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May 8, 2012

1:04
P.M.

Eugene Robinson Live

Total Responses: 17

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
Archive of Eugene Robinson's columns

About the topic

Eugene Robinson chatted about his columns and the latest in political news.

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Q.

Eugene Robinson :

Hi, everyone. Time for our weekly discussion. No preliminaries today -- let's get started.

Q.

Evolve already!

Hi Eugene -- Thanks for taking questions today. On the one hand, I'm very happy to see the president taking it to the Republicans on foreign policy and national security. This whole same sex marriage kerfuffle, though, makes him look not only weak but also disingenuous. Why can't he just say it -- "I support same sex marriage"? Is he really likely to lose that many voters in the middle? What's the political calculation here?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I've criticized the president on this issue, but let's not pretend that supporting same-sex marriage would be politically cost-free for him. It wouldn't. Someday fairly soon, same-sex marriage will be legal throughout the country and people will wonder what the big deal was. I wish that day were here now, but it isn't. When put before voters, same-sex marriage still loses more often than it wins; that's why so many states now have constitutional amendments against it. I wouldn'r worry so much about "the middle" as about border states such as North Carolina.

Now, as was pointed out to me on Morning Joe today, we're all dismissing the possibility that President Obama really has some religious or principled objection to same-sex marriage. I, for one, don't understand what the  objection might be, in the context of what I understand to be his views about equality, justice, fairness, compassion... Maybe he will enlighten us as to why his "evolution" on the issue is taking so long and where it might be heading.

– May 08, 2012 1:01 PM
Q.

Biden, Obama and gay marriage

Gene: Much has been made of Mr. Biden's "gaffe" on the issue and supposedly the White House is devoted to doing damage control. But as a liberal, straight Democrat, I become increasingly tired of politicians such as Mr. Obama, and Mr. Clinton before him, who seem to think that being president is a matter of cobbling together 500 different constituencies in an effort to reach a majority in the Electoral College. Lyndon Johnson, when told by an adviser that some course of action was politically risky, looked at the guy and said, "If you don't take risks, then what the hell is the presidency for?" It seems today that winning a first term has become all about winning a second term--and I mean that for both parties.
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I don't speak for President Obama -- and I have a lot of sympathy for your viewpoint -- but I suspect he would reply that health care reform was plenty risky. I'm tryinig to think of a time when first-term presidents didn't keep one eye on the electoral calendar.

– May 08, 2012 1:04 PM
Q.

Santorum's Endorsement

Why do you think Rick Santorum took so long to finally endorse Romney? Does it seem to you that he doesn't want Romney to win the Presidency because Santorum wants to run in 2016?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

If that's Santorum's game, he did himself a lot of damage with the way he sorta kinda endorsed his party's inevitable nominee. Admittedly, it was a tough hurdle for him; during the campaign, he argued that Romney can't beat President Obama and that it wouldn't make much difference if he did. But the rule is that once you're beaten, you support the nominee. And you do it the right way, not in the 13th paragraph of a statement you issue at 11 p.m. and not in language that sounds grudging and almost defiant. It all seemed kind of petulant and childish. My theory is that Santorum really, really doesn't like Romney and is convinced that he's bound to lose. Even then, however, correct form would have been to go through the motions with a little more class. 

– May 08, 2012 1:05 PM
Q.

Racism from the Black Community

I am growing increasingly concerned about racism and discrimination the comes from the black community. I'm not talking about the New Black Panthers (who while they exist, exist in very small numbers). The resistance against gay marriage is based not just from intolerance from the religious right, but also from black churches. For communities that generally are supportive of liberals and civil rights, the discrimination against gays is astounding. Another example that while smaller would have been far worse if the racist wasn't Black was Marion Barry diatribe against Asians. What can be done to show that any community can act in a discriminatory manner, and more importantly get them to change their behavior?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I've criticized the attitude of many black clergy and congregations toward gay marriage for what it is -- discrimination. And Marion Barry's words were appalling. Please note, however, that Barry's remarks were slammed by virtually every member of the African-American political establishment in Washington. Note, also, that African-Americans are much more likely than whites to live in integrated neighborhoods and have friends (not just acquaintances or co-workers) of another race; you can look it up. You can find examples of discrimination in any group. Evidence indicates that among African-Americans you will find fewer.

– May 08, 2012 1:11 PM
Q.

Lugar's future

If he loses today, does Sen. Lugar end up in Obama's administration (if Obama gets a second term) as Sec of Defense or State?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Realistically, I doubt it. The president would have plenty of options for those jobs, and I'm not sure Sen. Lugar would be interested. It's a shame, if the polls are right, that we're about to lose one of the few remaining Republicans in Congress with any claim to the term "moderate." But we've known for a long time that they were an endangered species.

– May 08, 2012 1:14 PM
Q.

austerity doesn't work

Thanks for your austerity post. I too hope Obama and the D's in Congress get the clue from Europe that austerity does NOT create jobs and thus turn around economies. Do YOU think Europe's austerity failure will be a big campaign theme this fall? (I do thanks to recent European elections) So WHEN Obama gets re-elected, will he have to bypass the stonewalling R's in Congress again and spend / invest as needed to create jobs, or do you think D's can retake both chambers and tamp down senate filibusters to finally get rid of stonewalling? Letting Bush tax cuts expire will help raise revenue too, but best income generator is to have eveyone back on payrolls, literally.
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I think it's always dangerous to predict that developments in Europe -- short of some sort of threat to U.S. national security -- will play a big role in a U.S. election. That said, I do think it will sink in for some voters that Britain went the austerity route, was held up by Republicans as a model, and then slid back into recession. Any effect on Republicans in Congress, I fear, will be minimal.

– May 08, 2012 1:17 PM
Q.

Romney contradictions

I have tried to read Romney's recent comments on Pakistan/bin Laden and on the auto industry bailout objectively. It honestly seems to me that in both cases he has point-blank, unambiguously contradicted his own earlier positions. Not fudged them or added "nuance." Just flat said "I was for X" when he's on the record of saying "I'm against X." Do you agree? People criticized his aide for the Etch-a-Sketch comment. But I honestly think it may very well work. Am I wrong?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I agree with you. I think he's trying to rewrite recent history, and there are video clips and newspaper archives to prove it. This isn't nuance, it's complete reversal. Some people will be fooled. Others, I hope, will be offended at the insult to their intelligence.

– May 08, 2012 1:21 PM
Q.

Romney, Bachmann and Santorum

My question is, did Romney ask for endorsements from these two former opponents? Does he want them out of a fear that extreme social conservatives will just sit at home in November?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Yes and yes. Given the trajectory of the primary campaign, why wouldn't he worry about having only lukewarm support from social conservatives? And why wouldn't he try to do something about it? The question, of course, is whether by courting Bachmann and Santorum, he loses some support among independents. But you have to consolidate your base, and he can't afford for social conservatives to sit this one out.

– May 08, 2012 1:24 PM
Q.

Center fatigue?

Hello, Eugene: Among the many issues President Obama faces, I think his biggest challenge is avoiding the numbness felt by independent voters, who helped elect him last term. I know that the President has made some campus appearances to try to fluff up the younger voters, but with the economy in stagnation (not to mention that his influence is limited and he is at the mercy of the European crisis), and his main legacy of Health Care Reform under siege before it even gets into gear, what can he do to prevent those independents from staying home from the polls, which could possible give the GOP an advantage with their smaller, but more motivated right leaning base?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Portray Romney as being in thrall to the extremist right, while at the same time demonstrating your moderation for the benefit of independents. That would be the theory, at least.

– May 08, 2012 1:27 PM
Q.

Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage

Couldn't using these terms just settle the problem immediately?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I really doubt it, although anyone who's ever been married should understand the distinction. It's the word "marriage" that seems to send people to the barricades. For some reason that will never make sense to me, they feel threatened.

– May 08, 2012 1:31 PM
Q.

Britain has not tried austerity

Euguene -- you and others keep saying that Britain tried big spending cuts and is now in recession. Fact -- Britain's 2010 budget was 697 billion pounds. Its 2011 budget was 710 billion. That's an increase and not a cut. Plus Britain increased taxes substantially. Isn't the lesson that increased spending and raising taxes -- something you back -- leads to recession?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

And the 2012 budget is 682 billion pounds, lower thn the 2010 budget. If Britain has not tried austerity, somebody please tell David Cameron.

– May 08, 2012 1:38 PM
Q.

Toss them out!

Hi Gene, I know it is easy to read the vote in Europe as anti-austerity, but couldn't there also be a large element of "throw the bums out" from an angry populace?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Anti-incumbent sentiment certainly could be playing a role. but auserity was a huge issue in France. Hollande argued that yes, spending has to be brought under control, but the more urgent issue is growth. He wants the EU fiscal agreement to put more emphasis on stimulus and growth. Voters seem to agree.

– May 08, 2012 1:41 PM
Q.

Do They Really Believe What They Say?

Do the "lower taxes on rich helps everyone" folks REALLY BELIEVE that? Or are they just conning us?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Some may believe it, but I wonder where they get their evidence. Our economy has had sustained periods of growth with top marginal tax rates astronomically higher than the current ones. Cutting taxes for the rich has managed to make the society more unequal, but can't be shown to have made it more prosperous.

– May 08, 2012 1:45 PM
Q.

Romney and the right

Why is Romney cowering so much before the extreme right wing of his party? He's got the nomination, and I don't care what anybody says, they hate Obama way too much not to go to the polls and support Romney. On the other hand, some of the extremist rhetoric that Romney hesitates to criticize really could push undecided voters away from him. Time for Romney to have a Sister Souljah moment?
A.
Eugene Robinson :

Well, we're waiting. Haven't seen it yet.

– May 08, 2012 1:46 PM
Q.

People Hate Austerity

There is a massive difference between people disliking austerity measures, and not needing them. Common sense says that people hate having benefits taken away and taxes raised. However Europe has a massive debt problem on its hand, and to think that it gets out of it by just voting out the messenger is foolish. The debt is still there, the jobs still aren't and the Euro is looking shakier by the minute.
A.
Eugene Robinson :

The debt problem really was out of hand in Greece, as I noted in my column. But the level of debt in the big EU economies -- Italy, Spain, France -- is manageable, and would be even more easily managed if those economies could be coaxed into healthy growth.

– May 08, 2012 1:51 PM
Q.

Ward 8

Seems you've been doing a lot of deflecting and building up straw-men in regards to Marion Berry. Instead of criticizing his actions you build up arguments that African-Americans have more friends of different races and creeds. Why can't you just admit that black people can be racist too.
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I described Barry's words as appalling. I said you can find discrimination in any group. You might want to invest in some reading glasses.

– May 08, 2012 1:56 PM
Q.

Attitude of Greek people

My relatives in Greece--all educated professionals--tell me what really angers the Greek people is that they see themselves as bearing the brunt of austerity, and not the banks. They agreed to austerity early on. But they see no austerity for the banks. Add to that the fact that austerity does not work, and makes the situation even worse, and the result is that the Greek people are livid. If the Greek people saw that austerity worked and that all the other parties responsible for the Greek crisis were sharing the pain, there would be much less anger. But as we all know, the Greek people have been singled out for austerity. This infuriates them. If lead Greece, I'd take a page from the teahadist book of how to negotiate during the debt ceiling crisis. I'd start saying that default would be good for the Euro Zone, that the banks need the discipline of writing off Greek loans, and that default would have no effect on Greece. Borrowing from game theory, I'd convince Merkel & Co. that Greece was crazy and believed what it was saying about default. If one side thinks the other is nuts, the sane side will compromise and concede more.
A.
Eugene Robinson :

I understand why Greeks (or Grecians, as George W. Bush once called them) would be angry, especially at political leaders who hid the magnitude of the debt crisis behind a scrim of lies. Those same leaders treated membership in the Euro Zone as a kind of ATM that the Germans would always replenish. I don't think your proposed gambit would have worked. because I believe the Germans and the French reached a point where they were ready to cut Greece loose and do anything necessary to protect the rest of the currency union. The truth is that the EU and the world economy can survive a default by Greece (but not by Spain or Italy). And, in fact, withdrawal from the currency union followed by default might have been the best course of action for Greece. We may yet find out if these assertions I make are true.

 

But we won't find out today, friends, because my time is up. Thanks for tuning in, and I'll see you next week.

– May 08, 2012 2:09 PM
Q.

 

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