Bad news and good news for Republicans heading into midterms

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 31, 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. The heated debate over gun control took a major heat this week with retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens arguing for a repeal of the Second Amendment, calling it a relic of the 18th century.

In a New York Times op-ed, Tuesday, Steven's pointed to his dissent in the landmark Heller decision, the 2008 case that affirmed an individual's right to bear arms, writing, 'Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the NRA's ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.'

Let's bring in Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, columnist Kim Strassel and 'Wall Street Journal' columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Jason Riley. So, Jason, 97-year-old, retired justice, why does it matter?

JASON RILEY, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: It matters, Paul, because the gun control left has regularly said, 'Listen, we are not coming after your guns. We don't want to confiscate your firearms. We just want some reasonable protections put in place, some reasonable regulations.'

Justice Stevens has let the cat out of the bag. We want to repeal the Second Amendment and that's why what he said matters. The problem that the gun control left comes up against after we have one of these tragedies and they want to turn it into another debate on gun control is that even while gun ownership has grown in the country, violent crime including violent crime involving guns has been falling dramatically, for decades and that is the reality out there.

GIGOT: Kim, the former justice was on the losing side in Heller, but it was only a 5-4 decision, of course, his view of the Second Amendment is that it only applied to militias way back when in the 18th century. That's why he calls it a relic. The majority in the Supreme Court took a different view, but they didn't outlaw regulation of guns and you don't -- and the constitutional amendment, I think we all agree passing that to repeal the Second Amendment would be very hard, but you could.


GIGOT: But you could, right? Not simple, but you could have other Supreme Court judge rulings that eroded that at the margins, why don't you explain?

STRASSEL: Yes, that's why this is important in his piece is that even though that last line about repealing the Second Amendment got all the attention, he spent most of that op-ed talking about the Heller decision and it was a way of reminding people that this remains their only, their best shot at eroding gun rights out there. Because things are not going to pass through Congress any time soon. This is a very pro-Second Amendment House and Senate and so the only option that gun controllers have is to go back to the Supreme Court and their goal and their hope there is to either overturn Heller which could take some time, but to chip away with other lawsuits and decisions that would, for instance, give officials more ability to ban certain types of guns.

GIGOT: Right.

STRASSEL: Or restrict who can have them and that's their main agenda at the moment.

GIGOT: Okay, so Dan, that assumes that I think at least there's going to be a new change in the court, not going to happen any time soon. But let's talk about the politics of gun control in the wake of Parkland and in the wake of big marches last weekend. Do you think that the politics of gun control has changed decisively now in favor of the gun controllers again?

DANIEL HENNINGER, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST, DEPUTY EDITOR: No, I do not, Paul, at least not at the national level. I don't think the Senate, for instance, is eager to take this up and that includes Senate Democrats. Bernie Sanders who is the Uber progressive, his position on gun control is that is an issue for the states to decide nor does he think manufacturers of gun should be held liable for crimes committed with guns.

Elizabeth Warren says she is in favor of what she calls sensible gun control. Now, why the reluctance? The reluctance in large part is because the Democrats understand that they have at least a claim on some states --Senate seats now like North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia which if they came out as fully against the Second Amendment as Justice Stevens has, they would probably lose those seats forever. So, I don't think you're going to get much traction at that level. More likely, as Kim is suggesting, it's going to come from below -- from cities, the past laws that again elevate to the Supreme Court.

GIGOT: Dan stressed the Senate though, Jason, but there's the House.

RILEY: Right.

GIGOT: And there are the suburban districts that are held by Republicans where gun control is not widespread.

RILEY: Right, as both Kim and Dan alluded to, we have a very pro-Second Amendment Congress right now, but we have midterm elections coming up and if Democrats do manage to take control of Congress, you could see the gun lobbies power diluted somewhat. The other X factor here, Paul is that we have never had children, high-school aged children leading an effort like we've seen in recent weeks. So, we don't know if that has staying power or not. But the bottom line here is that people who support the Second Amendment tend to vote on that issue. People who support gun control don't tend to vote on the issue.

GIGOT: Well, Kim, there's a lot of people who now that actually, in some of these suburban districts, gun control in the House could be a very effective weapon, pardon the use of the word, in the fall politically work for Democrats politically in November because a lot of these suburban households, you know, they don't own guns and maybe they now in the wake of these shootings have some more angst about gun ownership, you don't think that could work?

STRASSEL: I think that it could work. It cuts differently in the House where this is more a danger for Republicans. They need those seats. Those suburban districts that you're talking about are going to be absolutely crucial to the question of whether or not they can retain the House and they've got a lot of women voters in those districts.

GIGOT: Yes, that's right.

STRASSEL: As you say, a lot of non-gun owners in those districts who don't necessarily subscribe to a lot of the Second Amendment views in the Republican Party.

Now, the question for those House Republicans in the recent Omnibus they passed this, Fix NICS Bill which does strengthen significantly the background check system, can they get out there? Can they talk about that and can they talk about what in response to these Parkland students and others in the way that reassures those voters?

GIGOT: All right, I think this debate is going to go right through November. We'll see how it works. When we come back, as Republicans gear up to defend their congressional majorities in the November midterms, some good news for the GOP and some bad in the latest Fox News poll. Four Republicans gearing up to defend their congressional majority in the 2018 midterms, some good news and some bad in the latest Fox News poll.

The GOP appears to be closing the gap in the generic congressional ballot with 46 percent favoring the Democratic candidate in their district compared to 41 percent for the Republican. That has narrowed significantly from the fall when 50 percent said they favored Democrats and only 35 percent said Republicans, but the poll also finds a large advantage for Democrats when it comes to voter enthusiasm with 46 percent of Democrats saying they are more fired up than usual about voting in November compared to just 28 percent of Republicans. Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush. He is also a Wall Street Journal columnist and Fox News contributor. So welcome, Karl, good to see you.


GIGOT: Do you think that the politics of gun control politically and their impact on elections has changed fundamentally because of Parkland and the student protests.

ROVE: I don't think it's changed fundamentally, but I think it has changed somewhat and I do think Kim Strassel's point about the gun control issue in suburban districts with well-educated voters particularly white women, college graduates, this issue is going to play a little bit differently and the Republican candidates in those instances, do need to be able to point to things such as background checks and increasing the efficiency of the federal system to check people who shouldn't be receiving guns.

GIGOT: But is that enough, I mean, are you going to have to go further than that because the Democrats are going to say, 'Okay, you passed that, but that's not enough,' you're already hearing them say, 'We need an assault-rifle ban,' and more aggressive background checks?

ROVE: Well, you know, I think the first part of that isn't going to fly -- the assault weapon's ban, we saw this issue litigated in past elections, but the Republicans do need to do something proactively on the issue of background checks and Marco Rubio and others have, perhaps, provided an opportunity here with their red flag law.

That is to say a law that encourages states to adopt laws that allow people to flag somebody who might be a problem.

I was taken -- you put a piece on the Wall Street Journal editorial page from -- I think it was the former superintendent of the Boston Police Department who talked about how if the Parkland shooter had been in Boston, they would have been flagged to the -- by school authorities and the local law enforcement long before it got to a point that they could walk into a school with a weapon and start shooting. And that these red flag laws might be a good way for suburban Republicans to say, 'Look, we just can't depend upon Washington solving the problem. We've got to solve this problem by passing a law here in our state to allow us and detect and help solve this problem before it results in a shooting.'

GIGOT: Okay. let's look ahead to the midterm election, some of the generic ballots all over the place, it looks like -- the Fox poll says they are closing, but what do you think the Democratic theme is going to be? Are they going to try to run, say, we are going to put a check on Donald Trump and that's about it?

ROVE: Well, I don't think they are -- to that point, I think they are at the point that we hate Donald Trump. We are enraged by him. We are angry at him, but we're going to stop him. So, they have not yet begun to systemically move away from that position. There was a memo this week from one of the Democratic campaign committees that was leaked that was advice to candidates saying, 'You ought to say, we want to look for opportunities to work with the President on problems that face our country,' that's the right tone for the Democrats to take. But my sense is, I have been in a lot of these races for the House, where the primaries are yet to be held that we are likely to see candidates who are not going to take that advice, their advice is going to be, 'By God, I'm going to oppose the President each and every way that I can.'

GIGOT: Well, but look, that's worked for them, has it not? I mean, so far in the special in Pennsylvania, they had pretty good turnout. The Republican turnout was down. You know what happened in Virginia, I mean, they came out of the nooks and crannies like we have never seen before in a governor's race to pace one onto Donald Trump, why wouldn't the anti-Trump message drive Democratic enthusiasm in the way that helps them?

ROVE: Well, the candidates matter. In the Virginia governor's race which set the tone for that state, the Democratic candidate had voted for George W. Bush twice, he was a moderate liberal, moderately, moderate candidate who talked about how he was going to work with President Trump. The Democrats are not going to nominate a lot of candidates like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania who was a former prosecutor, military combat veteran who said that life began at the moment of conception and said that he was not running against Donald Trump. He would look for opportunities to work with the President and said, 'I'm never going to support Nancy Pelosi.'

Now, you said the generic ballot is all over the place. Not really. If you take a look at it, the real clear politics average is 7.1, but here are all the polls since the 21st of March, 6 points, 5 points, 5 points, 7
points, 7 points -- and if you look at it over time, January 1st, the Democratic advantage was 12.9, February 1st, 7.3, it grew to 9.3 by March first, and today at 7.1. Something has happened since the beginning of the year and.

GIGOT: The advantage of the Democrats. Well, everybody would suspect, I guess that the tax bill passed and the economy is doing better, that's what Republicans would like to think, is that what you think happened?

ROVE: I think that's somewhat to the degree of what happened and they ought to keep focused on that. Now, remember though, the generic ballot is a rough indicator. In 2006, the Democrats had a 10-point advantage and gained 31 seats. In 2008, they had a 14-point advantage and gained only 21.

GIGOT: Yes, that was there were fewer seats to be had though in that election because some of that easy ones had been taken in 2006.

ROVE: Well, good point because that's what's going to happen this year, in my opinion. Political scientists refer to this as surge and decline, and what happens is typically when a President comes into office, he brings with him a large number of people of his party who win in marginal seats and then in the first midterm get swept out. That was not the case in 2016, President Trump ran behind most congressional candidates and as a result, the Republicans actually lost a handful of seats on net in the house, so there was no surge, that will minimize the decline because there are a lot fewer people, vulnerable Republican who is are first-time members in marginal seats.

GIGOT: All right, Karl, listen, we have a long way to go and we will be back visiting you as the campaign goes on.

ROVE: A long, long way.

GIGOT: When we come back, the Schumer stall as dozen of Trump nominees still await Senate confirmation, can Republicans finally break the Democratic log jam? We will tell you what they're planning next. It's one of the more underreported stories of the Trump presidency, the scores of nominees still awaiting Senate confirmation, from ambassadors to judges, Democrats are slow-walking the President's pick, sometimes insisting on 30-hours of debate for each one.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said last week that 43 percent of Trump's appointees are still awaiting confirmation and the Senate is currently sitting on 78 nominees who have already been vetted and passed out of committee, but can't get a floor vote. This includes former UN spokesman Richard Grenell who was nominated in September to be President Trump's Ambassador to Germany. We are back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Jason Riley. Kim, you've been digging at the numbers on this for us, how big a problem is it compared to previous administrations?

STRASSEL: Oh, it blows previous administrations away. If you look at this point in time in the past four presidencies combined, the use of cloture vote which is what requires 30 hours of debate on a candidate was only used 15 times for executive branch nominees combined.

GIGOT: For the last four presidencies at this period in their term?

STRASSEL: Right, combined whereas for President Trump that number is almost 50 alone up to this point so far, so Democrats are using this procedure which has been very rarely used on people that have already been vetted, out of committee, some of them have unanimous, if not bipartisan support out of committee, but all it takes is one person to object to moving ahead and then you can subject them, each of them to 30 more hours of debate.

RILEY: And these are important positions, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor -- the President's ability to put his people in place is being affected here and I think it's why he hasn't made more management change or more changes in his administration.

GIGOT: What's the strategy? Schumer strategy?

RILEY: Ro run out the clock, to run out the clock and he believes that his base, that this is what his base wants, this is part of the left's resistance.

GIGOT: So, run out the clock on Senate time and just stall, make it harder for Trump to govern?

RILEY: Yes, exactly. And that is why I think the Republicans are coming up with a new strategy. They want to change the rules for getting people through and there's some hope that even Democrats will go along with support of this, particularly Democrats up for reelection in states that President Trump won.

GIGOT: Yes, Dan, follow-up on that, because the 30-hour rule is something that is now -- if the Senate wants a debate on any nominee, they can invoke closure and have 30 hours, but in the previous administration, when President Obama was President and Democrats controlled the Senate, the Republicans agreed to limit that 30-hour rule to eight hours per nominee, that would be the max.

Now, most of these nominees don't have -- they aren't controversial, they have been vetted through a committee and that's what Republicans want Democrats to agree to now the same eight hours.

HENNINGER: But they won't.

GIGOT: Why not? You don't share Jason's optimism?

HENNINGER: No, I don't. I think something -- I think something else, Jason suggested is going on which has to do with politics of the Democratic party now, look, this is a reflection I think, in large part, Paul, of the fact that the two parties are very politically polarized now between conservatives and liberals and, you know, one name that hasn't come up here is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has not clearly expressed his interest in getting behind Senator Jim Lanford's idea of reducing it to only eight hours, why would that be?

I think it's because Senator McConnell would like to have -- to be able to use this sort of process if he is in the minority to block the Democrats from running the government as well. Remember, when Obama was President, they did a lot of imposition of things, of statutes, regulations you know, affecting energy, finance, labor laws, the Trump government comes in, rolls all of that back, puts people in the bureaucracy. They are going to push his ideas that are resisted by the Democrats. And I simply think you've come to a kind of point of gridlock here with these appointees to the government.

GIGOT: But, Kim, we have got three years left on the Trump presidency. He's not going to be able to fill out a government even at this kind of pace. There's one proposal that's out there, some people have suggested that is if Republicans -- if Democrats are saying, 'Okay, 30 hours,' Mitch McConnell should say, 'Okay, you want 30 hours, we will give you 30 hours. We will give it to you on Friday, we will give it to you on Monday, we will give it to you on Saturday and Sunday and the recess you want to take for
Easter and the Memorial Day and hold you in session,' and the Democrats will probably come around pretty fast to eight hours.

STRASSEL: I love that idea. You know, we work on the weekends, they should work on the weekends too. Yes, hold them in there. Look, the reason he probably hasn't done that is Republicans don't like that idea either, right?

Everyone has got midterms coming up. They are all eager to be back in their states and talking to their constituents, but I don't think you've necessarily have to do this very for long, just a couple of weeks of it and probably Chuck Schumer would roll over and finally say, yes and we could get that eight-hour rule.

GIGOT: Okay, thank you, Kim. Still ahead, President Trump takes on Amazon, but does he really have the power to punish the online retail giant?


GIGOT: Amazon shares slid Wednesday following a report that President Trump is 'obsessed' with the online retail giant and wants to change its tax status or use antitrust law to limit its expansion. The President responding to that report Thursday, tweeting, 'I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the election. Unlike others they pay little or no taxes to state and local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy causing tremendous loss to the US and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business.'

We are back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Wall Street Journal editorial page writer Jillian Melchior. So, Dan, is Donald Trump obsessed with Amazon and why?

HENNINGER: Pretty clearly, he's obsessed with Amazon because he tweets about them constantly. He's done it dozens of times. It's a little odd. I mean, normally Presidents don't single out private corporations for attacks like this. Amazon, far as we know has broken no laws, committed no crimes. One thing we do have to point out is that Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, which is one of the President's primary critics in Washington and it raises the question in people's mind whether he's going after them as he often strikes back at his political enemies because of this. Similarly, AT&T's attempt to take over Time Warner is now being sued for antitrust by the Justice Division, and AT&T thinks it's because of CNN, another Trump enemy. So, at least puts that idea in people's mind, absent any other legitimate reason.

GIGOT: All right, let's take the factual case, Jillian, you've dug into this for us, does Amazon avoid paying state and local taxes?

JILLIAN MELCHIOR, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, you know, it collects taxes pretty much everywhere that it's required to, sales taxes and then on top of that, with the headquarters thing in particular, you've seen state and local governments offering just crazy incentives, not great for taxpayers.

GIGOT: But that's the politician's decision not Amazon.

MELCHIOR: Yes, and if you're upset with this, this is something that local taxpayers should take up with their state and local officials, so it's not a concern.

GIGOT: So, they do pay state and local taxes? They do pay state and local taxes. All right, what about the Post Office subsidy that the President mentioned?

MELCHIOR: This one is a little bit more complex. So, they do get a good deal, but I think the Post Office.

GIGOT: To deliver packages.

MELCHIOR: To deliver packages, but packages are one of the few places in the Post Office where there's a growing business that actually grew by about 11 percent. Post Office is hurting. This is one of their areas that they are making money, so I think even if Amazon gets a beneficial deal, it's something that the Post Office really needs.

GIGOT: Would the Post Office have to raise prices or cut off -- reduce service without this kind of a transaction?

MELCHIOR: It wouldn't either and I think you're also seeing consumers benefit. In many cases, they are getting Sunday deliveries because of Amazon.

GIGOT: Okay, now, antitrust, Kim, what do you think about the antitrust case potentially against Amazon. There is no question, it is disrupting retailing all around the country by delivering goods online and sometimes at lower prices, what about that case?

STRASSEL: Yes, it's called disruptive technology changes in the way we fundamentally do things, which doesn't by its own right make something illegal or a monopoly. Look, I think the problem here and this is why you don't want Presidents attacking companies is that -- or any individuals, one we saw what happened with that with President Obama with the IRS going after tea party groups and others that he had been critical of.

You have a bureaucracy that you do not want to unleash on individuals or corporations, just to do the bidding of a presidency. But the reason you don't do it as well too is, even if there's a legitimate case against Amazon, now if someone were to pursue it, the obvious question is whether or not it's politically motivated.

GIGOT: Dan, what do you think? You've seen an awful lot of Presidents over the years, Trump is not the first to single out a company, Obama mentioned Anthem, for example, when they raised insurance prices, Staples for executive compensation, of course, the Koch Brothers, every Democrats' favorite target, but Trump has a particular kind of vitriol and focus that I guess maybe is a little different.

HENNINGER: Well, let's try to take this criticism at the level of good faith that he is upset about Amazon's domination of the retail business, the hollowing out of retail at the local level. Okay, it's not the worst thing if he gets a conversation started about that, maybe we should have that conversation. Recall though, Paul, not too long ago in cities like New York City we're blocking so-called big box stores like Costco, Walmart and the rest of them because they were going to take over jobs. Now, the threat is that Amazon is taking retail away from them. Bear in mind, though, Amazon basically is a platform for tens of thousands of private vendors selling tens of thousands of differentiated products. It's simply a different delivery system. And if we want to talk about what should happen to the people who were left behind, certainly we should have that conversation, but Mr. Trump himself other than throwing it on the table has not pushed it very far forward at all.

GIGOT: All right, still ahead, North Korean dictator' paying a surprise visit to China this week, so does the mood strengthen his hand in planned talks with President Trump? We will ask Paul Wolkowicz, next.

GIGOT: North Korean dictator ' made his first foreign trip this week since assuming power in 2011, meeting China's President Xi Jinping in a surprise visit to Beijing. Kim is set to attend a summit with South Korean President, Moon Jae in late in April and a meet up with President Trump is tentatively in the works as well. The President tweeted Wednesday, 'For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was not even a small possibility, now there is a good chance that ' will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting.' Paul Wolfowitz is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He served in many roles in government including Deputy Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush, welcome, Paul.


GIGOT: So, let me ask you first about John Bolton, the new National Security Adviser, you have known John Bolton, worked with him for years, how would you describe his world view?

WOLFOWITZ: You know, I think in all these descriptions of John's world view, there's a confusion between strategy and tactics. Strategically, I think he's very clear about who our enemies and adversaries are and who our friends are and believes very much in pushing back on our adversaries and supporting our friends.

But he does so, I think in a generally very pragmatic way. One of the outstanding examples is what he told often in the first term of President George W. Bush, excuse me, in early part of the century that was called the Proliferation Security Initiative. It was a way of getting an international legal basis for intercepting ships that were carrying contraband from North Korea and other places without going through the impossible process of a whole revision of the nonproliferation treaty.

It was very successful. I think it led to intercepting missiles that were heading to Libya. He also, I am told, I wasn't really involved in this, but someone who was a legal adviser in the State Department many years ago, said that John pulled off something people said was impossible, which was getting the UN General Assembly to reverse the Zionism, his racism resolutions back in 1991 when he was working for President George H.W. Bush. So, he is man who knows how to get things done. I think people should keep that in mind.

GIGOT: All right, that's going to be fascinating to watch. Let's talk about North Korea because you know, the meeting with week with Xi Jinping and ', what do you make of that? Is that an enhancement for peace or is that display to the benefit of Kim?

WOLFOWITZ: Well, it certainly plays to the benefit of Kim. It puts him on the world stage. It makes him a much bigger figure than -- no North Korean leader has ever met with a US President, just take that on the surface, but we also have to remember, we know very little about anything that's going on behind the scenes.

GIGOT: right.

WOLFOWITZ: So, I imagine quite a bit is going on and this could be just a repeat of a play we have seen over and over again of play for time, promise things later, collect payment now, relax the sanctions -- that would obviously be good both for ' and for Xi Jinping in China. But there could be something bigger going on and I think we ought to keep our eye on that because I'm not sure it's a good thing. He talks about the idea that he would not need nuclear weapons if North Korea's security was assured, but his demands for North Korean assurance -- security assurance go a very long way. They basically involve the US leaving South Korea militarily, some kind of deal between North and South Korea that might in fact end up being unification on Kim's terms.

And unfortunately, on this score, that would clearly suit Xi Jinping in China. Unfortunately, it would suit possibly the current the South Korean government, which is very sketchy to be charitable in its view of North Korea and it just might suit President Trump's agenda of getting US troops out of the peninsula where they are still there 60 years after the armistice and it's only because of the threat from North Korea.

GIGOT: But wait.

WOLFOWITZ: But I think, we could get in a lot of trouble there.

GIGOT: Yes, okay, that could be -- I mean, I think some people look at that outcome and say, 'Well, that could be the worst-case scenario,' from a US strategic interest because we would be tempted to -- depending on the promises once again from ' that they were in fact, going to get rid of their nuclear program when they have violated how many promises over the last 25 years, so you'd have to say if we fell for that, if Donald Trump fell for that that would be a strategic defeat.

WOLFOWITZ: I think it would be.


WOLFOWITZ: And I think it would cause great splits between us and Japan and between us and half of the South Korean population that is properly skeptical about North Korea.

GIGOT: But we don't know of course know where this is headed, but one thing that seems obvious is the meeting with Xi Jinping and then, this planned meeting with the South Korean President that ' has planned. This is not the diplomatic isolation that they were under for more than -- for a long time, particularly in the Trump administration where they are trying to apply so much pressure. This really does as you say put Kim on the world stage and makes him appear as if he is an equal with all of these leaders, not just a rogue government.

WOLFOWITZ: Yes, although if you look at the body language of that meeting in China, it's pretty clear who is the boss and it's not '.

GIGOT: Well, true, but do you know what China is doing here? We don't know what role China is playing behind the scenes, do we?

WOLFOWITZ: We don't and we do know that in the past, China has played a very -- I would say less than honest role in saying they are going to do things and them not doing them and actually assisting this nuclear program which they claim not to want to see happen.

GIGOT: All right.

WOLFOWITZ: So, look, their next step should have been in my view not what we are talking but here with all of these international melodrama, but rather a real tightening of the screws, a real pressure on China to really cut off North Korea and really forcing major change.

GIGOT: What advice would you have for President Trump going into a summit?

WOLFOWITZ: I think I would say be very careful. Don't get caught up in your own rhetoric about you've produced a meeting that probably no other President would have produced under conditions that are generally a response to American pressure. That's a good thing, but don't feel you then have to prove that you were successful by agreeing to something that you shouldn't agree to.

GIGOT: All right, thank you, Paul Wolfowitz. Appreciate you coming in. When we come back, protests over controversial speakers becoming a common occurrence on college campuses.

Now, a new survey offers a revealing look at what students really think about free speech.

GIGOT: Amid protests and speakers controversies at colleges across the country, a new survey offers a revealing look at what students really think about free speech on campus.

A recently released Gallup-Knight Foundation poll finds that 61 percent of college students agree that the climate on their campus prevent some students from expressing their views, up 7 points from just a year ago.

The survey also finds that while 92 percent say political liberals can freely express their views on campus, just 69 percent believe that political conservatives can and although 90 percent of students say it is never acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking, more than one-third believes shouting down speakers is acceptable at least some of the time.

We are back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley and Jillian Melchior. So, Jillian, you are the closest to college age in this group, what do you take away from this poll?

MELCHIOR: It's disturbing. I think one thing that we are seeing is college students saying that they support the idea of diversity and inclusion, view that as more important than free speech rights, and I think that really reveals a fundamental logical breakdown of the quality of education that these students are getting because they have perceived that inclusion is a goal that is backed by rights like the First Amendment. So, I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding there.

You also see widespread support for things like school policies that would punish people who engage in hate speech or reference of rhetoric or even wear costumes or clothing that people consider offensive.

GIGOT: So, if you, for example, if I being a white man decided to wear a sombrero on Cinco de Mayo and somebody was offended by that, they would support me being punished or a ban on that kind of clothing?

MELCHIOR: Absolutely and I think one thing that is important to note is how far that can go. At the University of California or University of Clermont, there was, last year, a student suggesting that hoop earrings are offensive, that that's cultural appropriation. So, I think what we are talking about here is not just small events but widespread things that are fundamentally getting at people's freedom of expression.

GIGOT: Jason, you do a fair bit of speaking on college campuses, how do you find the climate? Does it jive with this survey?

RILEY: It does. I mean, it varies from campus to campus. But I do, I do see this and particularly at campuses known for being more liberal, you find this and, you know, the good news is that a majority of students on campus still support free expression.

The problem is the trend line. That number has been shrinking, Paul, and what's also interesting is the more time a student spends on campus, the less willing they think it is -- the less willing they feel it's okay to speak out on controversial issues. In other words, a higher number of freshmen feel comfortable expressing controversial views than do seniors, so that gets worse.


GIGOT: The more you're in campus, it's disturbing.

RILEY: Disturbing trend line and it's really unfortunate. College should be a place where you sharpen your critical thinking skills, where you engage people you disagree with and learn how to debate them, not silence them, but that clearly is not what is going on in campus today.

GIGOT: Dan, you and I are old enough to remember when it was absolutely the opposite from the 60's and the 70's when people said free speech -- you know, there was the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley that basically said, 'Let students be able to express themselves as they want and protest this
or that.'

Now, students are so, I guess, I don't know, afraid or offended so easily that they say, 'Please, don't get in my face with anything that I disagree with.'

HENNINGER: Well, I think one big difference, Paul, maybe that the tact then -- the students, the proponents of the Free Speech Movement had gone through -- had an education where they were still taught the meaning of free speech and even the First Amendment, which obviously has been deemphasized now in favor of almost daily, I would call it propaganda I see, about the idea that speech has to be -- it can't be hateful. It has to be diverse and that free speech and the First Amendment should give way to that.

That is what students hear all of the time. One reason we've gotten so far with this sort of things that Jillian was describing, I think, is that a lot of school college administrators are sympathetic to that idea and as far as the Presidents go, that has got to be the biggest flock of sheep in the history of humanity. They just get ruled.

GIGOT: How much of this trend line, Jillian, do you think is related to Trump and the Trump phenomenon because I have noticed that it's the Democrats on campus who seem to now take a more alarmist view about free speech than two or three years ago?

MELCHIOR: Well, I think, he's in a way put into very sharp perspective of the problems that already existed. If you look at it, the Massou protests for example, which triggered about 50 protests nationwide -- that was before President Trump became President but I think that you've got what the current political polarization and the anger, campuses have become the hot beds for this and you are really seeing people's intolerance toward dissenting opinions.

GIGOT: Is this a good argument, Jason, for spending, sending, having an off campus term in Cuba and China for every single American student?

RILEY: You know what's ironic is, and you mentioned this, that you have women's groups, minority groups being the most intolerant, and what's ironic about that, Paul is, all of these social movements were so reliant on free speech. Where would the Civil Rights Movement be without free speech? Or when is liberation be without free speech? So, to Dan's point, we need a better K through 12 education.

GIGOT: All right, we have to take one more break. When we come back, hits and misses of the week.

Time now for hits and misses of the week, Kim, start us off.

STRASSEL: Paul, this is a hit to ABC for bringing back 'Roseanne.' The network was taking all kinds of grief from media critics and Hollywood liberals for reviving a show who star Roseanne Barr as a Trump supporter as is her character. Guess what? 18.2 million people -- staggering number tuned in to watch the reboot, most watched comedy in years.

So, you know, 'Roseanne' was popular back in the day because it took a rare look at a working class family. Networks that take a rare look at the part of the country that voted for this President might get some ratings return.

GIGOT: Jason?

RILEY: Paul, liberals are upset about a citizenship question being added to the census. They say, it might as a result in an undercount of people here illegally but, Paul, the purpose of counting every ten years is to find out who can vote? Who is here legally? And for the purposes of apportioning congressional districts. So, I think we need to keep our eye on the ball here and that liberals need to get their priorities straight.

GIGOT: All right, Jillian.

MELCHIOR: Mine is the Sheboard. It is an app that you can download for your Android, and basically what it does is it figures out if you're talking to a woman or about a woman, and then it suggests the politically correct substitute.

GIGOT: By what you're typing in in?

MELCHIR: By what you're typing in. So, if you start to say, you know, 'My girl is my little princess,' it will auto suggest my little adventurer. Or if you say, 'My wife is really beautiful,' it will suggest you instead say, my wife is very smart, strong, a good leader. And I just think it's a miss because I think it's really creepy when technology starts intervening into our lives like this and try to get us to self-censor and become more politically correct.

GIGOT: Repeat is the word. Dan?

HENNINGER: Paul, I'm giving a hit to the country of Ecuador, you may ask, why Ecuador? Because Ecuador has just cut off the internet connection for Julian Assange who is holed up permanently in their London embassy and they did this because Assange criticized United Kingdom for kicking out all of those Russian diplomats.

Paul, if Julian Assange does not have the support of Ecuador, it looks like he is a man without a country these days.

GIGOT: All right, thank you all very much. 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 all of you for watching. I am Paul Gigot, hope to see you right here next week.


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