Issues of national security dominate the 2016 campaign

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," September 10, 2016. 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.

Issues of national security dominating the presidential campaign this week as the nation commemorates the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump participated in a commander-in-chief forum Wednesday night before an audience of veterans and active-duty military personnel. And both candidates raised some eyebrows with their answers, with Donald Trump doubling down on his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton promising not to put ground troops in Syria and Iraq.


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he says great things about me I'm going to say great things about him me. I've already said he is very much of a leader. You can say isn't that a terrible thing? And the man has a very strong control over a country. Now it's a very different season and I don't know to like the system but certainly in that system he's been a leader. Far more than our president has been a leader.

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.


GIGOT: Joining the panel this week Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; columnists, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Bill McGurn; and Mary Kissel, host of Opinion Journal on "WSJ Live."

Dan, it seems to me the core argument that Hillary Clinton is trying to make here is that Donald Trump is unfit to be commander-in-chief, leading military forces, making life-and-death decisions. How did Trump meet that challenge?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, I thought he did pretty well, by and large, in that confrontation with her and Matt Lauer, though he has this propensity to shoot himself in the foot. And if that doesn't work, he shoots himself in the other foot with remarks like Putin has 82 percent approval rating --


-- and Russia making -- you wonder what's the other 18 percent or even where they are -- and seizing the oil. I mean, we didn't seize the oil.  We're not going to seize the oil. Why keep bringing it up?

That said, Paul, the fact is that in the CNN poll, Hillary Clinton's rating for commander-in-chief, people who want her to be commander-in-chief, is 50 percent. In The Washington Post, it's 46 percent. Why isn't a person who has been secretary of state for four years, a U.S. Senator, the most famous public woman in the world, getting more support than that to become commander-in-chief? Hillary Clinton has some sort of difficult ceiling that has fallen over her on these issues. I think there's room for Donald Trump to grow if he will stop shooting himself in the foot.

GIGOT: Mary?

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: I think Dan hits on the right point, but just to go a little bit further with it, the problem for Donald Trump is not that Hillary Clinton would be a disaster as commander-in-chief, but that he doesn't take advantage of the fact that the real problem in Iraq is that the Obama administration gave Iraq back after we had done the surge and we had a victory. And once they gave Iraq back, the whole thing fell apart. What does Trump do instead? He talks about we should never go to walk, which, A, is not true and, B, is not a very strong argument for national security.

GIGOT: There's a real debate whether or not he was opposed to the war at the start.

O'GRADY: He came out and said, yeah, that he was mildly in favor of going?

GIGOT: Bill, this Putin bromance by Trump, you know, Putin is somebody who is working against American interests in Europe and he's working against American interests in the Middle East.


GIGOT: Why would you say such favorable things about this authoritarian?  I don't get it.

MCGURN: Very simple reason, Paul, he's not Irish. If you're Irish --


-- you recognize enemy. "My enemy can also be my enemy."


And it's amazing, given, you know, his stand on Iran because Syria is crucial to Iran and so forth. He just seems to have a binary track that, because the Russians might kill some ISIS leaders, then they're on our side. We ignore Ukraine. Ignore Europe. We ignore the rest of the Syrian problem. So it's just -- I think it's a binary track.

GIGOT: He's playing into Hillary Clinton's hands with this, Mary.

MARY KISSEL, HOST, OPINION JOURNAL ON WSJ LIVE: He certainly is. He certainly is. It's a shame because there's so much about Hillary Clinton's record that you could critique. You could look, for example, her support of the Iran deal. You could look at the reset with Putin in Russia that went so wrong. You can look at her handling of Libya. You can look at Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and what she said about that.  And as Mary said, he just misses all of these opportunities.

GIGOT: On that Russia point, Hillary Clinton and a lot of Democrats, including President Obama, are now suddenly very hawkish about Vladimir Putin. That wasn't the case for six or seven years. And Hillary Clinton was the architect of the reset. Suddenly, she thinks it's back to the Cold War here. And some of that might be artificial?

O'GRADY: Right now, these two candidates are fighting for Independent and undecided voters. I think most of those voters are not expecting some kind of mapped-out plan about how they're going to, you know, defeat Vladimir Putin. But they want instincts. They want the right gut reaction. In the case of Russia, both Mrs. Clinton and Trump have treated the human rights violations inside the country as something that's totally unimportant.  That is not what the United States -- tradition of the United States has been since the Cold War.

GIGOT: Dan, what do you make of the ground troop assertion by Mrs. Clinton? No ground troops ever in Syria and Iraq.

HENNINGER: Yeah. I'll tell you what I make of that, Paul. What I make of that is that Hillary Clinton does not believe that, but Hillary Clinton said that because that's what her party wants her to say. This is not the party of Bill Clinton or the party of Harry Truman. It is now the Democratic party of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. And they do not want to commit the military anywhere in the world because that would require increases in military spending, which Donald Trump is proposing. Hillary Clinton is constrained by her party.  We have to keep that in mind that it isn't just this one person. It's an entire Democratic Party mindset that will govern her national security policy. That is not true on the Republican side with Donald Trump.

GIGOT: Briefly, Bill, by the way, there are troops, ground troops --


MCGURN: There are troops in Syria and Iraq.


And Americans don't realize what we have. Dan is absolutely right. The only thing the party cares about is her vote authorizing force in Iraq.  They don't care -- the worst vote was her opposition to the surge.

GIGOT: To the surge.

MCGURN: And so forth, which was political. But that party doesn't want us involved anywhere. And that's what she's going to be constrained by is she's elected president.

GIGOT: She may regret that because she may have to deploy ground troops to defeat ISIS.

MCGURN: Right.

GIGOT: All right.

Up next, the race for the White House continues to tighten with a new batch of polls showing Donald Trump closing in on Hillary Clinton nationally and even in key battleground states. Pollster Doug Schoen breaks it down, next.


GIGOT: More evidence this week that the race for president is tightening, with the latest RealClearPolitics polling average giving Hillary Clinton a narrow 2.7 point lead over Donald Trump, down from 4.5 points last week.  And in a four-way race, with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, that lead shrinks further to 2.1 point. Trump is chipping away at Clinton's lead in some battleground states as well with a new batch of Quinnipiac polls showing the race neck and neck in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Doug Schoen is a Democratic pollster and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Welcome back.


GIGOT: When you were last here, I gave you a hard time because the brace had widened with Clinton and you had said this is a really a pick-'em race.  Now it's back to where you said, so I congratulations.

SCHOEN: Thank you.

GIGOT: Now, why is it tightening again?

SCHOEN: A couple of reasons. First, the convention bounce that Secretary Clinton had has largely eroded. Second, the continuing e-mail scandal she has shown no signs of abating with the release of the FBI notes and additional emails. And third, Paul, I don't think fundamentally the American people or a majority of them want to elect Secretary Clinton. And they have two choices they have doubts about, Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump.

GIGOT: What are the doubts about Clinton? Is it the fact they're reluctant to vote for somebody in the public eye for 25 years and been so controversial and they want to move on to something new? Is it that basic?

SCHOEN: It is that basic. And there's one other thing. There is a lack of trust and credibility in the secretary of state, with negative ratings in those areas, around 60, sometimes as high as 65 percent. It's very hard, not impossible, I underscore, but very hard to get elected president when a majority, a substantial majority of the American people don't really think that you can be trusted to be honest and credible.

GIGOT: The flip side of that, OK, as I look at the polls here, head to head, it looks like her support has fallen.

SCHOEN: It has.

GIGOT: OK. But Trump's has not necessarily risen. So that's why they're now more or less even.

SCHOEN: Right.

GIGOT: So what does Trump have -- first of all, do you agree with that analysis?

SCHOEN: I do very much agree with that.

GIGOT: What has to happen for us to break out of that tie?

SCHOEN: People have different doubts about Trump. They wonder about his temperament. They wonder about his qualifications and his positions in some of the issues that we've been talking about, both you and I, on your panel earlier, about Russian and Putin, and foreign policy. The question is, is Donald Trump up to the job, which is why the first debate, I think, is so important. What I took away from the town hall with Matt Lauer was that Trump is in the hunt, is credible, but he's by no means closed the sale, Paul.

GIGOT: So is Trump now getting the support of enough Republicans to win?  I mean, my sense is he's got to get above 90 percent or so and he was down in the low to mid 70s before.

SCHOEN: He's gotten in the low to mid 80s now. So it's going in the right direction. The problem he has is getting the rest of the Republicans back so that the 90 percent number is hit, and then expanding his constituency with women and minorities to get at least a traditional Republican vote, because right now he's polling below norm in those two or three groups.

GIGOT: I talked to a Republican this week who said that, as he was following a race in August in Pennsylvania, for example, a state that Donald Trump says he can win and hopes to win.

SCHOEN: And needs to win.

GIGOT: OK. Needs to win. All right. But he said that if you looked at what happened in the Philadelphia suburbs, not the core of Philly, but in the suburbs where there are a lot of Republicans, Trump, the bottom fell out of his support in August. Who are those voters and what does he need to do to get them back?

SCHOEN: They are suburban, educated, moderate conservatives, certainly not extreme conservatives --


GIGOT: College educated?

SCHOEN: Absolutely, college educated, and people who see themselves as refined, civilized people who don't like the Clintons. They're not Democrats. But they pride themselves on their independence and their rationality. And much about the Trump message and presentation so far has been off putting.

GIGOT: The Judge Curiel attacks, the Khan attack, that would have rubbed them very much the wrong way.

SCHOEN: Absolutely, the wrong way. What they do respond to is a message of change because they don't like President Obama, they don't like Secretary Clinton. They want alternative politics and policies. So far, Trump has begun but hasn't quite developed a coherent narrative.

GIGOT:  We also have two third-party candidates.

SCHOEN: We do.

GIGOT: Particularly, Gary Johnson, a Libertarian. I see him in the polls seven percent to 12 percent.

SCHOEN: Correct.

GIGOT: That's higher than a Libertarian has looked in a long time in a presidential race. And Jill Stein, 3 percent or 4 percent. How do you explain their staying power and would you anticipate that that goes down over time?

SCHOEN: Sure. I think their staying power is a reflection of rejection of Trump and Clinton.

GIGOT: It's about those two?

SCHOEN: It's about those two.

One interesting thing with Gary Johnson, his voters on the down-ballot votes are about 2-1 Republican, but yet they are people who heretofore look like they're inclined towards Secretary Clinton in a two-way race than Donald Trump. So who they are and how they vote is going to be a key question going forward.

GIGOT: Why would they be Republicans and then be more inclined to vote for Mrs. Clinton? It's just --


SCHOEN: Disaffection from Donald Trump.

GIGOT: With Trump. So is it better for Trump or Clinton to have Johnson in the debates?

SCHOEN: I think it is probably better for Clinton to have him -- Johnson and Stein -- Stein won't be in, but Johnson -- to just deflect from the one-on-one confrontation. But so far, I think the Aleppo comment, not knowing where it was, that will freeze his vote.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Doug Schoen, for being here.

SCHOEN: Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT: We appreciate it.

When we come back, with scandals continuing to dog Hillary Clinton, her campaign turns the tables on Donald Trump, accusing the GOP nominee of some Pay-to-Play of his own.



BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I got tickled the other day when Mr. Trump called my foundation a criminal enterprise.


That was pretty funny considering he made a political contribution to the attorney general of Florida who at the time had an office investigating Trump University. And mysteriously the investigation vanished.


GIGOT: Former President Bill Clinton this week attempting to turn the tables on Donald Trumps as the fallout continues over Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server and accusations of Pay-to-Play at the Clinton Foundation. At issue is a $25,000 donation Trump's foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013 at the same time her office was considering joining an investigation into Trump University. Bondi decided against joining the multistate fraud probe. And Trump was recently forced to pay a $2500 fine to the IRS for making a political contribution through a tax-exempt charitable group.

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

Mary, Donald Trump famously said during the primaries, when I give a donation to politicians, I do it because I know I can buy them.


O'GRADY: Yeah.

GIGOT: Is this an illustration of that?

O'GRADY: I think it is. I think frankly it stinks. But to hear Bill Clinton accuse Donald Trump of Pay-to-Play is really a joke, isn't it?  This is the guy who took how many millions of dollars from authoritarian third world regimes for his own pocket? I mean, give me a break here.

GIGOT: So the Bondi episode is troubling to you, ethically?

O'GRADY: I think so.

GIGOT: Is that fair? Is that fair?

O'GRADY: Absolutely.

GIGOT: But it's a question of proportion?

Is that the issue, Bill?

MCGURN: Paul, I think it's two things. One is, the real scandal here is what's legal. If Donald Trump had made this a regular contribution, it would all be legal. It's because he did it through his charity. And second --

GIGOT: That's why he paid the fine.

MCGURN: That's why he paid the fine. But if he did it just as a regular contribution it would have been fine.

GIGOT: What do you think?

MCGURN: But it's still smelly.

GIGOT: What do you think?

MCGURN: I think it stinks. But the interesting thing about it the Bill Clinton defense is this is the classic Clinton defense, "They're as sleazy as we are."


GIGOT: Everybody does it, right, Dan?

HENNINGER: Well, yeah, I suppose everybody does do it, Paul. But we're talking about politics. And you know, on a scale of one to 10, the Clinton Foundation is about 100. And this Bondi thing is about a two. I mean, you're just not going to be able to sustain this contribution to Pam Bondi over the next two months.

On the other hand, Democrats all across the country have been pleading with the Clintons to separate themselves from the Clinton Foundation before the roof collapses on them. It's just one problem after another. And the Democrats are worried that there's going to be a landmine out there related to the Clinton Foundation that is going to blow up on them before the election. But they will not give it up. They say, all we do is good things with this charity --


-- end of story. That's not the end of the story.

GIGOT: All right.

But on the FBI notes released last week before the labor day holiday, conveniently, by the FBI, what did you learn from them, from that -- those documents that you think are significant?

O'GRADY: Well, I think, first of all, it confirmed the sense that people had about Jim Comey when he decided not to go after Hillary Clinton.

GIGOT: The FBI director.

O'GRADY: Yeah. I mean, he -- first of all, by releasing them on that Friday before a long weekend, there was a real sense that he was just trying to get it out there but at a time when it wouldn't get much press.  And then inside of those notes. you find that, you know, all of her denials about never having, you know, used her private server to do anything related to classified information are just out-and-out lies. And the FBI knew that. They did not bother to interview her at the beginning of the investigation but rather waited until the very end, which is very unusual for the way that these kinds of investigations go.

GIGOT: It happens, but not regular practice.

O'GRADY: It doesn't make sense really. But there's a whole string of strange things that happened in this so-called investigation that really don't add up. And leave the electorate feeling like Jim Comey really did not do a full-fledged investigation of her because she is the Democratic nominee for the election in November and he didn't want to blow that up.

GIGOT: Jim Comey issued a statement that leaked this week to former FBI officials, Mary, saying, look, I didn't do it, we only did it on that Friday, not for political reasons, we just wanted to get it out as soon as possible. You buying that?

KISSEL: No. Nobody buys that. And I thought the memo was frankly bizarre and very defensive in its tone. Comey is clearly feeling pressure not just internally from the current agents working for the FBI but also from retired agents, and who knows what else. But he, as Mary said, has very clearly damaged that agency's reputation.

MCGURN: I agree. Look, the situation we're in now is people not only don't believe Mrs. Clinton, they don't believe the FBI, because when you have to issue a memo like that telling people we don't play games --



MCGURN: -- it's because you're playing games.

GIGOT: It's not a good look.

MCGURN: And I think the thing is I think that within the bureau and former agents, they all recognize this.

GIGOT: Mary, do you think that the Bondi example neutralizes, as a political matter, and for the rest of the campaign, the Clinton problem with the e-mails of the foundation?

O'GRADY: I don't but that doesn't surprise you. Whether the electorate thinks so is a key question, especially these uncommitted voters who they're still trying to get. I think the reason why Bill Clinton found it so easy to explain what he thought happened in the Bondi case because he knows how it works and he's an expert at it. I think the magnitude of the Clinton problem is so much bigger than what happened with Trump that it's not going to be a big issue for Trump.

GIGOT: Briefly, Mary?

KISSEL: But let's be clear, Donald Trump paid a fine. What happened to Hillary Clinton for misusing all of this classified information? Nothing.

GIGOT: Maybe going to the White House.

Still ahead, U.S. intelligence officials are investigating what they say is a covert Russian plan to disrupt the American presidential election. So should the candidates brace for an October surprise?



CLINTON: We know, based on our own intelligence analysis, that the Russians were behind the hack of the DNC and the providing of information for it to be disclosed from the DNC.

Every American should be concerned about Russia doing anything to try to tilt and influence our election.


GIGOT: That was Hillary Clinton this week warning that Russia may be trying to sabotage the U.S. presidential election. Growing evidence that Moscow was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee earlier this summer as well as breach of election systems in Illinois and Arizona has U.S. intelligence agency on high alert. So should the candidates brace for an October surprise?

Gordon Crovitz is the "Information Age" columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Welcome, Gordon.


GIGOT: What do we know so far about the evidence that these were Russian hacks?

CROVITZ: Let's first start with Russia's info war strategy generally.  Stalin had something called special propaganda. Vladimir Putin is a KGB officer, learned all about it, updated it for the digital age. And what that entails is trying to create disillusionment and distrust in democracies about their own systems, whether it's NSA or government officials or maybe now voters.

GIGOT: And he has tried to influence elections in Europe.

CROVITZ: Absolutely. He hacked, or Russians hacked the Ukrainian Election Commission, Georgia. In the United States, we have 9,000 polling places across the country. We have many, many systems. We know how vulnerable every computer-generated piece of information is. This is why there's so much concern now about what the Russians might do next.

GIGOT: All right. Let's take the DNC hacks first. The public officials, the American officials are saying they think it's Russian hacks -- Russians behind it. But they haven't laid out a trail of evidence yet. The FBI is still investigating. What do you think? Do you think it was the Russians?

CROVITZ: I think there's no doubt that it was Russians. And it's not just the DNC. The Russians also almost certainly have all 60,000 of Hillary Clinton's e-mails, half of which, you will recall, she turned over.  Another 15,000 the FBI found.

GIGOT: What is -- Jim Comey and the FBI said there was evidence that people tried to hack her e-mails but there's no evidence that they got in.  Now, they can reverse-trace those things. Why would you -- are you so sure that they have her e-mails?

CROVITZ: It's much easier to reverse and determine if something has been hacked if it actually has any protection against hacking.



CROVITZ: Her home basement service had no protection and intelligence the officials believe that many, many countries have her e-mails, certainly including the Russians. So the Russians hacked -- got her e-mails.  There's also evidence of hacking, as we discussed, the DNC, but also the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. So Putin has at his fingertips much more information than American voters do about Hillary Clinton, about the Clinton Foundation. If there's an October surprise relating to the e-mails, they may come from Russia. The Russians are able to triangulate all of this information that is not available --


GIGOT: What it seems to me you've seen a series of public officials/Carter defense secretary, you saw the director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, all point to Russian involvement. You saw secretary Clinton in that clip saying that Russia is involved. It sounds to me like it's almost preemptive, saying, look, if something happens in October that's who is at fault and, by the way, it's Trump's buddy.


GIGOT: What do you think of that strategy on their part?

CROVITZ: Well, I think they may have stumbled on to what is actually happening. I think it probably is the Russians.


Whether it is because they're trying to support Trump, I think is a different question. The Russian strategy is to create discord and disillusionment and distrust generally.

GIGOT: Across the board.

CROVITZ: There evidence the RNC has been hacked as well, the Republican National Committee. So I think the Russians are an equal-opportunity disrupter in this area. It's a separate question of whether Putin supports Trump or not.

GIGOT: What about this issue of being able to disrupt the actual election, that is, the polling stations that you referred to? If you think about this, we have a close election, like a Florida 2000, and the complication, additional complication of the fact that there was some -- the accusation of foreign influence, I mean, we could have a real problem here with credibility of the next president.

CROVITZ: Yes. The hanging chads of some years ago.

GIGOT: Yeah. This would be much worse.

CROVITZ: Much worse. And difficult to detect, and may or may not be found.

One of the issues that people are concerned about to begin with is voting from overseas, where a lot of those ballots are transmitted digitally.  We'll start with that. And then there are the 9,000 polling places.

GIGOT: What can we do to prevent that from happening? I'm talking about the polling place disruption?

CROVITZ: I think it's very difficult. I think we've come to the issue quite late in the process. We don't really have systems in place. As you know, even the bigger government agencies --

GIGOT: Get hacked.


CROVITZ: -- get hacked. Certainly, home-brew computers got hacked.

GIGOT: So we don't want a close election.



GIGOT: The other thing is the response that the United States has done to hacking in the past. All right? We know they brought charges against a few hackers, feckless charges, in China. We know they did almost nothing, the administration did, against North Korea for the Sony hack. Has that been a message to the Russians that, hey -- or anybody else, hey, you know what, you can get away with it?

CROVITZ: You know, if there's no price to be paid, why not? I think that's what the Russians have learned so far.

GIGOT: I think, yeah, that's a reasonable -- reasonable conclusion. What should Obama do?

CROVITZ: I think there has to be some steps taken. Let's start with naming names, let's start with Obama and officially and on the record and not just unnamed officials. Let's start with that.

But then the United States actually is pretty good at its own hacking and its own cyber activities. Why not disclose Vladimir Putin's bank accounts?  Why not the bank accounts of his cronies? What about all the visas for the children of the cronies who don't want to live in Russia and prefer to live in the United States? There's a lot that an administration can do to discourage this sort of Russian info war.

GIGOT: Go on offense.

All right, Gordon, thank you for being here.

Still ahead, Libertarian Gary Johnson in the spotlight this week, but it's not necessarily for his strengths on foreign policy. Will his serious stumble hurt him as he fights for inclusion in the first presidential debate?



MATT LAUER, NBC ANCHOR: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?


LAUER: Aleppo?

JOHNSON: And what is Aleppo?

LAUER: You're kidding.



GIGOT: Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson taking some heat this week following that exchange on MSNBC. The Libertarian is holding steady at 9 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics national polling average, short of the 15 percent you need to participate in the presidential debates. But calls are growing for his inclusion, with 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, tweeting this week, "I hope voters get to see former GOP Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the debate stages this fall."

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

So, he's a noninterventionist, Gary Johnson, Mary, that's probably a good thing if you're not going intervene in Syria, if you don't know where it is or where the capitol is.


What do you make of -- what do you make in general of Johnson?

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: First of all, I think we should establish for the record that he's really not a Libertarian. I mean, Johnson was a former governor of New Mexico. He had many mainstream Republican positions. He's in favor of gay marriage, which is not a Libertarian position. The Libertarians say governments should not be involved in marriage. He is in favor --


GIGOT: And Mary knows Libertarians, OK?


O'GRADY: He is in favor of legalizing drugs, but largely because he believes that the prohibition on drugs is driving crime at the border and driving organized crime, and that's one of his big issues.

Having said all that, he is not an interventionist and, you know, that's why he got into trouble here. I happen to think that there was something charming about the way that he responded to can question --


--- because Gary Johnson has some -- I would say a modicum of humility.  And the other two candidates -- which is one reason why he's doing as well as he is in the polls, because people look at the other two candidates and they think they're actually crazy and not suited for the presidency.


So they're looking for someone who is sort of low key, understands he doesn't know everything all the time, and can kind of take advice from experts.

GIGOT: Dan, what do you make of Gary Johnson doing as well as he has in the polls? And how much is this going to -- this exchange going to hurt him? He's really desperately trying to get to 15 percent because if he can get there, or close, and he gets in the debates, that's what catapulted Ross Perot, for example, at the end of the race in 1992, the 19 percent he got. What do you make of Johnson's chances to get there?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, they don't look too good.  I'm of two minds on this issue, Paul. There's a part of me that would like Gary Johnson to get on this stage because people are talking about him as an alternative. And let's find out whether he is a credible candidate or whether, like Martin O'Malley, the failed Democratic presidential candidate, there's just nothing there.

Now, the cutoff is 15 percent, Paul. In the RealClearPolitics average right now, he's at 9 percent.

GIGOT: Right.

HENNINGER: That's a long way from 15 percent.

And I would not favor just pressing Gary Johnson into the debate now because that means you would have to bring in the Green Candidate Jill Stein as well, and it would turn it into a circus. I think four dancing elephants are more than the American people can handle right now.


GIGOT: I guess the argument would be, Mary, look, Johnson to really have a chance would have to start winning some states. And if you don't have a chance to win any states, then the election is going to come down to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the Electoral College. So should the voters get that to see those two go head to head without the distraction of a third-party candidate?

MARY KISSEL, HOST, OPINION JOURNAL ON WSJ LIVE: No, I don't think so. I think rules are rules. He's doing well in Utah and New Mexico and a place like Colorado. Of course, that's a big Libertarian state, a lot of marijuana over there.

GIGOT: They may carry Boulder. I don't know.

KISSEL: He may carry Boulder. But the line is set at 15 percent. It's set by the Commission on Presidential Debates and I --


KISSEL: And I believe in rules.

GIGOT: Any disagreement on that?

O'GRADY: I disagree only in a sense that one of the big issues in this campaign has to do with government spending, and neither one of the candidates has explained how they are going to deal with this huge deficit and rising debt. And Gary Johnson would force them to have to --


O'GRADY: --say something about that.


MCGURN: That's what a debate is for. Debate is for who is likely to be president of the United States. I think we do have rules. 15 percent --


GIGOT: Don't you want the issues debated though?

MCGURN: I do want the issues debated. But I think we do have rules and not just let -- look, the harder part for Gary Johnson is the really tough question to ask people is, who is Gary Johnson. Probably more people could identify Aleppo than a Libertarian candidate.

GIGOT: But isn't that the point then?

If -- if the polls show, Mary, that the people are so public -- the candidate, neither, in some polls, are close to winning. If they're so disenchant we'd the main candidates, why not give somebody like Johnson a chance on stage?

KISSEL: Because he has no mathematical chance of winning. The Commission on Presidential Debates, that's part of the criteria. You have to have a mathematical road to victory.

And by the way, let's not discount the moderators here. Do we really need Gary Johnson on the stage to have a debate about how to balance the federal budge budget?


KISSEL: Isn't that the job of the moderators?


MCGURN: Right.

GIGOT: To drive the questions, you mean?

KISSEL: To ask the hard questions.

GIGOT: All right.

When we come back, the Obama administration's war on for-profit colleges claims its latest victim. So is putting Bill Clinton on your payroll the key to survival for these embattled institutions?


GIGOT: The Obama administration's war on for-profit colleges continues, and the latest victim, ITT Technical Institute, which shut its doors this week stranding some 43,000 students at its 137 campuses nationwide. It's a fate that did not befall another for-profit college, Laureate International Universities, where former President Bill Clinton was paid $17.6 million between 2010 and 2015 to serve as its honorary chancellor.

Wall Street Journal editorial writer, Allysia Finley, joins us with more.

So, Allysia, you've been following this story for us. What was the case against ITT, and was it fair?

ALLYSIA FINLEY, EDITORIAL WRITER: Right. So ITT is a for-profit, meaning that it has shareholders. What happened is a bunch of regulators, a creditor, a creditor, as well as the SEC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, levied a bunch of accusations, allegations that were never proven in court. And the Department of Education used these allegations as a pretext to basically cut off federal aid to students, shutting down the college.

GIGOT: That would seem to be a violation of due process. I mean, do they get a chance --


FINLEY: Is that surprising?

GIGOT: Well, you're saying that because of the Obama administration campaign.

FINLEY: Right.

GIGOT: They did this against Corinthian, too.

FINLEY: Right so this is a pattern.

GIGOT: Was the claim that they're misusing -- abusing students who rely on loans from the federal government? Is that -- was that the nature of the accusation?

FINLEY: These are all very nebulous. But ironically, the CSPB and the SEC involve private student loans.

GIGOT: OK, that the students took out to go to the school.

FINLEY: Right, in which case, taxpayers are not on the hook.

GIGOT: This is part of a broader campaign that the administration has had.  What's motivating it?

FINLEY: One is that these for-profit colleges provide competition for community colleges, many of which are really struggling with enrollment.  And actually for-profit provide, in many cases, better programs, better suited for veterans, single mothers, non-traditional students, and that's really putting a crimp in the community colleges.

GIGOT: Some politicians just don't like that competition for community colleges, which are public institutions?

FINLEY: Right.

GIGOT: And some of them are very good.


GIGOT: But for the for-profits, some of these are online institutions, people who have to work for a living but want an extra degree, can't spend two or four years with mom and dad paying to go to school. Right? That's part of the attraction of some of these for-profit institutions.

FINLEY: Right. They serve principally low-income, minorities, a lot of veterans, and those students who are in the military. But these schools are also not unionized. So Democrats don't like that.

GIGOT: That's another issue.

FINLEY: That's another.

GIGOT: What about the performance of these schools like ITT versus, say, community colleges? Is the performance a lot worse or better or what?

FINLEY: It depends. It's a case-by-case basis. But at least we know in the case of ITT that its graduation rates were, in most cases, three to four times higher than a lot of the community colleges in the nearby areas.

GIGOT: What about their debt levels?

FINLEY: They did graduate with higher debt levels. But because they earned more 10 years after graduating, they are better able to pay off their debt.

GIGOT: Interesting.

OK. Dan, so let's turn to Bill Clinton and Laureate. $17.6 million, that's higher than the minimum wage. What do you make of that arrangement?  And what was the relation of Laureate to the State Department and Hillary Clinton?

HENNINGER: Well, I mean, it's just astonishing that a company like this would be paying Bill Clinton $17 million, to do what? It was mainly to be kind of a doorman, to introduce them to --


-- to people at the State Department, connect them to institutions overseas. They had institutions overseas. And nothing gets made of that.

I mean, I think the underlying story here, Paul, having listened to Allysia discuss what happened to ITT and Corinthian, consider the incredible power of the federal government to literally put private companies like this out of business without any real proof that they've committed a crime at all.  What country are we living in?

I would suggest as well that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, this sort of thing is going to continue. This is what the Democrats think -- is sort of the ideas Elizabeth Warren developed when she was head of the Consumer Financial Safety Bureau.


GIGOT: Bill, just briefly.

MCGURN: Yeah. Look, I think the larger story here is ideological.  Remember Mencken's line on Puritans? We have to rewrite it. American progressives are haunted by the idea that somebody somewhere is making a profit. And that's what they're going to go after. This might have been money well-spent for Laureate if it had brought them immunity from the General Obama war on private schools.

GIGOT: All right.

Thanks, Allysia.

Thanks, Bill.

Thanks, Dan.

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.

Dan, first to you.

HENNINGER: I'm giving my hit to Matt Lauer, the "Today" show host, who moderated the commander-in-chief forum. The day afterwards, every liberal pundit in Clintonista with access to a quick Twitter account barrel-bombed and carpet-bombed --


-- Matt Lauer because he was too hard on Hillary Clinton. So he must have been doing something right. But if the next commander-in-chief has to be protected from Matt Lauer, she's got a big problem.


GIGOT: He was just as tough on Trump, Dan, I thought.

All right, Mary.

KISSEL: I'd like to give a hit to U.S. hockey coach, George Tortorella, for telling his players this week, quote, "If they sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there for the rest of the game," end quote.  I think this is a good message, Paul. It's in response to San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusing to stand for the national anthem and the raising of the flag in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I think it goes to show, just because you can do something, it doesn't necessarily mean you should.

GIGOT: All right, thank you, Mary.


MCGURN: A miss to a Louisiana bakery that represents the latest chapter in the ongoing wars about who gets to bake what for what ceremonies.


This is not about marriage. An 18-year-old Louisiana girl named McKenzie Gill (ph) went to get a cake and she wanted a flag on the back and "Trump 2016" on it. The bakery refused her. She vented on Facebook and she went and got her cake elsewhere. So this is one young lady who bought her cake and ate it, too.


GIGOT: Mary?

O'GRADY: Paul, this is a hit for the human spirit. This is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. And I was there on that day. I never would have imagined what lower Manhattan looks like today. There are 29 hotels in the neighborhood compared to six on 9/11. There are 60,000 people living in the downtown area. That's three times what lived there in 2000. And last year, there were 14 million visitors to the area. Human beings will not be defeated.

GIGOT: Hear, hear, Mary.

Thank you.

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

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

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