Eugene Robinson Live

Jul 02, 2013

Live chat with Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news.

Greetings, folks, and welcome. I guess we're still dealing mostly with fallout from last week, which was busy enough for two weeks. Snowden is still in the Moscow airport, gay marriage has resumed California, the president is on his way home from his Africa trip, and, oh yes, immigration reform passed the Senate but faces a potential brick wall in the House. That's what today's column is about, for reference. Let's get started.

Eugene; Though we all can agree that illegal immigration has some undeniably negative economic effects like lowering wages for Americans without a high-school diploma why hasn't there been any discussion about the positive benefits of illegal immigrants, in this country? Believe it or not; illegal immigrants put more into our economy, than they take out.

The studies showing this positive impact are indeed mentioned, but noise from the other side tends to drown them out. Voices of reason need to learn to speak in an unreasonably loud tone of voice sometimes.

I often wonder what the Republican Party is collectively thinking and on the immigration issue I can't figure it out- it's one of two things. Either A) they want to actually round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and evict them from the country and they don't care about the repercussions of doing it or B) they know that evicting 11 million illegal immigrants would have a catastrophic impact on the economy as huge swaths of the construction and services sector would disappear, that most of these people are law abiding family people and it would have a huge impact on families across the nation, and that the shear logistical nightmare of moving that many people would be insurmountable, which means this whole thing is a rhetorical exercise designed to whip up their base and blame someone else for issues of unemployment, wage stagnation, etc. I'd like to think that it's B, because that means that the GOP at least understands the issue, but I'm not always sure if they're that bright.

I wish I knew the answer. I think most Republicans, even the most intransigient, realize that we are not going to round up 11 million people. But a few probably think such madness is a great idea. There was a time when you could count on Republicans to listen to the views of the business community, which wants a sensible reform bill that allows continued access to cheap labor. But today's GOP majority in the House really can't be counted on to listen to anybody, except maybe Rush Limbaugh.

If the House passes their own immigration bill that is so far different from the Senate's that the only thing they have in common is the word "immigration," can they actually go to conference with it? I imagine that even if they can, there will be no conference bill resulting, but is there a limit to the dissimilarity that two bills have before they aren't considered different takes to the same issue?

I'm no expert in the arcana of congressional procedure, but I think they can go to conference with bills that are quite divergent, as long as they're on the same subject. Can anybody cite chapter and verse on this?

Dear Eugene, I wonder if you might share your thoughts on the Zimmerman trial at this point. While Fox News and MSNBC have clearly taken their sides in the trial already, there are real complexities in the case that their perspectives may not capture. Specifically, it may well be the case that when there was a fight between Zimmerman and Martin, Zimmerman may indeed have felt himself in mortal danger and shot the young man. At the same time, it was Zimmerman's profiling of Martin as someone who "did not belong" that provoked the conflict and he was clearly armed and ready when it occurred (the type of weapon used could not have been prepared for firing during the fight and could only have been fired if it was already set to be fired). So it can be true that he acted in self-defense during the fight, but his actions were the seed of the conflict and he was ready to shoot when he got out of his car. Because of the complexity of the case, it's really hard to see any resolution that feels like closure to those involved in the case or the many observers of the case. What do you think?

I guess I start with the premise that the defense did a better job than the prosecution in the jury selection phase (they found no suitable African Americans? in Florida?) and therefore Zimmerman may be, overall, in friendlier waters. That said, the other big factor in Zimmerman's favor, in terms of his prospects, is that only one of the two men who struggled that night is left to tell the tale. He told his story to police, in detail. Martin was not about to tell his story at all. Overall, I think it's clear that Martin was racially profiled. We know that he was 17 and unarmed, and we know that Zimmerman was a grown man with a gun.  No result will change those facts, and no result will bring Martin back.

We all have an opinion on this. From watching the trial I've come to the conclusion this is manslaughter. I think a number of events happened that led to this tragedy. That Zimmerman's version is largely correct, but in the end, Martin was not going to kill him, so shooting him was an overreaction. If Zimmerman was not armed, this largely could have been avoided.

Well, also if Zimmerman hadn't decided to play junior cop and follow Martin, rather than wait for police to arrive.

Fair to say that we can look forward to a gradual domino-type effect of state anti-gay marriage laws falling?

Fair to say. I think it gets passed in Illinois fairly soon, and after than I'm not quite sure where the campaign heads -- upper Midwest, the rest of the West Coast, eventually Florida... My guess is that the next time the issue comes before the Supreme Court -- maybe in a suit filed by a couple that's considered married in one state but denied marriage rights in another -- the justices, led by Kennedy, may well be ready to rule that the issue is one of equal protection and the right to gay marriage exists nationwide. 

To the point about religious objections to gay marriage. It's like religious objections to war. My mother's family were Quakers when there were drafts, they were exempt because of their religion, but that didn't mean the country didn't go to war even though most world religion preach against violence.

Precisely. Nobody is claiming the right to force any church to perform or consecrate same-sex marriages. This is a matter of what the law recognizes.

Or Zimmerman could have just let Martin keep on walking. After all, I am allowed to walk through neighborhoods in which I do not live. Aren't I?

You should be. But obviously, if you're young, black and wearing a hoodie, you don't.

Noticed a lot of anti-gay marriage talking heads make the point that polygamy. No, it doesn't. 12 states recognize and 2 states (New Jersey and New Mexico) don't have a law either way for or against gay marriage. While all 50 states have a law that specifically bans polygamy. If at least one state did legally recognize polygamy, that would be one thing, but none do. Also gay marriage is a pretty recent issue, while the Supreme Court ruled on the polygamy case of Reynolds v. United States in 1878.

The polygamy thing is a total red herring. You can come up with lots of practical and legal obstacles to allowing multiple spouses -- questions of survivorship, inheritance, parental rights, etc. But as long as there are only two people, mixed-sex or same-sex, the questions are basically already answered.

What is the "Biblical definition" of marriage? Solomon had 700 wives, and scholars are still debating when/if Joseph and Mary actually got married.

It amazes me that some parts of the Bible don't get banned in the Bible Belt.

I saw you on MTP say that while you thought the country would come to accept gay marriage and immigration reform, the country will still be fighting over abortion for years to come. It seems difficult to compromise when one side wants abortion completely banned, while the other can't accept the smallest regulation.

Your description of the state of play isn't correct. One side wants abortion completely banned. The other side has had to accept lots of restrictions. But I still believe my basic point, which is that it's hard to find compromise on abortion. If you really believe it's murder, how can you meet the other side halfway?

I read your piece in Newsday on Paula Dean and agree that use of the N word in today's society is unacceptable. I would like your thoughts on why the same outrage does not pour down on Jay Z who has made millions spewing the N word and denigrating black women in songs.

I am outraged about rap lyrics by JayZ or anybody else that denigrate women (of any color). As for the word beginning with "n," black people can say it and white people can't. Period. Why? Because of, like, the entirety of American history. Unfair, perhaps, but that's the way it is.

Unsure on the standard guidelines for WaPo are, but do you use "gay marriage" or "same-sex marriage"? The Onion actually brought a good point about this in this article.

I guess I've used the terms pretty much interchangeably. I'm not sure what The Post's style is on this, either, but I guess I'd better find out.

I don't understand why it hasn't dawned on the GOP that everyone benefits when women can manage their reproductive health. When clinics are closed it's not just closing an abortion clinic but a women's clinic where they can get access to birth control and other medical screening. Preventing unplanned PGs lessens the burden on everyone.

There you go, being logical. GOP members of Congress have ways of shutting that whole logic thing down.

Some friends of mine told me that it was inconsistent of me to support the repeal of DOMA but also to be angry about the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act. "States' Rights," they say. But to me, states' rights are to be celebrated and protected when they advance the good of society, and not mindlessly kowtowed to when they don't.

"States' rights" was the rallying cry of staunch segregationists in the South as they sought to perpetuate Jim Crow. So I have a healthy skepticism about the concept.

I don't think I want national security issues decided by a guy who goes to China and Russia to promote individual freedoms. What a buffoon. And his father sounds no better. Will there be any blowback to Booz-Allen for hiring this guy?

Not for Booz-Allen, but maybe for the contractor that did Snowden's security screening. But as I've said umpteen times, Snowden isn't really the point. What has me exercised is that the NSA is collecting massive amounts of private information about us, acting in accordance with secret interpretations of the law made by secret courts and completely hidden from public view. The Patriot Act -- bad enough on its face, in my view -- is being stretched in ways that authors of the law never imagined. And we don't even know HOW it's being stretched, because we're not allowed to read the secret Fisa court's rulings. This is not acceptable in a free society.

The speed that Southern states are moving to change voting laws that will make it harder to vote sort of belies the contention that the VRA was not needed. In the wake of the SCOTUS decision, are there any other legal remedies to slow down this march to limit voting rights?

It may not be possible to halt some of these measures before they are enacted, now that the pre-clearance requirement is dead. But it's still possible to sue under the Act and its provisions still apply.

You weren't sure with states would be next. My own guesses are Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey and Oregon?

Sounds like a good list.

Let's pretend that Wendy Davis and her supporters in the state house were filibustering/protesting a pro-choice bill. Would the headlines be "Ms. Smith goes to Washington with her pink shoes" or "State Senator thwarts democratic process while an angry mob shouts down progress."

Hold it, are Republicans now opposeed to the filibuster? Would you please tell Mitch McConnell?

More to the point, isn't a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage all but impossible now, given that soon there won't be enough states left that would be likely to ratify it?

I hope so.


That's all for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks for participating, 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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