Transcript: 'The Journal Editorial Report,' April 28, 2007

This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," April 28, 2007.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report:"


SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: After more than four years of a failed policy, it is time for Iraq to take responsibility for its future.


GIGOT: President Bush gets his veto pen ready as the House and Senate pass legislation that would pull troops out of Iraq.

Plus, two for the price of one. Hillary Clinton promises a role for husband, Bill, if elected. Is the country ready for a third Clinton term? Our panel weighs in, after these headlines.


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

As the House and Senate passed legislation this week calling for U.S. troops to come home from Iraq in the fall, General David Petraeus made the rounds in Washington citing some progress in the surge and calling the situation challenging and in need of a sustained U.S. commitment.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: The situation in Iraq is, in sum, exceedingly complex and very tough. Success will take continued commitment, perseverance and sacrifice. Because we are operating in new areas and challenging elements in those areas, this effort may get harder before it get easier. Success in the end will depend on Iraqi action.


GIGOT: Fouad Ajami is the director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University and author of "The Foreigner's Gift: the Americans, the Arabs and Iraqis in Iraq." He returned from Iraq late last month. His seventh trip there since the war began.

Fouad Ajami, welcome.


GIGOT: You wrote for us, in Baghdad, Iraqis and Americans alike recognize that this endeavor, this grand endeavor as you called it, reached its final decisive phase. What do you mean by that?

AJAMI: I think from your enormous space you gave me in your paper, Prime Minister Maliki knows this is the end game. He knows he doesn't have unlimited amount of time. I spent quite a bit of time with him.

It was his decision. I was his guest. He was very open. He understands the American political landscape. Senators and presidential candidates go and visit him. Even though he is a man who doesn't speak a word of English, literally, he has his eyes fixed on the American landscape.

He knows he has a certain amount of time. He knows it is his time now. He knows the American presence is not unlimited and the American patience is not unlimited. He is very, very -- in many ways he fully understands President Bush's dilemma here at home. And I think it is that time of this war.

GIGOT: You met General Petraeus?

AJAMI: Right.

GIGOT: You met a number of Iraqi and American officials.


GIGOT: What Americans want to know is if the surge is showing progress.

AJAMI: I think the surge is showing progress. You know Baghdad -- to the extent a stranger could tell. I stayed in the red zone. I didn't stay in the protected Green Zone. And I spent a loft of time in the compound of the Iraqi Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi.

I went around the city. There is an enormous amount of optimism among Iraqis. It is not an attempt to read onto them one own support for the war. These people really understand this is reckoning time for this war.

I think something else has happened in Baghdad, which we haven't come to terms with. An outcome has happened in Baghdad on the ground. The Sunni Arabs have lost battle for Baghdad. This has altered the landscape. We can talk about that.

GIGOT: Have the sectarian killings of Shia against Sunnis -- have they slowed down now that the surge has gone ahead?

AJAMI: I think the killing waxes and wanes. It is vulnerable to almost daily headlines. You say there is sectarian killing subsided, and then a horrible massacre happens.

I think what's really important is the emerging -- the emergence of a national consensus among Iraqis. The Sunni Arabs have begun to distance themselves from al Qaeda. They begin to understand a Tunisian or a Saudi who comes to Iraq doesn't intend and mean Iraqis well. And interestingly enough, the Shia, who depended on the Sadr Mehdi army, they really depended on them in...

GIGOT: This the radical army of Muqtada al Sadr, the cleric?

AJAMI: Exactly. Well, since the Americans -- since our people like acronyms - JAM, Jaish al-Mehdi. So the Shia are beginning to understand the Jaish al-Mehdi, which leveled the killing field in the year 2006, after that gruesome bombing in Samarra, which really changed the landscape in Iraq. They also -- the Shia are beginning to go beyond the Mehdi army. They don't want the chaos of the Mehdi army. They don't want the violence of the Mehdi army. They are more invested in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

GIGOT: Muqtada al Sadr's allies in the parliament resigned recently.


GIGOT: Is this a signal his political position in Iraq is being reduced or marginalized?

AJAMI: Absolutely. He took his six people in the cabinet -- he took them out of the cabinet. That was great news for all Iraqis because his cabinet members were the worse. They were the most corrupt. Several of them may have even been illiterate. I mean literally illiterate. His people had charge of the health ministry. They looted it. They plundered it. There were crooks. They were brigands. And I think many Shia are glad to be rid of them. And the hope is Prime Minister Maliki will step up and appoint six independent technocrats. Six people with degrees, committed the country. And that was a good thing.

GIGOT: You have recently written Maliki has come into his own. A lot of Americans in January I talked to, the senior levels in the Bush administration, didn't think the Maliki had the stuff to pull it off. You see signs that he dose. Tell us about that.

AJAMI: I think -- there is a famous memo, you have written about as well, the memo by Steve Hadley and the CIA advisors saying Maliki doesn't have it. He is a weak man. Perhaps he doesn't mean well. Even if he were to mean well, he is not that strong.

I can tell you from the bowels of the NSC people, no people have a different view of Maliki. Maliki has this video conference with the president. The president has a higher opinion of him than ever before. And he has come to dominate his cabinet. Much more so, I have to say, than the former Prime Minister, Jaafari. When we removed Jaafari, the odds were -- we didn't know what we were buying.

Maliki was an unknown entity in Iraq. More and more political leaders in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites, have nothing but praise for Maliki. He is a decisive man. He's a decent man. He's a modest man. He never really scripted for himself to be to be prime minister. When you see him, there is there is that kind of earnest about his mission and about what he has to do.

GIGOT: All right, Fouad. Stay with us. We'll have more after this.

When we come back, Harry Reid's war. The Senate majority leader says the surge has failed and that Democrats will pick up seats as a result.

And a third Clinton term. Hillary says, if she's elected, there is a place for Bill in her administration.

Our panel tackles those topics and our "Hits and Misses" of the week when the "Journal Editorial Report" continues.



DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some Democratic leaders seem to believe blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics. Senator Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election.

It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage?


GIGOT: A war of words in Washington as Vice President Dick Cheney responds to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claim that Democrats will, quote, "pick up Senate seats as a result of the war."

We are back joining with Fouad Ajami. Also joining the panel "Wall Street Journal" Columnist and editorial page deputy editor Dan Henninger, and foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens.

Fouad, how do you think a vote like the one we had in the House and the Senate this week will be interpreted in Baghdad by both U.S. forces and our allies?

AJAMI: I think the Iraqis know what is going on in Washington and even a man like Nouri Maliki, who, as we said, doesn't speak English, who spent most of his years in exile in Syria, he knows the landscape in Washington. He knows -- he knows the mood in the country. But he also knows the president will veto this legislation.

Iraqis are totally invested in George W. Bush. They respect him. They take his word. I think they believe he is going to give them the rest of his presidency. That until January 2009, January 20, when he is off to Crawford, he calls the shots. And he'll stay with them.

GIGOT: But does it make it easier or harder for the Iraqis to come to a political accommodation that the Democrats say is our entire point here.

AJAMI: I don't know. I think the Iraqis are sophisticated enough to know there is a fight over their war and country. They know there is bias and remorse about this war. But they truly are invested in President Bush. They saw him go beyond the Baker-Hamilton Commission's recommendation. They have faith in him and in this effort.

GIGOT: Dan, Democrats say that they know that the president is going to veto this. So they have to, at some point, fund the troops. What are they trying to accomplish here?

DAN HENNINGER, "WSJ" EDITORIAL PAGE DEPUTY EDITOR: I think it is -- unfortunately, it does relate to that quote on the screen from Harry Reid about picking up seats in the Senate. I mean, there is a sense -- Joe Lieberman gave a remarkable speech on the floor of the Senate, basically dismantling the Democrat's bill.

So you say what is the point. It is not mindless. Think of it as a decision tree. They want seats in the Senate. They think the way to do that is to make George Bush more and more unpopular because of the way the polls run.

So they have designed a bill, which he absolutely has to veto. In other words, there is not a real political process going on here in the sense that then want an accommodation with George Bush about a difficult issue.

They want Bush to become more unpopular to pick up the Senate seats. That makes Iraq something of an abstraction. A second order of importance in that.

GIGOT: They are making a political statement that plays to their own base and then says, if the war goes baldly, we were against it. If the surge doesn't work, we were against it.

HENNINGER: That's precisely right.

GIGOT: We inherit the win.

BRET STEPHENS, WSJ FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST: I think they are taking a real political risk. I think it was illustrated by another comment of Reid's, in which he said, in effect, if General Petraeus reports progress, he is not going to believe it. I think that's the dangerous thing for the Democrats to do, to set themselves so directly in opposition to the general in charge and to the troops that he leads.

Because if, in fact, the surge does begin to work and there are signs that that's exactly what is happening, sectarian violence is down in Baghdad, the nightly curfew has been reduced in the last few months. If that begins to happen, then the Democrats do look very bad. I think it is not necessarily a bright strategy on their part.

GIGOT: Fouad, paradoxically, some Sunnis, who have fed the insurgency, encourage it, now want us to stay, some say as their savior.

AJAMI: Behind closed doors, the Sunni Arabs will tell you, we are holding on to the Americans. We don't want them to leave. Actually, despite public opinion polls to the contrary, the Sunnis don't want to us to leave because they know they lost the wear. The Shiites don't want us to leave because they want time to consolidate the new country. The Kurds don't want us to leave ever. They'd like to hang around for a...

They want us to have a face in Kurds.

AJAMI: Exactly. Even though the PEW survey will tell you everyone wants the Americans to leave, nobody wants us to believe in Iraq. People really know what this American presence is all about. It is their chance to build a new country.

GIGOT: Where do the Democrats go from here, Dan? They are not going to defund their troops. That would be politically catastrophic for them. But a lot of their people, particularly in the House, a sizable caucus, does not want to do that. Can they give the president a clean bill?

HENNINGER: I think they probably are going to have to at least give him the money for sure. The problem is what they're doing is -- and it is beginning to be reported -- the Pentagon has decided it will have to slow down dispersals to Iraq, not for the fighting, but for restoration and support of the Iraqi troops.

And if they do that, then it sort of grinds down what General Petraeus is trying to do over there. That will be reported. The blame will fall back on the Democrats.

GIGOT: All right. Dan, last word.

Fouad, thank you for being here. Great to have you.

When we come back, is the country ready for a third Clinton term? Hillary said she will put Bill to work if elected. Our panel has some thoughts on that when the "Journal Editorial Report" continues.


GIGOT: Welcome back. Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows in Iowa last weekend declaring, if elected president, she will put her husband, Bill, to work, making him a sort of good will ambassador to the world in an effort, she says, to repair America's tattered image abroad.

We are back with Dan Henninger, and Bret Stephens, and also joining the panel, opinion journal columnist John Fund.

John, what does it say about the role Bill Clinton would play in a Hillary Clinton administration?

JOHN FUND, WSJ OPINION JOURNAL COLUMNIST: This is a smart move by Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton...

GIGOT: Smart politically?

FUND: Both.

GIGOT: Both?

FUND: I think Bill Clinton is very popular overseas, more popular than the current administration. And to repair relations after Hillary were elected, he would go around and spread his charm.

GIGOT: Well, I mean, charm?

HENNINGER: Yes. You know, I think it is not just a smart move. It is a necessary move. I believe the calculation here is that she understands she cannot win it on her own, that Bill has to, in effect, be on the ticket.

Now a lot of people out there say that would lose it for her. But the Democrats believe Bill Clinton is the strongest figure in the Democrat Party. In a perfect world, he would run again. Clinton has to be there. I think they simply run the risk of people being turned off by saying Clinton has to be there.

GIGOT: But doesn't this diminishing in some respect to her? It says, "Look, she can't win it on her own and you get two for the price of one. And we're going to go back to that soap opera. It's going to be the two of us over again." I am not sure this is good.

STEPHENS: I feel the same way as you. I disagree with both John and Dan. We have seen this ad before. It didn't work out so well going back to Hillary Care.

I think there is a mythology that Bill Clinton plays well abroad. That may be true in France. It may be true in Italy. It may be true in Davos or places like that.

But if you are a Tutsi and you remember -- you were in Rwanda in 1994, you don't have fond memories of Bill Clinton. Same if you were a Bosnian during the Serbian crisis.

And there is the view that somehow, if we put on charm, with a guy like such copious charms as Bill Clinton's, America's image will be repaired. America's problems abroad are much -- the issues are much deeper than who is the face of American diplomacy.

GIGOT: John?

FUND: First, Hillary Clinton has to win the nation. The unanswered question no one wants to talk about publicly, but privately, is what about Bill? This answers the question for a lot of primary voters. Bill is not going to be in the Oval Office having late night pizza parties, planning strategy.

GIGOT: He said he's going to be...

FUND: He will be on the road.

GIGOT: He will be a de facto secretary of state? I mean, would you want to be secretary of state with Bill Clinton as the...

FUND: I guess the question is who becomes William Rogers if he is Henry Kissinger.

GIGOT: William Rogers was the secretary of state of the Nixon administration

FUND: Nixon's secretary of state.

GIGOT: And Kissinger ran that show.

HENNINGER: As an extension of your point, what are younger Democrats thinking? There are a lot of rich young Democrat contributors and fund raisers. They would like to run the Democratic Party and if they win the country. Instead, they are faced with the Clinton machine sitting over the entire operation, blocking their entry. So it's...

STEPHENS: I thought this was nicely brought home by that 1984 ad with Hillary Clinton as the face of...

GIGOT: The Barack Obama supporter on YouTube?

STEPHENS: That's right. There is an idea the Clinton are really that popular in the Democratic Party, that popular in the country. But ads like that and the real support for Obama shows that a lot of Democrats are deeply uncomfortable with Hillary, deeply uncomfortable with the ticket. They remember what the Clinton years were about. They weren't good for the Democratic Party.

GIGOT: John, let's pull up this "NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, which shows Hillary Clinton at 26. But Barack Obama gaining a 31 and John Edwards at 20. What does it tell about the anybody-but-Hillary vote?

FUND: There is Bush fatigue in the country. There's also Clinton fatigue among many Democrats. As Bret says, they don't want this show over again. Bill Clinton is a brilliant campaign manager. That's what he's going to be doing for Hillary. I still think she is the favorite for the nomination. But there is a lost of consumer resistance here.

GIGOT: OK. All right, thanks, John.

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


GIGOT: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses," it's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week.

Item one, the godfather of hip-hop tells the rap music industry to clean up its act -- Dan?

HENNINGER: That's right. You know, we talk a lot on this program about the low state of the culture. And it is indeed low, gross and popular entertainment. People complain about it all the time.

In the wake of the Don Imus flap with the Rutgers basketball team, there have been interesting developments. Russell Simmons, who is a hip- hop producer, but could be called the president of hip-hop, announced he thought hip-hop should ban the H word, the N word and the B word, three of the worst things that goes on in hip hop today.

Simultaneously, the Federal Communication Commission said it would like the authority to regulate violence on television.

Now, whether they should have that authority or not, the fact that, on the right, you have two institutional voices saying that enough is enough. I think as with Iraq, cautious optimism and we have a reason here to be cautiously optimistic about the direction the culture is going in.

GIGOT: Caution is the word. Thanks.

Next, singer Sheryl Crow has a novel plan to wipe out global warming - - Bret?

STEPHENS: Well, wipe out, indeed. The singer, Sheryl Crow has been touring the country, going to college campuses, singing, but also advertising the dangers, as she sees it, of global warning, showing clips of Al Gore's movie.

One of the bright ideas she has is we could get by using a lot less toilet paper, specifically about one sheet per visit.

Now, this has raised some eyebrows, if you will. But I think she is actually performing a real service here. For one thing, she made it vivid the question with global warming isn't about saving the planet. It is about saving human hygiene from promoters of global warming.

I think the real question is whether she is working for Exxon-Mobil by advertising the silliness of these ideas.

GIGOT: All right, Bret.

Finally, Dennis the Menace strikes again -- John?

FUND: Well, Nancy Pelosi had two problems this week. One is the latest "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll showing her negatives and now exceeding her positives. And second, Dennis the Menace -- Dennis Kucinich, the candidate for president, congressman from Ohio, actually proposed impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney. He skipped over President Bush, but wants to launch impeachment proceedings against the vice president over the Iraq war.

This has lead to a complete lack of support in the Democratic caucus. All of the Democratic candidates in the debate last Thursday said no way.

But it just shows that her left-wing is giving her real headaches now and will continue to do so.

GIGOT: I think on Iraq funding too, John, that's going to come out.

All right, that's it for this week's edition of the "Journal Editorial Report." Send your e-mails to And visit us on the web at

Thanks to Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens and John Fund.

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

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