Trump to pay attention to you, it's better not to with a sneer.

GIGOT: Dan, I think the concern, and what we'll hear a lot of is -- from the defenders of the agreement and the Obama administration and others, is that this is we're going back on our word, the American word. Obama committed the U.S. to this and, therefore, for Trump to threaten to pull out is something that is just unacceptable. What's your response to that?

HENNINGER: One response is that it is only our word. This agreement doesn't have the force of law. It's only an agreement. And one might add as well that that means we do not need the assent of China or Russia to commit to a revised agreement.

I think it's also understood that Barack Obama and John Kerry were under pressure at the end of the Obama presidency, and so they pushed this through and they left some issues undone, such as the question of Iran's long-range ballistic missiles and tighter inspections, not to mention the sunset provision. I think there's a sense out there that this needs be dealt with again. And if you can preserve the Europeans' commercial relationship with the Iranians, which has skyrocketed in the past 18 months, and I think the Iranians have themselves an incentive to continue that economic relationship, it's entirely possible that we're going to get a revised Iranian nuclear deal.

GIGOT: When you say it doesn't have the force of law, Barack Obama never submitted it to the Senate for a treaty vote because he knew it would be defeated. It doesn't have the force of American law.

Mary, let's talk briefly about trade. What does Macron and Merkel want from Trump? They want to be exemption from the steel and aluminum tariffs.

O'GRADY: Yes. That's the big thing. Trump is saying, well, maybe we can work things out, but we have to get something in exchange. If you look at what he did with South Korea, where he got higher tariffs on imported pickup trucks from South Korea, he raised the protectionism in the U.S. in order to make a trade with the Europeans. He also wants bilateral agreements. He finds negotiating with the European Union very frustrating.

GIGOT: If you want to trade, why not give them the trade stuff in return for doing something on the Iran deal.

(LAUGHTER)

O'GRADY: That would make so much more sense. Yes, he could also back down from what he's demanded. And it's quite obvious that trade with Europe is very important to the U.S. economy.

GIGOT: All right.

When we come back, President Trump blaming obstructionist Democrats after his pick for the Veterans Affairs chief pulls out. Our panel weighs in on the Jackson withdrawal and the fate of other Trump nominees, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a great man. And he got treated very, very unfairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: President Trump's pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs withdrew his name from consideration Thursday after Senate Democrats released a list of anonymous allegations made against him. The president is slamming Democrat as obstructionists following Dr. Ronny Jackson's withdrawal, calling him an incredible man who would have done a great job.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Bill McGurn, and Wall Street Journal editorial page writer, Kate Bachelder Odell, who has, indeed, been following this for us.

What's the lesson, Kate, that you take away from the Ronny Jackson fiasco?

KATE BACHELDER ODELL, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: Well, I first wonder, Paul, who would want to do this job if your character will be called into question in such a nasty, anonymous way.

But I think if you look at the larger picture, this is really becoming a problem for the Trump administration. The Partnership for Public Service has been tracking about 650 Senate confirmable positions and 300 of them have been confirmed. Another 140 have been nominated but not confirmed. And 200 or so have no nominees whatsoever.

GIGOT: Right.

ODELL: Some of this is Senate obstruction. Some of this is the White House disorganization.

GIGOT: We've criticized the president for kind of throwing Ronny Jackson in there, Bill, without proper vetting. But, boy, some of this stuff that Kate referred to, this really nasty stuff coming out of Jon Tester -

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: And anonymous --

MCGURN: Anonymous.

GIGOT: -- and unconfirmed.

MCGURN: Right, anonymous. This should be very troubling. I saw, today, the Secret Service put out a statement saying the accusation that he was banging on a hotel door of a woman so loudly that a Secret Service agent had to intervene because he was going to wake up the president, they said there's no evidence for that. This really looks like unfair treatment when you can make these charges. It's also a warning to President Trump. The Senate and confirmations is construed in a certain way. No Senator can get you across the finish line in anything you want. But almost every single one has the ability to stick it to you if they want. And if he loses the Senate, it's not just judges, it's going to be this every day.

GIGOT: He has been serving under three presidents in the White House as the physician --

MCGURN: Right.

GIGOT: -- 12 years, none of this came out.

MCGURN: Right.

GIGOT: You would think that if there really were character problems, one of these presidents would have said, hey, you can can't be here.

MCGURN: We're going to get all the clarifications now after, as the Secret Service saying no record of this. Supposedly, he crashed a car. Is there a record of a car, a government car being crashed? You would think there would be some records there.

GIGOT: Dan, what about the Pompeo fight? Bob Corker, Senator Corker was saying, OK, well, it's over now. I think there's a more serious message here, which is about what is likely to happen if Democrats take the Senate in November, next year. I don't think -- first of all, I don't think any of the appellate court nominees, Supreme Court judges will get through at all. None, zero. The question is, can even major cabinet nominees get approved?

HENNINGER: No. I mean, it's becoming -- the Pompeo thing is a benchmark, Paul, very important historic event. You would think the press would give a little bit more attention to it. They simply translate it into chaos in the Trump cabinet. In fact, what looks like is happening is the Democratic Party has decided that basically it will try to prevent the Trump presidency from forming a government. They do that by preventing the nominees, like the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenal (ph), he was held up for 18 months and they're only approving him now because Angela Merkel is in town.

This is a nightmare, Paul, that could come back to haunt the next Democratic president because they are setting this as a precedent, and the precedent is that the executive branch should not be able to function for only political reasons. That was never the intention of the founding fathers, but that is where we have arrived with the Pompeo nomination.

GIGOT: All right, Kate, what are Senate Republicans trying to do to speed up these confirmations? We know there's a 30-hour rule, which means that if Democrats want to they can insist that every nominee be debated for 30 hours on the floor of the Senate, whether or not it's a controversial nominee or not. And they've used that more than any other Senate in the past, haven't they?

ODELL: They have. They've used it 89 times in the first two years versus 24 for Barack Obama and only four for George W. Bush. It's a huge increase.

So Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, is pushing a bill that would change the rules and limit debate on most nominees to eight hours. But the problem is that you need 60 votes, and Democrats, so far, aren't really interested in lending those votes. And so the question is how far Republicans are willing to push it. Are they willing to threaten weekend work or working on Fridays?

GIGOT: Well, Mitch McConnell says he's willing to threaten them on occasion for that. This is the Republican majority leader. If he were to try to do that every weekend, the Democrats would shut down the Senate and nothing would get done.

ODELL: Sure. I think that the Trump administration really needs some of these positions filled. And like you said, if they lose the Senate in the fall, which is very easy to see happening, there will be no one confirmed.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you.

ODELL: Either way.

GIGOT: All right, thank you all.

When we come back, an historic summit between North and South Korea, and a pledge of peace after decades of hostility. What it means for President Trump's own upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-Un, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: North and South Korea declaring a new era of peace following an historic meeting between the two countries' two leaders this week, the first in more than a decade. Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-in pledging to work for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. President Trump responded to the summit Friday saying, "Good things are happening but only time will tell."

We're back with Dan Henninger, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn.

Mary, this summit between the Korean leaders, was this a major breakthrough?

O'GRADY: Paul, I want to be optimistic. I believe in hope and peace and all those nice things, but I really think that you have to be pretty skeptical about this. You have a guy who basically has all of his power in this threat of nuclear attacks against the South and the South has very few options here. And so if this sort of tea party between the two of them is something the North wants, well, OK, why not, it doesn't hurt. But I don't think, so far, we've seen anything to make us believe that the North is going to leave aside its aggression.

GIGOT: Bill, as I read the summit statement, it doesn't include a promise of denuclearization. We're taking Moon's word that Kim told him that that was his intent. But there's nothing that says, I will do it by X, Y, Z date.

BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Look, Mr. Kim is stalling for time. Mr. Moon is afraid of any conflict because Seoul gets destroyed in anything.

GIGOT: You spent some time in South Korea.

MCGURN: Yes. And actually, in North Korea, if you count going over the line of the DMZ.

(LAUGHTER)

In the 65 years since the armistice was signed, the American concern has been war breaking out on the peninsula and engulfing the region. That's changed. Mr. Pompeo, when he was head of the CIA, said they're developing missiles and so forth to strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, and that that was -- I think his phrase was -- a handful of months. So actually, before 2020. Mr. Trump has made that a red line.

Mr. Kim has now incentive to drop this program. Because the biggest insurance policy is having a nuclear weapon. Look at what happened to Qaddafi when he gave up his. I don't think he's going to give it up diplomatically. I think he's only going to give it up if it's taken away from him.

GIGOT: Dan, but I guess the one wild card here we don't know about is, what is China saying to North Korea behind the scenes. China is North Korean's patron. Trump has leaned on China hard, as have other presidents, to get North Korea to move. What we don't know is if China is taking a new look at the North Korean threat and what it means because of the development of missiles and the reaction by the Trump administration to it, with the implicit threat that everything is on the table, including military force. We don't really know what China's role here is.

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: We don't know. What we do know is that Kim Jong-Un recently made a visit to China, the first one, and talked to Xi Jinping. What we've seen is that meeting in China is that Kim Jong-Un has undertaken to, shall we say, rebrand himself from a complete nut into a new statesman. And that's what he is doing with the Olympics and that's what he was doing in this meeting with President Moon. Now, the question is -- even mainstream media described this meeting as being, at best, a note of cautious optimism. But there's a little bit of a danger here, Paul, in that President Moon did not extract very much from Kim.

GIGOT: Right.

HENNINGER: They talked about a new peace. But essentially, what Moon is doing here is reviving the so-called talks or negotiation model. In other words, Donald Trump now is supposed to sit down with Kim and start negotiating. And Trump has made it pretty clear that he wants to do more than that. But in the interim, world opinion will build tremendously on Mr. Trump for negotiating long-term with Mr. Kim. And I think the silver lining here is that Donald Trump doesn't give a tinker's damn about world opinion. He's going to press for something harder, a concession, a real commitment to denuclearization.

GIGOT: Yes. It could be a short conversation if Trump goes over and says denuclearize, and Mr. Kim says no. Then they say, oh, OK, well, it was nice meeting you.

I don't think but I think that some of this putting more pressure on Trump, this lead-up because it suggests, you need to bend, sir, otherwise, you'll be the warmonger.

O'GRADY: Donald Trump will not yield to any kind of pressure. I'm not worried about that. The one thing he has going for him is that the economic sanctions, I think, are being felt by this guy. They're not just U.N. sanctions. There's E.U. sanctions and the U.S. has added to that. And China is the wildcard there. If China kicked in, we could really make him cry uncle. But the weakness that he feels from the sanctions can damage him domestically. That's a trump card for Trump.

GIGOT: All right. We're going to see what happens.

Still ahead, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a case challenging President Trump's travel ban. So after several lower court setbacks, could the justices be poised to give the president a win on one of his signature issues?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: The Supreme Court taking up the final and perhaps most controversial case of its term this week, hearing oral argument in Trump versus Hawaii. At issue, the constitutionality of the third version of the president's so-called travel ban and the balance of power when it comes to immigration and vetting.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asking Wednesday just how far the president can go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (voice-over): What I see the president doing here is saying, I'm going to add more to the limits that Congress set --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Right.

SOTOMAYOR: -- and to what Congress said was enough. Where does the president get the authority to do more than Congress has already decided is adequate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the "Cato Supreme Court Review." He was at the court Wednesday for the oral arguments.

So welcome. Nice to have you back, Mr. Shapiro.

This is the first big test of Trump policy at the Supreme Court but it's a lot more at stake than just the policy itself, whether or not you support that. And, frankly, I don't just as a matter of policy, support the ban. But this is about the separation of powers, isn't it, and the real constitutional balance of power, isn't it?

ILYA SHAPIRO, SENIOR FELLOW IN CONSTITUTIONAL STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CATO SUPREME COURT REVIEW: Yes, it's a curious case. All the lawyers seem to agree that any other president with the same executive action on immigration would be OK. Certainly, on the constitutional claims with regard to religious amicus. And with statutory claims about presidential authority, we've seen President Carter, President Reagan impose nationality based restrictions in the past. So the court, all the justices want to tread gingerly about not setting a precedent that will have judges and courts looking over the shoulder of executive national security determinations in the future.

GIGOT: Let's unspool that. You basically suggested that if any other president had done this kind of a travel order, it would not have been challenged the way it has at the lower courts? If that's true, if that's what you're saying, then the implication is that these judges are themselves making political judgments.

SHAPIRO: Well, I do think that a number of the lower court judges effectively joined the judicial resistance, if you will, making determinations based on the atmosphere, especially after the travel ban 1.0 with the chaos at the airports and all of that. I think the litigation would have gone differently if they had taken their time and started with what had become the second one. Of course, now we're on to the third one.
So the Supreme Court, in its previous rulings that were crafted or changed parts of the injunctions that were in place, effectively directed the lower courts to treat this as more of a normal kind of legal case. And still, to this day, they're struggling with the idea of, how do we avoid setting a precedent of going into places where courts generally don't tread. There's a long-standing precedent where if the four corners of the document that the president sets out, the proclamation bear out some sort of national security rational, they simply won't weigh that any further.

GIGOT: One of the curious part of this case is the degree to which the amicus briefs and other things relied on statements by Trump as a candidate, not within the four corners of the actual order, which is what judges are supposed to deal with. What kind of precedent would it set if judges can, say, go back to the campaign and say, you know, sir, you, in July at the convention, said the following, and make a judgment about a supposed bias based on that. That gets to pretty -- it seems to me that would risk expanding judicial power.

SHAPIRO: Even when government officials in office say various things off the cuff or what have you, that's not necessarily legally binding. It can be an example of certain things. But if we restrict candidates in certain ways and take them both seriously and literally, if you will, that raises a lot of questions. And how long -- what is the statute of limitations on some sort of candidate or campaign statement? The court struggled with that as well. That came up during the oral argument.

And even more oddly, the lawyer for the challenges, for Hawaii, talked about the president retweeting certain anti-Muslim videos as evidence of continuing bias. We're going to really start talking about what presidential retweets mean as a matter of constitutional policy or whether he's within his statutory authority? We're in the realm of the bizarre, which is why, especially, Chief Justice Roberts, I think, would like to make this go away on some sort of procedural, technical standing ground rather than get into, one way or the other, whether the president is exercising lawful power.

GIGOT: How do you read the overall tenor of the oral argument? I thought Chief Justice Roberts was the strongest in terms of wondering whether it was wise to meddle with this executive power and precedent in the immigration and security realm. What about the other justices?

SHAPIRO: Justice Alito, I would argue, was even stronger. He was saying, come on, look, if this was really a Muslim ban, there are 50 Muslim countries or so, there are six on this list, and representing something like 8 percent of the Muslim population. This is really a bad Muslim ban if that's what they're trying to do. He really wasn't having any of that. Neil Gorsuch, the newest justice, was really curious about remedies and, how do we write this opinion, not even so much what to decide. I think the really -- Kennedy and Kagan, Kennedy in the middle on a lot of controversial cases.

GIGOT: Right.

SHAPIRO: But those two, Kennedy and Kagan, were really trying to figure out what to do and were uneasy with a strong ruling one way or the other. Kagan is on the left, typically, but is probably the only so-called getable judge from that to the left block.

GIGOT: I think the chief and Alito would like a real strong brushback to the lower courts, saying you can't join the resistance and be a political entity, you have to stay within the four corners of the law, briefly.

SHAPIRO: I think that's right, but Chief Justice Roberts is an institutionalist, would rather have a broader opinion that's more narrow. Perhaps he would write separately to rebuke in some way the lower courts. But you're right, I think on the merits, he would prefer more of the justices joining a narrow opinion.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

Still ahead --

SHAPIRO: My pleasure.

GIGOT: -- Republicans hold onto a House seat in a special election in Arizona. But is Tuesday's victory a warning for November?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE LESKO, R-INCOMING ARIZONA REPRESENATIVE: I'm just really thankful that I won. Would it be nice if I had won by more? Of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Republicans were relieved this week after a narrow win in a special election in Arizona. Republican Debbie Lesko beating her Democratic opponent by just five percentage points in a solidly Republican district that President Trump carried by more than 20. Those results come amid reports that Republicans are trying to energize their base and court moderate voters by warning that Democrats will move to impeach President Trump if they capture the House, something former Senator Harry Reid warned his party against in an interview this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY REID, D-FORMER NEVADA SENATOR: I've been through an impeachment and they're not pleasant. I think the less we talk about impeachment, the better off we are as a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: We're back with Dan Henninger, Kate Odell and Wall Street Journal assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

So, James, what's the lesson first of the Arizona special election victory?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Republicans have a challenge this fall, trying to buck history and to hold onto their majority in the House in an off-year in a mid-term election. But it's like a lot of these special elections, Democrats almost winning in Trump country doesn't get them any closer to taking that majority.

GIGOT: But let me give you a couple of figures here. She won by 5.2, I think. It was 38 points for the Republican in 2016, 52 in 2014, 28 in 2012. These are the western suburbs of Phoenix, Sun City, middle-class retirement community, Republican country, James, five points only.

FREEMAN: Republican country, and for that reason, in those prior elections, not really contested by Democrats. What you saw in this one was a very aggressive effort, lots of volunteers, lots of knocking on doors, phone calls, et cetera, more than your usual effort. Now, this does point to a lot of signs that there's a great deal of Democratic enthusiasm, and that is a challenge for Republicans. But they have to win these seats. They can't just come close to take the majority.

GIGOT: Kate, Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, was in, maybe the next speaker of the House, maybe the next minority leader of the House if Republicans lose in November. He made a case for what he thought the strategy could be to us, that Republicans could take the House. How persuasive did you find his case?

ODELL: Well, he focused a lot on the generic ballot, which is, of course, asking voters whether they prefer Republicans or Democrats. That spread has been narrowing in recent weeks. I think it's about 6.8 in favor of the Democrats, last time I checked. But I think they need to get it down closer to five or four if they want to hold onto the House at this point. The tax cut is getting more popular over time, which is helping Republicans, but I think that generic ballot is one to watch. And that spread has to narrow, even by McCarthy's own report, which is pretty optimistic.

GIGOT: Yes, Dan, McCarthy said that the real dividing line for him is six points. He said if the generic is six point advantage for the Democrats, he thinks that puts 30 Republican seats in play. They have a majority of 23. He thought with that spread they could hold on. That's a pretty narrow edge.

HENNINGER: Yes, it certainly is, Paul. It makes it easy for a lot of our viewers to watch what's going on. He also said if the generic spread gets up to around 12, say, good night, Gracie, that's all she wrote. They have to keep the number down around six.

That's why, let's talk a little bit about Harry Reid. Why is one of the greatest attack dogs in the history of the Congress saying, don't talk about impeachment? Well, as Mr. McCarthy made clear to us, this election is all about turnout. Currently, the Democrats are animated. That's one reason why Debbie Lesko only won by five points in Arizona. What they're trying to do is not rouse the slumbering Republican electorate by waving impeachment at them between now and November. They're just trying to keep them asleep, don't do anything, but animate our own voters out get out there and vote against, not Debbie Lesko, not against the Republicans, against Donald J. Trump.

GIGOT: Here's the thing, James. Whatever you do, don't talk about impeachment. But, of course, it's the subtext for the entire election.

FREEMAN: Too late.

GIGOT: Rahm Emanuel knows. He said the same thing, please, please, please, don't talk about impeachment. But we know if the Democrats take the House, they're going to have an impossible time not impeaching him because their base will demand it. And once you start that impeachment machinery, how do you stop it?

FREEMAN: Yes. This is something where Kevin McCarthy and Harry Reid seem to agree that this could be a replay of 1998. You have a good economy and you have the one party opposing the president over-reaching, trying to drive him from office in the view of many voters --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: And 1998 was when Republicans were contemplating impeaching Clinton.

FREEMAN: That's right. So Kevin McCarthy is looking at that and saying this could be a replay in the other direction with Republicans doing surprisingly well because the country doesn't want the disruption of an effort to unseat the president. And I think Harry Reid is saying, yes, bad strategy to advertise, vote for us and we'll turn Washington into chaos for another year. I think it's too late for Harry Reid.

(LAUGHTER)

I think the Democratic electorate, their base has decided this is important to them and I don't think they can avoid making an effort to impeach Trump if they take over.

GIGOT: I - I agree with you, James. I think this is an impeachment election, whether they like it or not.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Bill, start us off

MCGURN: Paul, a big miss to the Nittany Lions. For almost a century, Penn State has had an outing club that took students on hikes and kayaking and backpacking. Now the university's authorities say they are worry that the kids are too fragile for these things. Especially, for example, they might be out of cell phone range.

(LAUGHTER)

It is a good thing that Lewis and Clark never went to Penn State.

(LAUGHTER)

We are talking about young men and women who are old enough to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. But as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist put it, "The university is telling them, if they want to play, they have to stay inside."

GIGOT: All right.

Kate?

ODELL: Paul, my hit this week is for Michael O'Rielly, who is a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. O'Rielly is taking on the worthy project of revisiting some very outdated rules about network programming for children. Right now, you have to show a 30-minute episode, three hours a week. All sorts of things that we just don't need. Now we have YouTube, we have Netflix, for kids. So lots of options. Cheers to him for revisiting these really anarchistic rules.

GIGOT: All right, thanks, Kate.

Dan?

HENNINGER: Paul, I will give a hit to Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, and not because her new Harry Potter play just opened on Broadway. She gets a hit because of a recent tweet denouncing anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. Currently, British social media is involved in a great internal debate over the subject. Here is what J.K. Rowling said in her tweet on the subject of anti-Semitism: "Most U.K. Jews in my timeline are currently having to feel this kind of crap. So, perhaps, some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden." Well put, J.K. Rowling.

GIGOT: All right.

James?

FREEMAN: Paul, this is a hit to Kanye West, who has finally put out a message that

GIGOT: Words I never thought I would hear.

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN: No a whole lot.

(LAUGHTER)

But he finally put a message out that you can share with children. He has been a staple is good workout mixes, not that I do much working out.

(LAUGHTER)

But because of the languages is so foul, you cannot really share it with the family. But now he's saying that he likes the president and he loves everybody and people should think freely. And this is what has been found objectionable.

GIGOT: All right.

The wilds of Pennsylvania, Bill, you have to watch out.

(CROSSTALK)

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

END

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