Eugene Robinson Live

Feb 13, 2013

Note to readers: Eugene will be live chatting with readers Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. ET. He will resume his regular chat time of Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET next week. Thank you.

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Hi Eugene -- Rubio's slug of water seems to be getting more attention that anything he (or Obama) said last night. This, to me, is a sad commentary on our politics, but perhaps not surprising. What do you think?

I'm not surprised. The water thing was hard to miss. Plus, the fact is that Rubio didn't say anything new. He'll recover from last night's performance, but if he truly wants to be the party's savior, he has to have something fresher to say.

If he's the "savior" of the republican party, they better start praying. It looked like amateur hour after comparing Obama's dazzling SOTU speech.

I wouldn't call President Obama's speech exactly dazzling. I thought it was quite good. The last part about gun violence, of course, was amazing. The rest was a compendium of policies that, taken together, are quite impressive -- but also pretty unlikely, given the nature of the current Congress. So pay attention to the things he can do through executive action.


By the way, sorry for the late start. A bit overscheduled today.

When we we get a rational opposition party that works for the good of the country?

I hope we get one soon. I can't claim to be optimistic in the short term, but as Republicans begin to realize the challenges they face in national and statewide elections, I think they'll come to their senses.

I doubt you will answer this, because its not positive about Obama. However his insistence to increase corporate tax rates to any company is absurd.30% of 0 and 40% of 0 are the same number. We already have one of the highest marginal tax rates in the modern world, and even Ezra has written we need to lower this rate. Obama cares more about penalizing the rich than passing something that may conflict with his liberal playbook (lowering corporate tax rates are removing deductions). This would create jobs, but would not fit with his talking points.

President Obama has been calling for lower corporate tax rates for some time. You must be talking about some other Obama.

Even though I'm a right-leaning voter, I have no problem with some gun control measures (although, I'm not convinced they would do anything). But, can we place the blame for it not coming up for a vote on the proper people? The Senate/Harry Reid could bring it up for a vote whenever they wanted. It's the nervous Dems that won't take a stand.

You have a point. Senate Democrats will have to take a stand if there is to be meaningful action on gun control. I understand the political reasons for their reluctance, but I believe there's a moral imperative here.

These responses always sound so ridiculous in part because they aren't a response to the speech just made by the President. Rubio made no mention of a change in the minimum wage, for example.

The opposition "response" is a useless exercise. All it seems to do is hurt (Jindal) or help (Huckabee) the career of the hapless politician who delivers it. 

I found him off-putting. On a purely superficial level (even leaving out the gulp of water, which was amusing), he struck me as the president of the young Republicans -- very impressed with himself and his deep understanding of how the world really works, if only you would listen to him. So my reaction is that this guy is not ready to run for President, but then I'm predisposed against his message. Am I letting my bias creep in? (Also -- one person talking directly to the camera is almost always awkward. Has anyone ever successfully used that format on the SOTU response as a springboard to bigger things? Seems like the Bobby Jindal response is always going to be a real danger there. Why not do what McDonnel did in 2010? The forced smiles in the crowd were creepy for that one, but the speech was way less awkward.)

You've put your finger on the problem with Rubio's speech, in my view, which is that he seemed callow. He managed to sound less experienced and knowledgeable than he really is. Just a bad outing for him, in his prime-time debut. 

When are politicans going to realize that they are operating under false premises regarding gun violence? Much of the legislation proposed will help to reduce the toll that guns take, but none represent a cure, and I submit, even if all the proposed legislation is passed and enforced, the death toll will decline only marginally. The real problem is the honoured place guns have in American society. Guns almost outnumber people, and if the NRA has its way, guns will outnumber people soon . Almost everyone who speaks against gun violence prefaces his or her remarks with a reverence for the right to own guns. American movies are often a vehicle for demonstrating how the solution to almost every problem is a firearm. The movies rarely show the long-term effects that gun violence has on people. Until guns are seen as the problem and not the solution, and until it becomes uncool for people to open carry or have an arsenal in their homes, gun violence will continue, Public attitudes have to change, and I'd love for just one political leader to openly say that guns are the problem. The proof of the concept is watching 1940s movies (or Mad Men) and see how pervasive smoking was before it became socially unacceptable.

Good points, but the fact is that even if all gun sales were somhow banned tomorrow -- which would require a constitutional amendment -- this country would still be supersaturated with firearms. The modest gun-control measures under consideration would have limited impact on the death toll. But they would have some impact, which means that some young girl might live to see her senior prom. That's not trivial.

I didn't watch the SOTU last night; so I ask, did Obama mention any plan of actually presenting and passing a budget this year? Or was it just another campaign speech and how he wants to fleece the producers of this country so the consumers can continue to suckle off the teet of big government?

The president has submitted a budget every year. Talk to Congress about passing one.

If so, well played. I couldn't think of a better person to represent the opposite side of any argument than a ranting lunatic has-been. If you want to bring people to your side it helps to have a popular, respected well spoken celebrity to make your case, like, say, Oprah. If you want to come across as a creepy fringe element, you call on Ted Nugent. Why exactly did someone think he would help their cause?

I'm afraid liberals aren't that diabolical. 

So was Paul Ryan, at the VP debate. Maybe there's something in the water? (Sorry, couldn't help myself). Like with Ryan, perhaps "Saturday Night Live" will immortalize Rubio's thirst in parody.

I don't see how SNL can avoid it, although it's almost too easy. I actually felt sorry for Rubio. What idiot staged that mess? If you're going to give him a bottle of water, put it within reach! Rubio's mouth was so dry he could hardly get the words out. It happens. His mistake was to keep looking at the camera as he stooped to grab the bottle, as if nobody was supposed to notice. Instead, he had to own it. He should have said "Pardon me," turned his attention to the water bottle, reached for it, taken a sip, put it down, and then turned back to resume eye contact with the viewers. 


That's all for today, folks. Sorry again for the late start, and I'll see you 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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