Eugene Robinson Live

Feb 11, 2014

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

Hi, everybody, and welcome to our weekly chat. Lots going on. House Speaker John Boehner now plans to bring up a clean debt ceiling bill, acknowledging that Congress really does have an obligation to pay for the spending it has approved -- and also that Republicans were unable to agree on a set of ransom demands. President Obama is hosting a state visit by French President Francois Hollande, who arrives sans companion and who is probably more popular here than at home. Meanwhile, Obama has given medium-sized businesses another year's break from the health insurance mandate. And in balmy Sochi, the most springlike Winter Olympics in history are being held. All the NBC networks are getting involved in the coverage. Yesterday, I was beginning to think CNBC stood for Carries Nothing But Curling. (Which is kind of mesmerizing if you watch long enough.) Let's get started.

Is Rand Paul right? How many more years can the Republicans block immigration reform that even Texas turns blue? As an advocate, I'm worried that the Democrats are also extending the issue for this very reason. It would be very hard for a Democrat to lose the Presidency with Texas, California and New York locked up.

Well, Texas may still be safe for the GOP in 2016. But afer that, all bets are off. And you're right: If Texas, California, New York and (don't forget) Florida all become reliable wins for the Democrats, it's over. This probably can't happen unless the GOP goes out of its way to alienate Latino voters. Hold on, that's just what the party is doing...

Your column was spot-on today, as usual. The inaction on immigration reform just highlights the hypocrisy that the GOP displays on re-branding itself. Okay, we want to accept Latinos into the party, but let's not help provide the tools to become even more productive members of society. PLEEZE!

Really. And the thing is, Democrats are reaping the political benefits without even having to work hard. 

Why are conservatives so much more successful in spreading misinformation and outright lies to the media than the left are in correcting them? This past week, I've heard several media outlets claim that Obamacare will cost the nation more than 2 million jobs. The actual OMB report said that people will voluntarily work less because they're not tied to an employer's health insurance. I even saw one question on Chis Cizilla's Fix discussion say that 23 million jobs would be lost. It's now permanently in voters minds that Obamacare is a huge job killer - chalk another one up for Republicans.

Well, you seem to have understood what the OMB report actually said. Some people believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts.

This whole issue of Immigration Reform , is like the gun laws. We don't need new laws, we need to enforce those on the books. Why do you think that the US Attorney General would enforce new laws, when he won't enforce current laws on the books?

No, on guns we definitely need some new laws. And on immigration, the Obama administration has done more to enforce the laws than any prior administration -- deportations are at record levels. 

A new poll shows Christie now second only to Sarah Palin as least likely to beat Hillary. Is Christie the only GOP alternative to a teahadist? If so, wouldn't a nominee like Cruz pretty much doom the Republicans in 2016?

A lot will happen between now and Novmember 2016, and everyone should expect the GOP to come up with a nominee who runs a lavishly funded, totally viable campaign. We don't know who that will be. If it's Ted Cruz, the party may have positioned itself too far to the right to win -- but that depends on circumstances, doesn't it, such as whom the Democrats nominate. Jeb Bush, despite his last name, would be a formidable candidate. Chris Christie has dug himself a hole that will be difficult, but not necessarily impossible, to climb out of.

What about a shortage of water, stretched resources, technology killing blue collar jobs, high unemployment, crumbling infrastructure pollution. Isn't adding population, illegal and legal the wrong direction for the country?

On the contrary: Immigration is the main reason why economic prospects are brighter here than in Europe or Japan. Our population isn't aging as fast. Closing the gates would be a recipe for decline.

You can have a nation such as those in Scandinavia that have great social safety nets. You can have a nation with relaxed immigration laws. However there are not many examples of financially stable nations that have both. Spain, Greece and France are a number of examples. What are they doing wrong that we would do differently?

Working-age immigrants pay taxes that help fund entitlements. It helps if you encourage those immigrants to become contributing members of society, rather than marginalize them.

Ironically, one of our obstacles in our retirement plans was healthcare. We have been frugal for many years saving in 401k, cash, etc. However, health insurance was going to cost us about $1200 a month if I retired before Medicare. Now, my husband and I can truly plan for retirement and not have health insurance coverage stop us from retiring and freeing our jobs up for other folks.

Coongratulations, and thanks for sharing your story. This is how it's supposed to work. What's the benefit in keeping you in a job that you're ready to leave? Why shouldn't that job be available for someone entering the workforce? As the CBO tried to explain, this is to the country's benefit, not to its detriment.

Do you remember your impression of the Beatles back in 1964?

Ah, yes, this is the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's first concert in the United States, right here in Washington, D.C., before 8,092 screaming fans. I remember seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan -- the whole family gathered around the set -- and thinking they were cool.

Rand Paul is bringing up the Clinton-Lewinsky thing which he hopes will tar Mrs. Clinton if she runs. My guess is that this will matter to people who are conservative enough that they wouldn't vote for Hillary anyway. Can Paul get any traction out of this?

Only in the sense that he can call attention to himself. I don't think any of this hurts Hillary Clinton except with people who would never vote for her anyway.

The current short term federal surface transportation bill expires in September 2014. What are the prospects for passage of longer term legislation? As a retired transportation analyst I am aghast that measures that used to attract strong bipartisan support are now stalled in Congress. The legislation would begin to upgrade our infrastructure toward international standards and provide badly needed jobs.

I've given up making predictions about when Congress is going to do what should be the obvious.

Mark it down, no way voters elect Hillary unless Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz are the nominees. I dont see any way they will elect a dynastic candidate and I actually believe one of the main reasons Obama defeated Hillary in 08 was due to voters unease with having Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton. Surely there is soemone qualified out there thats not related or married to a former president and not named Ted Cruz.

You're right that the dynastic factor is real. But if I were Jeb Bush, I might calculate that the Democratic nominee is likely to be Hillary Clinton, and that this fact makes 2016 the best chance to run if your last name is Bush. The two dynasties could effectively cancel each other out. And if Jeb did make that calculation, I think he would be a formidable candidate for the GOP nomination.

The Farm Bureau Federation, by no means a liberal organization, today released a study they commissioned on the economics of immigration reform. The study found that continuing the current enforcement only policies will result in a rise in food prices by 6 percent over five years and reduce the country’s food and fiber production by as much as a $60 billion annually. They are advocating a comprehensive approach that includes an overhauled guest worker program, the chance for skilled workers to earn an adjustment of status over time and immigration enforcement. If an extremely conservative organization like this can see the merits of immigration reform, why are their farm state legislators having such a hard time? (looking at you Steve King)

Beats me. Big Agriculture and the business community in general are in favor of comprehensive reform. The problem is that Tea Party types are against it, and that means a lot in a GOP primary.

I know what he doesn't do. So what does he actually do? Seriously.

John Boehner works very hard. It's true that he doesn't accomplish much, in terms of legislation, but that's not because of idleness. It's because he answers to a caucus that doesn't want to be led toward constructive governance.

it's not so much a dynasty as a family that has grown up in politics and/or public service (those being not the same thing), and is educated in both fields.

True, and we've had this phenomenon since the Adams family. But three Bush presidencies? Spouse-and-spouse presidencies? One can't help but note that there are 315 million of us and that we might cast a wider net.

Do you think any NFL team will draft Michael Sam, now that he's come out as gay? Do you think that his being an out gay Black man will make any difference, as opposed to if he were an out gay White man?

I don't know if race will make any difference. It will be fascinating to see what happens, and I hope it doesn't end up being discouraging. Michael Sam has bravely taken a huge step -- not just by announcing he's gay, but by doing so before draft day. It's disgraceful that NFL scouts immediately sent him from, like, 90th on the chart to 160th, because he will be a "distraction." Pioneers make it easier for those who come later -- but make it harder for themselves. I salute him and wish him nothing but the best.

As one of your earlier posters noted, Chris C. did indeed publish a posting on his chat that claimed Obamacare would cost 23 million jobs. Choosing to publish such an outrageous statement showed horrible judgment, compounded by the fact that Chris did not question it. We all know that the trolls are out there, spreading misinformation, and this is a prime example. Gene, can you put on your editor's hat and say what you think the Post's responsibility is when it publishes an outright lie as fact?

Well, we shouldn't do that. And if we quote someone in telling an absolute lie, we have a duty to call the lie what it is.


So I won't lie: My time is up for today. Thanks for participating, folks, 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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