Eugene Robinson Live

Oct 30, 2012

Robinson discussed his latest columns and political news.

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Hello, everyone. Welcome to our final pre-election discussion -- or, I guss I could say, our first post-Sandy discussion. Two big stories dominating the news today, with the election taking a back seat to the devastation wrought by a "once-in-a-lifetime" storm. The problem is that these storms seem to happen every few years, now that we've pumped the atmosphere full of carbon dioxide. Oh, excuse me, one is not supposed to mention climate change. Let's begin.

Do you think New York City is worth rebuilding?

I think we should commission a study.

Is Obama ready to put Obamacare and Dodd Frank back on table to get a debt deal? I don't see how laws this significant can ever be fully implemented without buy in from a solid majority of citizens

You'd have to ask the president, but I'm confident the answer is no. And implementation of both is under way.

Mr. Robinson, I watch you on Morning Joe from time to time and you have such a great sense of humor. I loved it when Joe said that Jesus must love Barack Obama and you responded that Jesus loves everyone! How do you stay so calm when some of those what I consider biased comments are made on that show?

I like the show because we all get to wear our biases on our sleeve -- including those who disagree with me. I'm not a morning person and 7 a.m. is too early for me to get mad.

Hi Gene, Has there been any coverage of the question of what happens if states devastated by the storm cannot hold elections? Half of Manhattan is in the dark. If they are using electronic machines, what do they do?

I think the assumption is that power will be restored in plenty of time for the election. I think that's quite likely. Remember that in Manhattan, there are no overhead lines or fallen trees to remove, basically. There's a substation to repair, and doubtless some other equipment, but I think they'll get it done. How they intend to get that dangling crane down from 90 stories overhead, that's another story...

where he essentially says we should vote for Romney because he's a flip-flopper and the Republican Congress will work with him, whereas Obama has firm principles and the Congress will continue to stonewall him? I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor.

I just hope David's next column isn't about how we need strong presidential leadership.

What Republican ideas do you think Obama should embrace in his second term? Clinton was forced into welfare reform (over multiple vetoes) and budget cutting by Republicans. Now he claims them as his legacy. Do you think the Republicans could help Obama look like less of a failure, too?

The president tried using Republican ideas -- the individual health insurance mandate, for example, developed in GOP think tanks and implemented by Mitt Romney. But Republicans decided to repudiate their own proposals. In any event, the verdict when President Obama leaves office -- four years and change from now, I predict -- will be that his was a very significant presidency indeed.

As we get closer and closer to the election, polls seem to indicate a scenario which President Obama is re-elected yet does not win a majority of the popular vote. What effect would this have politically on his secodn term? Are we likely to see even more push back from the right wing and delegitimizing of this administration?

What are they going to do, claim he's ineligible to be president? Wait a minute...

Mr Robinson The earlier question about the president's willingness or not to put Obamacare and Dodd Frank on the table is laughable --unless the GOP is willing to throw Grover Norquist under the bus. Without him bullying every Republican into his NO new taxes ever nonsense , there wouldn't be a fiscal cliff would there ? Montgomery Village, MD

People always blame Grover for all the nation's ills. He's a lobbyist -- nothing more, nothing less. Blaming him for everything gives a pass to the GOP elected officials who willingly sign away their autonomy, and their constitutents' best interests. They can and should ignore him. They allow themselves to be bullied.

Hi Eugene -- thanks for taking questions on this day after the storm. Should Obama supporters be concerned that Romney's lie about jobs to China is starting to take hold there? I ask because the polls seem to be tightening there, with the president's advantage holding, but barely. I think that without Ohio, neither candidate can win, so that seems to be the epicenter of this election.

Perhaps the only "blessing" from Hurricane Sandy is that it makes national polling impossible for a day or so and gives everyone a reason to stop obsessing. Tightening in Ohio but also tightening in Florida; whither North Carolina; etc. All the polls show is a close race, with no "trend" worthy of the name. Obama has lots more ways to get to 270 than Romney, but nothing is guaranteed. That's the way it is, and that's the way it will likely be one week from now.

Good afternoon Eugene. I am a fan of both your column and appearances on MSNBC. Just wondering your thoughts on if we can believe polling these days? Polling seems to me to be a self selecting exercise with a built in bias towards those who actually answer their phones when the pollsters call. What do you think?

My colleague Robert Samuelson had an excellent column yesterday exploring the challenges pollsters face. I sometimes wonder whether we're surveying the universe of people who still use land lines and don't have caller ID. 

The president (who I support) has used this phrasing to describe his sense that the GOP will be more willing to work with him once he can no longer run again. Do you agree with this? I am skeptical, though I wish it were true.

I'm not wild about the fever metaphor, simply because so much of the opposition was coldly tactical -- just ask Mitch McConnell. If the president wins reelection, Democrats keep the Senate and Republicans lose a substantial number of seats in the House, those in the GOP who believe obstructionism should be abandoned have a better chance of being listened to.

Eugene: Why shouldn't progressives hope that we do go over the fiscal cliff, as that seems likely to be better than any possible deal we could possibly get from congressional Republicans? My understanding is that most experts believe the fiscal cliff would cause a mild recession in the first half of 2013, but that GDP growth would rebound significantly in the second half. In return, we restore tax rates to the Clinton era, where we all pay more but the rich, particularly, pay something closer to their fair share, and we'll get cuts in defense, which the GOP will never agree to outside the sequestration process. Over the cliff, and budget deficits will disappear almost overnight, ending what many see as an existential threat, freeing up funds for the investments Obama talks about, and I believe markets and the private sector would respond very positively to a balanced federal budget. We cannot get a handle on our problems without a little pain; this seems to cause the least pain with the greatest potential benefit. Where am I wrong?.

I think you're underestimating the level of pain. That said, sequestration does give the president considerable leverage. And the pain of something like the Ryan budget would be far worse -- with no hope, by the way, of bringing the deficit under control.

Do you think the interruption of Hurricane Sandy gives Obama the reset he needs to stop Romney's momentum?

What momentum? Romney got a big boost from the first debate. Since then, ups and downs have been minimal. For every poll showing Romney gains in Ohio or Wisconsin, there's a poll showing Obama gains in Florida or North Carolina. The hurricane gives us a chance to stop obsessing for a day or so. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Mr R. Yes, I know Grover is "just a lobbyist" , but isn't he a sort of litmus test for GOP candidates ? Has anyone who didn't sign his pledge won a nomination? MV, MD

Blaming him lets elected officials off the hook. They should have the integrity not to abdicate their responsibility and surrender their judgment to a lobbyist. 

Reportedly Mitt Romney has asked supporters in Ohio to bring relief provisions for the Hurricane to his Ohio campaign offices, so they can be delivered to hurricane survivors in Virginia. Hmmm, why not to the other affected states as well? Oh wait, those others are all blue states!

If you're a persuadable voter in Virginia, I'm pretty sure that either Romney or Ryan would be happy to come over and wash your car.

Obama is buying airtime in Minnesota and Pennsylvania -- safe blue states. Is it time to press the panic button? Are we headed for a Reagan-esque landslide?

Romney is suddenly playing defense in North Carolina and Florida. Plus, no one believes the GOP has the ground game to win in Minn. or Pa. Now, if this is a "wave" election, then the ground game won't matter. But I don't know anyone who sees telltale signs of a wave. A landslide would surprise everyone, including Romney and Ryan. (And so would a comfortable Obama victory.)

Yet here we are on a political chat

Sometimes we let life's chances pass us by. 


And that's it for today, folks. Thanks so much, not just for participating in today's chat but for hanging in there all year. I'll be back next week -- Election Day. See you then!

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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