Cruel summer: Poll numbers sink as Obama faces setbacks

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," July 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Supreme Court ends its term with a political bang as the justices deal a blow to ObamaCare's birth control mandate and Democrats resurrect their war-on-women strategy just in time for the campaign season.

Plus, President Obama's summer slump. Scandals at home and crises abroad send his poll numbers are down and raise questions about his ability to lead for the next two years.

And as ISIS declares a new Islamic State, an alarming report says jihadist groups are making a comeback worldwide. We'll assess the threat to the U.S. homeland.

Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I am Paul Gigot.

The Supreme Court ended its term this week with a political bang, ruling in the much-anticipated Hobby Lobby case that the arts-and-crafts chain and other closely held corporations were not required to pay for certain forms of contraception under the Affordable Care Act. The 5-4 decision was celebrated by supporters as an important but narrow victory for religious liberty, but quickly jumped on by liberals looking to resurrect the war on women election campaign.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: That the corporations, employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and, of course, denying women the right to contraception as part of their health care plan is exactly that. I find it deeply disturbing that we are going in that direction.


GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger: senior editorial page writer, Collin Levy; and editorial board editor, Joe Rago.

So, Joe, you followed the debate all along. How important, significant, broad was this opinion, because Justice Ginsburg, in her decent, called it a radical purpose that would create havoc?

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: That's ridiculous. This is an important vindication of the religious liberty. And Congress passed a law two decades ago called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which said if the government is going to interfere with the free exercise of religious, they have to use the least restrictive means as possible to do so. All the court did, the court majority here, was they said, look, this is an important public interest, but you are infringing on the rights of the owners of Hobby Lobby and you are drawing a distinction. You're giving one set of rules for for-profit corporations and another set of rules for non- profits that were less restricted, so extend that accommodation to closely held companies like Hobby Lobby, like Wood Specialties (ph).

GIGOT: What do you make of Justice Ginsburg's dissent, Collin? Really, she said it would deny all corporations -- pretend they could basically bail out of any distinction if they just cited the religious excuse?

COLLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: Justice Ginsburg's dissent was incredibly political and vitriolic. And actually, Justice Alito address that issue in particular in his opinion and said this does not apply to everything, this is a narrow decision, and we are making clear here the real issue is that religious freedom shouldn't be determined by a company's tax status. He writes that the administration had already made clear that it's going to do a carve out for nonprofits and for other religious organizations, and the fact that a group like Hobby Lobby decides to organize as a for-profit organization doesn't mean it needs to check its ethical religious obligations at the door.

GIGOT: And this doesn't apply -- I read Alito was explicit in saying this does not apply -- this ruling does not apply to all Fortune 500 companies or very large companies, only to closely held companies, which means they have a small number --


GIGOT: -- of shareholders who can demonstrate very clear religious convictions.

LEVY: Right. As a practical matter, if you think about it, a publicly held company with thousands or more shareholders, it's almost impossible for all of those shareholders to be of the same mind, so the fact that this would be extended to those companies is extremely far-fetched.

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR: This is an important distinction. The government argued that Hobby Lobby's connection to the mandate was, in their words, was "attenuated."

GIGOT: Right.

HENNINGER: In other words, a long distance between what we're asking you to do and what your company does. The court said absolutely the opposite. What Hobby Lobby was concerned about was a core concern of this closely held company, a religious concern, and that was protected under the Religious Freedom Act. This is a big victory for religious freedom, irregardless of what Hillary Clinton is complaining about, Wal-Mart and Fortune 500 companies, which is false.

GIGOT: What explains the furious political reaction to this, Joe?

RAGO: I think it's partly deliberate distortion. And I think Democrats need an election theme that is not the economy or incompetent governance or the Middle East in flames.

GIGOT: So they think this is -- even though they deplore the decision, as a political matter, they think they can use it to drive turnout in November? Is that the --

RAGO: I think they are delighted. That's why you are seeing Hillary Clinton, President Obama coming out, all Democrats across the board in saying the Supreme Court is allowing your boss to ban contraception, which is false, any more if FOX News doesn't give you a company car, they are banning automobiles.

GIGOT: And this ruling does not implicate -- this does not threaten Obamacare in general? It's just in very specific parts.

RAGO: It's a very narrow, very direct part of it. The contraception mandate is still being litigated. Next term, we'll probably see some more rulings. But for now, they have resolved the larger question of whether there is a distinction between corporate forms.

HENNINGER: The simple factual matter, 90 percent of the population already has access to birth control.

GIGOT: Is this political strategy going to work, Dan?

HENNINGER: I was just going to say, I do not think it's going to fly. First of all, Hobby Lobby is a fairly sympathetic player in this. It's not as though it's Walmart. Most women already have access -- 90 percent have access to birth control if they want it.


GIGOT: You mean subsidized access, yeah.


HENNINGER: Subsidized access.

GIGOT: Everybody has access to it. You can go into a drugstore and get it.

RAGO: $9 a month.

HENNINGER: And as Hillary Clinton proved, you have to argue such a stretch to make the case that this is a war on women that I think if most women would step back and think about it for a little while will say, I do not understand what is going on here and, therefore, I do not think it's going to fly as a political strategy.

GIGOT: All right. Much more on this controversial Supreme Court term after the break as the justices reign in President Obama's executive overreach and deal a potentially major blow to big labor's political power.


GIGOT: Another closely watched Supreme Court decision this week that could signal big trouble for big labor down the road, as a five-justice majority rules that home health care workers in Illinois cannot be forced to pay dues to a union they don't want to join.

We are back with Dan Henninger, Collin Levy and Joe Rago.

So, Collin, tell us about this Harris v. Quinn decision, which applied to home workers, which some like half a million of them now belong to unions across the country.

LEVY: Right, Paul, this was a case where the court basically said these workers, who many of them are working at home for their own children in many cases as personal assistants, cannot be coerced into joining the SCEIU. And this is was a very important decision because it said, especially in public employee, public-sector unions it dealt with a case that was an older case. What the court was doing here is saying you cannot be coerced into effectively lobbying the government.

GIGOT: Right --


LEVY: -- when you have a public-sector union. The government is on both sides the table.

GIGOT: One of the things a lot of analysts said was that the labor unions actually dodged a much broader decision here because the court did not overturn tht earlier precedent. It just narrowed this to home health care workers, not to all public employees. So they still can collect dues from most public workers. But is there a logic in this decision that suggests that down the road the court could broaden this to include all government employees?

LEVY: Yes, exactly what happened here. And Justice Alito really wrote this opinion in a way that lays that out. Put it out as what he called an anomaly and a very questionable foundation that is not at all consistent with the court's general First Amendment jurisprudence. So I think he made clear that that could happen in the future. But again, Paul, this was a case that was notable, like many this term, for Justice Roberts seeming to find a narrower route --

GIGOT: Yeah.

LEVY: -- rather than reaching a larger question.

GIGOT: The chief justice, John Roberts, Joe, and that is sort of the watch word of this term and of this chief justice, which is he preferred unanimity. So if he can get nine justices, including the four liberals onboard for narrow decisions, he will take it. A kind of incremental progress or a right decision on the law, even if it doesn't have larger legal implications, or if this is really interesting, go as far as Justice Scalia would like to go, who has ended up this term writing concurrences that sound often like dissents.


RAGO: Right. In three cases this term, he concurred with the majority, but in an angry way.


GIGOT: Yeah.

RAGO: You know, I agree with the result you've reached but I am furious about it.


It's interesting, 65 percent of the cases this term were unanimous. That's the highest percentage since the 1940s.


So, how do you read chief Justice Robert's --?

HENNINGER: I think, Paul --

GIGOT: -- method here.

HENNINGER: Well, I'll tell you. This is just an opinion. But I think Justice Roberts is concerned about the representation of the court in a world, a political world that we know occupy, where there is so much polarization, so much that Congress's representation is severely damaged, as is the president --


GIGOT: He doesn't want the Supreme Court to get a reputation for being political? He wants the public to think -- the court to maintain its authority as a legal arbiter?

HENNINGER: Exactly. Meanwhile, Justice Scalia is making the counterargument, as he said explicitly, we are "shirking our duty," quote, unquote, by not pointing out constitutional error. That's why Justice Scalia is furious. He thinks that Justice Roberts is simply accommodating the other side regardless of what the Constitution requires.

GIGOT: Well, Collin, I know from --

LEVY: And that's the -- sorry. I was going to say, to elaborate on Dan, that's the big irony here, the effort to keep the court here from seemingly political or being a political hot spot, and it ends up with Roberts choosing the narrow routes that achieve a policy outcome but don't seem to be based deeply in the Constitution.


GIGOT: Well, Collin, give us an example here. Where is a case where that happened, where you think Scalia was right and Roberts really settled for half a loaf that he should not have?

LEVY: Well --


I think Noel Canning was a case like that. This was obviously a decision that was unanimous that struck down the administration's illegal recess appointments. Everybody agreed that those recess appointments were illegal, but this was clearly a decision that sort of made up, you know --

GIGOT: Yeah, but, Collin --

LEVY: -- a line out of thin air.

GIGOT: But here, Collin, nonetheless, Roberts got a 9-nothing rebuke of the president of the United States, and included in that rebuke two of the appointees that the president made. Isn't actually a very significant statement on the law?

LEVY: Again, yes, it's a very significant on the law but it's more of a rebuke to the Obama administration than it actually is a revitalization of the Constitution, which is what the Supreme Court is supposed to be doing. They are supposed to be reading the text and telling us what it means. And I'm not sure that's all that they were doing here. They came up with three days to 10 days as an OK time for a recess appointment, and no one really knows where they got there. I am not sure that is helpful in any way.

GIGOT: We've got Collin Levy, the "Wall Street Journal's" originalist interpreter here of the Constitution.


All right. When we come back, immigration reform collapses and the blame game begins. So which side will pay the bigger price in the mid-term elections and 2016?



OBAMA: The failure of house Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy, and it's bad for our future. And that's why today I am beginning a new effort to fix as much as our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.


GIGOT: That was President Obama Monday promising to take executive action on immigration, and blaming Republicans in Congress for failing to act. The issue has taken on a new sense of urgency as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America surge across the Mexican border in what is quickly developing into a humanitarian as well as a political crisis for the administration.

We're back with Dan Henninger. And "Wall Street Journal" "Political Diary" editor, Jason Riley; and foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens, also joins us.

So, Jason, let's start by what we do best, which is go on the field of battle and shoot the wounded after it has been fought --


-- assigning political blame here for what happened. Why did this breakdown?

JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: Well, there is a lot of blame to go around here, but if you want to start with the president, we can start there, and the lack of trust that other people have in him, not only members of Congress, but the country. And there is some validity to that.


RILEY: RILEY: Republicans are saying we can't --


GIGOT: What are you talking about lack of --


RILEY: To follow the law. To follow the law. Republicans say we cannot trust a president who has done what he has done on Obamacare, who has done what he did on federal work fair rules with regard to welfare reform, who has done what he's done on education and on immigration. He acted unilaterally. He's gone against his own laws, in many cases. And they say we cannot deal with an individual who --


GIGOT: But it's that -- isn't that --

BRET STEPHENS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: A large share of the blame, let's face it, lies with the House Republicans, who failed to pass any kind of immigration reform.


GIGOT: They didn't have a vote.

STEPHENS: And quite frankly, never want to have one. And it's a bit of an alibi to say they want -- that they can't trust Obama. It's true that Obama acts unilaterally, but they were using these same lines to prevent immigration from taking place when George W. Bush was president.

GIGOT: Jason?

RILEY: Bret is absolutely right. You can only take the argument so far. And you are right. These same folks couldn't deal with Bush as well. So you want to wonder if some of these Republicans just want the issue. They don't want a solution. And that's part of the problem. Everyone thinks this works to their advantage. The Republicans think it helps them bring out their base. And the Democrats like the issue because it allows them to paint the other side as anti-Hispanic.

GIGOT: So what does Obama do now, Dan? He is promising executive action. What do you think he will do and is it the right thing to do?

HENNINGER: Well, I'll tell you what I think he's going to do, Paul. And I think the Republicans have kind of backed themselves into a huge political corner on the immigration deal. One of the things we're reading is that there are significant sectors of the American economy that really wanted help on this, agriculture, contracting, and the tech sector. I think if President Obama goes out there and talks directly to them, says he's going to do whatever he can --it's limited -- that they will begin to have some sympathy for the Democrats' position, because the Republicans are on the bubble with the business community on this issue and I think they have gotten themselves to the point where Obama can drive a wedge between sectors of the business community and the Republicans on immigration.

GIGOT: But he is saying, Bret, the president is saying, the suggestion is, from White House leakers and so on, that they are going to ease deportations and send fewer people back. Is that a shrewd move?

STEPHENS: Of course, it is. First of all, it's the right thing to do. I will say that out straight out, if I annoy some of our viewers.

GIGOT: Scratch "probably."


STEPHENS: But it's also politically smart for him to do, because deportations are a neuralgic subject among Hispanic Americans. It's cruel, capricious. If you have ever been on a plane on a flight to Mexico and seen Mexicans being --


But, Bret, the answer, from our viewers, a lot of people would be, they are violating the law when they come to the United States.


GIGOT: OK? What are you going to do?

STEPHENS: And what are we going to do? Are we going to deport 12 million people in answer to that? Because that's what they're saying. What we should be doing is trying -- what conservatives should be doing is coming up with an immigration reform that court Hispanic voters, that is attractive to them, and doesn't continue to treat them as second or third- class citizens.

GIGOT: What about this rush of children over the board, Jason. It's really quite a -- it is a spectacle really.

RILEY: It's a horrible spectacle and it has been managed horribly by the White House. And, again, it gets back to a trust issue with the president and his poor relations with these border governors and their law enforcement officials. These folks were coming -- the governors are saying, we had no warning, these busses just started showing up, told one told us they were coming, no one has told us when it will stop. That is just poor management by the White House.

GIGOT: Why are they coming? Why are they coming?

RILEY: Well, for a couple of reasons. Some are -- They are coming from Central American genially.

GIGOT: Not Mexico?

RILEY: Not Mexico. And some are fleeing violence. There's been an uptick there. Others have heard rumors that if they get to America, they can stay. But they are coming. So they're coming for a variety of reasons. But they are coming and they do illustrate that this is a big problem that Congress needs to address. And no one wants to address it.

HENNINGER: The general public is getting sick of this issue, and this is an example of it. I think the Republicans run the risk of getting a reputation of not wanting a solution to something the public wants to have behind them. So they can damage themselves if they don't at least try to address something that the public has simply lost patience with.

GIGOT: All right, gentlemen, thank you.

Much more to come in this special one-hour edition of the JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT. Still ahead, President Obama's summer slump. A series of scandals at home and crises abroad have the president's poll numbers sinking. So how do they compare to his predators. We will ask former Bush advisor, Karl Rove.



GIGOT: Welcome back to this special edition of the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

Well, the summer is off to a rough start for President Obama with scandals at the V.A. and the IRS continuing to plague his administration, the Supreme Court handing him some high-profile rebukes and House Republicans announcing they'll sue over executive action abuses. Things certainly are not better on the international front as a series of crises have revealed a U.S. foreign policy in shambles. All these setbacks seem to be taking a toll on the president's numbers with his job approval now firmly stuck in the low 40s and a majority of Americans believe he is no longer able to lead the country.

Wall Street Journal columnist and Fox News contributor, Karl Rove, joins us with more.

So thank you for joining us again, Karl.


GIGOT: You were in the White House in a sixth year which had low approval ratings somewhere close to this president's. How do -- how do you see this president standing compared to previous presidents at this stage in his term?

ROVE: Well, the sixth year is a -- is a terrible time to be in the White House. It's like being -- going to the proctologist each day. I mean, it's not pleasant at all. And President Obama has bad numbers, just as President Bush did. But I think these are fundamentally different situations, circumstances.

GIGOT: How so?

ROVE: Well, President Bush, first of all, suffered from Katrina, an uncontrollable event, largest storm to hit America in recorded modern history, and the failure of local units of government, who had the principle responsibility of dealing with the aftermath of those disasters, was blamed on him. And rather than spending his time pointing his finger at the governor of Louisiana or the mayor of New Orleans, he just accepted the responsibility and jumped in.

And second of all, we had an active on-going war in Iraq that was not going well at all, and until the surge was announced after the 2006 elections, things began to turn around in 2007 and 2008. But --


GIGOT: But what is it about the president's standing right now that if you were in the White House, you would say, all right, Mr. President, we need to address?

ROVE: Some of these are self-inflicted. I think the tone is really bad out of the White House. I don't understand why the president believes that whenever he gets into difficulty the answer is to dig deeper into the partisanship of the moment. The president, I think is -- any president is bigger when they rise above partisanship. And this president, when he gets into difficulty, like he is in now, he turns and becomes a more harsh partisan. We saw it earlier this week when the president went to the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C., to push for his answer to the highway funding bill. We have not had a highway funding bill here for six years, and he is trying to get one using the pay-fors that have clearly been unacceptable since the time he came into office. He's proposed these same sets of tax increases to fund a variety of things and they never go anywhere, so. But rather then talking about it and finding common ground, he goes out excoriates the Republicans, saying my proposal is not socialism, it's factual --

GIGOT: Right.

ROVE: -- so sue me. I mean, the language is just unduly harsh.

GIGOT: But here is the argument, I think, inside the White House. Look, yeah, the president's approval rating is in the low 40s, but look at Congress. They are in the high teens. So we can deflect attention from us and focus on, in fact, the failure of Congress, and therefore they will take the bulk of the blame, and we can minimize our losses in the midterms.

ROVE: Yeah. Well, look, I think that the object is to minimize the losses in the mid-term. I am not certain I agree that it's just blaming Congress. What I think he is trying to do is rally his base. He thinks this kind of language inflames the Democratic left, and so they're going to seize on every opportunity they can to sort of get that same base energized and ready to turn out. For example, this week's decision on the Hobby Lobby. The immediate response was to go and say they want to take away your right to contraception. And they were very open about it. They gave a number of interviews to say this will great for us because we'll be able to rally single woman in the fall. They traditionally don't turn out in midterms --

GIGOT: Right.

ROVE: -- but this decision by the Supreme Court now, so. But I am not certain that works very well. If they had the same strategy in 2012 and they won, but they won with a smaller number of votes than they got in 2008. They need to enthuse people. They need to get, particularly, Independents to come off the bench and come onto the field for them. And I don't think this strategy does anything except appeal to the hard-core left --


GIGOT: But isn't it a little late to enthuse people here in this cycle? And as I look at the polling head to head, the president's approval rating is down. But look at the polling numbers about who the American people want to control Congress, Democrats or Republicans, and they are very close. Republicans do not have a big lead. In fact, in some polls, they are a point or two behind.

ROVE: Yeah, well, to look at the polls at this point in 2010, it was roughly similar. Democrats need to go into a midterm election when they hold the White House with a lead on that question, a clear lead on that question, otherwise, by-election day, it ends up being the natural gravitation of a midterm election for people to say, you know what, it's my change to send a message to the guy in charge and to vote no on the president. And we're likely to see that this year. I do think it's going to be a close election for the Senate because of tactical reasons, not strategic considerations. The Democrats have on the field some of the only people who could try and hold on successfully to these seats, and they are running very effective localized campaigns. They're trying to inoculate themselves, insulate themselves by distancing themselves subtly as much as they can for the president.

GIGOT: What about the failure of immigration reform? It's clear the administration also thinks that could be a political event. The president lashed out at Republicans as the responsible party this week. How do you think that's going to play in some of these key Senate races this year?

ROVE: Well, I think it cuts both ways. I think it cuts generally against Republicans in states with significant Latino populations. For example, Colorado, this is going to be an issue.

GIGOT: Right.

ROVE: It's not going to be so much an issue, say, in Alaska, for example.

GIGOT: No, but it could hurt the Republicans in --


GIGOT: It could hurt the Republicans in Colorado, is what you are saying?

ROVE: Yeah, well, it could -- in states with rapidly growing, dynamic Latino populations, this matters. And the question is, are Republican candidates, like Cory Gardner in Colorado, going to distance themselves from a hard line on immigration and make themselves more inclusive and welcoming to Latino populations.

The Hispanic population, Hispanic voters are able to differentiate between people -- they were able to, for example, give a much higher percentage of the Latino vote in Texas in 2012 to Republican candidates than they gave to Mitt Romney, for example. So they do distinguish between, are you for solving this problem or are you against solving this problem. But it is --

GIGOT: Right.

ROVE: The long term, this is a real problem for Republicans. It's also, however, in the short term, a problem for the Democrats. If you go to some of these focus groups among Latinos, there is a high level of awareness that the president could have solved this problem when he had control of the Congress in 2009 and 2010, and didn't. And they have a very strong suspicion that he is content to use this as a political weapon rather than to get it solved.

GIGOT: All right, Karl, thank you. We'll be watching that issue and others.

Still ahead, you have heard of the Arab Spring. Are we now witnessing the Jihadi Summer? A closer look at the alarming spread of terror groups worldwide when we come back.


GIGOT: The al Qaeda offshoot, ISIS, declared a caliphate this week in the areas it now controls in Iraq and Syria, unilaterally declaring statehood and calling on Muslims worldwide to join them in their fight. The organization's rapid rise underscores what experts say is a growing threat. With the new Rand Corporation study finding the number of jihadist groups up 58 percent since 2010.

We are back with Dan Henninger and Bret Stephens. And "Wall Street Journal" editorial board member, Matt Kaminski, also joins the panel.

So, Matt, how big of a threat is this, and why is it coming back now?

MATT KAMINSKI, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It's coming back now because of the failure of the Arab Spring in many ways. Jihad is politics by other means. These groups are stepping into a vacuum of bad governance. In the case of Syria, they rose out of a civil war. And in Iraq, you have a failed political process in Baghdad. And because after the Arab Spring failed, you had Muslims in Europe and overseas recruited to come in to fight against what are called "infidels," Shia and the Americans, no matter what. And it's spreading. And with them controlling half of Iraq, this is the map of the Middle East potentially being remade --


STEPHENS: This is not just the failure of the Arab Spring. This is the failure of the United States. What is happening in Iraq is a direct consequence of the catastrophe in Syria because we did not act quickly to overthrow, to depose the Assad regime. So we allowed this, what began as a peaceful insurrection, to turn into this all-out civil-war creating chaos all along Syria's border.

GIGOT: The U.S. withdrawals from that part of --


STEPHENS: So America's retreat is directly responsible for this.

And remember, Paul, in May of 2013, President Obama gave a big speech at the National Defense University in Washington in which he said that core al Qaeda is on a path to defeat, and that the threats we face come from essentially a smaller offshoot al Qaeda groups that really pose nothing worse than the kind of terrorism that we used to face in the 1980s.

GIGOT: But isn't he right about care al Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghan border? Isn't that --


STEPHENS: Yeah, but al Qaeda -- that misunderstands the nature of al Qaeda, which it was an ideal, it was a method, it was a network. So, yes, you're absolutely right. What we had in al Qaeda, at least in the northwest frontier, for the time being, has been diminished. But we have seen it metastasize in Iraq, in Syria, in North Africa, in Yemen. As a matter of fact, one of the points that Seth Jones makes is the number of --


GIGOT: He is the author of the Rand study.

STEPHENS: Right, of the Rand study, is that the number of jihadi fighters have gone from 50,000 in 2010 to 100,000 now. The number of al Qaeda- related attacks has nearly tripled to 1000 a year.

GIGOT: How big of a threat, Dan, is this to us here or to Americans abroad?

HENNINGER: I think it's a huge threat, Paul. I mean, I believe that what ISIS has done in Iraq, which is essentially gain control of about one-third of that country and its infrastructure, makes this sort of -- it changes everything.


GIGOT: This could be a terror enclave --


HENNINGER: It could be a terror enclave with financing, with oil revenue behind it. And that allows them to essentially restart what bin Laden was trying to do back in 2001.

GIGOT: In Afghanistan?

HENNINGER: In Afghanistan. They could hit U.S. installations overseas, whether its consulates, universities, hospitals, or they could try something in the U.S. And I think the lesson we're suggesting here is you simply can't stop with al Qaeda and terrorism. You always have to have a counter offensive actively pushing back against them because they will always push forward.


KAMINSKI: -- is that that's actually what people really do worry about that there is competition between these groups in Yemen, in Syria, and in every --


KAMINSKI: They don't necessarily coordinate things. But in a way, the group that is able to hit against a prominent Western target is the group that may think -- it's like it will emerge strongest.

GIGOT: So attacking America, in other words, is a big plum for these people. If they can do it, they will gain prestige.

STEPHENS: Right. And if you -- you just go along the border between Turkey and Syria, you'll see Western passports being sold on the market, stolen passports being sold on the market. So you will see the infiltration of trained jihadi fighters, people, young men who have been in the trenches in Syria, in Iraq, who know how to use guns, know how to use explosives, they and filter into back in places only like Brussels and Germany, but Minnesota and other places in the United States. We can't simply pretend that this is some kind of civil war happening, a sectarian war happening in a far-away country. This directly affects us. That's why the whole discussion about it, like it's Iraq's problem, is misguide misguided. It's our problem.

GIGOT: So what should we do about it? The American public, I think the people in the White House would say it has no appetite for that kind of intervention?

STEPHENS: Yeah, well, this is what the leadership is -- this is what presidential leadership --


GIGOT: The president of the United States should be going out and saying, look, this is a direct threat to the United States, we ought to do the following, and layout some assistance, military, diplomatic and elsewhere to our allies in the region to defeat this threat. Is that what you are saying?

STEPHENS: No, what I'm saying - what he should be saying -- of course, he is not or I doubt he is going to say it -- is this is a direct threat to the United States irrespective of what happens within the politics of Baghdad or other countries. We will not allow a caliphate to rise in northern Iraq. We will take these guys out and we are going to use targeted but intense military pressure to --


GIGOT: That's a repudiation, will be a repudiation of everything he's said during his presidency about this problem is under control. There is not a chance he is going to do that?

KAMINSKI: Because the White House thinks in very domestic political terms about foreign policy. And this is why we're in the mess we're in. I think one of the big problems is that the vacuum created by the American retreat, it is not only bringing al Qaeda in, but it's encouraging other countries to freelance. The Iranians are certainly intervening in Syria and Iraq. The Russians are sending planes to Iraq. And the Saudis are doing their own thing, too.

GIGOT: So the tide of war is not receding.

When we come back, it was a major blow to teacher unions and the public school status quo when a judge struck down California's tenure laws last month. Now the fight is headed to the Empire State. We will preview the next battle in the education wars, next.


GIGOT: Well, New York State is shaping up to be the next front in the battle over teacher tenure where school reform advocates there announcing in the last week that they will file a lawsuit claiming that the state's tenure system violates the constitutional right to a sound, basic education. The move comes just weeks after a judge struck down California's tenure laws, ruling that they violate the equal protection clause in that state's constitution and disproportionately harm poor minority students.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley and Matt Kaminski.

So, Dan, this was a big deal --


GIGOT: -- this California law. So tell us what happened and why it matters.

HENNINGER: Well, the lawsuit was brought challenging the California tenure system because they said that it adversely impacted kids going to inner city schools. And Judge Waltrue (ph), a state judge out there, said it does indeed violate both the California education and the spirit of the federal Supreme Court case of Brown v. The Board of Education.

GIGOT: But that was about segregation.

HENNINGER: That's about segregation --

GIGOT: This is about tenure, right?

HENNINGER: The problem with tenure is -- we can go into the details -- but it almost impossible to fire a bad teacher in California.

GIGOT: Oh, that's the issue.

HENNINGER: The judge called it uber due process, over-the-top due process. And as a result, the worst teachers end up continuing to teach in the toughest, hardest inner city school districts. And as a result, those students suffer and do not have their entitled right to a decent education.

GIGOT: So in essence, this is the new segregation? You're segregating them into terrible schools with bad teachers you cannot get rid of --

HENNINGER: by not holding teachers accountable.

GIGOT: -- certain circumstances.

Jason, is this the way we should be fighting this school reform battle, through the courts? Conservatives, including us, often say, you know, let's solve these policy issues through the political process and not through the courts. Why go through the courts in this case.

RILEY: Well, that's one way you have to go because the lawmakers are in the pockets largely of the unions. These are state laws that have been put in place. And the courts, in this case -- and there's another suit in New York now -- these kids are getting a second-class education because it's impossible to fire bad teachers. It's that simple.

And so what this really exposes, for me, is just how much the system puts the adults ahead of the kids. These tenure laws, these last-in-first laws cannot be justified on educational grounds. There is no educational basis for firing teachers based on seniority and not on whether they can teach. There's no education basis for giving a teacher a job for life after 18 months in the classroom regardless of whether she can teach or not. These are job-protection measures because the unions see public education as a jobs program.

GIGOT: You are basically saying that because the political system is so locked up and so impervious to change and so dominated by the union monopoly, and therefore, for decades after decade, if hurts kids, therefore, you have to avail yourself of the courts.

JASON: Traditionally, in the system -- we were just talking about Brown v. The Board of Education. You have had to go through the courts to --


GIGOT: Jim Crow in the south made reform and equal education impossible, and you're saying that now --


RILEY: I think you should political -- you should go the political route as far as it will take you. But you should not rule out going to the courts.

GIGOT: You know, Matt, Arne Duncan, secretary of education, in the Democratic administration, praised the ruling and said that this should be something that the -- the state officials take into consideration and think about and do something about. Yet, the state government, also run by Democrats in California and the unions, they are appealing this and they oppose the rule.

KAMINSKI: There is a rule split in the Democratic Party. New York City is being led in part by Robert Gibbs, President Obama's former press secretary. So there is a split in that party.

But I think what's important is ultimately for this to stick, it can't go through the courts. It has to be changed through the political process. It will be appealed and making it overturned as the judge going too far. But you have to change the state legislatures and to change these laws.

GIGOT: But I tell you what, Matt, even if it loses on appeal, this case in California or the one in New York or others that are going to be brought, I think, elsewhere in the country, if this gets to the Supreme Court, which I think it probably will, all bets are off. You could see the courts supporting this.

Could you not, Dan?

HENNINGER: Yeah. I think on the basis on the Brown v. The Board of Education legacy, and both the liberals might accept it and I think the conservatives, out of desperation, the sort we've been describing here, might sign on to supporting this argument.

GIGOT: Jason, what do you think about the legal prospects?

RILEY: I think that it is heading to the Supreme Court. The unions will not give up on this. They can't.

GIGOT: Right. No.

RILEY: This is the whole shebang for them. These are -- these directly threaten their workers, these laws. Overturning these laws directly threatens the job protections they fight for. But it is a shame, because they are putting it above the kids.

GIGOT: OK. Thank you.

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


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

Bret, first to you.

STEPHENS: Well, this is a hit to the U.S. soccer squad. Obviously, it is extremely disappointing that they lost in the round of 16 and extremely disappointing to lose to Belgium. We should consider, though, that we did better than past champion, Spain, who won in 2010, and past champion, Italy, which won in 2006. And it was a particular hit to our wonderful immigrant coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, from Germany, and I hope he re-ups. And I look forward to watching the squad in 2018.

GIGOT: All right, Collin?

LEVY: Paul, Bret will be happy to know that there is now an official White House petition to rename Washington's Reagan Airport after American goalkeeper, Tim Howard, for his meritorious service to the United States. The petitioners have to get 100,000 signatures in order to make this happen. It used to be 20,000 but then there was a petition to rebuild a star wars death star that got White House attention, so they raised the bar. Anyway, I don't know whether they will get there, but since it is the Fourth of July weekend, I will call this a hit to patriotism in all its many forms.

GIGOT: All right, but don't mess with Reagan Airport.


All right, Jason?

RILEY: This is a mess for the Obama administration, which is pressuring schools to suspend fewer black kids. I don't understand how this helps the kids who go to school to learn. Why are the administration's sympathies with the bullies instead of the kids there to get a decent education? I think a safe learning environment is much more important than racial parody and disciplinary outcomes. The Obama administration should get its priorities straight.

GIGOT: So, Bret, I'm going -- now that the United States is out, I'm going for Belgium, all the way. Appreciate the Belgians. Who is your favorite?

STEPHENS: Being married to a German woman, I am obligated, and also my kids, to root for Germany and have a good shot.

GIGOT: All right.

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 and to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. We'll see you right here next week.

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