Eugene Robinson Live

Jan 22, 2013

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about politics and his latest column.

Submit questions and comments for Gene to respond to now.

Welcome to our Post-Inaugural Chat. Well, it wasn't nearly as cold yesterday as everyone feared. Maybe it was President Obama's rhetoric that heated things up. The president used his second inaugural address to deliver a full-throated defense of progressive ideas and policies. Looks like his approach in the second term may be a bit different. Let's get started.

I submitted two questions a few days ago - do I have to do that again now?


Thanks for submitting this question. We get asked this often.

No, once you submit a question it goes into our queue to be approved. So you only have to do it once. Thanks again.

Can we please get over this notion how surprising it is that Barack Obama is black (or half white, if you want to get technical)? I don't care an iota the color of the skin of any president of the US. If I gushed how proud I was of Bill Clinton just because he was a good ol' white Southern guy I'd be branded a racist.

If good ol' Southern white guys had been enslaved for 250 years, then oppressed, denied the vote and discriminated against in employment, housing and every other aspect of life, then expressing that sentiment about Bill Clinton would be just fine.

"The massive hot dome across the nation for much of the spring and summer had a big impact on the lack of severe weather and tornadoes across the country. According to the Storm Prediction Center, there was a record low in the number of tornado and severe weather watches issued for 2012." You always concentrate on the negative, there are always two sides to a story.

I promise to get to inauguration-related questions, but I have to take this one because itso clearly illustrates the denialist fantasy. There are not always two sides to a story. If 99.9 percent of the scientists who study the climate say the atmosphere is warming, and 0.1 percent say it isn't, there really are not two equivalent positions on the question. There may be a physicist out there who doesn't believe in gravity, but that doesn't mean it's wise to jump out a window. Look at any graph of temperatures since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The evidence for climate change really is not ambiguous.

I'm amazed when I read from some commentators how little they think that Obama accomplished in his first term. Passing the ACA alone was a huge accomplishment. Steering the economy through the financial crisis was another. Drawing down two wars and hunting down Osama Bin Laden. What exactly have other recent President's done to top President Obama?

Um, invading Iraq on what we later learned was a false premise? Seriously, President Obama has accomplished quite a lot. Not everyone likes the things he's accomplished, but that was also true of the accomplishments of FDR, LBJ and other presidents we think of as overachievers.

I'm a big President Obama supporter here, but every once in a blue moon I wonder if Boehner is just doing what he is supposed to be doing. Since the people elected a Republican House, isn't it Boehner's duty to advance HIS agenda just as Mr. Obama was elected to advance his agenda. And if either of them go too far, the American people can vote them out of office. But they both won reelection, so each must be doing something right. Each side should realize that there is a balance of power for a very good reason. And each side should not be demonized for exercising that power.

I see your point, but there's a difference. It is not possible to lead the country from the speaker's chair. That's what we elect the president to do. And while it's true that the House Republican majority has to answer to its constituents, those constituents are not well served by perpetual crisis and brinksmanship. If the GOP wants to move forward on an agenda of privatizing Social Security and Medicare, etc., it should go out and win the White House.

Hi Eugene -- thanks for taking questions today. Not surprisingly, the president is taking some criticism for not "reaching across the aisle" sufficiently in his speech yesterday...never mind that those criticizing him have had no interest in cooperation from the moment he took the oath of office four years ago -- their publicly stated goal was instead to obstruct him at every turn to make him a one-term president. What are your thoughts in whether he struck enough of a bipartisan tone?

The speech was unapologetically progressive. That in no way precludes bipartisanship, if Republicans want to help shape policy rather than merely obstruct.

Just wanted to say "boo" to your colleague Dana Milbank and his bizarrely negative take on the president's speech. I was thrilled that the president was strong and clear; why should he sound mealy-mouth to not offend the poor conservatives? (You probably don't want to get into a critique of your co-worker with whom I am sure you have a perfectly pleasant working relationship ... but he doesn't have a chat where I can scold him for his column today.)

My office is next to Dana's. He can just stick his head around the corner and tell me when he thinks I'm full of it, and I can do the same when I think he's off the rails. The great thing, though, is that we're both free to write what we think -- and don't have to hew to any kind of party line. Wouldn't it be boring if we always agreed?

What exactly has this President accomplished during his first term? Don't give me controversial items like health care or our pulling troops out of the middle-east. Give me three things he promised and delivered in his first term.

For starters, there's health care and pulling troops out of teh Middle East. Seriously, "don't give me controversial items" is a pretty absurd standard. Pretty much whatever the president does is going to be controversial. 

What excuse will Washington use to ignore immigration reform again this Presidency? The Democrats don't want to solve it because it is such a great vote getter from Latinos. The Republicans are just anti-immigrant. Tell me why I should be optimistic this time.

I'm not sure I would go overboard with the optimism, but here's why: Democrats promised to get it done, and the GOP establishment is now convinced that the party has to appeal to Latinos or go the way of the Whigs. The big question os whether the establishment can bring the rest of the party along.

Gene, this is a relevant topic, as the president devoted a small but significant portion of his speech yesterday to it. Why is it that, with few exceptions, America is the only industrialized country where mere discussion of climate change is politicized?

It's a kind of magical thinking. Americans seem to believe that if we pretend climate change doesn't exist, it will somehow go away. 

Mr. Robinson -- Can you comment on your view of the significance of the President's mentioning Stonewall and the need for the end of discrimination against gays? Given the President's views on gay marriage, it may not be a surprise, but seems very historic and important.

It was pretty amazing that he mentioned Stonewall in the same breath as Selma. I saw it as another indication of how dramatically the nation's views of gay marriage, and gay people in general, are changing. So yes, I think it was pretty historic.

I am happy to be an independent, don't you think it was the Republican incompatence that cost them the election? Obama has not fulfilled one promise and the economy is a mess.

Which Republican candidate would have done better than Mitt Romney? Polls suggested that any of the others would probably have done worse. And don't forget that the GOP lost seats in both the House and the Senate. I don't see how that all can be chalked up to incompetence.

From your perspective, what is the liklihood of another person of color being elected President within the next 10 years?

It could happen. Now, if you'd asked me that question ten years ago, I probably would have said the chances were very slim.

Uh, he fulfilled his promises about health care and pulling out of Iraq. The economy pulled out of a dive and avoided Depression Part II. We are not in a recession and are in fact seeing economic growth while the housing market announced a major recovery today.

I know, I know. Some people just can't stand hearing good news.

For almost all bills (fiscal cliff excepted), Boehner has only allowed bills to be voted on if the bill would pass with a majority of the Republicans in the House. Has this been the way of the House forever (i.e. Tip O'Neill also) or is this new with Boehner? Thanks. I need a history lesson.

It's called the Hastert Rule, codified by speaker Dennis Hastert. In my view, it's a refuge for a weak speaker. A strong one would have license to lead his or her caucus (ahem, like Nancy Pelosi) rather than just follow.

I truly don't understand the people who say Obama hasn't fulfilled any promises. What about the ACA, ending DADT, getting out of Iraq and (soon) Afghanistan? And those are just the biggies. People may not like them, but he said he was going to do these things, and he did. And as far as the economy being in a mess, (i) I disagree that it is "a mess," and (ii) it took a long time to get where we were in 2008, and it is going to take a long time to get out of it, too. I think we've made amazing progress, particularly compared to some European nations. We have a ways to go, as well, particularly when it comes to reducing unemployment, but the President (any, not just Obama) can only do so much on his own. Congress has to participate, too, and the Congress of the past 2 years has been a do-nothing group.


This is very offensive to me as a person of color. How dare the so cold LGBT use our fathers strugles for their rights. A persons sexual orientation has nothing to do with the strugles our fathers faced.

I've always said that every liberation struggle is distinct -- and that there really isn't anything directly comparable to the Civil Rights movement. But that doesn't mean we can't recognize obvious parallels. The NAACP has taken a position in favor of gay marriage, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- including honored veterans of the Civil Rights movement -- are among the LGBT community's strongest supporters. 

I'd add to the list of accomplishments the appointment of two highly qualified women to the Supreme Court, including the first one of Hispanic ancestry. Long time impact there.

Indeed. The Supreme Court is the gift that keeps on giving.


And I'd love to keep on chatting, but that's it for today, folks. Thanks 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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