Eugene Robinson Live

Jan 29, 2013

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about politics and his latest column.

Submit questions and comments for Gene to respond to now.

No preliminaries today, folks. Looks like immigration and Republican angst will be on tap, along with, well, just about everything else. Let's begin.

Your column today suggests that the GOP must have been crazy to fire Michael Steele after winning big in 2010 while retaining Reince Priebus after losing in 2012. That's overly generous to your MSNBC colleague. You may recall the many gaffes, controversies, and RNC funding crises that led to Steele's ouster. When Rachel Maddow finally recruited him to come on her show, with long interviews, I thought "Let me get this straight. I'm supposed to care about the views of someone who was an unsuccessful Lt. Governor of Maryland (not easy to do -- but he failed), an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate, and a laughably inept head of the RNC?" I recall changing the channel. I still don't care what he thinks.

I was just pointing out the sequence of events. The party also says that Steele left a deficit of about $20 million. But the fact is that he ran the party when it won a bunch of elections, and they fired him, and then Priebus ran the party when it lost a bunch of elections, and they rehired him. And this is supposed to be the party that understands corporate America's results-oriented mindset? I'm just sayin.

Recent columns by Jim DeMint and Frank Luntz and now Bobby Jindal's speech pretty much say the same thing as you point out; change the way we message but not the way we think. Then Jindal goes out and says as much and Boehner et al go about with the typical Republican spread the fear and be very afraid message of annihilation. I am a liberal who desperately wants a sane Republican party and by the way, David Brooks in his column today seems to think so too. My question though is, the change they need to make doesn't feel like it can come from within meaning active political members. What is Jeb Bush up to these days? He seems like a guy who might be able to redirect the sinking ship.

When the Democratic party was in the wilderness, moderates formed the Democratic Leadership Council, which made Bill Clinton's ascendancy possible. I assume something analogous will happen to the GOP, but I acknowledge it's harder because the Republican Party positions are so absolute. 

What is the status of the filibuster reform?

There's not going to be anything really worthy of the name "reform" but it will be easier, at least, for President Obama (and future presidents) to get sub-cabinet nominees confirmed. And there may be less abuse of the filibuster, although I'm waiting to see if there's really a change.

I'm still hearing complaints about how President Obama's inauguration speech wasn't bipartisan enough and he didn't "reach across the aisle." How in the world can Republicans expect the President to be bipartisan when every attempt he made in his first term was rejected by Republicans in the most scornful manner. The losing candidate for Illinois' Senate seat summed it up nicely by stating that the only Democratic compromise he would accept to was full acceptance of the Republican agenda. It's take some major-league chutzpah for Republicans to make the bipartisanship complaint now.

The word chutzpah occurred to me, too. Horror of horrors, a president is trying to enact the agenda he promised during his campaign. Imagine that.

At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Benghazi, John McCain asked Secretary of State Clinton "Were you and the President made aware of the classified cable from Chris Stevens that said 'The United States consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault'? Numerous warnings, including personally to me, about security were unanswered or unaddressed." If Senator McCain had numerous warnings directly from Ambassador Stevens, did he act on that information? Did he do anything? Thank you for your coverage of events.

Good questions, but I don't think Sen. McCain or anyone else is "culpable." That includes Secretary Clinton and President Obama. Culpability would mean George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice et al were "culpable" for the 9/11 attacks, that Ronald Reagan was "culpable" for the Marine barracks bombing, that Bill Clinton was "culpable" for the Cole attack, etc. I assume that officials try their best to keep U.S. personnel safe.

When discussing the loss of our foreign service officers, I never hear Ambassador Arnie Raphel mentioned. He was our Ambassador to Pakistan and was killed in a plane crash with President Zia in August 1988. The crash is still considered quite a mystery. The Republicans seems to gloss over this loss which occured during the Reagan Administration. No Benghazi-like hearings to asses blame were ever held. And no State Department officials lost their jobs over the loss of our Ambassador there, despite the quite mysterious circumstances. Perhaps John McCain will open an investigation into the loss of Ambassador Raphel or maybe even mention that he was killed in action, but I won't hold my breath.

Again, I really believe that officials try to keep our people safe when they're serving abroad. Sometimes they fail. We should learn from our errors, not throw tantrums or conduct political witch hunts.

The Obama Administration did not just spend one day trying to tell people the Benghazi attacks were the result of some stupid video; that narrative lasted for at least a week. President Obama's "no act of terror" line in his press conference was merely an oblique reference and not a direct tie-in to Benghazi. So when Hillary Clinton shouted out "What difference does it make?" regarding how four Americans were killed, that doomed her presidential aspirations. Final note: Right before the final debate, your colleague Chris Matthews actually told a Romney supporter, "It was all about the video." So stop trying to tell us there wasn't a coverup, because there was.

My friend Chris does not speak for this (or any other) administration. I'm confident that if Secretary Clinton has presidential aspirations, they were enhanced by her testimony. Maybe we'll get to see who's right.

Will the most rabid anti-undocumented-immigrant politicians be rendered obsolete if the current efforts of Schumer, Flake, Rubio et al. pass?

I don't know about "obsolete." Their influence in the GOP will have diminished, but they will still have a passionate anti-immigrant constituency. It will be interesting to see if they try to take out their frustration on Republican members of Congress who decide to support comprehensive reform.

I fail to see why Reince Priebus should be fired. The GOP held onto the House, and a significant number of the losses sustained can't be laid at Priebus's feet. When you've got candidates like Todd Akin to contend with, how can it be your fault that Democrats held onto the Senate? As for the big enchilada, the presidency, there's only so much you can do when Mitt Romney is the best your party can field. My views may be skewed by the fact that I'm a Democrat and I don't want Republicans to win, but still, it seems to me that Republicans won big in 2010 despite Michael Steele, while Priebus managed to hold the line for the party.

If the GOP wants to keep Priebus, fine with me. But he didn't hold the line in November, not by a long shot. Leaving Steele aside, I think the party would be better served right now by a chairman who was willing to challenge party dogma and reach out to voters who now won't give the GOP the time of day. I don't think it's just tactics and messaging. But hey, their choice.

Do you see this alliance battling those who are trying to get immigration reform done?

Rush Limbaugh, as I understand it, has already said he will fight bipartisan reform. I'm not at all sure that Fox News will join him on the barricades.

The Fix had a great chart today that fully demonstrated the mix of voters. For GOP presidential nominee, only 1 in 10 voters is non white. For the Democrats- it was almost a 50/50 split (because you can't have half people). All i can say is wow- but I wanted to see what you thought about the numbers.

Striking. It's 11 percent nonwhite for the GOP and 44 percent for Democrats. Thing is, the Latino and Asian-American populations are growing much faster than the white population. Those groups went for Obama by 71 percent and 73 percent respectively. If that trend solidifies, it's hard to see how the GOP avoids steady decline.

You're passionate in your belief on global warming. Record cold temps, most of the country buried in snow and ice the past few days. Global warming or natural weather cycle?

Actually, it's about 60 degrees now. Care to rethink your question? Seriously, come on. Look at yearly averages, and all of the ten warmest years except one -- 1998, an outlier -- are since the turn of the century. Even the staunchest climate change skeptics acknowledge it's getting warmer. They say we don't know why. (But we do.) 

Hi Eugene -- now that she's no longer going to be a Fox fixture, what do you see in Ms. Palin's future? Will she ever be an influential voice in the Republican party, or did that ship sail the minute she resigned the governorship after only two years in office? In other words, is she still relevant?

Beats me. She needs some kind of platform if she wants to remain influential. No idea what that platform might be.

Gene, is it possible that Reid is being wise as a fox in his approach to filibuster reform? If the Republicans take over the Senate in 2014, he's limited their ability to push their agenda. If not, and the GOP uses the filibuster over the next two years despite the changes, he has a good case (and more Senate votes) for stronger reform. And of course if walking to the edge of the "nuclear option" causes the GOP to back off on filibusters, he'll have accomplished his purpose. What do you think?

I basically agree. The real problem wasn't the rules, it was that Republicans were abusing them. If this gets them to behave in a more, well, senatorial manner, then maybe it's about the best Reid could have hoped for. If it doesn't work, he can always go further.

Not the author- but can we remind our friends that think that global warming in only about WARMING? Global warming is about warmer temperatures on average over a sustained period of time- but also about larger swings in temperatures/weather patterns... freezing cold for a week, blimps of 60/70* temperatures, and freezing cold again... Not saying that is exactly what global warming is- but it's a sign.

I'm not sure these temperature swings could or should be linked to climate change. Weather is changeable. But the predictions about volatility -- tropical cyclones and other extreme events -- do seem to be borne out by what we've been seeing.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson had the best take on this. Even if one is a climate-change skeptic, Dr. Tyson noted that there are plant and anlimal species moving further away from the equator toward more temperate climates. No studies or data to debate, just routine observation.

Right. Whatever you choose to believe, measurable changes are taking place.

What if a constitutional amendment passed to permit states to form Congressional districts based strictly on (their choice of) latitude or longitude? They'd still have to maintain equal populations in the districts so the district shapes might become slivers (think of California divided with ~50 latitude lines spaced unevenly). It'd look a little odd but not as bad as the strange shapes currently envisioned. But the technology is there. If you have a GPS you know what district you're in. The states retain some "spoils", in that they get to pick longitude or latitude as suits the dominant party's prospects. But still a hard sell, I know. I just wonder if you think it would work IF passed.

A very hard sell. Theoretically, it could work, I guess. But ain't gonna happen.

Afraid that's all for today, folks. My time is up for today. See you 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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