Eugene Robinson Live

May 13, 2014

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

Hi, everyone, and welcome on a sweltering day in the nation's capital. Not a lot of cheery news today that I know of. Ukraine is still teetering on the brink of chaos, the Nigerian girls are still held by their captors, long-term unemployment and the minimum wage still await action, and, of course, the Republican House majority is about to start a kangaroo court to score political points on Benghazi. Shameful, as I say in today's column. Let's get started.

I really wonder whether people are really paying attention. I mean Holy Smokes, I have to think this committee is all about political grandstanding, about damaging Obama and HRC. I wish they'd pay as much attention to restoring jobs, passing immigration reform and who knows what else as they do to finding blame for Benghazi and dumping Obamacare.

So does the rest of the country, I am confident. But firing up the GOP base seems to be the party's big priority. I guess, its only priority.

What has the administration done to have justice for the Americans killed in Benghazi? Has it sought the perpetrators and murderers? What I perceive is a nonchalant attitude by this administration about not only the three highly trained military were murdered by terrorists, but also the ambassador. Isn't that supposed to be a big deal? Maybe some Putin-like "cojones" are needed here.

It's trying to track down and arrest or kill the perpetrators. What would you prefer? An invasion? A missile strike? On whom? Chest-thumping, I guess, is a lot easier than devising a course of action that actually accomplishes something.

WOW. Just... wow. It's as if we all were watching a movie that had a stock "old man racist" character. Is he next going to blame Anderson Cooper for tricking him into making those remarks?

You're referring to Donald Sterling's "I'm not racist" interview in which he reveals himself to be deeply, perhaps incorrigibly, often incoherently racist. Words fail me. Nothing he says has any basis in reality. I can't think of anybody, for starters, who has invested more money in low-income communities than Magic Johnson. Sterling lives in his own world, and it's not a nice one.

Gene, There was a very good middle ground article on global warming yesterday in the Post. To summarize it said global warming is clearly happening, but the real problem is with developing countries, not our own. We are relatively energy efficienct. However the use of coal and other dirty energy products by India and China are the main problem and their growth (and increase in energy usage) is going to make the problem considerably worse. It also mentioned that there is no real soultion to the problem. The EU and US are not the main threats. To slow the problem we need to take immidate action to limit pollution in China and other developing / industrial nations. How do you best propose we address this real problem.

You're talking about my colleague Robert Samuelson's column and it was a provocative piece. I think he falls victim to a fallacy, though. It doesn't follow that if China, India et al continue to increase their emissions, it is useless for the U.S. and Europe to reduce theirs. A pound less of carbon going into the atmosphere is a pound less of carbon. Assuming China and India do nothing to curb emissions, curbing ours still means incrementally less carbon in the atmosphere than there would have been if we had done nothing. I also think that China will soon begin to attack its emissions problem, with the Communist Party acting in self-preservation. Samuelson's point about designing incentives -- such as a carbon tax -- to encourage new technology is a good one, though.

I agree with you that the Benghazi hearings are a bad idea. I come at it as a Republican, who has a sense here out in flyover country that the voters elected the president because they like him personally, but are ready for another 2010 like election because they are tired of his policies. It just feels like the Republicans in the House can not leave well enough alone, and are in danger of shooting themselves in the foot.

A lot of smart Republican strategists believe the same thing. This doesn't feel like 2010 to me but I think Republicans are looking at a good cycle. But they can blow their advantage, or much of it, by talking about nothing but Benghazi and Obamacare. The country is ready to move on, even if the GOP base isn't.

Not sure how much you paid attention last weekend to the NFL Draft, and the coverage of Sam, but I thought the cheerleading was over the top. I respect Sam but I hate how anybody that says anything minor in response to the coverage is instantly branded as a bigot and homophobe. It just lazy by the sports media.

I thought the coverage was fine. And it's amazing what happened: The SEC defensive player of the year -- which makes him basically the toughest guy in college football -- kissed his boyfriend on national television. And the world didn't end!

I voted twice for the President, and remain a supporter, but I don't think he has been a transformative figure as you argue and as I hoped he would be. His main legislative accomplishment, the ACA, cost the control of the House and had an incredibly screwed up rollout that limited thepublic's already small appetite for government intervention in the economy. So, while undoubtedly a significant accomplishment, it has come at a huge huge cost. And, sadly, it is about the only thing we can look to as a major domestic accomplishment. It's a real stretch to say that possibly raising the minimum wage is transformative, even if it happens. And on foreign policy, while he deserves some credit for avoiding the Bush disasters, there is nothing we can point to as a major achievement (SALT treaty, opening door to China, Camp David accords, etc). While I wish it were otherwise, I think this has not been a transformative presidency. Very interested in your response to these points.

I think I laid out my view in the column. The rollout may have been screwed up, but the ACA is now the way health care works in this country. Even if Republicans managed to repeal it, they would have to replace it with something similar. Inequality is now on the national agenda, and we'll hear both parties talk about it this fall. In foreign policy, the United States has adopted a more multilateralist posture and has refused to jump headfirst into places like Syria. Like these changes or not, they are huge.

Gene, I am quite concerned about global warming, but I feel the left is more concerned about making political statements than proposing ideas that have a chance of improving the situation (the right is a lost cause as almost everyone I think would agree). For example, the Keystone pipeline will have little to no overall effect on global warming. Even if its not allowed in the US, the Oil will still be extracted and it will just flow to other countries, likely those with less stringent environmental standards at their power plants. Where are the real solutions that address this as a Macro/global issue?

I think the Keystone Pipeline was probably the wrong place for environmentalists to draw the line, but I do understand their position. If you believe that climate change cannot possibly be arrested unless some of the carbon in the ground remains forever buried, then you have to start somewhere. 

Several days after the attack, the mother of one of the victims said Hillary Clinton told her personally that the video caused this attack and that they were going to put the producer behind bars. There was ample time for Mrs. Clinton to know by then that, at bare minimum, this video explanation was highly suspect. I think they knew by then this explanation was 100% bogus. You want to talk about who is dishonoring the victims? Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice and the rest of this administration did that by lying about the cause of this attack. I think that's what Trey Gowdy is going to make clear at these hearings, and the fallout is not going to be pretty. So be it.

No, there wasn't time. I ask you the same question I asked in my column: Have you even tried to piece together a blow-by-blow of a combat engagement after it occurred? It takes longer than "several days" to even talk to participants and witnesses, who might by then be scattered in different places, much less condense what they say into a coherent narrative. When I was a foreign correspondent, I once arrived in Paraguay they day after a coup had deposed the longtime dictator Alfredo Stroessner. It took the better part of a week for any of us (including the U.S. embassy) to come to a conclusion on what the coup was about, much less assemble a narrative. Within a couple of weeks of the Benghazi attack, enough information had come together to establish that it was indeed a well-planned attack. You may think you could tell the difference in an instant. Believe me, you couldn't.

Your column from May 8th, judging Obama as a consequential president, I just don't see it yet. ACA is still not on solid ground, and to me it seems like the Cold War is staring again on his watch. I think the President is a good person, and I don't think he is a bad president, but it took 25 years to figure out that Reagan was consequential.

No, by the time Reagan left office I knew he was consequential, even if I didn't like many of the consequences. My contention is that Reagan pulled the political argument way to the right and that Obama has pulled it back toward the left. I'll stand by that.

It seems to me that Benghazi is one more example of the GOP spending all of its energy playing politics all of the time and none on advancing substantial policy. Now they say they advance policy stuff all the time, but most of it gets shredded immediately as bunk. How long can they go like this when they are turning out to be wrong on almost every issue? (i.e., predicting Obama's 2012 election, failure of the ACA, austerity is expansionary, the fed printing money will cause inflation to go out of control--I could go on). Do you think long term, if this continues, that the GOP might become irrelevant, like in California?

Long-term, if the GOP continues to alienate Latinos, young people and women the way it does now, then yes, it  becomes irrelevant.

I think we can all agree that Sterling is a horrible racist. But, he cannot get a lawyer to represent him. I bet if he murdered someone, he would have lawyers falling all over themselves to represent him. So, it would seem that being a racist is a whole lot worse than being a murderer.

What are you talking about? The man has a couple of billion dollars. He'll have an army of lawyers.

Michael Beschloss argues that it takes at least 20 years, if not longer to make a sound judgment on the legacy of any presidency. Reagan was viewed as a failure in 1992, and now is regarded well. I think you will be in your mid 80s before we can really judge how transformational Obama really is.

Hate to break it to you, but when I'm in my mid-80s I'm not going to be doing this chat. So I've got to be a bit hastier in my assessments.

A scientist at the DC Enviromental Film Festival this year said that we have already gone past a tipping point. He said that we have already added enough carbon to the atmosphere to melt the arctic enough to release the methane in the northern tundra. As far as he was concerned, the fight now is only about timing. Timing matters, but it was the first time I have heard anyone say that.

Scientists agree that climate change is taking place but don't all agree on their doomsday predictions. I take the IPCC as a benchmark, for want of a better one, and the latest report says there s still time to keep warming below the catastrophic range. 

you think that will hurt the gop

You're referring to "Doctor" Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton may have suffered some kind of traumatic brain injury when she fell a while ago. He has nothing to base this wild speculation on, which makes it offensive -- and potentially damaging to his party, especially if he keeps it up. That said, the health status of Clinton and every other potential candidate will of course be an issue.

The returns are in. ACA is succeeding despite a rocky start. There is statistical evidence that states that refuse to expand Medicaid are eating up more than their share of federal tax dollars. Anyone who disputes this has their head in the sand.

True that the ACA is -- as I said -- simply the way health care works in this country now. It's a fact.

Just wondering, do you have a guess (educated or otherwise) as to who will win the Republican nomination in 2016? As someone who is interested in politics, it is such a fascinating race, and so hard to predict.

I have no idea. Really, I could cite reasons why none of the frequently cited contenders could win the nomination, yet one of them quite likely will. Your guess is as good as mine. Take Marco Rubio, for example. Three months ago he was toast. Out of the game. Now he's back, for what it's worth.

Thats it for today, folks. My time is up.. Thanks for another great hour of conversation, 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.
Archive of Eugene Robinson's columns
Recent Chats
  • Next: