Karl Rove on how Trump can keep his agenda on track

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This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 3, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens. The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States.


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

That was President Donald Trump Thursday announcing that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, making good on a central promise of his 2016 campaign.

The long-awaited decision, seen as a major blow to President Obama's legacy, but is it the blow to the environment that critics claim?

Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and Deputy editor Dan Henninger, Washington columnist Kim Strassel and columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

So, Mary, we'll get to the politics, which are considerable here, but first just as a decision, was it the right one?

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST: I think it was. And I think there were three major problems with this agreement.

The first is, in a cost-benefit analysis, the numbers just don't add up. I mean, the president - President Obama committed to certain regulations that would cost the economy a lot. And I think President Trump is right. It would cost jobs. But the pay-off was a very small in its projection and not enough really to make the cost worthwhile.

There was also a huge money transfer of $3 billion that was supposed to go to a United Nations green fund. And we know that we'd never see that money again.

GIGOT: Right. So, Dan, the argument, though, for staying in, there was a lot of pressure here, OK? The business community, a lot of businesses really wanted to just stay in because they've begun to think that this is good politics for them.


GIGOT: Marketing, that's right. But the argument that Scott Pruitt of the EPA made was that, if you stay in, even though maybe these were voluntary guidelines, estimates that you had to meet, you could be sued here in the United States by green groups that said, well, they may be voluntary, but we committed to them, you have to stick with them.

HENNINGER: Well, exactly right, which is to say that the agreement which was voluntary has no common metrics to evaluate it. It was basically a forcing mechanism. In other words, just as Pruitt said, once it was in place because this is simply an agreement, a voluntary agreement, people go, what's the harm? The harm is that it was going to enable them to then force those policies into place via the courts, in other words via a system that they couldn't do politically.

If the Paris agreement were that important, they would've had real policies in there with real enforcement mechanisms, but that was politically impossible. So, now they have to come in through this backdoor.

GIGOT: Kim, this was a combination of free-market conservatives, who were opposed to this, populist nationalist conservatives also opposed to it, while much of the business community was for it.

How real was this debate in the White House? It looked like, at some point, there was something of a cliffhanger. Trump really didn't know which direction he was going to go.

KIMBERLY STRASSEL, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST: Reports are, Paul, that he was still uncertain about this pretty much right up until the announcement because this seems to be a style. He listens to opposing forces and you did have two very different sides in this.

You had guys like Scott Pruitt making very forcefully the argument about the economy and about how this agreement doesn't really help the environment. Guys like Steve Bannon, alongside him, saying this was a campaign promise, you need to keep with it.

But then you had folks reportedly, like Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, relatives of the president, and also Rex Tillerson, saying that for diplomatic reasons, you really needed to stay in. The blowback from the international community would just be too great.

GIGOT: Well, what about the blowback because it's substantial. I mean, I think Donald Trump said, look, we're going to renegotiate this, make it better terms, but quickly Angela Merkel and the Europeans, French and Italians said, no way, this is not going to happen. I suspect it's not going to happen.

STRASSEL: Look, I think that, for many people, and I heard Vice President Pence say this, this has become an ideology, global warming, and that is very much the case in international nations and some of our allies.

There was going to be blowback whether or not we pulled out of this agreement or whether we didn't actually live up to our commitments, which, by the way, under President Trump's agenda was never going to be possible.

This is certainly a cleaner way to do it and I think the Trump administration's way-forward is to say that they're going to continue to lead in other areas where there are, in fact, great agreement between us and our allies.

GIGOT: Mary, was it a mistake for the president not to say - some people advise, look, just submit this to the Senate, submit it as a treaty, President Obama submitted it - just said it was an executive agreement even though he was making enormous national commitments even though he was making enormous national commitments.

So, we're not - we're going to avoid Congress. If he had submitted it to the senate as a treaty, then he might have some Democrats who voted against it and it would look, I think, politically weaker. Now, I think some of the opponents are just going to try to wait him out.

O'GRADY: Yes, I think it would've been better if he did submit it to the Senate. But it's also a lesson for President Obama and the left in this country that if you're going to try to circumvent the democratic process, this is the kind of thing you're going to have to live with because the next president who comes along can reverse what you did.

So, President Obama used that kind of executive power in a way that I think really goes against what this country and the Constitution stands for.

HENNINGER: And, obviously, he has thrown down the gauntlet to his opposition, big time, the whole world. But what he did here was basically a political and economic reality check.

He's described the industries - paper, transportation, oil, steel where jobs would be lost and it's not so the Democrats are unaware of that. Barack Obama constantly and Hillary Clinton in her campaign would talk about all the good jobs that are going to be created by people making solar panels.

Now, what that meant is they knew that what they were proposing was going to cost jobs in these other industries. And Trump saying, I'm protecting those jobs in the here and now rather than waiting for the promise of solar panel jobs.

GIGOT: And the legal culture in America would have meant that the United States abided by whatever commitments we made, but China, India and, frankly, Europe, they have commitments that they don't live up to, but we would have, and that's a big difference.


GIGOT: Fresh off his first trip abroad, President Trump returned this week to the turmoil of leaks that have plagued his White House for months. Talk of a West Wing shakeup continue, with communications director Mike Dubke resigning and more departures rumored to come.

So, how can the president keep his agenda on track amid the turmoil. Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" columnist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove. He served as a senior advisor to President George W. Bush.

So, Karl, I want to ask you first about this decision to leave Paris because you experienced something similar to this in the Bush administration when the president decided not to embrace the Kyoto protocol. And there was a huge uproar then internationally. What advice do you have for the Trump administration on how to cope with something similar now?

KARL ROVE, WALL STREET JOURNAL COLUMNIST AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, you're absolutely right. This is deja vu all over again.

And one of my White House colleagues at the time who now teaches out at Stanford blogged last night that this is another example of what he calls QTIPS - quantitative total impact insignificant, total political impact significant.

So, this is - you're right. This is the right decision to make. The question is, is the president going to spend the next six or seven or eight or nine or ten days, he and his administration, explaining this to the American people in detail and giving an optimistic vision of what American leadership in this issue can mean?

Or are they going to move on to the next thing. And I think it's really vital that they win this issue. What we had to do was explain why we had something that was better than Kyoto, that we would focus on energy efficiency, and that by doing so we would reduce the absolute level of carbon emissions, but without beggaring our economy.

Because at the heart of the sort of the Paris agreement, the Paris Accord, is that the nations that commit to it are committing to make energy more expensive. It's going to be more expensive to drive your car, to cool or warm your home, to power the plant at which you work, right. And as a result, that's going to reduce economic growth and the prosperity of virtually every American and every American family.

So, they've got to make the argument. They've got to make the argument.

GIGOT: OK. Let's talk and let's move on to the news - the reports of a potential White House shakeup. You wrote about this for us this week. What do you think is the number one priority if the president really wants to get this thing back, this White House better organized and disciplined?

ROVE: Number one, go out and get the apparatus in place to handle the Russia investigation, so that it no longer consumes the time of the communicators of the White House and, to the degree possible, the policymakers of the White House, but you've got to get it done right.

GIGOT: Well, OK. What do you do there? Do you quarantine? You get a group that's going to deal with this full time and at any time you get another question about this, you say sorry, that group is handling it.

ROVE: That's absolutely right. And it's got to be led by the lawyers, not the communicators. You go out there and put the lawyers in charge and they're going to restrain the public comments.

You put the communicators in charge, particularly Trump likes to talk of his communicators as killers, you're going to stir up a lot of cable TV news and it's going to be really fun and entertaining to watch, but it will be debilitating to the White House. Compartmentalize this and downplay it.

GIGOT: OK. Well, how do you then control the president because one of the keys here has to be the president has to stop tweeting about Russia, just ignore it? I assume that would be your counsel, but doesn't look like he's containable on this.

ROVE: Yes. Look, he better get himself contained because most of the problems that are occurring now are problems that he causes, and particularly these tweets. And it's not just the tweets on Russia. A lot of these other tweets are unconstructive to the fulfillment of his agenda or the explanation of it to the American people.

Kim Strassel, whom you had on earlier, wrote a wonderful piece on Friday about how all these great things are happening and nobody knows about them. This week, as she pointed out, the Keystone - the Dakota Access Pipeline began moving energy and that's directly because of the administration.

Why didn't we have a White House ceremony where the president symbolically pushed a button to begin the pipeline and instead it got obscured by tweets. Angela Merkel trolled him for God's sake.

She's on a campaign trail out of Germany, makes a comment that antagonizes him and he goes after her. What the heck was that about?

GIGOT: I know. Well, that's the way he is and I'm not sure they can contain him. But let's talk about the staffing issue because one of the problems with this White House is a lot of the factions - factionalism inside it.

Does he need whatever - I know you respect Reince Priebus - I do - the current chief of staff. But I don't think Donald Trump has ever given him the clear authority to lead that White House, a disciplined White House. Does he need a new one, a new chief of staff?

ROVE: No, he needs to change his behavior because if he doesn't change his behavior, the same problems that are occurring today will occur under a new chief of staff. He needs to give Reince the ability - Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, the ability to find some low-level leaker and fire him as a message to the rest of the team.

He needs to give Reince the ability to discipline somebody who's backstabbing one of his or her colleagues in the West Wing and send a message that that's not tolerated. This has to start at the top.

Trump has to be committed. The president has to be committed to saying to people, when you leak against one of your colleagues, you're hurting me and hurting our agenda. And when you are failing to - when you're engaging in warfare, you're engaging warfare with me.

GIGOT: What about the communications shop here? Sean Spicer has taken so much abuse, but my sense of things is you could shuffle that shop around, put in a new spokesman. And unless you have more discipline from the top, it's not going to matter.

ROVE: Absolutely. Look, the communicators are, if you will, an expression of the rest of the White House. They're an expression of whether or not you have a disciplined plan of what you want your message to be and the message has to be connected intimately with what it is that you want your policy to be. So, results matter.

So, at the end of the day, this is not just about picking what's the nice message for today, it's about picking what is it there we're going to focus our attention on and how do we then explain that to the American people.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Karl. Appreciate it.

ROVE: You bet. Thank you, Paul.

GIGOT: When we come back, the Russia probe ramps up as former FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate and as the House issued some surprise subpoenas of its own.


GIGOT: New developments in the Russia probe this week as the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to former national security advisor Michael Flynn and President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

But in an unexpected turn, the panel also issued three other subpoenas, seeking records related to the unmasking of Trump transition members by a trio of former Obama administration officials - national security advisor Susan Rice, former CIA director John Brennan, and former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Joe Rago.

So, Kim, let's start with these three subpoenas about unmasking. How significant is this?

STRASSEL: It's very significant. If you look at the entire Russia question, the only crimes that we actually know have been committed have been the leaking of classified information to do with Mr. Flynn and others.

And so, what was notable about these subpoenas this week is that we have a new name of somebody who unmasked a Trump official. We don't know who yet, which Trump official.

GIGOT: Are we sure Samantha Power actually unmasked? Do we know that for sure?

STRASSEL: We have to assume that Devin Nunes, the head of the intelligence committee in the House, would not be sending a request asking for the details of Mrs. Power's unmasking unless, in fact, she had done it. We haven't had confirmation, but it's a very strong bet that that is indeed the case.

GIGOT: She has not commented yet on this, has she?

STRASSEL: Not so far. And so, we don't know. But we have had Susan Rice all but confirmed that she did indeed unmask Trump officials and Mr. Brennan as well too. So, it will be interesting to hear what she has to say, especially because it's very difficult to come up with a good reason for why the former ambassador to the United Nations would be unmasking officials.

GIGOT: All right. And what about Devin Nunes? He was supposed to recuse himself, I thought, from this probe and the Democrats are hitting him, saying, well, wait a minute, you're supposed to be out of the Russia probe, how can you issue subpoenas?

STRASSEL: No. Mr. Nunes very specifically recused himself from the Russia probe, but he has never recused himself from the question of who is doing leaking and who is doing unmasking in the White House or out of the White House.

GIGOT: All right. Let's talk, Joe, about this attempt in the White House now with news that they're going to - they're hiring some lawyers. Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump's longtime New York lawyer, is going to lead the defense for Trump.

They're going to create a unit in the White House, much as Karl Rove advised, that would deal with this, isolate it, try to quarantine it. Makes sense to me, but can they keep it contained.

JOSEPH RAGO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: It will certainly be a challenge. I think he has to go back to the presidency of Bill Clinton to find a White House that was able to kind of compartmentalize between moving their agenda and managing a scandal.

The benefit here is that you've got a lot of policy people that are getting pulled off on the Russia news of the day and can't do their actual day job.

GIGOT: Right.

RAGO: So, I think it's a shrewd move to try to put this in a dedicated unit and move on on other things.

GIGOT: Now, it doesn't mean the news won't be coming out. We're going to have Comey testify next week. If I've learned anything watching Jim Comey over the years, he's going to have some bit of news that will draw attention to his testimony and get back at Donald Trump for firing him. So, compartmentalization like this is utterly crucial.

RAGO: It is crucial, Paul, because, as Kim said earlier, only one possible crime has been identified and that is the unmasking of some of these Trump officials. For all of the volumes have been written about this, no one has yet identified a crime. Presumably Robert Mueller will do that.

So, when Comey testifies, the reporting will say, there are suggestions of - it sort of seems that. And then -

GIGOT: Possibility of.

RAGO: Possibility of. It isn't what - and Sean Spicer then gets asked questions that have no answers. They aren't answerable questions. So, there's no reason why the White House should be dealing with this ghost story and it makes complete sense to give it to the lawyers, who like Robert Mueller, are compartmentalized and they can talk to one another. The reporters want to talk to those lawyers, they can.

GIGOT: Kim, what about Jared Kushner. The report is that he had meetings with the Russian ambassador and actually requested to set up a backchannel communications using the Russian communication system.

That was the big story on the weekend. How serious is this in terms of implicating Kushner in anything untoward with the Russians?

STRASSEL: Well, to Dan's point, we don't know. (Inaudible 4:52 20) in fact, is Kushner's story is emblematic of all the problems we have right now with this Russia story and that you had unnamed sources in a sort of half-leaked reporting in the "Washington Post" saying that he had met with the Russian Ambassador to establish a back channel and he had potentially asked to use Russian's facilities in which to do this.

Then you've had subsequent reporting in which people close to Mr. Kushner said that this is nonsense that he set up one meeting, one discussion and that there was never any suggestion from him to use Russian facilities, so we just don't know and we're going to have to wait until we get to the end of some of these investigations to get some facts.

GIGOT: And shall be waiting here and watching. Thank you, Kim.

Still ahead. Amid rising tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon's missile defense program scores a direct hit. So, can we build on this week's success? We'll ask Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan next.


GIGOT: The US stepping up its response to the growing threat from North Korea, with the Pentagon announcing this week that it successfully shot down a mock intercontinental ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean. Defense officials are calling it a realistic test that mirrors the missile threat from Pyongyang.

And my next guest is calling it a clear message to an unstable dictator. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska introduced the bipartisan Advancing America's Missile Defense Act in the Senate last week. He joins me.

Senator, welcome.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN, R-ALASKA: Thank you, Paul. Great to be here.

GIGOT: So, you've been following North Korea. Just on terms of the nature of their threat now, can they hit Alaska yet with a missile?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, I think they're very close if they can't already as has been already demonstrated by North Korea. They've launched a satellite. So, they have the capability in terms of range to range very, very far distances.

The big issue that they're working on now is a reentry vehicle for a nuclear warhead and that should concern every American, not just people living in Alaska.

GIGOT: Well, and you read in the paper that five years or so, the experts say, they might be able to reach Seattle or Chicago. Could it be earlier than that?

SULLIVAN: Well, look, there's classified estimates, but in our intelligence community kind of over history has often kind of underestimated where the North Koreans are in terms of advances in terms of developing nuclear weapons and in terms of their intercontinental ballistic missile capability.

So, I think we need to assume that this is going to happen on a much sooner time track than the five years that you laid out. The intelligence estimates are kind of all over the map right now, but they're making advances almost weekly and we're seeing it right before our eyes.

GIGOT: And you're saying, this is an urgent threat that needs to be addressed?

SULLIVAN: Absolutely, it's an urgent threat. And the leaders of the intelligence community, our military leaders have stated publicly that it's no longer a matter of if, but when they're going to have this capability.

Think about it, Paul, an intercontinental ballistic nuclear threat that can range not just my great state or Hawaii, but New York City, Chicago, LA. It is a threat on our doorstep.

GIGOT: All right. So, we had the missile test this week. It's essentially described by the technicians as a bullet hitting a bullet.

SULLIVAN: Pretty remarkable.

GIGOT: Remarkable technical feat. But we have had tests - so, how important is this in your view in the development of missile defense?

SULLIVAN: It was very important because this was the first test. As you mentioned, we've done previous tests, but this was the first test that was testing the ability to actually hit an ICBM. And so, very high altitude -

GIGOT: Great degree of difficulty than some of the previous -

SULLIVAN: Much greater.

GIGOT: OK, alright. But we've had I think 17 tests of this system.


GIGOT: And nine of them have succeeded. That's only a 53 percent, if my math is good, success rate. And I think the American people might say, wait a minute, if the threat is as real as you say, then I don't want a one in two chance. We're not going to knock this thing down, what do we -

SULLIVAN: Well, look, that's the point of my bill, which is the threat is real. Our systems are advancing. There's no doubt about that. The test that the missile defense agency just conducted demonstrates that, but we need to do more. We need to do much more.

I think if we know that the threat is coming, it's the responsibility of the leaders in our country to say, we're going to be ready for it and be able to have a much higher success rate than you just mentioned than 50 percent of shooting down a rogue missile from North Korea or Iran.

GIGOT: So, we've got 44 interceptors by the end of, what, this year or next in Alaska at Fort Greely. We've got Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SULLIVAN: Correct.

GIGOT: What do you want to do? What should we do need to do next?

SULLIVAN: So, the key things that my bill would do - and by the way, it's a very bipartisan bill right now - is that it would increase the number of ground-based missile interceptors, 28 more, that would enable more testing and more silos, 14 more silos.

It would also accelerate the development of what they call multiple kill vehicles. So, this allows missiles when they're shot up, it's just not a bullet hitting a bullet, but several kill vehicles off one missile that up the chance of hitting the missile. And finally -

GIGOT: That raises the - up the chances that you're actually going to hit the thing.

SULLIVAN: Absolutely. And the technology is being developed. I think it's actually there. We need to deploy that in finally a space-based sensor system that would integrate all the layered missile defense that we have throughout the world - THAAD, Aegis, the defense systems back home as well.

GIGOT: Well, we just deployed a THAAD system to South Korea.

SULLIVAN: Correct.

GIGOT: But that and the Aegis system and the Iron Dome in Israel, those are just regional defenses.

SULLIVAN: Correct.

GIGOT: Those would not be able to shoot down an ICBM.

SULLIVAN: No. Well, I mean, if they're able to get something in the boost space. Correct. But what we don't have, and all the experts think we need it, is a system of sensors that can be deployed in space that integrate the different systems - THAAD, Aegis, the ground-based system back home - and make sure we have what the military calls an unblinking eye to make sure that everything in our different regional and homeland systems are integrated from a sensor perspective.

This is what the experts say we need. This is why my bill has it.

GIGOT: OK. You're going to try to put this into the defense authorization bill later this year -

SULLIVAN: Correct.

GIGOT: When you go this summer. Do you have any - what Democrats are supporting it because most Democrats have resisted a missile defense for years?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think that's changing. So, just - we just introduced this last week. Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono from Hawaii, Joe Manchin from West Virginia -

GIGOT: Too close for comfort to North Korea.

SULLIVAN: Well, I think their constituents might be asking what's going on and I think they are responding responsibly. But I think we're going to get a number of Democrats on board in addition to those three and a number of Republicans.

What's encouraging from my perspective, we have a range of very conservative Republicans, very liberal Democrats who are already co- sponsors of this bill, and to me that's a good sign of getting broad-based support.

GIGOT: All right, senator. Thanks for being here. We will be watching.

SULLIVAN: Okay. Thanks, Paul.

GIGOT: Still ahead, as the battle continues on Capitol Hill over repealing and replacing Obamacare, California liberals are embracing a single-payer system. So, is it a preview of the Democratic platform in 2020?


GIGOT: As the battle over health reform continues to play out on Capitol Hill, Democrats in California are moving ahead with a plan to make their state a single payer system. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the frontrunner to succeed Governor Jerry Brown next year, is running on the issue as the bill makes its way through the state legislature.

So, will national Democrats adopt the Golden State's single-payer stance in 2020. Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" editorial writer Allysia Finley. So, Allysia, they're really going to make - they really want to make the state taxpayers - the State of California pay for all healthcare for California citizens.

ALLYSIA FINLEY, ASSISTANT EDITOR OF OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, supposedly, they say this is going to be free, so taxpayers really supposedly wouldn't be paying.

Of course, you have to fund it somehow.

GIGOT: Yes, you do. So, what are they actually proposing here? Basically, anybody can get any coverage at any time?

FINLEY: Anyone - anywhere, anytime for free. No co-pays, no deductibles, no premiums.

GIGOT: You can't charge insurance premiums.

FINLEY: (inaudible 0:34 40) you can go - you don't need a referral to go see a specialist. If you want a knee surgery, you can go, get it for free, MRI for free.

GIGOT: What's the cost estimate of this because, as you say, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, as Milton Friedman famously said. So, somebody is going to pay for it.

The cost of this is going to be -

FINLEY: Well, they've estimated this - the Senate Appropriations Committee estimated it at about $400 billion. That's double the whole budget in whole California.

GIGOT: That's about the triple the whole -

FINLEY: That's about five bullet trains.

GIGOT: But it's still moving? I mean, they're actually going to -

FINLEY: The state senate just passed it yesterday.

GIGOT: But with or without -

FINLEY: Without any taxes because it does not have a funding (inaudible 1:22 40). So, it's kicking it over to the assembly, saying you guys figure out how to fund this.

GIGOT: You guys figure out how to pay for it. And meanwhile, we offer you the free stuff. That's fun. Somebody else will pay for it. Has Jerry Brown said - the governor said what he'll do with it?

FINLEY: He's thrown cold water on the idea, but if it gets to his desk, I'd imagine he'd actually veto it if only because he wants money to go to his bullet train instead.

GIGOT: And Gavin Newsom running on it, though. If he campaigns and wins on it, then presumably he will have to make some significant effort to pass it.

FINLEY: Right. But, again, you're going to need a two-thirds vote as a legislature, plus for the tax increases to fund it.

GIGOT: That's because of the California constitution.

FINLEY: Right. And you're going to have to overwrite the other constitutional provision. So, it will have to go to voters regardless.

GIGOT: At some point, OK.

So, Dan, this is - I think they're responding politically to the Bernie Sanders' success in the presidential campaign and the grassroots left in the Democratic Party. This is where the party is moving.

HENNINGER: This is where the party is moving. And I think you have to understand what the party - the Democratic Party has become, the party of the public sector where they've kind of just separated themselves from the private sector.

And I think the goal here is basically to gain power, offering the public a pre-entitlement like this, and then gain power and run with it until it falls apart. There is nothing more complicated and that's what the Democrats are doing.

If they can get it, they'll take it and go with it as long as they can.

GIGOT: Now, governor of Vermont - former governor of Vermont, Joe, Governor Shumlin, ran on this, I think, in 2012 or - 2014. He said I want to impose single-payer in the People's Republic of Vermont. He failed because there was just too much cost. He had to raise taxes so much, people would've fled the state.

RAGO: I mean, just an enormous increase in the tax burden, which would even apply to a rich state like California. The importance of these state- based movements is the states - the governors eventually find, they just can't afford it. But it's an exercise in signaling to say to national Democrats, we can't do this here, but you can do it in Washington. You can raise taxes by enough to impose some kind of system like this.

If Republicans, I think, in Congress can't pass the health care bill, this is where the Democratic Party is going and it's going to be the next big health care debate.

GIGOT: And you think it will be - this will be part of the agenda, the platform of the Democratic Party, or most of the candidates in 2020.

And let me - I think Andrew Cuomo, everybody knows, the New York governor is moving to run for president. I don't think he resists. I think he endorses a version of this.

RAGO: I wouldn't be surprised. He's already endorsed free college. Why not free healthcare?

GIGOT: But, no, I think this is going to be a real litmus test in the 2020 Democratic primary. And somebody is saying, well, the sort of hybrid system of Obamacare is the best we can do. That's not going to be an inspiring message. That's going to be a Hillary Clinton repeat.

GIGOT: So, Allysia, would you like to see them actually pass this, so the country can get a bird's eye view of what happens when somebody does?

FINLEY: Oh, yes. It would be enormously instructive and destructive. And I think California would be the perfect laboratory to test this on a large- scale.

GIGOT: Speaking as a Californian, you still have relatives -

FINLEY: (inaudible 4:44 40) want a free procedure and get someone else to pay for it.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you all very much. When we come back, as Democrats gear up for 2018, 2020 and beyond, could two faces from the past define the party's future.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost.



CLINTON: The use of my email account was turned into the biggest scandal since Lord knows when. This was the biggest nothing-burger ever. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. It was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor.

I never said I was a perfect candidate. And I certainly have never said I ran perfect campaigns, but don't know who is or did. And at some point, it sort of bleeds over into misogyny.


GIGOT: That was 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a conference in California on Wednesday, ticking off just a few of the many reasons she says she lost the election.

The former secretary of state joining another Obama administration alum this week and making a return to the public stage with former vice president Joe Biden officially launching his own political action committee, an indication, some say, that he may be considering a run in 2020.

We're back with Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, and Mary O'Grady.

So, Dan, I think it's fair to say the former secretary of state isn't moving on from her defeat. What do you think of her explanation?

HENNINGER: What I think of her explanation is, Paul, we know that about one-third of the people who voted for Trump actually voted against Hillary Clinton. And we just got a pretty good example of why they did that.

That could have been the president of the United States, whining about what happened to her email server and it being a big nothing-burger.

Hillary Clinton has been in public life her entire professional career. And her legacy right now is that she lost the Democratic presidency to Donald J. Trump.

GIGOT: That is really hard to take.

HENNINGER: Not as well as it is hard to take, she's getting hammered from within her own party. And Hillary, in her way, is now trying to give a rationalization for why she lost.

She's now got this elaborate conspiracy about how the Russians linked up with somebody in the Trump campaign because no matter what they were doing, it wouldn't have worked unless they had a contact in the Trump campaign. She has reached the point of desperation.

GIGOT: Do any of these explanations she offered, Mary, do they wash with you? Anything? The one thing that she might have a point about, in my view, is Jim Comey's intervention late in the campaign.

You did see voters - late voters turn towards Trump. I don't know if it was Comey, if it was just that that's what they wanted to change. But anything else seem fair?

O'GRADY: Well, the problem with the Comey argument is that she allowed the rest of the race to get so close that, yes, some little things could push people over the edge.

But I was really astounded that she tried the voter suppression line in Wisconsin. I mean, she never went to Wisconsin. And in the primary, you had the greatest turn out since 1972 in the primary, and that required voter ID.

So, to then say that in the general, because there was voter ID requirement, that was voter suppression is a ridiculous claim, and it makes her look foolish.

GIGOT: Kim, what about the argument that this - it came down to misogyny. Basically, she's saying that the fact that she was a woman was a disadvantage. Does that make any sense to you?

STRASSEL: It doesn't make any sense at all. All along, throughout this entire campaign, we talked about the power of women voters, how they come out, they're such an important swing group. And in the end, she didn't get enough of them to come out because she did not enthuse them or they deliberately voted against her in some very key groups. So, she underperformed.

So, there can be no argument here. Look, this is a woman who has held some of the highest offices in the land. She has run for the presidency twice. There were no barriers. She was anointed by her party for that position.

GIGOT: Both times. Both times.

STRASSEL: Both times. And to turn around and suggest that there was some inbuilt, in this country or within her party, animus against her because she is a woman is absolutely ludicrous.

GIGOT: All right. Let's move on to Joementum. Joe Biden, former VP, now a political action committee, clearly wants to stay in the game, vigorous at 74. Does this make sense to you with an eye towards 2020?

RAGO: It makes sense if you're Joe Biden or if you're somebody who's always wanted to be president. I mean these people are like the Terminator. They'll be crawling along the ground till their last piece of energy has run out.

GIGOT: But he is a joyful political character. I mean, he loves the game.

RAGO: They all love the game. That's why they can't -

GIGOT: I'm not so sure -

RAGO: Why he's in, they feel that Donald Trump is vulnerable. They've adopted a position of total resistance. They are not participating in this presidency at all and they feel that Trump is damaging himself. And they think that as well the Republicans in the Senate on things like healthcare and taxes are going to make it difficult for Trump to score any legislative victories.

Under those circumstances, someone like Joe Biden goes, I've got an opening if the Trump presidency starts to decline.

GIGOT: Well, and I think Joe Biden would have beaten Donald.

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