This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 4, 2017. 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.
Terror returned to New York City this week with a Halloween day attack in lower Manhattan that killed eight and injured a dozen more. The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old native of Uzbekistan, carried out the rampage with a rented Home Depot truck in a scene reminiscent of Barcelona, Stockholm, Berlin, London and Nice. The NYPD's counterterror chief calling it a textbook ISIS attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MILLER, COUNTERTERROR CHIEF, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: It appears that Mr. Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks. He did this in the name of ISIS. He appears to have followed almost exactly to a "T" the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Judge Michael Mukasey served as the 81st attorney general of the United States, and he also presided over the criminal prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing suspects.
Judge, good to have you here again.
MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here.
GIGOT: You heard John Miller. This is the kind of nightmare scenario for people who are trying to prevent this. Somebody self-radicalized here, very hard to stop.
MUKASEY: Well, self-radicalized is one of those phrases that, frankly, I'd like to bury because he didn't invent the doctrine, he didn't create the videos, the support system and everything else that goes with it. He was alone, in a sense, but somebody who had passed through the radar before.
GIGOT: What I mean by that is there is not links that would have shown him to have popped up on the screen where the FBI or NYPD could say, aha, he's somebody we need to watch. So he just pops up when he murders people.
GIGOT: So how do you prevent that?
MUKASEY: One way you prevent it is -- it's hard to prevent, obviously, somebody who's already here who's intent on doing that. It's not impossible, but it's hard. The if you have to get into the support system that he may have had, likely did have, you have to monitor web sites that do this, monitor them aggressively. And in part, we have to figure out what, for example, what extreme vetting really means. What are we vetting for? What we're vetting for is to find people who can't support either the legitimacy or the supremacy of secular law, which is what we have here in this country.
GIGOT: Very hard to do, though, when you're interviewing somebody at the border. In this case, this guy seems to have been just a regular person in Uzbekistan. And it isn't one of those countries that has been at the top of the list.
MUKASEY: I understand that. And he may not have betrayed this when he first came into the country, it was a long time ago. But we need to find people who will not create insular societies to have people live apart and get radicalized. And there are, by the way, techniques and technologies for checking that stuff out. One of them was developed with a grant from DHS, and they refused to implement it because it unduly invaded the privacy of people being questioned.
GIGOT: It seems to me that that's what you have to do though --
GIGOT: Because the border vetting would not, in this case, have worked. Or in some of the other cases, the fellow in San Bernardino, that wouldn't have worked. He was an American citizen. So you've got to try and get these people when they seem to be interested in this radical doctrine.
MUKASEY: Right. And it takes, it takes active pursuit, and it takes acknowledgment and knowledge of what it is you're pursuing.
GIGOT: OK. He was read his Miranda rights and processed in criminal court right away. Mistake?
MUKASEY: Yes. When you have somebody like that in custody, his principal value is not as a defendant. They've got a ton of evidence against him. They don't need his statement. His principal value is as a possible source of intelligence. If nothing else, at least to find out what he looked at, with whom he looked at it if there was anybody else and so on. That's what should have been the focus, not getting him into the criminal process.
GIGOT: Did you have a protocol when, in the Bush administration, for handling cases like this with interrogation?
MUKASEY: I think the protocol was pretty much to get intelligence first. They had, we had a system of, essentially, a clean team --
MUKASEY: -- going in and conducting questioning. But even that, I think, was somewhat put together ramshackle.
GIGOT: OK. Let's turn to the Robert Mueller probe. You saw the indictments this week of Paul Manafort and Mr. Gates and the plea deal with Papadopoulos. What do you make of them?
MUKASEY: Well, there are, they are a nice beginning, I suppose, if you're a prosecutor. But they are a beginning. And notably, the deal with pap adopt louse that has -- Papadopoulos that has everybody's eyebrows going up and down did not charge him with anything like collusion. He was charged with making a false statement.
GIGOT: Which is kind of the lowest level of prosecution --
MUKASEY: There's no such thing as collusion as a crime. You will look in vain in the criminal code to find a crime of collusion. Conspiracy, yes. But not collusion.
GIGOT: Why do you think they didn't charge conspiracy? I guess maybe they didn't have the evidence that he was conspiring with anybody?
MUKASEY: Correct. And what they advanced as the at the same statement of the crime or the statement of the criminal background shows that this guy was kind of a low-level climber who was trying to push his way to the top, talking about how wonderful it would be if Donald Trump went to Russia and a talked to Putin. And there's a little footnote in there that says that D.T., meaning Donald Trump, doesn't do these trips, and we ought to tell whoever this guy is talking to, we ought to turn him off and do it at a low level so that we don't send a signal. That looks like it was something that they thought was a hare-brained scheme.
GIGOT: In the Manafort and Gates cases, it seems to me if those two guys were going to cooperate, they would have cooperated already to get a lower, some kind of plea deal, because Mueller's throwing the book at them. I mean, these are, you know, serious charges with a lot of prison time.
MUKASEY: He's throwing a book at them but not necessarily the book. It doesn't charge, I mean, he talks about a fraudulent scheme, but he doesn't charge bank fraud which carries a 30-year penalty. He labels it conspiracy against the United States. There's no such crime. There's either conspiracy to violate a statute, like the bank robbery law or whatever, or there's conspiracy to defraud the United States. There's no such thing as conspiracy against the United States. He made it sound like treason.
GIGOT: He did.
MUKASEY: That's the heavy hand and the empty holster.
GIGOT: So you think there may be less here than meets the eye?
MUKASEY: There may be more, I don't know. But certainly, whatever's there wasn't uncorked in this indictment.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Judge. Appreciate it.
When we come back, in the wake of Tuesday's rampage, President Trump vows to shut down the visa program used by the terror suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, to enter the United States. But will an immigration crackdown prevent future attacks? Our panel weighs in on that and the latest in the Mueller probe, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Diversity, lottery sounds nice. It's not nice. It's not good. It's not good. It hasn't been good. We've been against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Following the terrorist attack in New York, I'm calling on Congress to immediately terminate the diversity visa lottery program. It's a disaster for our country. This program grants visas not on a basis of merit, but simply because applicants are randomly selected in an annual lottery. And the people put in that lottery are not that country's finest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: That was President Trump Thursday calling on Congress to end the diversity visa lottery. The State Department program admitted New York City terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov into the country in 2010. But would an immigration crackdown have stopped Tuesday's rampage, and will it prevent future terror attacks?
Let's ask columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, editorial board member, Mary Kissel, and Columnist Bill McGurn.
So, Bill, you heard Judge Mukasey.
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Right.
GIGOT: How would -- how worried should Trump be about these indictments?
MCGURN: About the Mueller indictments?
MCGURN: So far, I'm not so sure he has to be worried. There's no mention of Trump or collusion in these indictments. Look, the big question is, is this the tip of the iceberg? Or is it the iceberg? And we don't know.
I think this is one of the disadvantages of leaving these things to a special prosecutor rather than Congress which kind of airs them in public, and you get the information.
Mary, do you think that the -- Robert Mueller is going to investigate the other side of this? Which is the, how the FBI -- which he ran for a dozen years -- handled the Christopher Steele memo which is that memo, that dossier full of what seems to be discredited information about Donald Trump that was put together by Fusion GPS, recruited Christopher Steele, the former British spy, to put it together. And then the FBI, according to reporting, used it as part of its own investigation.
MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, he certainly should investigate it, Paul. We've also learned, of course, that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded that dossier, used it to smear --
GIGOT: Through Fusion GPS.
KISSEL: Fusion GPS, used it to smear the president. And the FBI also used it to some extent. We don't know if the FBI, for instance, used that dossier to obtain a court order to surveil the Trump campaigns. There are a lot of questions here, Paul, and I would hope in his position that, yes, he would investigate it.
GIGOT: And if he doesn't do it, do you hope that the intelligence committees do on Capitol Hill?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Yes. And I think they do intend to. I mean, the question about Mr. Mueller is he is a former FBI director, and he was also --
GIGOT: For 12 years.
HENNINGER: For 12 years. And he's close friends with James Comey. Now, nobody questions Mr. Mueller's integrity. And if anybody could overcome a conflict like that, perhaps it is him. But under normal circumstances, the appearance of a conflict like that would cause a person presumably to step back. It's just normally not the sort of thing you do.
GIGOT: Right, exactly.
I don't think you can say just on its face credibly say, look, I can investigate this body that I ran for 12 years. It's very hard to do.
MCGURN: Right. The FBI is now an issue in this investigation. It's not just did they use this. At one point they were trying to put Christopher Steele on the payroll. And the question is, why? How does, how do you go from being an opposition research person for one campaign to a paid FBI agent, FBI informant or something with information? So the FBI question is sort of coming to the surface higher than many of the other questions in terms of actual evidence.
GIGOT: All right, Mary, let's turn to the terror attack. What do you think of Trump's initial response immediately right out of the box, boom, kill the diversity visa program?
Is that an appropriate response?
KISSEL: Well, it's a political response because he referenced Chuck Schumer who was one of the cosponsors of the bill. Of course, it was a bipartisan bill, it was signed by the elder President Bush. So not accurate there. But --
GIGOT: To say that it's a Democratic program?
KISSEL: Exactly. But I think it would be more constructive to try to unify the country after an attack like this. I mean, this is really a shocking event. An ISIS attack in the heart of Manhattan in the shadow of the Freedom Tower. I mean, killing eight people, wounding dozens more.
And also I think, Paul, there's a question about when this guy was radicalized. It's unclear given the information we have so far if he was radicalized before he came into the country or if he self-radicalized after he came into the country. If the latter, then the visa program has nothing to do with this.
It seems that, certainly, we didn't -- when we vetted him, we didn't ask him enough about what his terror beliefs were. But it seems that from the early evidence it was here when, that he became radicalized. That's the nightmare scenario.
HENNINGER: It is, for sure. But, you know, we had the attempted bombing in Chelsea, New York, downtown New York a couple of year, that person is now on trial.
HENNINGER: And he had assembled a lot of bomb-making materials in New Jersey, ball bearings, fertilizer and so forth. Now, you know -- so forth. Software data analytics is getting to the point where they're able to assemble a lot of these data to have predictive value about people like this. I mean, look, amazon, google, they're all doing it in our own lives. Data analytics is everywhere, but it's now being used to predict, say, diseases, mass migrations. And the Defense Science Board has proposed doing this for terror, the CIA is already using it, and I think they're just going to get better at it over time, but there will be privacy questions raised about whether, you know, we should expose ourselves in this way. We do it every day.
GIGOT: And just briefly, Bill, the interrogation side of this, he seems to have been processed right away, moved right through the criminal justice system. They didn't pull him aside 30 days, they read him his Miranda rights. It seems to me the judge calls it a mistake.
MCGURN: This is my constant refrain. When an attack occurs, we say no one connected the dots, and after it subsides, we do everything to prevent it. Big data can do a big part, but a lot is human intelligence and interrogation citizen Mr. Knew -- as Mr. Mukasey said. There are whole groups of people in the United States that don't want us to find this information whether it's a police report on radicalization or the interrogations under the Bush administration.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you very much.
When we come back, calling them the most transformational cuts in a generation, House Republicans unveil their long-awaited tax plan. So does it live up to the hype? Find out next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This plan is for the middle- class families in this country who deserve a break. It is for the families who are out there living paycheck to paycheck who just keep getting squeezed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN BRADY, R-TEXAS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: With this bill, there's relief for real American families, there's relief for American workers, and there's tax relief for hard working job creators of all sizes. And with this bill, we will grow our economy by delivering more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks to Americans of all walks of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: That was House Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady, Thursday, unveiling the long-awaited details of the Republican plan to overhaul the tax code. The plan, released after weeks of internal negotiations, cuts the corporate tax rate at the top from 35 percent to 20 percent, and reduces individual income tax brackets from seven to four, maintaining a top rate of 39.6 percent for couples earning more than a million dollars.
Here with a look at what else is in the plan and who stands to benefit most, Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation.
Welcome, Scott. Good to see you.
SCOTT HODGE, PRESIDENT, TAX FOUNDATION: Thanks, Paul.
GIGOT: Looking at this bill overall, what do you think of the proposal, the reform?
HODGE: It reflects all of the compromises and all of the trade-offs that you have to make in coming up with comprehensive tax reform given the politics, the budgetary constraints they were under and, in many cases, the economics. Is and so on the one hand on the individual side of the ledger, they made some huge trade-offs, giving a lot of tax relief to the middle class, sacrificing lowering top class rates so they get no economic growth from the individual side of the ledger. They do get a lot of economic growth from the business or corporate side of the tax code by lowering that top rate for corporations. We estimate that that alone will actually lift the size of the economy by about 3 percent over the next decade. So that's great news. And perhaps on that point, no country on earth has ever dropped the corporate rate so far so fast as is proposed under this plan. That's really good news.
GIGOT: All right. The other thing on the business side, two elements, and I want you to talk about those. One, expensing 100 percent immediate for five years for businesses.
GIGOT: That's big pro-growth, I think, if I read your literature correct. But the other thing is small businesses, the so-called pass-throughs, most of them small businesses but some somewhat larger, that rates going down from 39.6 to 25. Those are big pro-growth as well?
HODGE: They are. They would have been more had the expensing provision been made permanent. This'll be somewhat like the Cash for Clunkers approach to tax policy where they're going to get a rush of growth up front, but that'll taper off over time, and they won't get the growth over the long term that they might expect. So that's more of a budget gimmick in some respects. On the business side, that'll be interesting to see because they are exempting an awful lot of businesses from that 25 percent rate because they're afraid of people gaming that system. Transferring what is, essentially, a wage income into business income to game the system. They've got a host of rules on that, they're going to make that extremely complicated. It'll be interesting to see how much growth you actually get from it.
GIGOT: Well, if you're a hardware store owner or a franchisee of a McDonald's or something like that, you're going to qualify for this.
GIGOT: The people they want to make sure don't game the system are the big tax lawyers or the consultants who can turn wage income and, oh, hey, I qualify for this lower rate. And if that happens, look, then they're paying 25, or as wage slaves like you and me and most of America are still going to pay at the higher rates. You don't want that.
HODGE: No, that's exactly right. And that's why they built in these very, very tough rules. Now, they're going to add a whole lot of complications to that, and I think we're already seeing some of the kickback from the small business groups because of that complexity and fact that so many of their memberships will not be eligible.
GIGOT: All right. You mentioned this so-called tax rut for the middle class. They've done it through a -- they're changing the rates and in some cases people are getting rate cuts at the middle or lower income levels, but they're also including increasing the child credit by $600 per child and adding a parental credit, a non-child dependent credit. That's very expensive. $640 billion over 10 years. But you suggested that's not going to help the economy much. Explain.
HODGE: No, it really doesn't. It's really more of a transfer program or a gift to people who have children. It may be good social policy, but it's not good tax policy, and it's not good economic policy. It does very little to stimulate economic growth because it's simply cutting people's taxes without encouraging them to work anymore or invest any more or save any more. So from all the economic standards that we use, it really does nothing for growth. It just becomes a big budget item. But it was, apparently, necessary for the politics of this, because they had to show that they were cutting taxes for the middle class.
GIGOT: Right. Well, the danger there is you end up with -- and it's basically a form of social engineering policy and it complicated the tax code, makes it harder to really reduce rates in the future at all. And we know there's an immediate cost because they aren't reducing the rates at the top. So does this suggest to you that we're -- the 39.6 percent rate - - which is really higher because you have that surcharge for Medicare as part of Obamacare, that we're talking about, you know, tax rates on people of means, you know, the affluent that are going to probably never fall below what they are now?
HODGE: That's probably right. In fact, there's a little kicker in here, Paul, where they have what they call a bubble where they're recapturing the benefits that a high-income person would get from the 12 percent tax rate, and they're taking that back at incomes above, say, a million dollars or two million dollars. So the rate will actually be closer to about 44 percent rather than 39.6. And then as you mentioned, it'll have the Obamacare surtax on there. So we're looking at tax rates in the mid 40s for those people who earn more than, say, a million or two million dollars.
GIGOT: Even in the upper 40s perhaps for some folks.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you, Scott Hodge. Appreciate it.
HODGE: You bet.
GIGOT: Still ahead, the scramble begins as Republican leaders try to deliver a tax cut to President Trump's desk, but Democrats aren't the only ones voicing opposition. A look at the fight within the GOP, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas. We are giving them a big, beautiful Christmas present in the form of a tremendous tax cut. It will be the biggest cut in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: President Trump Thursday vowing to pass tax cuts by the end of the year. But with Democrats united in opposition and some Republicans balking at the details released this week, can the GOP deliver on that promise?
We're back with Dan Henninger, Wall Street Journal editorial page writer, Kate Bachelder Odell, and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.
Kate, you looked at this bill in detail. You heard Scott Hodge. What do you make of it overall?
KATE BACHELDER ODELL, EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: Well, I think Scott's exactly right, that we're looking at a major pro-growth cut on the business side and nothing on the individual side that's going to make it meaningfully better. The House narrowly avoided sunsetting the corporate rate cut in years nine and ten which is a huge relief because companies make investment decisions longer than ten years. Now, to make the math work for the budget, they had to make other things temporary like the new parent credit, but that does nothing for growth and could be extended if Congress decides.
GIGOT: And the expensing provision, five years, as Scott said. But I think there'll be pressure to extend that after five years. That'd be my guess.
ODELL: Oh, absolutely. We'll just do this every five years if we have to.
So, Dan, the business side seems to be the best.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: The business side does, indeed, seem to be the best. Cutting the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
And let me address one issue here which is that the Democrats -- and some in the media -- are highlighting the fact that the big cuts are for corporations. Cut is coming for corporations as though they're something out of a science fiction movie where they just sit there in spats running the world.
Corporations, the idea is to create more capital investment which expands jobs, which the last time I looked is the way most people support their families, and to allow wages to rise over time. That's a bigger deal than getting a small tax cut for most people. A real job with a higher wage. And that is presumably, surely what will happen if you cut that 35 percent rate down to 20.
GIGOT: And, James, making us more competitive with the world. You wrote for years in the Obama administration about these inversions.
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Yes.
GIGOT: Where businesses would say I can't take the U.S. rate anymore, I'm going to move to London, Ireland or even Canada, for heaven sake.
GIGOT: And this would be making our code much more competitive globally.
FREEMAN: Yes. So we've got the highest tax rate in the industrialized world. And now this is going to bring us, when you throw in the state taxes, back to average. We're going to achieve mediocrity with this cut, but that's fine.
GIGOT: It's still a little bit below. It's 24 for the OECD average, I think.
FREEMAN: Right. So if you take the 20 percent federal in this bill, you add the state taxes, you're roughly in that ballpark, which is good enough because there are so many other reasons to invest in the United States. If we can finally now get competitive on the tax side, you can really see that growth kick up. We got a couple of good quarters now, maybe it keeps going. And that's what's really exciting.
But keep in mind there are tons of individual tax cuts in here. I know a lot of folks in the media want to talk about the corporations and we love that that rate's getting competitive, but the 10 percent rate at the bottom end is now zero. So huge tax cut for individuals, for families.
GIGOT: Kate, take that on.
ODELL: We don't want a tax code that takes millions more people off the rolls and relies on a smaller pool of taxpayers to fund the government. And I would also note we've got things like state and local deduction which right now is still eliminated --
GIGOT: Which you think is good.
ODELL: Which I think is good, but will it raise taxes for individuals in some high-tax areas. New York and California Republicans have been won over by this compromise that they're working on. But anyway, we've also got a mortgage interest deduction cap, $500,000 --
ODELL: -- for new homes, which that's being treat as a tax increase on the middle class --
GIGOT: But it isn't.
ODELL: -- but it's ridiculous, exactly.
GIGOT: This is basically saying we are subsidizing for affluent homeowners, which we're going to take away. Which is the whole point of tax reform. What you want to do is take away the special breaks for certain kinds of behavior to be able to reduce the tax rates for everybody.
ODELL: True. But I think House Republicans deserve credit for capping the mortgage interest deduction, because their original blueprint left it untouched, the realtors went wild and said this would be a tax increase on the middle class, which is ridiculous, and the House Republicans said, OK, if you're going to be greedy, we'll cap the deduction.
GIGOT: What they disliked was the doubling of the standard deduction because they said, oh, fewer people will itemize, Dan, on their taxes, but that's OK. I mean, you want the similar simplicity for most people, if possible, just a postcard on tax reform. And that's a benefit for a lot of taxpayers, will be simplicity. The problem I have is you're not cutting any rates, you know, very much at all.
HENNINGER: Yes. And the question is why not. Something we should make clear to our viewers as they try to watch the tax bill move through the sausage factory over the next month is that the Republicans are constrained by something called the Byrd rule in the Senate, rule set up by Senator Robert Byrd, which means you cannot increase the deficit over 10 years.
GIGOT: After 10 years.
HENNINGER: After 10 years. They have this ceiling. And they have to squeeze all of this tax cutting into that window. And that's why you see all this manipulation of math inside the tax bill. If that didn't exist, you'd be able to get a much simpler, cleaner bill.
FREEMAN: You also have the problem in the Senate that they don't understand the way the House does, how the economy works. So the House, they've got a lot of these individual cuts, but they understand you've got to get that corporate rate down immediately. Unfortunately, Republicans in the Senate -- Marco Rubio doesn't really get economics, it's not his strong suit. So they're pushing for more and more on the individual side that doesn't grow the economy.
GIGOT: Thank you all.
Still ahead, President Trump embarks on his first official trip to Asia amid growing tensions in the region. What to look for as the high-stakes tour gets under way, next.
GIGOT: President Trump departed Friday for his first official visit to Asia. The 12-day, five-country tour includes stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and comes amid growing tensions in the region, including Kim Jong-Un's nuclear provocations in North Korea and Xi Jinping's tightening grip on power in China.
We're back with Dan Henninger, Mary Kissel and Bill McGurn.
So, Mary, what should we look for on this trip?
MARY KISSELL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, I think his itinerary shows the priority. First, to Japan and then to South Korea South Korea. Obviously, the focus is to show solidarity against North Korea. And then he goes to China where he's going to exert, I think, more pressure on Beijing to tighten the financial strings to the north. The southern leg of the trip, when he goes to Philippines and Vietnam, that is all about China because those countries are important allies in terms of our containment of China. He's trying to reestablish U.S. Deterrence in the region. These are important priorities.
But my fear is, Paul, that he might go and talk about a trade and what he calls fair trade, focus on trade deficits instead of talking about free and open trade, the kind of liberalization that we need to emphasize.
GIGOT: On that point, Mary, if he goes to South Korea and Japan, to say we need to unite against Beijing, here's your priority, and then you say, oh, and by the way, folks, you need to make sure you make this trade concession to us and the following trade concession to us, that undercuts part of his message.
KISSEL: Yes, it certainly does. By the way, it's tough for Japan and South Korea to be friends in the first place given --
GIGOT: Their history.
KISSEL: -- their history together.
One other thing that I'd note, President Trump has not spoken very much about human rights and democracy. He's going to many countries on this trip that have a terrible record, including China, including Vietnam, including the Philippines. One of the briefings this week noted that Trump has a warm rapport with Rodrigo Duterte, not a good look for the administration, because it sends a message to the people of this country, not just the leadership.
HENNINGER: Well, I think one thing you're seeing here is what we might call a pivot to Asia, remember that?
Barack Obama's famous pivot to Asia, except that Obama pivoted to Iran to do the nuclear deal for most of his presidency even as North Korea was continuing to develop thermonuclear weapons, lobbing missiles over the Sea of Japan. And this has gotten the attention of the American people. North Korea's clearly a threat. These other countries other than China that he's visiting are worried about China pushing into the south China sea. And what he's going to do, something that the national security council adviser, General McMaster, really wants to do, and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, is reconstitute our alliances over there and get a sort of broadened security network that doesn't rely solely on the United States protecting the region, but has -- pulls in all of these other countries in an alliance that will push back against North Korea and China.
GIGOT: Bill, I was in Tokyo and Singapore last week, and the message that I heard consistently was that they want from the president reassurance of the U.S. commitment. What they fear is that Trump is not something distinctive, but that he's a continuation of what Obama started.
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST: Right, right.
GIGOT: And Obama withdrew us from that part of the world, notwithstanding the rhetoric of the pivot. There were no resources he put behind it or very few. And they see China on the ascendance filling the gap left by American retreat, and they fear with Trump's withdrawal from the Pacific trade deal, for example, that he's going to continue that. What they're looking for here is him saying, no, we're not.
MCGURN: Right. Look, the reality starts with the post-war experience of American leadership in Asia. Help these countries Democratize, helped trade, helped enrich them, and it's been very good for the United States --
GIGOT: And I should just tell people, you lived in Hong Kong for many years.
MCGURN: Right, right. And it's been very good for Asia. And for the most part, who are the two people opposed to that? China, because it's a big country and it wants to dominate its own region, and North Korea because they're just a belligerent, nasty little country.
And these are the two issues for Donald Trump. North Korea's his red line, right? Donald Trump seldom gets to play the good cop, but H.R. McMaster just came out and said that if North Korea, you know, acted aggressively, we would use all capabilities, and I think that's a good message for North Korea.
HENNINGER: In his press conference yesterday, McMaster said the current policy is the -- is the end of the beginning of their policy. In other words, impose sanctions. And they clearly have a set of plans that they intend to implement --
GIGOT: Regarding North Korea.
HENNINGER: Yes, regarding North Korea.
MCGURN: And the second thing is that Donald Trump has been worried about China. It was part of his issue in the campaign. Unfortunately, I think the lack of a trade agenda -- the countries in Asia are either going to be dominated economically by the United States or by China. And when you withdraw that way and when you suggest your leadership might not quite be there, you're elevating China, because China will fill the gap.
GIGOT: All right. Thank you all.
When we come back, as polls continue to tighten ahead of Tuesday's vote, the Virginia governor's race takes an ugly turn with Democrats linking Republican Ed Gillespie to white supremacists. The details, next.
GIGOT: With polls tightening ahead of Tuesday's vote, the race for Virginia governor took an ugly turn this week with a group called the Latino Victory Fund launching this ad attacking Republican Candidate Ed Gillespie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Run!
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Run, run, run!
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Come on.
ANNOUNCER: Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by the American dream?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: The ad was pulled following the Halloween terror attack in New York City.
But it's not the first time the left has tried to link Gillespie to white nationalists. Last week, former Clinton campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, tweeted a picture of torch-bearing Neo-Nazis from Charlottesville with a caption, "Live look at Ed Gillespie campaign strategy meeting."
We're back with Dan Henninger, Kate Bachelder Odell and Bill McGurn.
So, Dan, what's the thinking behind that ad, and is it working?
HENNINGER: Well, the thinking behind the Northam ad is that they're trying to appeal to immigrants and so forth. They've replaced that ad, the one that's currently running associates Ed Gillespie literally with Donald Trump, shows them standing side by side. If you vote for Ed Gillespie, you're voting for Donald Trump. So Northam's strategy is to try to associate him with Trump and make it an election about Donald Trump rather than what's going on inside Virginia. Look, this is a turnout election. Northam has been having some problems animating minorities. He's got to have their vote. He needs the vote of people in northern Virginia who did not vote for Trump, and Gillespie needs the people in Virginia who did vote for Trump.
GIGOT: But is it working, Bill?
MCGURN: Probably not in the way it was intended. I'd say it's not just to associate Ed Gillespie with Donald Trump, but as you've seen, with the white supremacists that marched on Charlottesville. It's really an obscene ad and should be thought of the next time people complain about divisive GOP politics.
I think Ed's handling it wisely. His contributions online have increased because he has an ad attacking Northam for this ad, and he says it's not just that Ralph Northam disagrees with Ed Gillespie and his policies, it's that he disdains us.
The big problem that the Democrats have in Virginia is that the Obama coalition sometimes doesn't turn out for anyone but Barack Obama. And they're trying to mobilize them. That's the question, who's going to mobilize these people. And I think a lot of people in Virginia may be thinking they're tired of being called racist and white supremacist.
GIGOT: Kate, this would normally be a victory opportunity for Democrats, right? You have a Republican in the White House as president, that often helps turn out in the next year after that victory drive to the opposite party. That's been kind of the history in places like Virginia. But if -- and then the Democrats think, well, boy, if you can just associate Gillespie, as Dan said, with Trump, that's a sure winner. Not turning out to be.
ODELL: No. I think people watched that ad and even people who are politically unaffiliated say, oh, that's what the Democrats think of me, they think I'm a racist. I think the Democrats are so hungry for a victory because the GOP has more than 30 governors across the country, and they are so desperate to hold onto this governorship. One thing we're going to have to watch is how these suburban districts where Trump is really unpopular, if Gillespie can outperform Trump. The facts on the ground here should favor the Democrats, and if they can't pull this off, this is going to be a major defeat for them.
GIGOT: And Gillespie is focusing on Virginia issues, the economy, tax cut proposal is a big, big issue. But some people would criticize him for focusing on this gang, MS-13, which is the central American gang that murdered some people in Virginia, and Gillespie ran an ad about it saying - - linking Northam's opposition to a bill banning sanctuary cities.
GIGOT: And that's what -- Barack Obama came into the state and said, see, Gillespie is playing to fears.
HENNINGER: Yes, and also criticize Gillespie for running ads in which he says they should not be taking down all of the monuments such as Robert E. Lee.
GIGOT: But is that the politics of division as well, or do you think those are legitimate issues?
HENNINGER: They're obviously legitimate issues in Virginia. People are talking about these things. The Latin American gangs have been killing people. God knows the monuments are an issue.
And both of these candidates are trying to turn out votes. It's politics, for heaven sakes. This isn't a kindergarten exercise.
MCGURN: Yes. I was going to say, look, the monument issue is a big issue in Virginia which is chock full of -
-- Confederate monuments, as anyone that's lived there knows. And --
GIGOT: And Gillespie's view is these are part of our history --
MCGURN: We can have a plaque that puts them in context, and we're not just going to tear them down willy-nilly. Guess what? That's the view of the overwhelming majority of Virginians. Virginians have a right to know with where their governor is going to stand on sanctuary cities and so forth.
GIGOT: We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.
Bill, start us off.
MCGURN: Paul, a miss to the American Bar Association, which seems to be up to its old to tricks. It gave a not-qualified rating to Steve Grants (ph), Donald Trump's nominee for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ABA says it's worried whether Mr. Grants (ph) would be able to detach himself from his deeply-held social beliefs on issues like abortion. It twisted a "Law Review" article from 1999 to suggests he doesn't believe a lower court should follow a precedent. The best act of revenge is to confirm this man, which is going to happen.
FREEMAN: A hit, Paul, to American workers, who did a fantastic job in the third quarter creating more goods and services. Productivity finally rising again, up 3 percent. Let's hope this is the beginning of a trend.
GIGOT: That's after a long, long trough of really mediocre productivity results. And good jobs report on Friday as well.
FREEMAN: That's right.
ODELL: This is a hit for EPA's Scott Pruitt who, this week, said that scientists who get grants from EPA can't sit on advisory boards that advise the agency on scientific decisions. This is being treated as a war on independent science. But for years, the agency has been stacking these panels with sycophants who rely on the agency for funding and then rubber-stamp whatever EPA has to do. So this is great for good government. And other agencies like the Food and Drug Administration should do the same thing.
GIGOT: Bill, briefly, good week on judges.
MCGURN: Very good week. We had four appellate court judges confirmed. That's more than President Obama had his entire first year. So they're churning them through.
GIGOT: All right, thank you.
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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