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Eugene Robinson Live

Dec 04, 2012

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about politics and his latest column

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Hi, everyone. Practicing your swan dive for when we get to the fiscal cliff? Wondering if John Boehner wishes he had made a deal with President Obama last year? Curious about whether Fox News chief Roger Ailes' offer to bankroll and support a David Petraeus presidential candidacy is still good? Let's get started.

Hi Eugene, In your opinion, how problematic is it that the head of a major news agency (Roger Ailes) and its billionaire owner actively pursued Gen. Petraeus (or anyone else) to enter into the presidential race and offered to bankroll his campaign? Isn't it a huge conflict of interest for a "news" agency to so forthrightly proclaim to support a particular party? What would such a an offer portend for Fox's "unbiased" analysis of a candidate they were actively bankrolling?

Conflict of interest? Uh, yeah. I guess the most neutral thing you could say is that it harks back to the days of powerful newspaper publishers, like William Randolph Hearst, who were unabashed about their political leanings and unashamed to meddle in national affairs. But any way you look at it, it's just wrong. I, too, wonder what kind of coverage candidate Petraeus would have gotten. Actually, I think I know.

There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to start, but is the ethical morass too complicated to handle in a news story, much less 250 word editorial?

No, actually it's pretty simple. Fair and balanced, right?

A post-election thought: since getting out the vote was the key to the Democratic victory, perhaps GOP spokespeople should stop disparaging President Obama's experience as a community organizer. Might also have helped in the response to Hurricane Sandy, and who knows, it might even help the President muster support for his position in the fiscal cliff negotiations. There's nothing quite like people power to solve problems.

I think it's fair to say that many grandees of the Republican Party are not entirely comfortable with the idea of people power. Mustn't overexcite the rabble.

Do you think he could help Susan Rice with his pals in the Senate--IF HE WANTED TO? I think he wants to be Secretary of State, and is happy to let McCain and Graham bad-mouth her and stop her from being nominated. We need to keep Kerry in the Senate...and Susan Rice to State!!

Sen. Kerry has been a loyal soldier in the Senate during the Obama administration. I think he'd love to be secretary of state, but I don't think he's actively or passively trying to torpedo Rice's chances.

Will the Disability Treaty, which is objectively harmless to the U.S. and of great value to disable people, be defeated today? Will Bob Dole's presence on the floor have any effect? And what does this tell us about the U.S. Senate? Somehow, through great effort, the more important arms control treaty was passed in 2010. Did this treaty's supporters not have as much support from the White House as that one did?

For those not familiar with this story, a treaty on protecting the rights of disabled people is under threat from conservatives in the Senate for allegedly, possibly, maybe someday somehow intruding on U.S. sovereignty. The treaty does nothing of the sort. It basically encourages other nations to come up to our standards, set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bob Dole appeared on the Senate floor to urge the treaty's approval, and maybe this will make a difference. I hope so.

What do you think are the chances that Hillary will run in 2016, per the New Yorker blog piece yesterday? I want Nate Silver to get on this...stat!

Maybe Nate's secret-sauce formula can predict whether Hillary Clinton will run in 2016, but I can't. I don't know if even she knows, at this point. I think it's true that the nomination would basically be hers for the asking. But only she can decide whether she wants to make another run for the White House -- and if she wants to be president.

Dear Mr. Robinson, In what universe is this a Style story and not one for the front page? Please find the person with this horrendous news judgment and beat them severely about the face and neck. (only half-joking)

Sorry, you're talking to a former Style editor who believes that is where the best stories should be found. And don't worry -- I think people noticed it.

I don't think it's a good idea, regardless of who's is in the White House, for the President to be able to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Funny how the left hates imperial presidencies - unless it's their guy playing emperor.

I could say the same thing about the right and imperial presidencies, but never mind. One important fact you leave out is that the debt ceiling has never before been used as a doomsday threat -- and should never be used this way again. I think Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on that.

I am sorry to say it was defeated 61-38 and as a person who loves someone with a disability, I would like to tell you what I wish would happen to those 38 senators. But it is not fit for print in a family newspaper.

Ugh. Amazing.

RGIII and Sammy Baugh. That is all.

Incredible game last night. I'll go out on a limb and say that Robert Griffin III is the real deal.

What does bipartisanship mean anymore? We hear (mostly totally naive) calls for bipartisanship. Mostly what it seems to mean is that Republicans want Obama to capitulate and ignore the results of the election. How do you think Obama can force the Republicans to ACTUALLY ACT in a bipartisan fashion and MODERATE their nutty demands? Obama has capitulated WAY too often for my taste.

I can tell you what bipartisanship doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that "split the difference" is an intelligent way to make policy. Is economic growth the priority, or is it debt reduction? Is raising more revenue the priority, or cutting spending? Trying to find some kind of perfect half-and-half balance among all these alternatives ends up moving us a little bit this way, then a little bit back that way, and we end up right where we started. Somebody's got to drive the bus.

One thing that I have never heard anyone from the Benghazi noise machine explain is *why* they think Obama was so hesitant to mention al Qaeda. If they orchestrated this grand coverup and forced the CIA to change its intelligence and put out deliberately misleading talking points, surely they would have had a reason to do so, and for such a major undertaking you'd think they'd have a very good reason. But all I have heard is that they didn't want to mention al Qaeda in the middle of an election. I'm sorry, but that's a laughably weak motive -- I would bet that mention of al Qaeda would have been a plus for an incumbent President who killed Bin Laden. So what's the reason for this grand conspiracy that has several esteemed U.S. Senators demanding answers and killing careers? Am I overthinking this? Am I giving too much credit to these guys to expect they have a rational reason for their crusade?

You've got me. Maybe someday I will understand what the point is supposed to be. So far, "Who changed the talking points?" doesn't rank up there with "Who ordered the Watergate break-in?" or "Who decided to invade Iraq?" But maybe that's just me.

Who would be the losers if we fall over the cliff and what does it portend for Wall Street?

If we go over the cliff, just about everyone's taxes go up a little -- back to Clinton-era tax rates. The defense budget gets cut a lot, and some other agencies take a lesser hit. We take a huge bite out of the debt problem. But many economists believe we could slide at least briefly back into recession.

Hi Gene - I do think some of both is required at this point. But the bottom line is if we improve the economy (by generating more disposable income and generating more govt revenue) then the deficit, per force, will come down. But then I guess I am pretty Keynesian on economic issues.

I am, too. And really, it's just math: As the economy grows, the debt becomes smaller as a percentage of gdp.

Just an FYI, this treaty didn't change any laws according to Kerry, so no additional rights would have been gained if it passed. Its largely a figurehead law (everything is already covered by the ADA) and it was objected to over the UN involvement.  Link

But advocates argued it was important as a way of holding other nations accountable for their laws and policies regarding the disabled. It matters when the United States joins an international agreement. Or when it does not.

If Susan Rice's candidacy to be Secretary of State is a non-starter, would the President try to persuade Sec. Clinton to stay on until the midterm elections? He knows he can't afford to lose John Kerry's Senate seat, and it gives Hillary more time to look presidential on a world stage.

I don't think Secretary Clinton needs any more high-level exposure to round out her resume. I take her at her word that what she needs is a nap. 

In all the stories I have read about limiting deductions, one major point is left out. While the rich may be the ones getting the deductions, they are almost certainly not the ones needing the charity help. Many of these organizations depend on large donations for the majority of their annual budget. If these donations stopped or were curtailed, the services provided by the charities would also be rolled back. I don't want a country where charities no longer hold the important role they do now, and all our social services or research services are dependent on funds from the government.

This is my question about the Republican idea of cutting tax loopholes and deductions: Which ones? If you curtail the home mortgage deduction, does that squash the recovery in the housing industry? If you curtain the charitable contributions deduction, does that devastate the non-profit sector? Are these kinds of concerns the reason why Republicans won't be specific? More to the point, is it a bad idea to limit deductions and a better idea just to raise rates?

Isn't the most likely scenario that we get to Jan. 1, the cuts "take effect," and then an agreement is reached by Jan. 2 or Jan. 3, before the consequences really kick in?

I'm not sure it would be so quick. But President Obama, with his executive powers, could essentially delay the impact for a while.


And that's it for today, folks. Thanks, as always, for participating, and I'll 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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