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June 3, 2005

Transcript

BRIEFING AND OPINION

PAUL GIGOT: Time now for our take on some of the major news stories of the week, beginning with the end of a 30-year secret. Mark Felt, the former number two at the FBI, revealed himself as Deep Throat, the source who was so valuable to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they pursued the Watergate scandal. Rob, what do you think about Felt and how he behaved?

ROB POLLOCK: Well, Nixon was a liar, a paranoid, an anti-Semite, and a socialist -- and that was on a good day.

PAUL GIGOT: How do you really feel?

ROB POLLOCK: So look, I must admit I'm a little bit puzzled by those few Republicans who are questioning Felt at this point and what he did. Look, whatever his motives, Nixon deserved to go. And frankly, the fact that he did go and that he went unceremoniously was the best thing to ever happen to the GOP.

PAUL GIGOT: Extraordinary, wasn't it, that Woodward and Bernstein could keep a secret like that -- one of the most famous secrets in journalism history -- for 30 years. In a way it's a tribute to their ability to maintain fidelity with a source, which in our current media ethics environment is maybe worth celebrating.

This week in France and in the Netherlands, voters refused to take the next steps to expand the power of the European Union, rejecting their leadership and causing a shuffle in the French cabinet. Bret, what's the meaning of all this?

BRET STEPHENS: Well, I think the voters of France and Holland sent a message to their leaders which said, "Get real." I mean, here you have the leadership of these countries saying the most important thing we have to do is re-jigger the rules of the European Union. These are countries where growth is one percent and unemployment is 10 percent. And what the electorates were saying is, your priorities are way off. You need to start focusing on what you have to do to bring growth back to our countries and to bring these unemployment rates down. And I think it sends a very powerful, and I think it sends a positive message that Europeans are finally taking control of their own lives again after it had gotten away from them.

PAUL GIGOT: The great irony here was that a lot of the French left opposed this because they were saying this constitutions represented the invasion of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. As I read the constitution it was exactly the opposite. It was centralizing, trying to centralize, the French social welfare model.

ROB POLLOCK: One of the most telling man-on-the-street quotes I saw is basically, "I voted against it because I didn't understand it." This is a document that's 10 times as long as the United States Constitution. It's not about empowering the people and telling them under what kind of laws they're going to live. It's about empowering the bureaucrats and was rejected for a good reason.

PAUL GIGOT: Bret, you were just in Lebanon, reporting before the elections. They're having elections, last week and this. How are things going there?

BRET STEPHENS: Well, again, a similar message of people power, and I think in many ways just as positive a message. You had the leading candidate, the son of the late Prime Minister, the slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, winning, cleaning up in the elections last week. He represents an inter-denominational slate of candidates who want to put the factionalism that destroyed Lebanon in the past behind him. And you also have a real movement to get rid of the lingering Syrian influences. It's very positive.

PAUL GIGOT: We'll be watching that closely, Bret.

President Bush named a new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. He's congressman Christopher Cox of California, who supporter tougher rules on corporate accountability but is viewed as business-friendly. Brian, what do you think this means for SEC enforcement?

BRIAN WESBURY: Well, in terms of enforcement, I think that enforcement will still be there. But over the next few months, the next few years, if this appointment gets through, I'm very optimistic that this is a better kind of environment for U.S. business. After Enron, after WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, I believe our Congress and our regulatory authorities went way too far in regulating business. And if this is a sign that we are now moderating and pulling back from that, I think that's a great sign.

PAUL GIGOT: What we did was, we decided we should regulate all of business rather than focusing on punishing the few who really did deserve it. And maybe we'll go back to that original idea of punishing the culpable and seeing how these new rules that have passed, whether or not they really did work.

BRIAN WESBURY: Right. Well there's lots of these regulations that add tremendous cost to operating a business in the United States, and we need to rationalize some of that and bring it back to what I believe to be a much more rational position.

PAUL GIGOT: I agree with it. And finally, China sends a chilling message, detaining this man -- Ching Cheong -- the chief China correspondent for Singapore's STRAITS TIMES newspaper. He was accused of spying. This was not an encouraging sign for those who hope for a more open China, was it, Rob?

ROB POLLOCK: No, no it's not. This and other harassment of journalists is a sign that China has a long way to go in terms of the rule of law, and this has consequences beyond China's internal political development, and it has consequences in the long run for its economy. The Chinese stock market is down something like 40 percent over the past 15 months, and this could have something to do with investors wondering about, well, what are they buying, and is it protected.

PAUL GIGOT: We should also put in a word for THE NEW YORK TIMES researcher who was arrested and may well be charged with espionage as well. So all we can do here is give voice to them and hope we can draw some attention to their plight. Thank you. Next subject.