Eugene Robinson Live

Jul 31, 2013

Note to readers: Eugene Robinson is chatting on Wednesday this week and will be back for his regularly scheduled chat time (Tuesday, at 1pm) next week. Submit your questions and comments about recent political news.

Hello, everyone. Lots going on. No preliminaries today -- let's get started.

We live in a society where people voluntarily give up virtually everything about their lives to facebook, google and apple. People have been turned into a commodity for tech corporations ad revenues and continue to use these services in higher numbers. Now many of these people are taking to Gmail and Facebook to complain about their privacy? Thats just a bit ironic. Since we already give our information away to be sold to commercial groups (whether we admit it or not) I have no problem with highly trained & skilled workers also looking at it to make sure we don't get killed. Set up firewalls between the civilian side and the intelligence side. However don't give me some speech about how he is a great martyr.

Are you talking about Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning? I'm guessing you refer to Snowden, whom I wrote about in a column this week. I said he had performed a valuable service for the country, and I stand by that assessement. It is outrageous, in a free country, that secret courts issue secret orders to seize vast amounts of private information about all of us. I don't care how "highly trained and skilled" the spooks are. And when companies gather my information, I know they just want one thing -- to make money. I can use those companies' services or not. The government is different. God, I sound like Rand Paul on this issue, heaven help me. But that's the way I feel.

I normally vote democratic but I must be the only one not thrilled by the idea of Hillary in 2016. I don't think she's a good executive and I don't like the idea of the constant federal leap frogging employee. Do you see another stealth (electable) candidate in the wings?

It's early. Way early. If Hillary Clinton decides to run, she will be the clear frontrunner for the nomination. Challengers will emerge. Things will happen. Let's not write the story of the 2016 campaign just yet.

I have been curious for some time about your take on our "it's perfectly legal" (and that's true, not sarcasm) gifts scandal. I'm a Democrat and I don't like McDonnell's social conservatism, to put it mildly. But as far as I can tell, he has followed the law, and that law was not some obscure secret, but known to all. So what exactly is the issue? I'd like him to stay on the job through the end of his term, as it seems pointless to swap out governors in the "off season" between legislative sessions. To put it simply, he knows what to do if there's a hurricane, and I trust him to do it.

There's an investigation under way to ascertain whether Gov. McDonnell may have broken any laws, so that question isn't settled. Even if he didn't, I think this whole scandal is pretty scandalous. It looks as if a businessman bought the governor's services as his product's chief promoter. A Rolex? A $15,000 shopping trip at Bergdorf's? If if that's legal, it ain't right.

Do you agree with your colleague Ruth Marcus that Edward Snowden showed a lack of courage in fleeing the country?

I guess he would be considered a more noble human being if he had stayed and allowed himself to be clapped in irons. My view is that his character is less important than the information he has brought to light. I see no evidence that his intent was to aid enemies of the United States. He leaked his information only to responsible news organizations which have been ighly selective in what they published. I don't think whistleblowing necessarily implies martyrdom.

Does the GOP really think they can get away with shutting down the federal government over Obama Care? With the sequester hurting millions - and with this looming - do you really think they would do something this ridiculous? More than that - will this hurt the Party at the polls next year?

History suggests that shutting down the government does not work well for the GOP. But I don't put it beyond Republicans to try it one more time.

Setting aside your personal thoughts on him, you must love the idea of a Mayor Weiner as a columnist, right?

His candidacy is certainly a gift to columnists, headline writers and editorial cartoonists. But the thrill is almost gone. There are only so many weiner jokes you can come up with.

Not for the first time in my life, I'm looking at a second term president and thinking, six years is about it. It's time to go. The ideas are played out; the energy is gone; and you're bringing out the relief pitchers at cabinet level. I don't see any big initiatives -- maybe Israel/Palestine, but that's about it.

Well, an Israeli-Paletinian agreement would be a huge deal and a great legacy, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on success. There is an election coming up next year, I hear, and I think we should wait to see how it comes out before judging President Obama's second term a nothing-burger.

Now that Tom Cotton is running in Arkansas, there is a good chance the Republicans will take back the senate. Can you imagine the gridlock in the last two years of the Obama administration? It will make this past year look like a cake walk.

If Republicans take the Senate, life would be tougher for President Obama. But it's tough enough already with a House that rejects even longstanding GOP ideas -- corporate tax reform, for example -- when Obama proposes them. Demmocrats would need to win 17 seats to take back control of the House. That looks unlikely, but strager things have happened. And remember that while Obama's approval rating is down, the public regard for Congress is sliding toward negative numbers.

In light of China's failing solar panels, and soaring energy costs, shouldn't the U.S. ramp up solar panel innovation and manufacturing?

Yes. Somebody's going to make the next big breakthrough in solar technology. I hope it's us.

How would you solve the following issues that are clearly issues with the black community that are not being addressed? 1. 73% out of wedlock birth rate (this cannot be good for any child and leads to the lack of a stable family environment and lack of discipline) 2. High crime rates among black males. Statistics show that black males commit a much higher percentage of overall crimes than their percentage of the population. 3. High school drop out rates. 4. What is perceived as a lack of motivation for advancement/education among many in the black community. 5. Black "leaders" (Sharpton, Jackson, etc.) are perceived as stirring the pot rather than looking for solutions to the prior issues. They are quick to point out potential items of racism (Zimmerman case), but rarely discuss getting a good education, staying in school, not having a child as a child, etc. My belief is that if there were more of these issues discussed by white and black leaders, "perceptions" could be changed.

The notion that any one or two people could speak as "leaders" for 40 million African-Americans is absurd. But Revs. Sharpton and Jackson are listened to because they are important voices, and it's obvious that you don't listen to what either of them actually says. If you did, you would hear them talking constantly about the very problems you mention -- and you would hear them looking for solutions. 

Any hope the practice of contorting district boundaries to protect seats of a party will be curtailed (I'm too pragmatic to say ended) anytime soon? The fact that the GOP may likely continue to control the House no matter what they do flies in the face of what voting should be about.

I don't see any real hope for ending gerrymandering, although some ideas are being tossed around in some states. What has changed is that the science of drawing district boundaries has gotten better and more precise.

Yes, Anthony Weiner is a joke. But I can't believe that Filner does not get more attention. The man is a former congressman and mayor of the 8th largest city in the country. Not exactly soe back woods area. Is this due to east coast bias?

It could be. And Mayor Filner's behavior was up-close and personal, not via Twitter. 

I have the same attitude towards restricting my 4th Amendment rights in the fight against terrorism as does the NRA towards restricting the 2d Amendment in the same fight. NO restrictions are permissible, period. I demand Congress protect my 4th Amendment rights as much as it protects 2d Amendment rights. I demand that the consequences be ignored just as they are ignored for gun rights. We have seen Hezbollah trying to use the gun show loophole to arm itself. See this USA Today article. We have seen al Qaeda making the same point. We have seen Congress refuse to act. Is this too absolutist? Absolutely. But I demand equal protection of my Constitutional rights.

It does seem to me that anyone who believes the 2nd Amendment is 100-percent absolute should be raising money for a statue in honor of Edward Snowden.

I'm heartened to see the issues are being debated, I was afraid at first that the information itself would be drowned out in the traitor/hero debate. I don't blame him for running, especially seeing how the Bradley Manning trial turned out.

I've been to Sheremetyevo Airport. It's not exactly the South of France.

If Anthony Weiner either drops out of the NYC Mayoral race, or is defeated, what skill set does he have for a career other than tweeting?

Photography?

So he didn't do anything technically illegal (according to VA law), HOWEVER he and his family did some things that are ethically wrong. There is something really fishy about Star Scientific... and having any sort of event at the governor's mansion carries with it the governor's support.

That's certainly my view. 

I know it is early, but the fight for the Republican nomination in 2016 already looks like it will be absolutely fascinating. At this point, who do you see as the favorite(s)? Given the Republican electorate, it hard to see who could survive. I had previously thought that Rubio might have the best chance, but he seems to have wounded himself (perhaps fatally) by appearing reasonable on immigration. Rand Paul's isolationism will be an anathema to a large segment of the party, Jeb Bush has the handicap of his name, and Christie committed the cardinal sin of throwing the last election to Obama. Maybe Rick Perry 2.0 has a chance . . .

It's early. But I agree that this will be a fascinating contest. These potential candidates represent distinct strains of thought within the party, and so it will be a battle of ideologies as well as personalities.

agree with you that a company tracking my searches to try and sell me more of whatever is different than the government collecting all my phone records, emails, internet searches whatever. Only one of those entities has the power to imprison me, or put me on the no fly list. Hint its not Google.

Exactly.

That's all for today, folks. Sorry, but my time is up. 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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