Is Sanders the better bet for Democrats against Trump?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," May 21, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal: Editorial Report," panic on the left as Bernie Sanders vows to push on to California, then to the convention.  So why can't Hillary Clinton close the deal?

Plus, she's promising to put Bill in charge of kick-starting the economy, but it's not her husband's Democratic Party anymore.

And, Donald Trump tees up his list of Supreme Court nominees as the remaining eight justices weigh in on Obama's birth control mandate.

But first, these headlines.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT., DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I should tell you that there are a lot of people out there, many of the pundits and politicians, they say Bernie Sanders should drop out.


SANDERS:  Let me be as clear as I can be.  I agree with you.  We are in until the last ballot is past.



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

A defiant Bernie Sanders vowing to say in the Democratic presidential race until the bitter end, despite a growing chorus on the left urging him to pack it in.  A new Fox News poll is the latest to show Sanders running stronger against Donald Trump in a general election matchup than Hillary Clinton.  So could he be the better bet for Democrats come November?

Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and "Best of the Web Today" columnist, James Taranto.

So, James, the Democratic establishment, including all of the columnists who love his Socialist ideas, are now turning on Bernie Sanders.  Why are they falling out of love?

JAMES TARANTO, BEST OF THE WEB TODAY COLUMNIST:  Well, I think Sanders is reminding them of the party's real problem, which is Mrs. Clinton.  They don't really want to think about how difficult it's going to be to run with her as their candidate in the fall, and Sanders is reminding them of her weakness.  She was supposed to have a coronation.  He was supposed to be a minor protest candidate.  The reason that he's done as well as he has is because of Hillary Clinton.

GIGOT:  They want him to get out so that -- right away she can focus on Trump.

TARANTO:  Right.  And so that they don't have to worry about her as much for at least a couple months.

GIGOT:  So, Dorothy, what about the argument that Sanders people are making that somehow he's being treated unfairly, that he's not getting the love that he deserves because of how well he's done.

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER:  Well, Sanders people are filled with Bernie-ingested martyrdom.  They all walk around perceiving a world full of "the system is rigged."  This is the fuel on which --


GIGOT:  But is it fair?  Is it a fair point?

RABINOWITZ:  No, it's not fair.  This is an election contest.  But this is exactly what happens when you're imbued with revolutionary ardor.  Bernie Sanders is not terribly different from Donald Trump in this one regard with his followers that they will question nothing and he will question none of their behavior, as you can see.

GIGOT:  He has won, Dorothy three of the last four major states.  And the one he lost, Kentucky, was very close.  Is this a case of Democrats having some buyer's remorse at the end of the campaign about Hillary Clinton, even though she's likely to be the nominee?

RABINOWITZ:  I don't think so.  I really don't.  This is the standard. People hang on to the bitter end.  I don't see a great difference here. The intense dislike of Hillary Clinton has fed into this story that he's the real victor, going to be, but obviously she has the nomination as she keeps saying, and as she keeps being censored for saying and noticing.

GIGOT:  But the polls, Dan, show that Sanders does better against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton does.  Could he be the better general election candidate?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  I think he could.  Those head to heads that have had Sanders beating Trump by double digits have been there for months, Paul.  They've always been sitting there without much comment at all.  I think that -- I think what it represents is a generic candidate, Democratic candidate, against Trump.  Hillary is the one that barely beats him.  If that candidate were Joe Biden or John Kerry, I think in a head to head, they also would be 10 percent ahead of Trump.

GIGOT:  I would even suggest that maybe Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who could lose to Donald Trump.

How does Hillary Clinton get Bernie Sanders and especially his supporters onboard, James?

TARANTO:  That's a very good question.  I agree with Dorothy that Sanders is not being cheated out of the nomination.  I think that's a ridiculous claim.

However, if his supporters feel that he's being cheated out of the nomination that's a political problem for the Democrats anyway.

GIGOT:  Right.

TARANTO:  Our colleague, Peggy Noonan, proposes in our paper this weekend that Mrs. Clinton should consider making Sanders her running mate to keep the party together and bring his supporters onboard.


GIGOT:  A 70-year-old ticket to try to drive the --


TARANTO:  Yeah, 144 years between them.


I first thought that was a ridiculous idea.  But reading Peggy's column, I kind of felt like the logic was surprisingly compelling.

GIGOT:  I know you don't agree with that.


RABINOWITZ:  Wait until the American people get a full, steady blast of Bernie Sanders, a man of the left, to put it mildly, for whom the entire American system has been poisoned his entire life, and there's no concealing it.  This is what is there in Bernie Sanders.  When you listen to him, why are you bothering me about the violence of my followers fighting for a better world?


It's the 1960s all over.  We're bombing campuses.


GIGOT:  So you don't think Sanders would help Hillary Clinton?

RABINOWITZ:  I think he would be an endless battle.

GIGOT:  So How does she get his supporters?  A speaking spot at the convention?  Sure, you'll give him a big spot on the platform.  He has already influenced her agenda in a major way on trade, taxes and health care, so many things.  How else does she mobilize those voters to keep them so they come out instead of staying home?

HENNINGER:  She could go up in front of cameras and say I'm a socialist.


Really.  This is the problem --

GIGOT:  That's not going to help.


GIGOT:  For the swing vote, that's not going to help.

HENNINGER:  That's exactly right.  That's why all these pundits are upset about Bernie because he's moved the party so far to the left, he's locking Hillary in to progressive positions that will make it impossible to pivot towards the center in the general election.

GIGOT:  Very quickly.

TARANTO:  She's moved to the left.  One thing he has that she doesn't have, even if she declares herself a socialist, is sincerity.



RABINOWITZ:  Sincerely, yes.

GIGOT:  Still ahead, Hillary Clinton promising to bring in Bill to shake up the sluggish economy.  But it's not her husband's Democratic party anymore. A look at Hill-onomics versus Bill-onomics, when we come back.



HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My husband, who I'm going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy, because he knows how to do it and --


CLINTON:  -- especially in places like coal country and inner cities and other parts of our country that have really been left out.


GIGOT:  Two for the price of one.  That was Hillary Clinton in Kentucky last weekend promising to put her husband in charge of kick-starting the economy.  But it's not Bill Clinton's Democratic Party anymore.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Wall Street Journal columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady; and editorial board member, Joe Rago.

So, Dan, putting Dollar Bill in charge of the economy.  Smart move?

HENNINGER:  We saw the revision.  She says now he's going to be in charge of inner cities and coal country, so it's mission impossible for Bill.


GIGOT:  What's been happening the last seven years?

HENNINGER:  Yeah, well, I think it was an expression of panic on her part. She thought that she needed more than what was working for her.  The big thing to look at here is her unfavorables.  Her untrustworthy polling numbers are at 55.  They're actually rising towards 60.  So she needed something and she thought she was bringing in the Democratic Party's most popular Democrat, but keep in mind, this is a guy they call Slick Willie. So if your untrustworthy numbers are high, how does this help?

GIGOT:  Well, she's saying -- she's trying to generate -- she's going to say, forget the last seven years, OK, now that she's pivoting to the general election.  Let's go back to the '90s, because, Mary, those were years of good, solid growth.  We can do it again, put Clintons in charge.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST:  She's not only saying forget the last seven years, she's saying forget the last five months.


She's been really far to the left, competing with Bernie Sanders, banging the drum about inequality, saying she's going to soak the rich.  And now she's looking ahead to the general and she's thinking, OK, I have to move to the center a little bit, and Bill Clinton, because he oversaw a strong economy, after, I remind you, after the Republicans won the House in 1996 --


GIGOT:  1994.

O'GRADY:  Sorry, in 1994.  She feels like that's a safe cover for her so that she can get to the center.

GIGOT:  The policies -- Mary's point is the policies are so different from what Hillary Clinton is proposing now versus what Bill Clinton pursued in the 1990s.  Give us some examples, Joe.

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER:  Right.  The point is that the Obama-era Democratic Party has repudiated the Clinton-era centrist economic agenda. If you look at trade, for example, Bill Clinton finalized NAFTA.  He put China into the World Trade Organization.  Now you have Hillary running against the Pacific trade deal that she helped negotiate as secretary of state.  If you look at taxes, Bill Clinton cut the capital gains tax rate. Hillary Clinton is proposing the largest increase in American history.  
There's really a contradiction there between rhetoric and reality.

O'GRADY:  Yeah.  And her narrative is that wages are low and people are struggling because the rich are too rich.

GIGOT:  Right.

O'GRADY:  That's her narrative.  That's not what Bill Clinton used to manage the economy in the '90s.

GIGOT:  I would go even further than -- I mean, Joe mentioned two most prominent ones.  But you've got entitlements.  Bill Clinton talked about reforming them.  Hillary Clinton wants to expand them.  You have welfare reform and labor policy.  Bill Clinton wanted to have work requirements and welfare to get more people onto the ladder of opportunity.  Hillary Clinton wants to expand all of these mandates and government assistance.  She doesn't want to reform welfare.

HENNINGER:  She doesn't want to reform welfare and she doesn't want to reform the regulatory state.  I mean, He did that.  She wants to expand Dodd/Frank and extend it to nonbanks.  She is in another one of these dilemmas where she cannot separate herself explicitly from Barack Obama, but she is trying always to signal people in the center that I am not going to continue the policies of the past.

GIGOT:  OK, so you would think, Mary, that it's an advantage to Donald Trump on the economy, and some of the polls show that.  How does Hillary Clinton fight back on the economy?  I guess, go after the rich?

O'GRADY:  Well, yeah, that's what she thinks will work.  And I don't think that's necessarily a bad strategy just because there's a wave of populism here, right, that we believe that marginal tax rates matter.

GIGOT:  Right.

O'GRADY:  That if you tax the rich, they don't do as much as they normally would to stimulate the economy.  But I think she's counting on the idea that there's this populist wave and that she's going to tell these people, who have had very depressed wages during the Obama years, that she's going to make them better off this way.

GIGOT:  Joe, is the economy an advantage for Trump as an issue?

RAGO:  It should be an advantage.  Is he going to have the wit to point out some of the contradictions we've been talking about?  He's not a policy guy.  It's really incumbent on him to learn his briefing book and be able to point out some of these differences between what she's saying and what she'll do as president.

GIGOT:  Any chances of that happening, Joe?

RAGO:  Who knows?


GIGOT:  When we come back, a big week for Supreme Court watchers with a narrow win for the Little Sisters of the Poor over Obamacare's birth control mandate.  And a list of potential nominees from Donald Trump.


GIGOT:  The Supreme Court once again taking center stage in the 2016 campaign as likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, releases a list of 11 potential nominees, and the remaining eight justices issue a decision in one of the most closely watched cases of the term.

We're back with Dan Henninger, James Taranto and Joe Rago.

So, Joe, the Little Sisters of the Poor case, a religious liberty case, a lot of people are saying this is a victory actually for the Little Sisters. You agree?

RAGO:  I do.  I don't think it's a narrow victory.  I think it's a pretty broad victory decided on narrow grounds.  What they were saying was, we want some kind of accommodation that actually accommodates our religious beliefs.

GIGOT:  So we don't have to follow the mandate on contraception and abortion as part of Obamacare law.

RAGO:  That's right.  And what the Supreme Court did was they said, after oral arguments, go back, is there a way to accommodate them and still achieve all the goals of this mandate, and the Obama administration admitted, yes, there was.  So what the court said was, all right, go back, figure out some kind of compromise that respects the tradition of religious pluralism in America and we will see if it happens.

GIGOT:  They vacated the lower court judgments against the Little Sisters of the Poor and said, you cannot in this decision punish the Little Sisters in the interim while this is being negotiated.  But the lower courts could come back if the Obama administration, James, does not agree to the accommodation that Joe suggests and rule against them and go against them again.

TARANTO:  Well, the big question is who replaces Justice Scalia.  If it's a Democratic appointee, either Merrick Garland or an appointee of Mrs. Clinton, then the case probably eventually works its way out and a majority of the court says the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their religion conscience.

GIGOT:  What chance do you think, Joe, is there that the administration will actually accommodate the Little Sisters?

RAGO:  There's a modest chance --


-- that they might do so.  This is really about militant cultural liberalism.  It's about coercion, forcing private institutions to accommodate the state, basically.  So they have been given a chance for a do-over.  We'll see if they take the invitation.

GIGOT:  James, what do you think of the court, how it's doing generally in the 4-4 split?

TARANTO:  It's very interesting the way it's been handling it.  The way they handled the Little Sisters case, basically ordering the parties of the case to work it out themselves, is something I haven't seen them do before.

There have been a couple cases where they issued one-sentence orders saying the decision of the lower court is upheld by a divided court.  That means they make no new law and the appeals court makes the decision.  So another thing I think we might see them do is issue very narrow unanimous decisions that just restate current law.

GIGOT:  All right, Dan, let's turn to Donald Trump's nominees, 11 names out there.  What do you think of them and was this a smart move?

HENNINGER:  It was a smart move.  Most people think they, by and large, are impressive, conservative jurists.  There's not too much dissent from that. The question is whether he would follow through on it.  He has a credibility problem.

I think, Paul, it would be very difficult for him, as president, to flip and just appoint a crony, because he's doing this to get the support of the conservative movement.  We are talking about a lot of voters.  If Trump were president and went back on this, his approval rating would drop to 40 percent within a month of his presidency.

GIGOT:  But here's the thing.

HENNINGER:  Nobody would want to do that.

GIGOT:  But here's the thing.  We still have a campaign.  The reason most nominees don't float these names beforehand is they can become targets. You are already seeing the left say, ah ha, this decision on abortion, this decision on religious liberty, this decision on contraception, and targeting those --


HENNINGER:  All reasons conservatives would support these people.  The left is making the case for us.

GIGOT:  So the advantage is to Trump to say, see, they are attacking my nominees, conservatives come on board.  Is that --


TARANTO:  That's exactly right.  The liberals are helping Trump solidify the conservative base, which is a problem for him because conservatives don't trust him.

GIGOT:  So you like the idea as well that he floated these names?  What do you think of them?

TARANTO:  Well, I had not heard of most of the names, and I follow this stuff very closely.  But I will give you an example.  I got an e-mail yesterday from a reader from Colorado who has been very skeptical of Trump. He said, if there's any chance that Allison Eid could end up on the Supreme Court, I'll hang a long sign.


Allison Eid is a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court.  So here's a conservative in a swing state who is warming to Trump as a result of it.

GIGOT:  There are a couple names, Joe, that were left off that I would like to have seen them on, Brent Cavanaugh of the D.C. circuit, Jeff Sutton, of the 6th circuit.  They are both very high-powered intellects of the kind that the court lost, conservative intellects, with Antonin Scalia.  So that's too bad.  You like the list?

RAGO:  Luckily, Trump says he may expand it if he needs to.  I think this was kind of born of necessity.  Supreme Court politics are so intense, Trump needed to convince Republicans that he would fight on behalf of principles that he's shown he maybe doesn't care all that much about.

GIGOT:  Do you agree with Dan that this boxes him in somewhat?  He would pay a political price if he went off this list?

RAGO:  Yeah, I think if he tries to appoint his butler or a relative or whatever, I think this makes it much harder.  He will face a lot more resistance.

GIGOT:  All right.  Thank you all.

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.


O'GRADY:  Paul, this is a miss for the Obama administration, which this week demonstrated its incurable ignorance about economics with a new wage regulation that doubles the salary level below which employees have to be paid overtime after 40 hours of work.  This demonstrates that President Obama thinks the only thing necessary to raise wages is that he can simply wave his arm and mandate it.  I'm predicting that companies will, in fact, make other adjustments so that their compensation costs don't go up.

GIGOT:  I think a fair bet.


RABINOWITZ:  Paul, this is a hit to HBO's magnificent production of "All the Way" about LJB's successful passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill in a time of enormous rancor between left and right, conservative and Democrat. Yet, they crossed the aisle, left and right, and produced this move for justice.  It would be nice to think that our political parties could one day have that character.

GIGOT:  All right.


HENNINGER:  A future miss to Google, which held a big presentation on artificial intelligence products this week, products that do your thinking for you.  One of the examples cited was, so if someone sends a photo of a grandchild to a grandparent, your cell phone will automatically reply, "Man, she's really cute.  Thanks."  You don't have to do anything.


HENNINGER:  This is --


GIGOT:  Do you like that, Dan?

HENNINGER:  I like that.  Some day, I will be able to go, "Siri, what should I think of Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominees?"


"They're all beautiful."


GIGOT:  All right.

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JER on FNC.

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


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