Are liberal policies holding back black Americans?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," as Iraq sinks further into chaos, the debate heats up here at home over just who is responsible for the meltdown and what America should do about it.

Plus, the mysterious case of the disappearing e-mails. Is Congress buying the IRS's latest story?

And as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Jason Riley looks at whether a half century of liberal social policies have helped or hurt black Americans.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well.


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

That was President Obama Thursday announcing plans to send up to 300 American military advisers to Iraq to help the government battle Islamic insurgents. The rapidly deteriorating situation there has opened up a heated debate here at home over whether to intervene, and just who is responsible for what went wrong.

Joining the panel, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Foreign Affairs columnist, Bret Stephens; and editorial board member, Matt Kaminski.

So, Bret, 300 military advisers, air strikes maybe, but not now, unless they get their political act together. Can you detect a strategy here?

BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: Yeah. The strategy is to have the appearance of strategy to offer a kind of image of action. 300 people -- this is not Thermopylae. 300 people are not going to stop -- American advisers, even if they're special forces, are not going to reverse the gains that ISIS, which is an al Qaeda affiliate, has made in taking over geographically close to maybe a quarter or even a third of the country. They might be able to help the Iraqi government on the margins, but at best, it's a containment strategy for al Qaeda. It's not an effort to reverse the gain gains that al Qaeda has made.

GIGOT: A de facto partition, would that be the result? With the Kurds in the north, a rump Shiite state in the east that is subservient to Iran, and then this potential terrorist state in the west?

MATT KAMINSKI, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, that's a win-win for Iran and the terrorists.

GIGOT: But is that the likeliest outcome, Matt? Do you think that's the likeliest outcome?

KAMINSKI: I think, at this point, I must say that is the likeliest outcome because you have -- we've put in 300 people, but that's really not enough to either change the military facts on the ground, nor is it enough to buy enough leverage in Baghdad to make the political changes necessary to bring about a kind of Sunni/Shia reconciliation. But remember --


GIGOT: But why is that point? Because they're also leaking, the White House is leaking they want the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, who they blame for all of this, to go. Is that likely to work?

KAMINSKI: No. I think it's going to make Maliki actually try and stay in place and it will basically bring the Shia, the majority Shia, around Maliki because the Americans are telling him to go. But I think, remember, that partition is a terrible outcome for Iraq. It's going to be very painful to separate neighborhoods and it will be the final defeat of what we started and paid very heavily in 2003 by going in.

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: But let's focus on one more piece of the possible partition, and that's if this al Qaeda affiliate -- it's al Qaeda -- is able to --


GIGOT: It's jihadist.

HENNINGER: It's jihadists.

GIGOT: -- formerly, al Qaeda.

HENNINGER: If they're able to establish themselves in central Iraq, this will essentially be what al Qaeda did in Afghanistan back in the early 2000s, except this will be a much more convenient, financially well supported area for them to do planning operations to take terror into the world as they did before. And the American people should make no mistake - - this is an outward-moving terrorist force. They are not going to establish a little state there, do Sharia Law, and live happily ever after. This is a centrifugal voice.

STEPHENS: And this is why I think voices like Rand Paul, who had an op-ed in our pages just this week, are so misguided. This is not simply an Iraqi civil war. An al Qaeda or al Qaedastan in northern Iraq is a threat to the entire region and it's a threat to the United States. We already see reports of European jihadis, even American jihadis getting training in a place like this. Afghanistan was -- the Taliban was a harbor, was a state sponsor of al Qaeda. This is al Qaeda itself in control.

GIGOT: If it is that large a threat -- and I agree with you -- then why not reach out to Iran, as some in the administration want to do, to help mitigate that threat? Where would you put the very -- is that al Qaedastan potential at the top, followed by Iran, or are they the same?


GIGOT: Why not deal with Iran to help?

STEPHENS: Well, because we should -- we have two enemies, one is the Shiite terrorist-sponsoring state and the other is a potential Sunni state sponsor of -- Sunni terrorists. So we are not -- this is not World War II. We do not have to enlist the Soviet Union in order for us to defeat Nazi Germany. OK? We are a powerful -- we are the world's super power. And if we had the political wherewithal, we could reverse the gains ISIS has made without making a concession to the Iranians or giving them an additional --


GIGOT: But wouldn't that require a major intervention, that is, military intervention? Not just air strikes, not just 300 advisers but a lot more deployed American troops on the ground to be able to assist the Iraqis? You said yourself they're not able to do it by themselves.

STEPHENS: Right. And that's exactly right.

GIGOT: So you're acknowledging it would take that intervention?

STEPHENS: Of course it would. And by the way, this -- we -- if Americans may have short memories. We were attacked by al Qaeda on 9/11. This president came to office saying, I'm not going to have these fake wars against, say, Saddam Hussein, I'm going to go after al Qaeda. Well, here it is. We are doing next to nothing about it.

GIGOT: If Rand Paul is against it, and a lot of Republicans haven't been speaking up, this president isn't going to do that kind of strategy, is he?

KAMINSKI: I don't think so. And that's the other scary scenario here. You have al Qaeda winning. You have Iran winning. Because for Iran, it's fine to have a Sunni terrorist in the north. And you have a lack of leadership here on both the left and the right. But at some point, you hope nothing catastrophic needs to happen, but at some point, you will need to really radically shift policies.

GIGOT: But Iran doesn't necessarily really want to fight there as well. I mean, this would be permanent civil war there, or fighting between the Shia and the Sunnis.

HENNINGER: That's true. I think, as you suggested, Paul, what they would be willing to settle for is basically having control of southern Iraq. And it would be bloody, but the outcome would be them in southern Iraq and al Qaeda in northern Iraq.

GIGOT: All right, thanks, Dan.

When we come back, the IRS chief is in the hot seat after the agency waited two months to tell Congress about those missing e-mails. So what can be done now to get them back?



REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-UTAH: Are you or are you not going to provide this committee all of Lois Lerner's e-mails?



KOSKINEN: Yes, will do that.


GIGOT: Well, no mention from IRS chief John Koskinen back in March that nearly two-years worth of e-mails belonging to Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the political-targeting scandal were lost when her computer hard drive cashed in 2011. But Koskinen faced a grilling on Capitol Hill Friday with more to come next week after it was revealed that those e-mails and those of six other IRS officials may have been gone for good after their computer hard drives were recycled, something the agency has known since February.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Wall Street Journal senior editorial page writer, Collin Levy; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

Collin, what do you make of the explanation from the IRS that these e- mails were lost because the, quote, "computer crashed," unquote.


COLLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: I mean, it's completely implausible, right, Paul? By the way, we now know computer hard drives can be are recovered from fires. There's all sorts of techniques now on that sort of recovery.

But the bigger issue here that we have to keep repeating is how fantastical the narrative is that they're spinning. You have Lois Lerner, who is the center -- she is the key official here. She refuses to testify before Congress. That leaves all the information to come from her e-mail and correspondence. Now they tell us that they can't find her e-mails for these specific periods when all of this occurred. By the way, also can't find the e-mails of six other people that she likely corresponded with. Then they tell us that actually they've known this for four months and haven't even mentioned it. So it's just an astonishing story they're spinning here.

GIGOT: Just to clarify, these e-mails are not Lois Lerner's e-mails with fellow IRS staff members. Those, they have. These are e-mails with the Justice Department, with the Treasury Department and potentially with the White House, and also with Democrats on Capitol Hill. So we really don't know who she might have been taking orders from, what those orders might have been, or what kind of discussions they might have had about how to proceed here.

LEVY: That's right.

GIGOT: All right.

So, James, where does this leave us?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: It's kind of an amazing story. If you take it all the way back, the number of things that have come out of the IRS that were just flat-out not true, and it starts in 2011 with the inquiry from Congressman Dave Camp to the IRS, Lois Lerner saying no, we're not targeting, the IRS saying we're not targeting. Shortly after that is when apparently this computer crash happened with Lerner and then others at the IRS as well.

GIGOT: We've also learned that they failed to fully comply with subpoenas for going on many months, almost up to a year, because the subpoenas had said, look, you must supply "all" e-mails. Instead, this last week the IRS has admitted that it was only supplying some of the e- mails deciding on its own volition which were really relevant to the probe that Congress was pursuing. Now, what is the definition of "all"?


FREEMAN: It seems very straightforward. And it's kind of worse than that because in his Friday testimony, Mr. Koskinen is basically using as an excuse all the time they've spent looking for e-mail and filtering them. But of course, it's a lot easier to just gather up the bundle and send it to the Hill than to go through them all by the criteria that the IRS, not the congressional investigators, set.

But I think it also should be noted, Mr. Koskinen said they back up e- mail every night. Now, if it's true that in 2011 they made herculean efforts to recover the data lost on Ms. Lerner's hard drive, I don't know why they would not have gone to the backup to get the data before, later, it was recycled. So, the story, as hard as it is to believe, it's not even coherent.

HENNINGER: Well, it's not only not coherent. But I think, you know, to tell you the truth, Paul, it shows not only contempt for these investigating committees, but it shows contempt for the American people, that they are not even attempting to shape a story or an answer that is the least bit credible. As you said, they had -- they knew this since February. They take all of this time to at least tell Congress they had lost these e-mails. You know there's a saying, "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck" -- this, to me, looks like it is quacking like a cover-up. How else can you describe what's going on?

GIGOT: Well, Collin --

LEVY: Yeah, exactly.

GIGOT: Where does this go from here?

LEVY: Yeah. Sorry. Sorry.

GIGOT: Go ahead, Collin, finish.

LEVY: No, I was just going to jump in and say, there are so many questions here that still have to be answered. We now know about this document dump that the IRS sent over to the Justice Department. We don't know what's in it. We don't know whether it was asked for, whether it was sent unilaterally, who determined what the universe of the group selected was. All of these are very serious questions that we need answered. And the more this stone walling and obstruction continues, the more that sort of gets pushed into the future.

GIGOT: Well, but that's the point, isn't it? If you just push this along, pretty soon, this administration is over. Do you think they should have a special prosecutor?

LEVY: You know, there's actually -- I think there can be an argument for that, that everyone at the Justice Department, at this point, is so compromised. This whole administration looks so complicit and compromised it's hard to think that might not be a good idea.

GIGOT: Briefly. Just we've got --


FREEMAN: A lot of the media won't report this. More than two dozen House Democrats support a special prosecutor. This is not a partisan issue and it shouldn't be.

GIGOT: All right.

When we come back, 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, are liberal social policies helping or hurting black Americans? Jason Riley joins us with the startling facts, next.



OBAMA: The under-served laws couldn't accomplish everything, but he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.


GIGOT: That was President Obama earlier this year praising President Lyndon Johnson as the nation prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the landmark legislation that outlawed racial discrimination. But half a century later, my guest this week says liberal policies and well-intentioned welfare programs are holding back black Americans. "Wall Street Journal" editorial board member, Jason Riley, is author of "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed."

So, Jason, what policies are you talking about?

RILEY: I'm talking about a lot of the Great Society programs we're celebrating or marking the 50th anniversary of. I'm talking about anti- poverty programs. I'm talking about policies such as minimum-wage laws, occupational licensing and things like that. These are -- affirmative action is another one. These are laws that were intended to help. The intention was good and honorable and noble. But that's different from -- that doesn't make it right. It doesn't mean that the policies work just because the intentions behind them were good.

GIGOT: OK. But what about the argument that you had a century of Jim Crow in much of the country, which was essentially legislated, government- enforced impoverishment, OK?

RILEY: Right.

GIGOT: Lack of access to the voting booth, lack of access to jobs, lack of access to public transportation. And to get over that, help people escape that century of built-in bad behavior and government mismanagement, you need something like the Great Society.

RILEY: Well, what we needed was equal treatment under the law. We needed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those were needed. We got those. The problem is when the government tries to go beyond equal opportunity and ensure equal results. That's when you get into trouble.

What I'm arguing is black people must ultimately help themselves. They must develop the habits and attitudes and behavior that other groups have had to develop in order to succeed. And to the extent a government program gets in the way of that or hampers that self-development that must take place, it ultimately does more harm than good.

GIGOT: In a way, you are -- and I think this is one of the most interesting things in your book -- you're trying to resurrect an intellectual tradition that has really strong roots going back in American history. Frederick Douglas, the great abolitionist, a former slave, talked about escaping dependency. Booker T. Washington. Why has that tradition become so much less prominent inside the African intellectual movement?

RILEY: Well, I think the civil rights movement has become an industry. And it's a very lucrative industry. What you've seen over the past 50 years is an attempt by the black elite to stay relevant. And what I try and get across in this book is that it's much more important for the black poor to have a man in the home than to have a man in the White House, like they have today. I think the Obama presidency shows that overwhelmingly is the case. That the things that ail the black community are not going to be solved by politicians. They're going to be solved by the black community getting its own act together internally. The family, it's going to start with the family.

GIGOT: But if the results are as awful as you argue, why hasn't there been a revolt intellectually and then politically within the African- American community itself?

RILEY: Well, on the one hand, you have the history of segregation and who was on what side back then. A lot of people are still alive that lived under Jim Crow. So among older blacks, you will have that historical memory there. But I think there's also --


GIGOT: That the government liberated them from Jim Crow?

RILEY: Right. And the left has done an excellent job of convincing black that bigger government is better for them and Democrats are the party of bigger government. But I also think the Republican Party needs to do a better job of courting this vote, going into these communities. We see some politicians on the right doing that today -- a Chris Christie, a Rand Paul, Paul Ryan. They are going into those communities. And there have been a few in the past. Jack Kemp comes to mind. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. And right now -- and it's because Republicans believe they can still win elections without these voters. I don't think it's racial animus that's at work. It's very pragmatic. Time spent courting one group is time not courting another group. Right now, Republicans are worried about Hispanic voters and whether they need them to still win elections. But no such discussion is really happening about blacks. They don't feel they need black voters to win elections right now. When they feel they need them, I believe you'll see more black outreach from Republicans.

GIGOT: All right, Jason Riley, thanks so much for being here. Good luck with the book.

RILEY: Thank you.

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


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

Collin, first to you.

LEVY: Paul, this week, the media woke up to the fact that, since October, Democratic prosecutors in Wisconsin have been pursuing a secret investigation of conservative groups there. Their theory, which is that the groups illegally coordinated during the recall of Governor Walker, has already been discredited roundly by two judges. But when some new documents were made public this week, the media instead embraced a fully already discredited narrative. So a miss for them for not doing their homework.

GIGOT: Yeah, you can't cover the IRS, but you can cover a document dump based on a false theory of free speech. All right, thanks.


KAMINSKI: Paul, here is a hit to the D.C. city council, which this week moved forward to rename a street in the capital after Llu Xiaobo, who is a Chinese dissident, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, was currently incarcerated in China. Now the great catch here, this street happens to be the street on which the Chinese embassy is located in Washington.


GIGOT: No accident.

KAMINSKI: No accident. The Chinese call this a provocative action, which it very much is, and it is meant to remind them and the world that we care about human rights in China.

GIGOT: He is in prison, correct?

KAMINSKI: He is. Absolutely.

GIGOT: All right.

STEPHENS: You know, they say Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Well, President Obama was fundraising this week while the world burned. And a weekend when ethnic Russian separatists in Ukraine shot down a plane, burned gas pipes when ISIS was taking over cities in northern Iraq, from Mosul to Tal Afar, President Obama had a day -- three fundraisers in New York. And as a New Yorker, I think I speak for all New Yorkers in not thanking the president for snarling traffic and ruining our commute.

GIGOT: All right.

And remember, if you have your own "Hit or Miss," please send it to us at And be sure to follow us on Twitter, @jeronfnc.

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

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