Eugene Robinson Live

Sep 04, 2012

Robinson discussed his latest columns and political news.

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Hello, everyone, and greetings from Charlotte. Another week, another Pageant of Democracy. The Democratic convention kicks off tonight, and the city is one big, enthusiastic traffic jam, with occasional thunderstorms to scatter all the pedestrians. Mitt Romney doesn't seem to have gotten much of a bounce from the GOP convention; we'll see if President Obama does any better. Today's column, for reference, was about how basically static the race has been -- according to polls -- and how little momentum either candidate has been able to generate or maintain. That may change, of course. There's still the possiblity, in my view, that this contest could break pretty decisively one way or the other. Let's get started.

If President Obama reads your chats, I have a friendly suggestion on how he can answer the "Are you better off question?" which seems to have stumped his campaign team. Here's what he should say: "Quite frankly, only a little. My first stimulus bill created and saved jobs. Even Paul Ryan took advantage of my stimulus program. Since then, I have tried to make you better off but the Republicans have blocked my efforts at every turn. My jobs and new stimulus bilsl have remained dormant in the House for a year--their leadership will not even permit them to be voted upon. In the Senate, the Republicans have filibustered both bills. The other side would rather put party above country. If you want to better off, vote Democratic. That way, we can get those bills passed and you will be better off tomorrow." If President Obama reads your chats, and you see fit to publish this, I hope he will use my statements or a variation thereof. He can have free use.

I doubt the president is reading this chat, but you never know. For my two cents, it seems to me that any incumbent president's answer has to be a firm and enthusiastic "yes." Doesn't an incumbent seeking reelection have to believe, deep in his or her heart, that the people are better off? My guess is that voters might prefer to hear more about the obstacles you've overcome rather than those that continue to block your way.

Romney got a very minimal bump as a result of the convention (inside the margin of error). Should we expect a bigger bump for President Obama, or are there so few undecideds at this point that we won't see any real changes between now and the election?

We'll know in a week or so. Those seem to be the only real possibilities -- either minds are already made up, or Obama's going to get a big bounce. The other theoretical possibility, a big bounce for Romney, didn't happen.

Gene, is there any chance that the Democratic Convention will be any better than the GOP one? These events are so staid and boring, will there be another Man talks to Chair moment or something along those lines? Maybe Mr. Biden can bring out a chair and talk to someone.

I believe that if convention organizers saw Vice President Biden carrying a chair toward the podium, they'd wrestle him to the ground.

Is it just me or is anyone else left feeling kind of dumbstruck at the lack of discipline of the Republican party. I mean "We Built It" as their theme when they know it was taken out of context? Paul Ryan's MANY factual misstatements and of course "The Chair." This should be the Republicans election to lose and they just can't seem to put it together. However, that said, this reminds me too much of 1980 when Democrats were itching to run against "the actor" and we know how that turned out.

The GOP clearly thinks "We Built It" has legs and will help them among independents. I have my doubts, but who knows? The failure to properly orchestrate the last night of the convention so that the proper elements came in the 10 pm hour of network air time was inexcusable. They had a very good video paean to Romney that would have done them much more good than the Eastwood interlude. That said, some things may be working for the GOP -- the welfare attack, for example, which is false but may be having some impact. 

While I believe that America is better off under Obama than it would have been had MCain been elected president in 2008 and would be better if he wins a second term I remain convinced Hillary would have made a better president. I credit his getting the nomination over her with his ability to garner voter enthusiasm for his vision. Any idea why he was so much better at that than in articulating the achievements under his administration? Yes, he could have done better but America is in a better place now than it was at this time during the Bush administration. There is no comparison between Obama and Bush as orators. He shouldn't need Bill Clinton to garner enthusiasm for him. He should be able to do that all by myself. What happened to Obama the orator?

I've written that it took quite a while for Obama to find his presidential voice, and I guess I stand by that assessment. But I guess I agree that he still makes a more vital connection with audiences when he's on the campaign trail than when he's speaking from the Rose Garden or the Oval Office. If you want to know what happened to Obama the orator, I predict you'll hear him Thursday night.

I am LOVING the pushback Paul Ryan is getting on his "misstatement" about his best marathon time. Frankly, my 50 year old sister has a better marathon time than the 20 year old Ryan. And it just goes to show you that Ryan will lie about ANYTHING. He's even adding more lies about the Janesville auto plant!

Isn't this a weird little episode? I've never run a marathon, but people tell me such a "mistake" is improbable. I do think that if I ran 26 miles -- and survived -- I'd remember how long it took me. So why make youself out to be more of a jock than you really are? It's not as if the guy is a couch potato. So why exaggerate?

How much will the Democrats talk up the Ryan Plan for turning Medicare into a voucher program?

How big is the ocean? How high is the sky?

Hi Eugene -- Thanks for taking questions today. Quite a bit has been made of the fact that Romney/Ryan didn't see much of a bounce coming out of their convention. Given that the race is pretty much "static," as you aptly describe it, what are the odds that Obama will experience a bounce, or is it likely to be the same result?

I think it's likely that Obama gets a bounce. I'm not sure, of course, but candidates usually get one and I don't know why that general rule should be discarded just because Romney didn't. 

Talk about hypocrisy, ACA the left's favorite program in the world has a voucher competent. The idea that vouchers are 100% evil will be shredded by the fact checker and shows both sides are more open to scoring points then telling the truth.

It's quite possible to like some voucher programs and believe Medicare should never be one of them. That's the truth.

Could it be that so few people watch conventions that there's bound to be less bounce.

Maybe, but even if you don't watch, it's impossible to be unaware that the convention is going on -- or to totally ignore the commentary about who did well, who didn't, etc. People who didn't watch the Eastwood thing on the air might have seen it on youtube. The conventions pervade the mediasphere.

So---Where is the Dem version of Frank Luntz? . I have a theory: the Repubs/right wing crave authority figures telling them what to believe, say, think -- critical thinking is just too hard and they're smart enough to realize it's not one of their strengths, thus a mega spin machine & fox propaganda wing of one-way, top-down is embraced & followed unquestioningly (for the most part) -- the empty vessel waiting to be filled. The dems/progressives value independent thinking love to hyper analyze, cogitate on & discuss everything, embracing two-way dialogue (for the most part) often becoming long-winded meandering soliloquists because they're also arrogant enough to believe they don't need to be told what to think, believe, say -- it's too authoritarian and restrictive. . Thus the repubs/conservatives have message discipline, message repitition/reinforcement (regardless of the question asked) while the dems often flail, rarely ever have message discipline, can't agree on the relevant, succinct points & counterpoints, so they never have message cohesion and repetition. They rarely seem to anticipate, often seem reactive instead of get my drift. All of which points to the fact that they would benefit greatly from dem/liberal version(s) of Luntz -- who could probably be bought off if the price is right in my estimation. . Just my not so humble opinion after 30+ years in the activist trenches. What do you think

I think it's simpler than that. Yes, progressives really need a Luntz figure. I've told the White House that they should have a Department of Pithy Phrases, because conservatives are so good at bumper-sticker politics and liberals so bad at it. I'm not sure, however, that I see such fundamental differences in the thought processes of progressives and conservatives. They just have different beliefs and ideas.

Let me tell you, I'd sooner forget the date of my anniversary (and I have) before I'd forget my time running my first marathon. Have no idea what he expected to get out of that lie, but the issue is no longer about his time, it is about his honesty. His RNC speech was full of mis-statements and when challenged, his pundits replied that facts aren't all that important. Well they are to me and so he'd better come up with an answer soon as to what the deal is, because I was once a supporter and he needs my vote.

I'm trying to figure Ryan out, and I guess others are, too. So far, in my opinion, he's not exactly setting the world on fire. He could have played the attack-dog role in Tampa without making "Ryan lies" the headline.

I think there is great comedic potential at the DNC for "talking to chair" material, but I doubt it will happen. It would probably backfire on the Dems as being "anti-Eastwood." A lot of people, despite the performance, still like him.

If I were running the Democratic convention I would forbid any mention, reference or pantomime involving an empty chair. I'd just leave it alone.

Betty White said that she might do a parody of the empty chair. I am not sure if she was serious...

Step away from the chair, Betty. 

Gene, it appears that Mr. Romney did not get a bounce of more than a point or two from his convention. His speech fell flat among the declining viewership and the overall GOP impression was lackluster at best. If this was Mr. Romney's best opportunity to provide a scripted, controlled message to the voters and it failed, what hope of victory does he have going into the fall outside of economic disaster?

He does have a chance, actually. President Obama is now a slight favorite, and if he gets the normal convention bounce he could become a clear favorite, but anyone who thinks this election is wrapped up is wrong. Events well short of disaster could sway enough votes to affect the outcome.

Maybe I ask too much, but if a man lies about his marathon running time, how can I trust him at "Hello?"

I don't want to overdo the marathon thing. Nobody's going to vote on the basis of whether a candidate breaks three hours or not. It's just weird, and you can't help but think that it tells you something about the guy.

Presuming that President Obama wins, it's hard to see that the GOP changes their obstructionist ways. I suspect that they will double down on just saying 'no' and blame their defeat on Romney as the badly chosen messenger. So, how does Obama, and more importantly America, get out of this box?

It's not going to be easy. But each year of gridlock makes our problems more acute and the need to solve them more urgent. 

This race is all about the ground game. The ads aren't changing anybody's mind and are just a blur (blah blah, Obama, blah blah Romney). The debates might matter but mostly it is who gets their people out on election time.

It might be that kind of election. Let's wait a couple of weeks and see if the polls have moved at all before deciding. 

Folks, my apologies but I havae to sign off a couple of minutes early this week. Thanks for a lively session, as usual, and I'll see you again next week!

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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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