Eugene Robinson Live

Jan 08, 2013

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about politics and his latest column

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to our regular discussion. We're in a breather between artificial, self-inflicted, threatened economic crises -- past the fiscal cliff, approaching the debt ceiling debacle -- so today's news isn't about arithmetic, but about people: Hagel, Brennan, RGIII. Oh, and there's an inauguration coming up. Let's get the party started.

I certainly hope this doesn't happen, but if it comes to a shut-down, I hope the Administration does it the right way: shut down EVERYTHING!! No FAA, so those congressmen can't fly away; close all national parks and refuges; everything the government controls. Let them see just how important the government is to us all. I was involved in the shut-down during the Clinton Administration, and you should have heard the yelling when people couldn't get into the parks. They just didn't think of it as a government asset, run by government employees. Just stop everything!!

Everyone knows the classic shut-down move: Close the parks, along with all the tourist attractions in Washington. Let Congress hear from the folks who came all this way to climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and find they can't. Constituents tend not to like that.

Gene, As a liberal/ Obama supporter I am very disappointed with Obama's DoD pick. He is not only outside the norm for conservatives, he is also outside the norm of most democrats. Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are terrorist group by almost any sane definition. The fact that they occasionally due humanitarian work does not hide the fact that their main goal is to kill every man woman and children in Israel. His outright object to recognizing the threat from these groups, makes him unsuitable for holding this position. It shows a lack of understanding (or worse a lack of concern) about the threats in the region. I am in shock that so many Dems are willing to look the other way at his unexplainable past.

Chuck Hagel should answer questions about his views, but I think you overstate them. His view about Iran sanctions has been that they don't work. Israeli PM Netanyahu takes a similar view, though he arrives from a different angle. I'm not aware of what Hagel has said about Hamas, but I know he has spoken of looking for "moderates" within Hezbollah. You certainly won't find them in the leadership, and maybe they don't exist at all. But as defense secretary, he won't be setting foreign policy. That is done in the White House. I'm not wild about the Hagel pick for other reasons -- There's not a single Democrat who can run the Pentagon? -- but I don't think a fair reading of his career suggests he's anti-Israel.

You are so so wrong about the decision to leave RGIII in the game. This is what I thought in the first quarter, after he twisted his knee. Short term, it was a terrible decision because everything that makes RGIII great is gone when he only has one leg. Long term, it is a terrible decision because you are risking your next 12 years of a franchise for one game. RGIII should be introduced to Gale Sayers, a brilliant running back who only played 6 years in the league because of reckless abandon. Shanahan blew it big time. And you let him off the hook.

Shanahan is hardly off the hook; the whole sportswriting fraternity/sorority is piling on. Look, in hindsight clearly he made the wrong call. A lot of people also thought so at the time. But why is everyone so shocked -- shocked! -- that an NFL coach would leave a player in the game who was hurting? And why is everyone shocked that a coach might really believe his starting QB at half speed is better than his back-up at full speed?

I don't give a patooty about football, but I felt bad when I saw that picture of RGIII's bent knee, ouch. Also, Gene W. say's you're wrong about the coach's decision not to pull him out of the game. I think Gene W. is right it was the coach's responsibility. OK, I'm going back to work now.

I'll resist the temptation to call Weingarten a poopy-head and simply note, once again, that pro football is a violent game.

Who cares if there is a R or a D at the end of his name? He isn't voting, so just pick the best person for the job.

That is of course right, but I think we should be past the point where Democratic presidents need to send some kind of special envoy to the Pentagon who is untainted by Democraticness. Obama has shown no hesitation to use U.S. military power when he deems it appropriate. Clinton had Bill Cohen; Obama had Bob Gates and now Hagel. Leon Panetta used to be a Republican before he switched. Great public servants, all. But are Dems somehow not eligible?

This quote from Alexis de Tocqueville is being quoted frequently recently: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury." Do you believe there is a limit at which the tax/spending cycle will cease or do you believe it can continue indefinitely?

I don't know what you mean about the "tax/spending cycle." I do believe there will always be taxes and there will always be spending. If you mean do I believe our debt will spiral completely out of control, no, I do not.

Greetings. I would like to offer a bit of a defense on behalf of Sen. Hagel. As a lifelong Democrat, I have held positions that have been at odds with many, but not all, Republican positions on the economy, the environment, on defense, etc. But I also can recall a time when these disagreements were discussed civilly, and with a larger purpose always the primary concern. But as a Vietnam veteran, who went to war under threat of conscription and who came home under a cloud of disdain and neglect, I am angry that this man can be treated so shamefully yet again, based on mere parsings of past statements, selectively culled for emotional effect. Enough is enough. If he is the choice of the President, then as is the case with precedent, he should be confirmed because of his abilities, his accomplishments, his patriotism, and his willingness to serve again. The President turned out to be more of a centrist than many liberals recognized. For that, they should have carefully read "The Audacity of Hope" more carefully. And for those on the right, especially the chickenhawks among them, I have nothing but contempt.

Thanks for your note, and you allude to one huge point in Hagel's favor: He is a decorated Vietnam vet, a former enlisted man with first-hand knowledge of what a decision to go to war really means.

Along with Al Gore selling his Current TV to Al Jazeera (which is partially funded by Big Oil), we have this tidbit: Gore tried to ram the deal through before the end of 2012 so he could avoid the higher tax rates on capital gains. But he's not alone. Several Obama-friendly corporations (Google, Costco, etc.) are using a variety of tax-dodging measures. Then we have your Obama-endorsing employer. The Washington Post has paid out their year-2013 dividends to its stockholders - and they did it last month. Don't you find this hypocrisy a little bit galling?

Not in the least. Why would you expect liberals to enjoy paying taxes any more than conservatives do? That's why we pass laws to enforce tax obligations. If everyone abides by those laws, no problem, right?

Gene, look, I support the President (voted for him twice, donated to both campaigns). But I cannot abide the utter refusal of many/most Cong. Democrats to address head-on the real cause of our long-term fiscal problem: out of control Medicare costs. For example, David Brooks cited statistics last week that the average current beneficiary draws 3x the amount of benefits than s/he paid into the system. What are your thoughts on how to resolve this? I'm all for increased taxes on the wealthiest 1%, but let's be honest here - that's not the entire solution.

It's not true that there is an "utter refusal" to look at ways to ensure that Medicare is sustainable. There's just a refusal to agree with Republicans that the way to accomplish this is to wade in and begin slashing benefits. As my colleague E.J. Dionne has noted, there is evidence that the growth of health care costs may be slowing. Shouldn't we explore ways to encourage that trend before we start swinging the ax?

Regardless of whether one cares about RG III's health or not, the reason Shanahan was wrong to leave him in was because it didn't give the team the best chance to win the game. If he was being productive that would have been one thing, but he wasn't. What I'm shocked aobout is that Shanahan was the last person in the world to realize RG III was useless out there in the second half.

To tell the truth, I thought the same thing. But it occurred to me that since I've never coached a team that won the Super Bowl -- not even once, let alone twice -- there was a slight chance that maybe Shanahan might be seeing something, or might know something, that I was missing. (I have watched the Super Bowl on television, oh, at least XXXVI times, however.)

keep questioning Obama's birthplace are the same people who keep on insisting that RG III is a running quarterback? Or is it just me?

You gotta wonder. Arguably, the moment of truth, in terms of Shanahan's decision-making, was when Griffin underthrew the long ball and gave up the interception. The ball usually rockets out of his hand; that one fizzled.

I think I've written this before but here I go again. Why do you think Obama has surrounded himself with such colorless people (Hillary excluded, of course)?? It's not just the gender imbalance - though that is not a positive. I grew up in DC and I can't remember any president who had a more forgettable cabinet. These charades the Republicans are acting out over Hagel are just that - charades. Lying and obfuscating have become so mundane that no one really listens to our politicians anymore (unless they're seeking to validate their own views). I keep feeling like the day after Bush got re-elected. No one cared anymore. No one liked him. We just went into a slumber until Katrina. Why is Washington so dull?

Hey, no nodding off! I don't know about your larger point, but I've often wondered what happens to people once Obama names them to his cabinet. With a few exceptions, they seem to be shipped off to some secure undisclosed location. You never hear from them again.

Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo and Peter King and the rest need to get over themselves. So why didn't the House go for Sandy aid. Let's see, how did New York vote this fall? How did New Jersey vote? Not to mention, what did Chris Christie pull hugging Obama after the storm? And you wonder why you didn't get your aid? Please.

I don't know what to say, except that I sincerely hope this was not written by a sitting member of Congress.

You know, I just wonder why there wasn't this hue and cry about the debt when we had a Republican president.

While you're at it, you might also wonder why all the big leaps in federal government spending come under Republican presidents rather than Democrats. Look it up, skeptics.

 

That's it for today, folks. Thanks for a lively hour, and I'll see you again next week.

In This Chat
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.
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