Eugene Robinson Live

May 15, 2012

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

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to our weekly attempt at carving out a niche of sanity in a crazy world. Or something like that. Not a ton of actual news today, just a bunch of portent -- Romney climbing in the polls, Europe on the brink of a currency crack-up, Facebook on the brink of a huge IPO... Let's get started.

Wow! How did you forget to mention the dealerships that were closed as a result of the auto bailouts? Don't those jobs count? How did you overlook that auto employment is down about 100,000 from pre-bailout? Don't those jobs count? And how did you miss that Romney was not head of Bain when the steel plant went under, having left two years earlier? You need to stop forming your "opinions" on the basis of DNC talking points.

You're referring to my column this morning, in which I challenged the premise that Mitt Romney is some kind of economic wizard. Specifically, you're talking about the auto bailout and Bain's closure of the GST steel mill. In order: Jobs lost due to the bailout are a tiny fraction of the number that would have been lost if the auto industry had been allowed to die, as Romney advised. Ditto any overall auto industry shrinkage. And Romney was there when Bain was loading the steel company with debt and collecting handsome "management fees." Write again if he gives that money back.

Do you think the President's position on gay marriage will hurt, harm, or have no affect on his re-election? Also, will it affect liberal black voters' support of him? Thank you for answering....

I think it cuts both ways. There's no question, in my view, that he will lose some votes he might have won, including in swing states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. On the other hand, it's the first 2008-ish thing he has done in a long time -- a hopey-changey stride into the future. That helps him, not just with the base but with some independents as well. President Obama won 95 percent of the African-American vote last time, and I would be surprised if it dropped below, say, 92 percent.

We are reading quite a bit about Romney past as a high school kid. Why is it that we don't know much about Pres. Obama's past - or why isn't it reported. Shouldn't we know about Obama's past?

Give me a break. You don't know much about President Obama's past? The man's life has been combed over, minute by minute, since his first breath (and the issuing of his birth certificate). We've heard from playmates, friends, old girlfriends. He has written two volumes of autobiography. If you don't know about his past, you really aren't paying attention.

I'm still in disbelief that they managed to lose $2 BILLION (million, I could live with. After all, banks need to take some risk). But were they really trading in the derivatives or credit default swaps that caused so much chaos in 2008? Have they not learned anything from the past??? Clearly, banks still believe that money, especially someone else's, grows on trees.

Breaking news -- I see reports that the Justice Department will conduct a criminal investigation of the loss, which apparently amounts to at least $2 billion and maybe a little more. JP Morgan head honcho Jaime Dimon surely will welcome the investigation, as he has said that he doesn't know if any laws were broken. For the nation's biggest bank, it's a piddling sum. But yes, the losses seem to come from bad bets on credit default swaps -- the kind of gambling that I thought the Volcker Rule was supposed to end. If someone goes to jail, maybe the banks will get the message.

Yes I guess we have to have the conversation, but it just seems so icky the way it is going down. Approx 125 years ago, the US had laws that said blacks & whites could not marry (this was on the books in some places until the 1970's). Approx 70 years ago, Germany passed laws that Jews and non-jews were not allowed to marry (I assume this ended when they lost the war?). Substitute the descriptors and today we seem to be in the same place - the exact same arguements were used (bad for families, unnatural, violated traditions) and it seems as distasteful now as it does reading the history books about back then. I am not gay, I am married, and I don't care who else is married as their marrage has no impact on my own. Disallowing gay's to have rights will not make them straight and it will not 'encourage' them to go out and just marry straight people 'like they should". Gay people exist and yes, conservatives who don't want their kids knowing, well they're going to find out. Just as blacks and jews now refuse to remain hidden as 2nd class citizens, gays too are taking their place in our society. They are here, they are going to live their lives, and yes. . . people (all people) are going to have to get used to it.

True. To clarify one of the precedents you cite, laws banning interracial marriage were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967 in the Loving v. Virginia case. Someday, the same thing will happen with laws banning same-sex marriage. And by the time our kids reach our age (my age, at least), nobody will give same-sex marriage a second thought and everyone will wonder what the big deal once was.

1) Why should we care about the JPMorgan scandal? Who does it affect? Things like "faith in our financial system" sound pretty vague. 2) The backlash against Obama's statements on gay marriage, especially in the South, makes me recall that it wasn't that long ago that many states outlawed whites and non-whites from marrying, or sometimes even cohabitating, and that some clergy cited the Bible to justify it. The Virginia judge whose decision led to the Supreme Court decision in 1967, overturning most such laws, in fact said separation of the rates was clearly God's plan.

1. Without faith in the financial system -- if, say, we all panic and try to take all of our money out of the banks -- the whole thing collapses. When banks bet billions on the roll of the dice or the flip of a coin, faith weakens. That's important.

2. Discrimination is often ascribed to God, who ought to sue for libel.

Gene, can you please explain how tax cuts sell to someone who is either under employed or unemployed? Don't those folks want better wages and job security before they can begin to worry about what their taxes are? Besides, due to the structure of the Romney Tax Cuts, they're not gonna see a dime anyway.

Beats me. 

Is the Obama campaign attack on Bain too early? Should they have waited until the fall to pull out the vulture capitalism (thanks Rick Perry) card? Or is this the first in a series of stuff- going on to flip flopping attacks later for example- so they need to play this card first?

Standrd campaign practice these days is to define your opponent before he can define himself. With Romney now the semi-official nominee, the president's campaign team wants to introduce him as a soulless vulture capitalist; he would prefer to introduce himself as a successful businessman and turnaround artist. This is only the beginning.

Gene, the big meme the last couple of days has been this argument that the Obama campaign is making against Bain Capital. Romney's response is that during the auto bailout, Obama laid off people as well. Other than the stark analysis that Romney laid off people for money while Obama laid off people to save the companies, isn't the big picture that while Obama did lay off people, his layoffs save an industry. Romney's lay offs killed industries in towns where those jobs are NEVER coming back. It's not just the money or the motive, it's the purpose, isn't it?

It's important to understand, I think, that as a public servant, President Obama was primarily interested in saving jobs. Romney, as a businessman, was not interested in saving or creating jobs. His task was to make money.

Will Obama address that his foreign policy has been an absolute failure?  Syria may have rolled to the point of a unworkable disaster (with Al-Qaeda now attacking Assad and all the peaceful protestors shut out of the discussion). Libya and Egypt are in awful shape and continue to opress human rights. He has publicly stated (via the hot mic) that he plans to give into Russia's request about missle defense from rogue state. Finally he refuses to take any substantial action on Iran that will prevent them from becoming a nuclear power. Hurting their economy hasn't stopped their progress on building a nuclear bomb. This doesn't even touch on his relations with Israel (or lack theirof). Why should I trust a president who has been a failure at almost every foriegn policy action he has taken since the begining of his office?

I could find plenty to criticize in the Obama administration's foreign policy, but you miss the mark on all counts. Absolute failure? Well, he killed bin Laden and got us out of Iraq. Ask the Libyans and Egyptians if they want Gaddafi and Mubarak back. The president made no such statement about missile defense -- and by the way, ask Mitt Romney how he can take the position that Russia is our principal "geopolitical foe" and then expect the Russians to help exert pressure on Iran. Speaking of which, President Obama has applied much tougher sanctions on Iran than any previous administration. Maybe if George W. Bush had been that tough with North Korea, Pyongyang wouldn't have gone nuclear on his watch. Or maybe it would have anyway.  And on Israel, Obama hasn't been nearly as tough as, say, Geoe Bush the Elder. Or Ronald Reagan, who sanctioned Israel for bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor. I'm afraid that overall, you don't seem to have the slightest idea what you're talking about.

Thanks for taking questions Gene. How can the Obama campaign keep on moving this election towards choice in stead of referendum? The argument you made in your column of  Obama's economic policies vs Romney's touches upon this theme. Thanks, Evan.

I think the Obama campaign has to confront Romney's economic argument head-on. Voters should know that they're being asked to approve a return to the trickle-down policies of the Bush years. 

"We are reading quite a bit about Romney past as a high school kid. Why is it that we don't know much about Pres. Obama's past - or why isn't it reported" I want to know what rock this poster has been living under since 2007? I may need to go there myself the way this election cycle is shaping up!

Save a little space for me.

would not be such an issue if he hadn't pretended not to remember his hazing other students. If he'd just said, "I was young and stupid and I did a cruel thing. It was wrong and I apologize" the whole thing would be over.

I agree that a straightforward mea culpa, rather than one of those "if I did anything wrong" semi-apologies, would have short-circuited the story.

Gene: I'd value your opinion as the veteran journalist. The recent cover of Time showed a woman breastfeeding her son who seemed well past toddler age. The current issue of Newsweek depicts the President with a "gay pride" colored halo over his head. Is this what the two most venerable American newsweeklies have to do to gain eyeballs? It's like the National Enquirer, only more downmarket.

The Naitonal Enquirer would reply, "Hey, at least we do original reporting and break stories, albeit of the gossip-and-sleaze variety." I have lots of friends at Time and Newsweek, but I think they'd acknowledge that the newsweekly, as a journalistic vehicle, is having an existential crisis. What is the meaning of a once-a-week news publication in the era of the 24-hour news cycle? Magazine covers have always been about grabbing attention -- now, it seems, more than ever.

Hey Gene - I really don't understand why gay marriage strikes such fear into the hearts of religious folks. First, allowing state marriage between any two consenting adults seems like a no-brainer given this country's stated commitment to separation of church and state. And as the earlier poster said, how on earth do two men or women marrying have any efect WHATSOEVER on my own marriage? I fail to see the conneciton, but perhaps I'm missing something. Oh, hetero white (happily married, to a dude) female here.

You've got me. I don't understand how anyone else's marriage could conceivably have an impact on mine. Are people so insecure -- or so unsure of their own relationships? Really, I share your befuddlement. If you don't want to get gay-married, people, you don't have to. I looked it up.

Eugene - thanks so much for your excellent column. Republicans often talk about saving the future for our children and grandchildren, yet proposals like the Ryan budget would gut Medicaid (which is really a kids' program), CHIP and education funding. What is the best way to expose this hypocrisy?

Speaking the truth. That's all we can do. So come back next week and join the conversation. Until then, folks, thanks so much for dropping by, and I'll see you next time.

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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