Eugene Robinson Live

Jan 07, 2014

Chat with Post columnist Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news.

Hi, folks. Happy New Year, and since there's no time for preliminaries, let's get started.

Hi Eugene -- Happy New Year and I hope you are surviving the polar vortex. Now that the Senate appears poised to extend jobless benefits, what do you think the chances are in the House? And how do the upcoming mid-terms enter into the picture? In other words, if the House does nothing, is anyone there apt to pay a price, or are things so stuck in place because of gerrymandering that it doesn't much matter what anyone in House does (or more accurately, doesn't) do?

You're asking for predictions, which are always dangerous. But hey, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. I do think the Senate will ultimately approve the extension, but perhaps only after identifying, or pretending to identify, offsetting savings. I think if the measure passes the Senate in that way, the House will probably follow. I can't imagine that the GOP establishment wants this to be the way it kicks off the election year.

My greatest fear is that in the very near future the public will merely accept the NSA practices as a given. This is assuming the President and Congress agree to some additional window dressing oversight, Snowden's future releases aren't that outrageous (what's left for the NSA to sponge up?) and the issue fades. Much like the outtrage that followed $2 and then $3 a gallon gasoline, the pricies and oil companies' profiteering now just warrant a yawn. So eventually will the NSA abuses.

I'm not sure about that. You could be right, but this issue cuts across ideological lines in an interesting way. A week or so ago, I had a conversation with Rep. Darrell Issa, of all people, whose views on the NSA and Edward Snowden are a lot closer to mine (and Rand Paul's) than to those of both the Democratic and GOP establishments. Young people don't like what the NSA is doing one bit, and understand the difference between what they voluntarily share on Instagram or Facebook and what the NSA seizes. So, long term, I think there is potential for change.

That designation is reserved for Wasserman-Schultz, Pelosi and Reid. All three of them are on the record saying that (snort, giggle) President Obama was accurate when he said his now-infamous line, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Period." If you want to continue to follow this Moe-Larry-and-Curly leadership, be my guest. The Republican party has the upper hand on this one, because the ACA was so poorly written it is simply not fixable. I applaud the GOP for continuing to fight against this law.

Well, they can continue to fight, but unless they can win two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress, they won't win -- not as long as President Obama is in office, at least. So let's see how the program looks in January 2017.

I think most Americans think that someone on UI for 73 or 99 weeks is excessive. However, the average time to find a job in this economy is 37 weeks, and most people support an extension as long as individuals are looking for work. I am really not sure what Republicans are thinking. It's as if they enjoy going out of their way to tick everybody off.

A recent Hart Research poll showed that 55 percent of Americans supported extending the benefits while only 34 percent opposed. So yes, apparently the GOP is trying to tick everyone off.

Who would have guessed? Any predicts? Seems weird to "unmarry" two people although guessing at least four SCOTUS Justices will do so.

It's also weird that Utah's nickname is the Beehive State. If this case gets to the Supremes, I'm not sure what will happen. But I doubt they would unmarry couples who got legally married during the interregnum, even if they uphold the gay marriage ban. They have a problem with taking rights away from individuals who have previously been granted those rights.

Are those that thought that ACA was the way to fix healthcare in this country. Responsible and rationale people wanted Tort Reform and minor fixes. Instead you have less than 3 million people signed up for ACA and millions of people without health care. But heck, I guess we had to vote for it to see what was in it

You're wrong on the substance. You will have at least 6 million people getting health insurance through the federal and state exchanges and Medicaid expansion. You will also have millions of people who had their policies cancelled and had to get new policies, which happens to millions of people every year. As I told the earlier poster, let's see what the program looks like in January 2017.

Personally I have no problem with getting rid of the mandate - that was only in there because the insurance companies said they couldn't make a profit if they had to cover the sick people with out at least having some healthy people - but I get why it is in there. I guess my question is - exactly what parts of the bill do people not actually like - the guaranteed coverage, the no preexisting conditions, the no caps for coverage, the keeping kids on parents plan? What is it that people want to repeal - just the mandate? The issue is that someone not covered ends up costing me money (since hospitals are required to treat) and no one can predict if/when they are going to get sick. I guess I would be OK without the mandate if people who opted out signed a waiver saying they would accept that hospitals would be allowed to turn them away for failure to pay for services in the future. I don't think others would go for that, though.

The mandate is there because the insurance companies -- and, to be fair, independent experts as well -- say the insurance companies can't cover those with preexisting conditions and still make a profit without a mandate. It's certainly valid to ask whether it was a good idea to try to reform health care by tinkering with the existing system rather than going all the way to single-payer.

I have no problem with the name Washington Redskins. If however, it is wrong to be called Redskins - why a=are the Florida State Seminoles not in the mix. Incidentally, the Florida State Seminoles have an arrangement with the Seminole tribe. There is no problem from the tribes perspective.

It's because most Native Americans don't think "Seminoles" is the same kind of ugly racial slur as the name of the Washington football team.

As a supporter, I am disappointed that the year since the election has been such a disaster for the President. Other than hoping that the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot, which they seem to have a propensity to do, what can the President do to get his admininstration back to at least a decent level of popularity so it is not an albatross around the necks of Democrats this fall?

Just do his job. Being president means that you have more power to shape events than anyone else in the country. I would worry less about popularity and more about playing offense (instead of defense).

Do you think Terry McAuliffe will be able to somehow finesse a Medicaid expansion in Virginia the way that Kasich in Ohio is doing?

I hope he tries.

I know that predictions are dangerous, but since you've shown courage on one previous post, how about another? How long do you think it will take before Americans realize what the rest of the world has already learned, that a single payer system is the best strategy?

From your lips to God's ear. It might take another generation. But who knows?

I'm supportive of same sex marriage. However, I don't like the idea of one judge overturning a state law like that. I know it's an old argument, but what is to stop a judge in Alabama to stop abortion in that state, if he discovered "an argument" for it in the constitution?

That's what federal judges get to do, though, subject to review by the appeals courts and ultimateley the Supreme Court. I grew up in a state where Jim Crow segretation was mandated by law and interracial marriage was illegal. I'm glad the Supreme Court found those laws invalid, to say the least.

Although it is true that the President faced a very difficult economic situation when he took office thanks to the GWB administration (including a terrible economy and a massively unbalanced budget), and it is also true that the Republicans especially in the House have been a massively obstructionist and destructive force, the Obama adminsitration seems to be characterized by a surprising degree of policial and technical incompetence. It's like it's being run by a bunch of "Brownie's." What do you think? I am very disappointed, and it seems like a great opportunity has been squandered.

I was in New Orleans during the immediate aftermath of Katrina and watched Brownie work in person, and I can categorically say that nothing the Obama administration has done sinks to that level of incompetence. That said, I was talking to Zeke Emanuel recently -- he's Rahm's brother, one of the architects of Obamacare; he left the administration in 2011 -- and he criticized the admin for not naming and empowering a qualified person to serve as CEO of the Obamacare rollout. I do think there's a degree of insularity in the White House that affects performance.

I don't know about the Beehive state, but isn't South Carolina the Gamecock State?

It's the Palmetto State. Named after palmetto trees, which actually grow there.

...would never get through congress, and Obama probably realized that. He went with the republican model - market-based exchanges. The second Obama adopted it, the right flipped over the board and ran screaming from the room.

That's right, and the president probably made a sensible calculation. Maybe we could at least have had a public option, though...

Don't you think eventually we will get single payer by default? All roads eventually point there. We cannot support profit within the health care system that we have. I would think every business group but health care companies would get behind that.

We might. I don't understand why there hasn't been a bigger push from titans of the business sector to get responsibility off their backs and onto the government, where it resides in other wealthy countries.

When Mormon pioneers were settling present-day Utah, they started calling it Deseret – which according to the Book of Mormon was an ancient word for "honeybee" – hence the beehive which can still be found on the Utah flag, and the state's motto, "Industry." Brigham Young himself favored the name "Deseret" as a symbol of industry.

Thanks for the explanation. (Hope it's right.)

Wouldn't it be smart politically for Republicans to say "Since President Obama's economic policies have failed, we support an extension in unemployment benefits." Now they are essentially saying the President fixed the economy.

You're assuming that the Republican Party places a value on consistency of argument. The evidence would suggest not.

Recently read a survey claiming that the majority of Republicans don't believe in evolution. Is this more indicative of intelligent Republicans fleeing the GOP, or that they've stayed in the party but abandoned their biology education for religious fundamentalism?

I think it's a question of who now identifies as a Republican and who doesn't. 

Your thoughts on the hiring of a Black female for the first time in over five years (finally!) for the featured cast on "Saturday Night Live"?

I think Lorne Michaels will discover, or rediscover, that there are funny people of all races (Asians and Latinos, too) and genders, and that greater diversity in the cast will translate into greater diversity in the audience. I'm betting, however, that Drunk Uncle will disagree.

If you looked at the survey, only 37% of Democrats believed in evolution. To get to the majority claim, the liberal columnists lumped in those who believed in intelligent design as beleiving in evolution.

I confess that I haven't really looked at the survey in depth, so I will. Maybe this is a story about the sorry state of U.S. education.

First California passed a proposition to raise taxes, now Bill de Blasio won for Mayor of NYC on a platform that included tax-the-rich. Do you think these are two anomalies, or the start of a liberal-populist backlash against the Republican tax-cuts-for-the-rich trickle-down philosophy?

Don't you think it's about time? I mean, really, the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer (at least relatively, and in some cases absolutely) since the Reagan years. Economic mobility should be a bipartisan issue. I'm pretty sure there's a bipartisan constituency for it out there.


There's no constituency, alas, for any more of me today, I'm afraid. My time is up. Thanks, all, 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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