| Breakfast With
Wall Street Journal Opinion
Editor Headlines Downtown Event
Particularly during periods of crisis or controversy — such
as the war in Iraq controversy — such as the war in Iraq Particularly
during periods of crisis or — newspaper columnists and radio
and — newspaper columnists and radio and TV analysts play a
prominent role in public TV analysts play a prominent role in public
debate. On April 3, Seattle Pacifi c University brought one such
editorial voice to town: The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot.
As featured speaker for this year’s Greater Seattle Community
Breakfast, sponsored by SPU and held at the downtown Sheraton Seattle
Hotel, Gigot spoke to nearly 900 local business and community leaders
about “The U.S., Iraq and the War on Terrorism.” His
comments ranged from the prospects for post-war reconstruction of
Iraq to the experiment of embedded reporting. The Wall Street
Journal editorial-page editor also visited SPU’s campus for a luncheon,
hosted by the president, with students majoring in communication
and business, and for a public question-and-answer session that drew
several hundred more people.
The online magazine Slate
has written that Paul Gigot is “the sort of conservative
with whom liberals can do business” and that he’s “not
one to bark or throw insults, like most TV jabberers.” An
American Profile biography describes his style as “gentle-manly,
To paraphrase: When Gigot talks, people
listen. And for good reason. Whether or not you agree with his decidedly
conservative views, he is thoughtful and informed — with an
impressive résumé to back him up.
Raised in Green Bay,
Wisconsin, in a family with French and Belgian roots, Gigot graduated
summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1977. He joined The
Wall Street Journal as a reporter in 1980, fi rst in Chicago, then as
the paper’s Asian correspondent in Hong Kong. While living
and working in that global hotspot, he won an Overseas Press Club
for reports on the Philippines. In 1984, Gigot became the fi rst
editorial-page editor of The Asian Wall Street Journal.
In 1987, he moved to the paper’s Washington, D.C., bureau and
turned his attention to political analysis, writing a weekly column, “Potomac
Watch,” for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000.
a familiar face on public television in 1994, appearing as a commentator
on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,where he served as conservative counterweight
to the liberal analysis of Washington Post columnist Mark Shields.
In late 2001, Gigot left The NewsHour and Washington, D.C., for
New York to become The Wall Street Journal’s editorial-page
Based on circulation numbers alone, Gigot’s position
has considerable infl uence. According to the paper’s own count,
almost two million U.S. readers pick up a copy of The Wall Street
day, including some of the country’s most infl uential people,
from top executives to key decision-makers. “Paul Gigot is
at the center of America’s political, economic and foreign
policy debates,” says Seattle Pacific President Philip Eaton. “He
conducts his work as an opinion-shaper with intelligence and integrity.
This is the kind of person we like to feature at our annual breakfast,
the kind of person who prompts thoughtful refl ection, and even
healthy disagreement, on issues of the day.
bizarre native rituals” Gigot says he observed inside the Beltway,
he remains optimistic about the political system he has critiqued
for so many years. “Convictions still count for the most in
politics,” he wrote in his final “Potomac Watch” in
August 2001. “…The politicians who have the most impact
are those who are passionate and tenacious about their convictions.” The
same might be said of Paul Gigot.
A View From Wall Street:Paul Gigot Engages With SPU
In an interview
with Response, and at each of the April 3 events, Paul Gigot answered
questions on a broad range of topics, from the war in Iraq to journalism
and his role at The Wall Street Journal. Here is a sampling of those
Q | What do you think the world will look like after the
war in Iraq?
A | You’re asking me a question that is unanswerable
with any certainty. But I can give you the argument for why I think
things have a chance to be better.
We have had this dictator [Saddam
Hussein] in that part of the world for a long time. With a successful
war, you’ve got the immediate removal of the threat he represents
to that region and the rest of the world. You get rid of a madman
who happens to want weapons of mass destruction. Second, you get
the possibility of rebuilding Iraq in a much more stable, democratic
way. And I say democracy with some caution. I understand it’s
not going to turn into Westminster immediately, or even for a long
while. What I’m talking about is much more self-government,
some kind of federal system that allows the Kurds in the north and
the Sunnis in the middle and the Shi’ites in the south to have
a stake in their own government.
And third, I think there is the
potential for a profound demonstration to the rest of the Arab world — which
is still in many ways pre-modern — that a country
like Iraq can actually begin to make strides in a democratic, self-governing
fashion. I think that would be a lesson taken perhaps in Iran, where
the mullahs are already under pressure from the population that doesn’t
like their dictatorship, and in Saudi Arabia. Who knows what will
happen in Syria and elsewhere? But I really think there is the potential
for that region to be a much more stable place in the future. This
is the maximum hope.
Q | Do you consider the situation in North Korea a crisis? How does
it compare to the problem in Iraq?
A | North Korea is a big problem. I mean, I don’t
think we want a person like Kim Jongil to be able to mass-produce
weapons for his own purposes, or especially to proliferate those
weapons. This is a country that’s shown that it’s willing
to sell anything. And really the only thing it has to sell, the only
thing it has to bargain with, is this nuclear capability.
A lot of people were saying, “This is a worse crisis than Iraq,” but
I think some of that was just said so that we wouldn’t do anything
about Iraq. And The Journal’s argument has been that it’s
clear that Kim took the opportunity, when the United States was preoccupied
in Iraq, to try to blackmail us with the threat of nuclear weapons
as he did in 1994. That’s just not the kind of behavior you
can tolerate in a world order; otherwise you’re going to get
an awful lot more of it. And it’s a problem that does not lend
itself to a military solution, since that could have an awful lot
of dangerous, nasty consequences.
This issue can’t be solved by unilateral discussions with North
Korea. I think it’s much better if we can get the other nations
in that region to join us in putting pressure on the regime. The
real solution in North Korea, like Iraq, is for the regime to change.
And I think the U.S. and world policy should be to put pressure on
North Korea for that to happen.
Q | You were a reporter before you became a commentator. How do you
think that your background as a reporter influences your opinion
A | I think there are a lot of similarities between
reporting and so-called commentary in that both are fundamentally
in the information
business. The readers who turn to the editorial page of The Wall
Street Journal aren’t just looking for an opinion. I think they’re
also looking for information, things they haven’t seen elsewhere.
And so the reporter’s training — the ability to recognize
a story, the ability to think through a story and report it, and
the ability to ask questions and ferret out information — isn’t
all that different.
In fact, I often joke that had I known what I could get away with
as a reporter in many of the front pages of American newspapers these
days, I might never have gone into opinion. I mean it’s hard
to tell the difference between reporting and opinion sometimes. Reporting
is becoming a lot more opinionated, and in turn that kind of impinges
on our domain. I tell the opinion staff at The Wall Street Journal that we have to become more reportorial in the sense that we have
to bring more than just a point of view to the table each day for
people to read us.
Q | What do you think about the embedded reporting system established
for the Iraq War?
A | I think it has been a fascinating experiment,
and it may be one of those rare instances where something is good
for all parties:
the press, the military and the public. For the press, it provided
access we haven’t experienced since the Vietnam War. For the
military, I think embedding served to bridge the gulf between an
all-volunteer military force and the broader culture that knows little
about what our soldiers do, how they train and how they go about
their business. I think you’ll see soldiers coming home to
a warm welcome, in part because people have seen how professional,
compassionate and knowledgeable they are. For the public, I think
we saw good, old-fashioned reporting, where reporters were telling
us exactly what they were seeing and hearing — and not their
opinions. The embedded system may be a winner all around.
Q | You have a French/Belgian background and have worked and lived
in Asia. Did those experiences influence how you perceive the world,
and how you write about it?
A | I hope so. I don’t think there’s
any question that my background helped when I was writing about Washington,
for as long as I was. Even now, when I’m in New York, writing
a lot about the financial system, it helps to have been raised in
Wisconsin. It gave me a better sense than you get in that hothouse
of Washington about how Americans think. That’s served me very
well. And I think you’re right — living abroad for a
while really gives you a different perspective. It was decisive back
in those days in cementing my view that markets work better than
socialism. For me, seeing many places in Asia firsthand and seeing
what works and what doesn’t was an absolute, definitive case
for the superiority of markets in not only creating wealth, but also
reducing poverty and improving life for average people.
Q | What role do you think that religion should play in the public
debate about important issues?
A | I’m a Catholic and attended Catholic schools for 12 years.
I think that religious people in this country have an obligation
to be an active part of public dialogue — and because there’s
a moral center to their beliefs, there may be more of an obligation.
That said, we must be careful that organized churches don’t
look like they’re trying to demand some kind of preference
from the government. That was one reason why the founders came to
America, to bring about a separation between church and state.
Ultimately, I believe the broader society benefits from religious
points of view being brought to bear on public issues. In the last
15 years or so, there has been a greater focus on moral values in
the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal — because we’ve
seen the need for this kind of discussion in our country. We ran
a seminal editorial by Daniel Henninger titled “No Guardrails” about
the danger to a society with no moral boundaries. I recommend it
Q | Does the responsibility of such an important position with one
of the world’s largest-circulation newspapers weigh heavily
on you at all?
A | It’s difficult to answer that. It’s hard work, but
a lot of people have hard jobs, so in that sense it’s not different
than any other job with some responsibility. … But does it
weigh heavily? In this sense it does: When you have a megaphone like
The Wall Street Journal, when you have a piece of real estate that
is as important as this one, you really do have to make sure that
you are being fair, and that you are thinking about the impact you
have. And we try to. Now, at the same time, you’re trying to
keep the readers awake. You don’t want to sound like some pompous
Olympian writer who is detached from the passions of the day. You
want to write with some verve and passion, and the job of an editor
is trying to make judgments about when you go too far and go overboard.
The Journal is a big institution and has a big responsibility. In
that sense, you can’t just shoot from the hip.
Q | You must bring certain values and principles to your job. What
A | You bring to any job the sum total of your upbringing, your beliefs,
your life and work experiences and how they’ve impressed themselves
upon you. This infuses everything you do on a daily basis, and the
way you conduct your work. If you want to run an operation that is
ethical, honest and moral at its core, that means speaking up about
those values every day and following them in the processes of your
I’ve spent my career in journalism; that’s all I’ve
ever done. So I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few
things about professionalism and the craft of journalism. Every
single time you talk to a source, for instance, and say “this
is off the record,” you are making a contract you have to honor.
How fairly you treat your sources, the people you’re writing
about and your readers are important ethical considerations.
In terms of the values of The Journal, our motto is “free markets,
free people.” That’s the overriding ethic that we bring
to our writing, and we have done that for 50 or 60 years. We believe
in democracy and in people making their own decisions. We believe
in markets, and markets tend not only to create economic efficiency,
and therefore wealth, but they are also essential to human freedom
and the ability for people to fulfill their grandest dreams and ambitions.
That’s what we write about — whether it be trade, whether
it be the war in Iraq, whether it be how we approach issues like
entitlements. The big-picture ethic is free markets, free people.
That I very much believe in.
| SPU Breakfast Is One of the Hottest Tickets in Town
ACCORDING TO ANTHONY HORTON, catering sales manager for the downtown Sheraton
Seattle Hotel, Seattle Pacific University is the hotel’s only client
still able to pack the Grand Ballroom. Despite a sluggish economy and uncertain
world conditions, the annual Greater Seattle Community Breakfast sponsored
by SPU is one of the hottest tickets in town among business and civic leaders.
“This is ‘engaging the culture’ in action,” says Seattle
Pacific President Philip Eaton. “I want us to think about the issues of
the day. I want SPU to be a catalyst for open reflection and dialogue on important
matters. We aim high and bring in some of the most important intellectual, moral,
even spiritual voices of our day.”
Without facing a single appeal for funds, breakfast guests are met with a fast-paced,
high-quality program that showcases student talent, presents the value of Christian
higher education at Seattle Pacific, and provokes a thoughtful examination of
pressing issues through the global prism of world-class thinkers.
“We hope not that everyone in the room agrees with the speaker, but that
it gets them talking and thinking,” says Vice President for University
Advancement Bob McIntosh. “We want people to walk away with a ‘wow!’ and
go talk up SPU in the community.”
Awareness of the University in downtown Seattle and the professional community
has grown significantly with stimulating, invitationonly breakfast visits from
thoughtful and influential “big-picture” thinkers such as U.S. peace
negotiator George Mitchell; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will; and
former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett. “This gives SPU real
credibility in the city,” says Nancy Cahill, attorney in the law offices
of Holman, Cahill, Garrett, Ives and Oliver. “There were people at our
table this spring who had never come to the event before. It gave them a good
introduction to the University. They saw and heard firsthand Phil Eaton’s
message of hope and his passion for honesty, integrity and character.”
BY CONNIE MCDOUGALL
PHOTO BY MIKE SIEGEL
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