GOP still fed up with the field: Opinion Focus with Eugene Robinson

Aug 23, 2011

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson discusses his recent columns and the latest news in a live Q&A. In his recent column, "The GOP is fed up with its choices," Robinson writes, "In theory, Democrats should be nervous about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to enter the presidential race. In practice, though, it’s Republicans who have zoomed up the anxiety ladder into freak-out mode.

"To clarify, not all Republicans are reaching for the Xanax, just those who believe the party has to appeal to centrist independents if it hopes to defeat President Obama next year. Also, those who believe that calling Social Security “ an illegal Ponzi scheme ” and suggesting that Medicare is unconstitutional might not be the best way to win the votes of senior citizens."

Have a question? Ask now.

Hello, everyone. As we begin this week's discussion, I'm watching live pictures on MSNBC from inside the Gaddafi family compound in Tripoli, as rebels and looters pour into the dictator's sanctum. No sign of the Gaddafi family, as yet. I've had a lot of questions about the Obama administration's Libya policy, but I have to acknowledge that odds are increasing for a good result. As for Syria, well... Meanwhile, back at the ranch, today's column is about GOP politics and the debut of Rick Perry as a leading candidate for the nomination. The Republican establishment ought to worry that while he might thrill the party's activist base, his way-past-right-field philosophy is not likely to appeal to independents. Or, you know, anybody who believes in science. Anyway, let's begin.

Why did you feel compelled to leave out the word "almost" before treasonous? the question is really broader ----why do opinionators like yourself feel justified to take quotes out of context, or to enhance to make your political point---worse than candidates themselves. What happened to honest "reporting"??

You're referring to Rick Perry's quote about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Really? Does "almost" make it just fine with you? And the subsequent warning that he would be treated "ugly" in Texas is peachy, too? Really?

So, certain GOP candidates are making a big show about not believing climate scientists, not believing the advice of economists on how to stimulate the economy, not believing biologists who research evolution...Wow. Gene, despite the absurdity of the situation, I don't want to be flippant - I think this trend of leading voters to disavow education and knowledge is extraordinarily dangerous, not to mention sad. How did this happen?

Good question. Jon Huntsman warned that the GOP can't become the anti-science party. My observation is that he's awfully late. The crazy thing is that for some Republicans, it's all an act. Not for Rick Perry, I fear. But look at Sarah Palin, who's such a  "skeptic" about climate change. When she was governor of Alaska (for those brief two years and change), she was actually quite reasonable and empirical about climate change. Permafrost was melting, waters were rising, whole villages had to be relocated. She wrote about curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Now, however, she denies ever being reasonable on the issue.

You write a lot of columns on the current Republican field, but I wonder if your time could be spent better elsewhere. It's far too early in the process and I have to suspect that GOP primary voters don't read you too often.

Well, we already know who the Democratic candidate is. And it's not too early. As for my readership among GOP primary voters, they have my personal invitation to read as often as they'd like.

With Huntsman proving the old adage that "nice guys finish last" and Perry, Bachmann (and Palin?) fighting for control of the Yosemite Sam wing of what's left of the Republican Party, we can only hope that there's enough time for at least a LITTLE turnaround in the economy. With that, President Obama will be OK for next year. Now, all we need to do is get rid of the tea party loons and have the 2012 election swing back once again so that there's a Democratic majority in congress. (I know, I know...but I still buy lottery tickets once in awhile, too.)

Um, how often do those tickets pay off? The realistic view, I think, is that the economy will still be struggling next fall. Democrats have a chance of taking back the House, with a few breaks; but the Senate might well go Republican. President Obama's prospects are good, though -- and get much better if the Republican nomination process is all about who hates government most, who has the least regard for science, who favors the biggest tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy...

So, on his non-political bus tour (insert knowing chuckle here) he said "there is some red tape that needs to be cut" and earlier this year he "instructed" agencies to review regulations. Gee, seems nobody is listening to his heartfelt (insert another knowing chuckle) pleas. How else to explain the EPA's two recent rules on (1) emissions from utility companies (EPA's own estimate is that this will cost $2.7 billion and a lot of jobs); and (2) mileage on medium- and heavy-duty trucks which will cost, EPA says, $8.1 billion (EPA somehow failed to provide a jobs-lost number). And waiting in the wings is the ozone rule from EPA, that may cost up to $1 trillion. The best jobs plan Obama could announce next month is that the EPA has been pulled back from this lunacy. Otherwise, those who proclaim this the most anti-business administration in memory will have legitimately been provided more ammunition for their claims. Don't you agree that EPA is undercutting job creation?

No. Since when did the EPA (established by Richard Nixon) become the right's favorite scapegoat? I happen to believe that the environment is important. And I know that the EPA has been limited in recent years to a far less proactive role than it once had. There is, and has always been, a tradeoff: Yes, that mercury-spewing plant provides jobs, but it also makes people sick. The EPA's prime directive is to protect human health, and I want the agency to be successful. I want you to be healthy.

I heard Rick Perry saying that the climate has been changing since the Earth was formed. Can you find out if he means for about 10,000 years or about 4 Billion years as most scientists believe.

I believe he's already said he doesn't know how old the Earth might be. So I can ask, but I doubt I'll get a satisfactory answer.

I'm an almost 60 white Independent male and have voted for Ford, Carter once, Reagan once, Bush the Elder once, Clinton twice, Gore, Kerry, and Obama. The Republicans are dangerous because their economic ideology has been consistently dis-proven over the last 30 years yet they have never been brought to task by the media for being wrong. The Democrats are spineless and turn tail and run rather then defend their beliefs. Earlier this month I attended a rather large family reunion in a small town in the Midwest. I have several cousins who proudly proclaim they are members of the Tea Party. They have ALWAYS been Republicans and have ALWAYS thought minorities receive privileges from the government not available to them. At the reunion, especially after the beer had been flowing for a while, conversation about any economic issue quickly turned to brutal racial comments about Obama as validation of Tea Party positions. Rather than a discussion of the issues on the merits, my cousins quickly turned to racial epithets when questioned/challenged about their beliefs . I think the media misses the point or is choosing to ignore the racial underpinnings of the Tea Party. Additionally, the idea that the the Tea Party is something new is ridiculous. I have a feeling we have been bamboozled by a well-organized, well-funded effort to rebrand the GOP after the Bush debacle. Again, most of the media seems to have fallen for it.

Obviously, I'm not likely to be privy to that sort of conversation. But do you really think the media have ignored expressions of racial animus from Tea Party members and leaders? I was at the Capitol when African American members of Congress were buillied and hectored by Tea Party types right before the health care vote. We report this stuff when we see it and hear it. But reporting doesn't make it go away.

Your poster needs to read the most recent research by NASA, the NSF etc. The view points are changing. And come on 300 million folks in this country can do very little to change the climate. Even f all the vehicles in this country magically became powered by batteries and electric motors it would have no effect on global warming. UNC Dept of Climatology and Meteorology

There are only 300 million of us but, as you probably know, we are responsible for far more carbon emissions per capita than anyone else (with the possible exception of Australians and Canadians, as I recall). But no, we can't solve the problem by ourselves. China, India and other burgeoning economies have to cut emissions as well.

Thanks Gene, for taking questions. Why is it that so many Americans believe that their health care system, infrastructure and education is top of the world, when it clearly isn't anymore? If people would grasp that better, the Democrat proposition for government policies would be much more popular (as hispanic and black minority do seem to understand).

Americans, in general, should pay more attention to the rest of the world. We don't have the best health indicators anymore. We don't have the best primary or secondary education, by a long shot, and the primacy of our great institutions of higher education is being challenged. The tallest buildings, fastest trains and most modern airports are all in Asia and the Persian Gulf. We've got work to do.

How do you think the "Christian" Right like Perry and Bachman are able in all conscience to oppose social programs aimed at helping the less fortunate among us, given Christ's statement as reported in the Bible that only those who fed him when He was hungry and gave him drink when He was thirsty will sit at His right hand - or do you think they take that injunction literally as well and are waiting for Christ himself to come back hungry and thirsty, and then they'll feed Him?

I don't get it, I really don't. I thought Christianity demanded generosity and compassion. At least that's what I learned in Sunday School.

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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