Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
August 21, 2017
PAUL GIGOT : Welcome to the Journal Editorial Report. I’m Paul Gigot.
President Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is out just days after he gave an interview to a liberal magazine discussing plans to neutralize his rivals inside the administration and contradicting the president on North Korea. The embattled Bannon, who played a key role in 2016 victory, had feuded for months with other top aides. And on Friday, the White House released this statement, “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agree today will be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”
Let’s bring in Wall Street Journal” assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman ; and editorial board member, Mary Kissel.
Mary, Steve Bannon, the legendary survivor didn’t survive this week. What happened?
MARY KISSEL: I think, effectively, he was daring President Trump to fire him by giving that interview to “Prospect” magazine —
GIGOT: The American Prospect
KISSEL: “American Prospect.” You can’t go against the president as policies as big as North Korea, you can’t proclaim to want to stoke the less racial politicking and other things that he said and expect not to be fired. Look, Paul, some of the president’s top aides on both domestic front, Gary Cohn, and the foreign policy front, H.R. McMaster, vehemently disagreed. So I don’t think the president had a choice.
GIGOT: Elaborate on that North Korea thing. How did he contradict the president’s policy?
KISSEL: The president said, we are not going to allow North Korea to have a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can hit the United States. And Steve Bannon said in this interview, well, look, I can foresee a deal where we let China go into North Korea and promise that they are going to denuclearize in exchange for taking U.S. troops out of the Korean peninsula. Steve Bannon is characterized as a hawk, but that’s —
KISSEL: That’s actually on the far-left side of politics.
GIGOT: That would be a strategic victory for China. One of the goal is to push out of northeast Asia.
He also said that there’s no military solution to North Korea. At the same time, the president and his chief defense secretary, Secretary Mattis, would say, look, if you get this nuclear weapon with missiles, we may have to—
KISSEL: Take military action. Exactly.
GIGOT: It’s on the table. So he’s undermining the message the president is trying to send to China of the seriousness of our purpose in North Korea.
OK, James, Bannon’s legacy, what does this mean? Talk about did he accomplish good or ill?
JAMES FREEMAN: Well, I think in terms of accomplishments, I would put on the plus side, I think he was encouraging in getting the president to get out of the Paris climate deal. I think what—it’s interesting, with Bannon, for a lot of conservatives, I think they might be liked his attitude more than all of his policies. The trade and immigration agenda is not exactly free market.
GIGOT: No. He was for increasing taxes.
KISSEL: He was.
FREEMAN: Look, I think it should give conservatives pause, who may have been attracted to the Bannon trade agenda that he was reaching out to left- winger, Bob Kuttner, to make common cause about it. But I think what Bannon did bring, and this may be a loss in the White House, is an instinct, a non-conformism, which, in washington, means you’re generally pushing back to people who want to make government much bigger. The concern now and why you saw conservatives saying—expressing disappointment with Bannon leaving is that Ivanka Trump and Gary Cohn together are not necessarily going to be consistently —
GIGOT: Hold on. Hold on.
KISSEL: Now you have cabinet chiefs, like, for instance, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who are pushing forward that deregulation agenda. So I don’t know, James. Think about the Paris climate agreement. It wasn’t just Steve Bannon pushing for President Trump to pull out of that. Scott Pruitt had a lot to say about it, too.
GIGOT: And I would argue, James, that you have on Gary Cohn’s national economic council, you have some very conservative free-market policy wonks who are pushing—you’ve got Mike Pence in the White House with his team. They have a conservative agenda. So I’m not—and on the judicial side, you’ve got Leonard Leo, the Federal Society and others who are going through the list of judicial nominations. So, I mean, how much are you really going to miss here, I guess, would be my point, beyond the fact that he did like to talk too much with some of his racial politics.
FREEMAN: Everything you said in terms of Scott Pruitt and Kevin Hassett, some of the others that have joined the administration are absolutely very positive developments. But we’ll see. I think of further concern is John Kelly is kind of a blank slate in terms of domestic policy. And kind of to be determined, but let’s hope for the best.
GIGOT: Quickly, he’s saying, I’ve been liberated, “Breitbart,” I mean Bannon, and maybe go to “Breitbart.” But could he do more harm to Trump outside than having been inside?
KISSEL: I don’t know. What has Trump accomplished on the legislative agenda? I’m not sure that he’s done much good on the inside. Can he do much worse on the inside? I don’t know. I don’t think so, Paul.
GIGOT: All right, thank you, both.
When we come back, amid the fallout from the violence in Charlottesville last weekend and the continuing protests and counter protests across the country, a renewed debate over the place Confederate monuments have in America.
GIGOT: President Trump coming under fire from both Democrats and Republicans this week after he doubled down Tuesday on claims that both sides were to blame for the violence that erupted at a rally held by white nationalists in Charlottesville last weekend.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP : I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it you have some very bad people in the group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
GIGOT: And as protests and counter protests continue across the country, the president is also taking a stand on the removal on Confederate monuments in the United States. Tweeting on Thursday, quote, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statutes and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. Who is next? Washington? Jefferson ? So foolish.”
Juan Williams is a FOX News political analyst and co-host of “The Five.”
Juan, good to see you.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Thank you, Paul.
GIGOT: You’re a student of America’s racial history and the civil rights movement. I want to ask you, first, about this Confederate monuments issue, does Trump have a point?
WILLIAMS: Well, he has point. And I have a high regard for history and I think any kind of effort in the George Orwell sense of trying to rewrite history or propagandize history is a terrible mistake. You cannot erase the past. The issue is really about monuments. And I think monuments are for the living. We, with our monuments, give honor to our past. The question is, what past are we celebrating here. One, you have people about who are all about tearing apart the United States of America and denying our Constitution, in terms of so many of our principles. But secondly, I think you have the idea that this is an effort that is now inspiring people on the—what they call the Alt-Right, people that are Neo-Nazis, white supremacist, they have made this cause celeb for themselves and it is now dividing the whole country.
GIGOT: So I agree with all of your points. Do you make some distinction, though, between—in the past between somebody like a Nathan Bedford Forrest —
GIGOT:—and Jefferson and Washington?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I noticed this week that people like Al Sharpton were saying, oh, he doesn’t want to pay for a Jefferson Memorial. I thought, I don’t doubt your sincerity but that’s sounded wacky to me. In my mind, Jefferson is a founding father, somebody who put the nation together, not tore it apart. And, yet, he had some complicated flaws in in his personal life, Sally Hemmings and the like, I’m sure you’re familiar with.
WILLIAMS: But he’s a man of his times. And I think that he spoke about the whole notion of liberty and equality for all as well.
GIGOT: If you were in the city council in Charlottesville, would you have voted to rename that park and take down a Lee statute?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I would have. Not only would I have done it, but I notice that his great, great, great grandson said it, that Lee was about uniting the United States—
GIGOT: Especially after the Civil War.
GIGOT: That’s clear.
WILLIAMS: I don’t think that Lee would be about, oh, no, no, let’s keep this about the divisive monument up after the war —
GIGOT: Is it a smart thing for the country to be fighting about these things now? As you said, it’s dividing us. It’s giving the white supremacists a cause celeb, something to rally around. And then, it’s polarizing on the other side as well. We don’t need that right now.
WILLIAMS: I really don’t think we—I can’t tell you—it sounds Pollyannaish to you, Paul. You’re a very serious man, Paul.
But I think—
WILLIAMS: We have a moment here where we need some sense of healing and positivity and understanding that we are Americans.
WILLIAMS: That across these bounds, one of many, that’s our slogan. I think this is very important. I thought, though, that given President Trump’s actions, I think that I look back historically to someone like President Eisenhower, when Orville (ph) was in office in Arkansas, was trying to stop children from attending school after the 1950 Brown decision, Eisenhower didn’t equivocate. He said very quickly, I’m sending the 101st Airborne to enforce the law of the Supreme Court of this land.
GIGOT: And the president of the United States has a special obligation to speak with moral clarity.
WILLIAMS: That’s right.
GIGOT: You don’t need to say equivocate. You don’t need to say, well—you have to speak clearly, and that’s the mistake he made, in my view.
GIGOT: You just have to speak—particularly a president, a Republican president has to speak clearly about extremist on the right —
GIGOT:—in particular. Just like a Democratic president has to speak that way to extremists on the left.
WILLIAMS: I would agree completely. This is a moment where you have to say it goes beyond politics and stirring the base or anything of that. You come to moral moments in our country’s life, you think of someone like President Bush after 9/11 standing there. That brings us together. We were talking about healing. That reminds you, hey, wait a second, I may have differences with Paul Gigot, but guess what, Paul is a fellow American, we are in this together. Our destiny, our prosperity relies on a sense of working together, cooperation. And I just think we’ve broken down some of that fabric. I’m particularly struck by the nation that he didn’t respond to anti-Semitism, given his own family, that was evident throughout this event, where you had people unable to walk out the front door of a synagogue because you had white supremacists and Neo-Nazis with guns standing there.
GIGOT: After this week, if President Trump called you up and said, Juan, I have a mess here, what should I do, what would you advise him to do?
WILLIAMS: I think it’s pretty clear at this point that he should stand up and speak very clearly to the American people, say maybe he made a mistake. I don’t know that he’s given to that.
GIGOT: He’s not very good at that.
WILLIAMS: No. But I think it will be good. And I think that he could—again, not only in terms of speaking but in terms of action. We talked about the monuments. Maybe say, you know, I have a different view, I have a better understanding of what has gone on, and I think that this is a moment where we can come together as Americans.
GIGOT: Make distinctions between some of the founding fathers and maybe understand that some of these monuments were put up in the Jim Crow era, for example, as symbols of white supremacy.
GIGOT: Not all of them.
WILLIAMS: Most of them were early 20th century, as you say, when the KKK was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.
GIGOT: But is his speech enough for Trump at this stage?
WILLIAMS: I think you’re going to have lots of people who will be doubters. You asked me what can he do, and I think this is a major step. And I think speaking to the monuments in a constructive way that might bring healing. And looking forward, down the road, what you have to see from Trump is an effort to say, you know what, this is a part of my political base, OK, I understand it, but you know what, we don’t need that political base. You heard that from the chair of the GOP this week. You hear that from Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill, we don’t want it.
GIGOT: All right, Juan Williams, thank you for being here.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Paul.
GIGOT: President Trump’s ties with the business community showing signs of strain amid the Charlottesville fallout. Can a Republican president succeed without its support?
GIGOT: Amid the fallout this week from his Charlottesville comments, President Trump was forced to disband two advisory groups made up of business leaders and CEOs. The president said Wednesday afternoon that he would end both the manufacturing council and Strategic and Policy Forum he had convened to advisor him on economic policy. Eleven members had already resigned from the councils by the time of his announcement.
Let’s bring in “Wall Street Journal” columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger ; columnist, Kim Strassel ; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.
So, Kim, solve a mystery for me.
KIM STRASSEL: I’ll try.
GIGOT: After the criticism of the president on the weekend, the president issued a statement on Monday that condemned in no uncertain terms the Neo- Nazis, white supremacists and so on. But his staff said, at the time, OK, some damage done but that issue is over. And then the president, on his own, opened that up, reopened the debate on Tuesday with his comments. Why? Why do that?
STRASSEL: Because this is Donald Trump. This is what he does. It’s as if he cannot resist a moment to wade back in, double down. He doesn’t like to have any criticism and when he is criticized, he decides to just go back at it even harder.
GIGOT: So you think it’s a matter of—are you talking here, Kim —
STRASSEL:—have some sense to it. There is violence on the left as well as the right. But that was not the time to do it. As you said, this had been finished. All he’s done is reopened an entirely new news cycle, lost support of the business community, forced members of his own party in Congress to distance themselves from him. He could have put this behind him. He didn’t.
GIGOT: James, I think it comes down to, in part, ego and pride. He doesn’t like being criticized. He thinks he was right. And he doesn’t like having people say, you need to read this. And I think he chaffed on reading it on Monday. And yet, by doing this again, he reopened old wounds. And I think made—Kim makes a fair point, but it’s an inadequate statement by the president of the United States. You have to speak clearly on issues like this and with moral clarity. He didn’t.
FREEMAN: Yes, and I think it’s a shame. We’re looking at a video from that tuesday press conference and, if he had stuck with the first six minutes, which was actually a wonderful description of the problem of not being able to build anything in this country because you cannot get projects permitted and get environmental impact statements done, etc. Really, it was a nice presentation. But I think —
GIGOT: Nobody noticed.
FREEMAN: Yes, that’s right. And, again, probably bothered by the violence on one side if focused on news reporting. I get that. But he definitely errs, I think, in saying that there was very fine people on both sides. I think the very fine people who may support monuments for artistic or historical reasons did not show up to the Klan protest.
DAN HENNINGER: But you know what, his statement about violence people on both sides, it was a half thought. It was half developed. Let’s think back to the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama is running for president and he had a problem similar to this. That was Reverend Wright in Chicago.
GIGOT: Yes. Yes.
HENNINGER: And Reverend Write said very extreme things about white people, off the charts, and Obama was associated with him. After he got in trouble on that issue, he pulled back and said, I have to give a major speech on my position on race in America, and he delivered that speech. And it was a very strong speech. Whether it was believable or not, that’s beyond the point. It got him back on track, politically. Possibly, Donald Trump needs to do that now. But the point is, if you are president, you cannot make thoughts off the top of your head about a subject as volatile and explosive as race in America. It’s a no-win situation.
FREEMAN: Well, that’s where it—just to note for the record, where it differed from President Obama, because it was an off-the-head remark, whereas, Mr. Obama had gone to Reverend Wright’s church for years. But in terms of the business community, the initial point here—this is not Donald Trump’s base. His base doesn’t like the government, doesn’t like big business. But if he wants to build a governing coalition, if he wants to get more done, obviously, there are some natural allies.
A lot of these business folks were always uncomfortable on this panel. They were kind of smiling awkwardly, didn’t like the trade and immigration agenda, but liked the tax reform and deregulation.
GIGOT: But the fact that they were there —
GIGOT:—and willing to participate gets to governing. You need to broaden your coalition. You were elected with 44 percent approval, and the goal is to get to 50 percent, not 34 percent.
You need the business community, right Kim? I think this is damaging to Trump. Some people say, oh, down with big business, it’s not part of his base, we don’t need them. The truth is you may not need the Fortune 500 CEOs, but you need a broader coalition than the 25 percent of the people that love you to death.
STRASSEL: And by the way, if your top agenda, priority in the coming fall is tax reform, you do need those Fortune 500 CEOs and the rest of the business community. One of the problems here—because this is what you saw happen this week. Once Merck resigned, it was inevitable that the other CEOs would follow because of the pressure of the media and Trump critics. President Trump has given them a club to put on the pressure not just on those CEOs but Republicans in Congress to say, how do you justify going along with his agenda, his priorities. They cannot afford that right now at a time when Republicans need to be unified because they don’t have a lot of extra votes in Congress to get any of this done.
GIGOT: All right, still ahead, with pressure mounting on Republicans to make progress on their agenda, leaders in Congress are setting their sights on tax reform when they return from August break. Could a bill reach President Trump’s desk by year’s end? We’ll ask Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, next.
GIGOT: Conservative groups are turning up the heat on Republicans in Congress, urging them to get to work on tax reform when they return from August break. Take a look at this ad that hit the airways in two dozen Republican House districts last week.
[CAMPAIGN AD]: I was proud of my work. I was middle class and I made a better life for my daughter. But with more foreign competition, I got laid off. America’s tax code is so complicated it can’t be as competitive. Thousands of jobs like mine are lost to places like China. So when I see Congress working to cut taxes for working families and brings jobs back, I know how that matters. Congress, pass tax reform that brings the middle class back.
GIGOT: Earlier, I spoke with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady about the prospects for tax reform.
GIGOT: Welcome, Mr. Chairman.
REP. KEVIN BRADY: Thank you.
GIGOT: Good to have you back.
So, I guess the question a lot I hear from a lot of people, why is tax reform going to be any different than the failure of health reform?
BRADY: Fair question. The answer is everything is different on this. Here’s why. One, the White House, House, Senate, have made a deliberate effort to work together towards a unified, single tax program plan. It’s bold. It’s balanced.
GIGOT: You will come out on this together?
GIGOT: And it will have details?
BRADY: Yes. We’ll lay the framework. The White House, House and Senate will lay out the framework. House Ways and Means Committee is responsible for beginning our process with a detailed tax plan. But really these—I don’t want to—I can’t overemphasize how important and unusual it is to have the White House, House, Senate working together on tax reform. Even in the Reagan process, it didn’t happen. Secondly, there are Americans who defend Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. There are not many Americans that defend this tax code. So you start with a different base there. The other thing is—
GIGOT: You just saw a lot people, Mr. Chairman, that defend their particular tax breaks.
BRADY: That’s exactly right.
GIGOT: And you already had the border adjustment tax that you guys put in the draft. That was worth $1 trillion worth of revenue over 10 years. You had to throw that out because of hostility from the retailers and others. Where will you get that $1 trillion back?
BRADY: One final point. What you didn’t see in health care was a national effort to make the case for reform. You are seeing it now in a major way.
BRADY: Not just lawmakers out there. My thinking is, big changes require a big discussion in America. So having August and September to do this, is critical.
To your point, so how do we continue to lower the rates? The answer is, in the 31 years since President Reagan successfully reformed this, he would not recognize the code today. Since then, it’s littered with special provisions, because our rates are so high. And so our work right now and the working group with the president and the Senate tax writers is to scrub all those provisions, to make the tradeoffs with lower rates and really unleashing business investment and put a missing ingredient in productivity in America, to make sure that we can lower the rates and do the expensing that we can.
GIGOT: So you are saying that this will be a reform that does take away tax loopholes and benefits for some people? It won’t just devolve into a mere tax cut?
BRADY: It has to.
GIGOT: It has to be reformed?
BRADY: It has to. Here’s why. A tax cut will help temporarily. It’s a little like putting super-charged fuel in an old clunker of a car. Yes, it will go faster for some period of time, but it cannot keep up with new models on the road. Right now, worldwide, we’re being left in the dust. So that’s why a redesign—and those provisions are there because our rates are so high. Competitive industries have sought special provisions to try to make them competitive. We lower the rates and do the investment right, they don’t have the punch. They’re not needed.
GIGOT: Big part of it is corporate tax reform. Top rate, 35 percent. How low do you think that has to go? You have Ireland at 12.5 percent. Britain, 17. To make sure that that money from overseas, $2.5 trillion or so, comes back here, how low does it have to go?
BRADY: You need to be at least medium or lower to be competitive.
GIGOT: 25 percent, 23 percent?
BRADY: Around the 23 percent, 22 percent range. I don’t want to—we’re still working to lower it as far as you can go.
GIGOT: If you have 12.5 percent in Ireland, and you are not doing to 20, I’m not sure you are getting enough bang for your buck for what you need for an Apple or some of these other companies, Pfizer , to move their operations and cash back here.
BRADY: It’s critical that we do that. Tying the lowest rates with the greatest amount of expensing, it’s a zero tax rate in new investment, buildings, equipment, software, technology, incredibly pro-growth as well. Keeping things that reward innovation and allow these companies to bring their profits back to the U.S. All of it gets us back—as we talked about often, we want to leapfrog into the top-three most-competitive places on the planet for that next new job. All the elements are critical to us.
GIGOT: Let’s talk about small business, something many—sub chapters, personal rate. The top rate is 39.6 percent, not including deductions.
BRADY: Yes. Yes.
GIGOT: How low does that have to go? A lot of small business lobbys are saying, it has to be parity with the corporate rate. Does it have to be, in your view, parity?
BRADY: I don’t believe so. But I think we need to deliver an equal tax cut for our local businesses. Regardless of how you are structured, whether you are a mom and pop or a corporation or worldwide, we need to lower the taxes equally for all those job creators because so many jobs, so much of our growth is included in both sides of that ledger. Drive those rates down as low as you can, regardless of the type of business you are structured as.
GIGOT: And if it’s 25 percent and corporate is at 20 percent, you could live with that?
BRADY: I could. That is an equal 43 percent tax cut for both. But it’s really important for our non-C Corporations, who have so much growth, in the past, they’ve been left behind, in my view. We’re not going to do that this time.
GIGOT: All right. One very quick question. State and local tax deduction, it’s on the table?
BRADY: It is.
GIGOT: Will it stay there?
BRADY: I’m hopeful. And here’s why. Under the current tax code, Washington taxes, everyone at a high rate. So some can use that deduction. We’re proposing lower rates for everybody, so everyone gets help, whether it’s for state and local taxes, getting your kids in college, putting your mom in a nursing home. Give people the ability to do what they need to do.
GIGOT: When we come back, terror in Spain. What this week’s attacks tell us about the nature of the current threat.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: ISIS has taken credit for this barbaric attack. But whoever is responsible should know that the United States of America, together with our allies, will find and punish those responsible and drive the evil of radical Islamic terror from the face of the earth.
GIGOT: Vice President Mike Pence reacting to the terror attacks in Spain on Thursday. Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the attack in Barcelona, which occurred in the heart of Spain’s second-largest city, in a scene that is all too familiar in Europe. A van plowed into a crowded in a busy tourist district killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores of others.
“Wall Street Journal” editorial board member, Mary Kissel, joins us with more.
So, Mary, we had similar attacks in France, the U.K., Germany, and now Spain. What does this tell us about how this threat is evolving in Europe?
KISSEL: I think what it says is when we take back territory in Iraq and Syria, it’s doing nothing to eradicate the threat from Islamic jihadist groups. The threat is migrating to other places, namely to Northern Africa. There was a Morocco connection, not only here in Barcelona. Also in Paris, in Brussels. There was a Libyan connection to the attack in Manchester.
It also shows how difficult it is to harden targets. This was another attack on a soft target, a tourist area. Very difficult to stop, Paul.
GIGOT: OK. But you are not saying that we should stop in Iraq and Syria, because one of the things that ISIS does to inspire people is be able to say, look, we can hold this territory, this caliphate. We’re the future. So one of the arguments for taking back that territory in those parts of the world is to say, look, no, you are losing.
KISSEL: I think it’s wrong to talk about ISIS. I think it’s wrong to separate these terror groups. You cannot say we have a threat from ISIS here and a threat from al-Qaeda here and a theta from Boko Haram there. These groups learn from each other. And that’s the other big point here —
GIGOT: They do learn from each other. I take that point. But what about the problem of letting them say, in Syria and Iraq, OK, we control this territory. That makes them more able to inspire these people and radicalize people —
KISSEL: Of course. It would be a silly argument to say let’s leave them in Syria and Iraq. I’m not arguing that. But what I’m saying is I think we’re not focusing on how the threat has migrated. When was the last time you heard the White House or the Pentagon come out and give a long statement or speech on the threat from the Maghrib. I haven’t heard one. What is our strategy in Libya?
GIGOT: And that’s in North Africa.
KISSEL: Absolutely. I think it’s an evolving problem.
HENNINGER: Paul, earlier this week, the former head of MI-5, the united kingdom’s domestic security service, Lord Evans, gave an interview on this. He said, we are facing what he thinks is a generational threat, another 20, 30 years, mainly because Islamic State, radical jihadists are in their 20s and 30s, and like all of these—Spain went through it with the Basque separatists for 30, 40 years. And eventually, the generations pass on. For now, we’ll deal with lone wolves. It’s looks like another lone-wolf attack of someone assembling bomb material. They didn’t even have a permit for a big enough truck they were going to try to use. Ended up with a smaller truck. It will be difficult to guard against that sort of thing. But make no mistake, these people are getting their directive from I.S., from their technicians, the philosophical stuff they put on the Internet.
Spain puts people in jail for putting violent acts and threats on the Internet. They put a rapper in prison for a year for threatening to blow up the king with a cake bomb. So it’s not like they’re not focusing on these things. But it will be difficult to protect on this sort of an attack in an open area like Las Ramblas.
GIGOT: This could have been a lot worse. We saw terrorists some of them seemed to have blown themselves up before in the attack trying to assemble a bomb.
KISSEL: That’s true. Sometimes the stupidity of the terrorists is the only thing that saves us from higher casualty events. Recall the bomb in Chelsea in the middle of Manhattan last year. The terrorists put the bomb in a trash container and it absorbed a large part of the blast.
I think Dan has a very important point about generational threat. We talk a lot about stopping dangerous immigration into places like Germany or here in the United States, where Trump has made that such a big issue. But a lot of these attackers are second-generation citizens—
GIGOT: Over the Internet.
KISSEL: That’s right. And it makes it even more difficult for the security forces to keep track of them, where they’ve been, who they’re talking to. In something like a truck attack, you can go out and rent a truck. It’s not like you have to build a bomb and maybe the neighbors might see you bringing it into your home, like they did in San Bernardino, California. Again, these are ersatz attacks. The terrorist groups, they analyze these attacks, they give hints. “Inspire” magazine came out after the Nice attack and said that was very well done. Good that you had guns in the car, too. Maybe next time. Here’s some more ways you can kill more people. Very, very dangerous, Paul. And I think Dan is right. This is a generational issue.
HENNINGER: Well, they’re using data. The airports in Europe are making everyone that goes through check against the database. They have extraordinarily long lines. So they’re trying to do this sort of thing, but they probably need better data about people doing things like buying bomb material. It’s a struggle to be fought over a long period of time.
GIGOT: Data has got to be a crucial tool here.
When we come back, after an all-out assault by the Obama administration, is coal making a comeback in the United States?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My administration is putting an end to the war on coal.
TRUMP: That’s is why we’re also going to eliminate job-killing regulations. And lift the restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas and beautiful, clean coal. We’re going to put our miners back to work. Our miners are going back to work, folks
GIGOT: Don’t look now, but President Trump is delivering on at least one campaign promise. After the Obama administration’s all-out assault on fossil fuels, Candidate Trump promised to end the assault on coal. Almost seven months into his presidency, the numbers are surprising, with weekly coal production up almost 15 percent nationwide and coal exports up a whopping 58 percent in the first quarter from a year ago.
“Wall Street Journal” editorial board member, Allysia Finley, joins us with more.
So, Allysia, this is a fascinating story. We’ve been poking around the numbers. What is behind the coal boomlet?
ALLYSIA FINLEY: Right. So I think one aspect is the deregulation. I don’t think we even realized how suppressed the industry was until a lot of the rules, including ash, were stayed by —
GIGOT: Rules put in place by the Obama administration.
FINLEY: Right, that were intended to force the shutdown of coal plants and prevent building new coal plants.
GIGOT: So there was two stages. The first Obama rules went after new coal plants—
GIGOT:—to try to make them uneconomic. Then the Clean Power Plan said, we’re going to try to put existing plants out —
FINLEY: Out of business. And then they went after the exports, basically, by freezing leases on federal lands, which is where a lot of the coal, which is very economic and competitive, where that was coming from and exported abroad.
GIGOT: So these rules now have been starting to roll back, some repealed altogether. And the Clean Coal Plan was stayed by the courts.
FINLEY: The Supreme Court last in March.
GIGOT: And that’s when we started to see this come back?
FINLEY: Right. And that’s where, last summer, you started to see West Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico, a resurgence in coal production. It didn’t really start in Montana and Wyoming, which is where a lot of federal lands was until early this year when some of the regulations were stayed.
GIGOT: OK. One of the most intriguing sides of this, Allysia, is the exports are going to Europe.
FINLEY: Europe. It’s not just China. It’s Europe.
GIGOT: And that’s interesting because, of course, Europe claims to be—
FINLEY: A green virtue, right?
GIGOT:—against climate change. They dislike fossil fuels. They’ve subsidized heavily solar, wind and bio mass. They tried to shut down in Germany and elsewhere nuclear power. So why are they importing coal?
FINLEY: The renewables. They need something to back up the renewable energy. When they have a cold snap or their nuclear power plants go down, they need coal. So we’ve seen a more than 200 percent increase in coal exports to France, for example.
GIGOT: To France, for example, and Germany is up, I think—what was it—
FINLEY: 98 percent.
GIGOT: Something like 84 percent. But, a lot. The point is, you need to the base-load power to be able to keep the lights on when you want to get the lights on. And people and businesses, consumers, kind of like the lights to go on when you flip the switch.
FINLEY: What a luxury, you know.
GIGOT: So, Kim, what do you make of this as a political matter? Is this —I guess this—if you were the administration, you would say, look, we’re fulfilling a promise.
KIM STRASSEL: Yes. Hopefully, what it means is all the shellacking that the president has received from the environmental community and his critics about pulling out of Paris and staying a lot of these rules, this is the defense. This is the positive way he goes back at that and says, look, my vow was to create jobs, and this is tangible proof that I’m doing so.
And this is also, I would note from a political point of view, states like West Virginia and others, these are important in elections. And Ohio and Pennsylvania, where you’ve seen some of this return of jobs. So this is people, voters in states that matter to Republicans, that are seeing an economy get back on track because of Republican leadership.
GIGOT: Dan, it doesn’t mean that coal will go back to being as dominant as it once was. And natural gas is competing with coal for prices at a certain price point for electric power generation. But it does suggest that coal can at least have some kind of a bigger role than President Obama wanted it to take in the economy.
HENNINGER: To say the least. There’s a philosophical divide here. Liberals accuse conservatives of being anti-government. They say you hate government. We don’t hate government. What we hate is government literally strangling the private sector and, as Allysia described, creating rules that forbad economic activity to take place. Coal is now being allowed to compete in the marketplace with some of these alternative sources of energy, and it is producing jobs for American people.
GIGOT: If coal can’t compete, so be it.
GIGOT: If it can, also—
HENNINGER: Let it.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, “Hits & Misses” of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for “Hits & Misses” of the week.
Kim, start us off.
STRASSEL: Paul, it isn’t easy to always come up with something nice to say about the United States Postal Service. But this is a huge hit for its new stamp, the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp. This is a stamp that’s celebrating the upcoming eclipse. It’s got a black disc. It responds to the heat of your finger. When you put your finger on the disc, it disappears to reveal the moon. These things are just flying off the shelves. They’re a huge hit. Maybe the answer to the postal office’s financial woes are just to have a little bit more fun.
All right, Mary?
KISSEL: I’m giving a big miss to Hong Kong, which this week jailed three student leaders of the so-called Umbrella Revolution. The territory used to be a beacon of freedom in China. Now that is past tense here because, with political prisoners now in Hong Kong, combined with legislators getting thrown out and people being spirited over the border to China, I think, unfortunately, this territory is just becoming another oppressed city in China. It’s sad.
GIGOT: It’s terribly sad.
FINLEY: This is a miss to California, which, last November, legalized marijuana. And the plaintiff’s attorney also see it as a business opportunity here. So they are suing mom-and-pop pot shops for violating the state’s chemical law, because they’re not providing notice that the pot was grown with pesticides. And—
GIGOT: So is this way, if you really want to ban marijuana, you legalize it and take them to trial?
FINLEY: Yes, basically.
Well, I’m giving my hit to America’s young people. The kids are all right. Youth unemployment in the summer is down to the lowest level this summer since 1969. That is fantastic. The downside is that the participation rates is still 17 points below where it was in 1989. So while some want to spend the summer still chilling, a lot of young people are going to work before they go to college.
GIGOT: Thank you, Dan.
And, remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us, @JERonFNC.
That’s it for this week’s show. Thanks to my panel. Thanks to you for watching. I’m Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.
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