Eugene Robinson Live

Jul 22, 2014

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

Hello, folks, and welcome again to our weekly chat. Breaking news: Yikes! A divided federal appeals court panel has dealt a mighty -- and, one hopes, temporary -- blow to the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the law as written does not allow the federal government to pay subsidies to policyholders who obtained insurance through the federal exchange. Lower courts have ruled that the law's clear intent was to permit such subsidies, so one hopes the Supremes will reverse this judicial overreach. Nothing changes for now, but the GOP crowing, however short-lived, will be pretty insufferable. In other news... make it stop. The airliner shootdown in Ukraine was heinous and heartbreaking; my column today says this should tell us something about the wisdom of giving anti-aircraft weapons to non-state actors, as hawks have been pushing President Obama to do in Syria. Meanwhile, Israel continues "mowing the grass" in Gaza, with nearly 600 Palestinians and just short of 30 Israelis killed so far, in another tragic rerun of the movie we've seen so many times before. Whatever happened to the summer doldrums? Let's get started.

Now that the Federal Appeals court said that most of the Obamacare subsidies are illegal, I'll just patiently wait for Obama to get his pen & paper and change the law.

I honestly don't think that will be necessary. I haven't had time to read the whole ruling but it seems to hinge on whether Congress specifically intended that ONLY insurance coverage obtained through state exchanges, and not the federal exchange, should be subsidized. I don't see that in the record, and I doubt the Supremes will either.

I am truly disappointed at the DC Circuit's ruling striking down perhaps the only way that many Americans can afford to get health insurance. The decision could be overturned by the entire Circuit. What can we do to ensure that this law is carried out to its fullest extent?

I would bet money that the full circuit court will reverse. Then the ruling will likely be appealed to the Supremes, and I believe the administration will prevail. This panel's interpretation is pretty silly.

Eugene, Chris Christie is not the most shameless critic of the presidents foreign policy. That honor distinctly belongs to Dick Cheney, primarily because he is responsible for a good deal of the mess we are in. Christie is just cheering from the sidelines. Tom Scott. Morgan Hill ca.

In terms of shamelessness, Cheney has special hall-of-fame status, in my book. Not fair to include him because he'd win every time.

BREAKING: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld the Obamacare subsidies the DC Circuit struck down.

Whoa. I'm just seeing these reports. It looks as if we have diametrically opposed circuit court rulings on the same day. Developing.

I was raised to believe that as an American, I had a responsibility and role as a Citizen -- that there was agency in that, that the collective role of citizens was important to the functioning of the republic. That role seems to have been devalued, to voter (a lesser thing), and worse, to 'consumer'. Your thoughts?

Let me take a moment to let the Obamacare dust settle and address your perceptive observation. Government is not a business and should not be run according to what the hottest business-school gurus say. Citizens are not customers, and it drives me wild when government agencies refer to us as such. Government belongs to all of us -- the benefits and the responsibilities.

Once the dust settles, the court ruling on ACA might (will?) look kin dog bad for the GOP. As quick as they were to hop on the Bundy bandwagon, once his true colors came through with his racist remarks they ran away from him as fast as possible With ACA what is the upshot? Hey hey!! We took your healthcare away! How is THAT going to look?

As I said, I don't think we'll ever get to that point. But imagine: Five million people would potentially face losing their insurance. Would it really be a popular stance for the GOP to say this is great news? 

Update: I've been able to surf a bit and it's true -- the Fourth Circuit has just issued a ruling that directly contradicts what the D.C. Circuit said earlier today. The Fourth Circuit says the language in question is ambiguous and the courts should defer to the administration's interpretation. This is basically what lower-court judges have said, too.

While Rula Jebreal's rhetoric may have been over the top, she does raise an issue many of us have noticed: a media focus on tunnels and bombs and bullets, but little discussion of the Palestinian point of view. Your thoughts on this complex situation?

I honestly think the coverage has been pretty evenhanded, with the caveat that Israeli officials are more accessible than Hamas officials (who are being targeted with bombs) and thus get more air time. Still, I've seen plenty of coverage about civilian casualties, the bombing of a hospital, the targeting of those children on the beach... I think when people complain about coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, they're really complaining about what the Israelis are doing or what the Palestinians are doing, not about how we're covering the war.

Looks like those red lines & strongly written letters & ability to be more flexible with Putin really worked out well. Throw in Hamas and ISIS and it's a banner month for President Obama.

Brace yourself for this, but all presidents have to deal with dastardly acts committed by bad people. Ronald Reagan had to deal with the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon and the Korean airliner shoot-down, to name just two. It would be nice if presidents could keep all bad things from happening, but they can't.

Obamacare, cont.: Here's a link to the updated story about the dueling appeals court rulings --

Beyond any reasonable doubt, Hamas cares about one thing, killing Israelis. they have hit Gaza and the west bank with their rockets and knocked out their own power. They have denied or violated numerous cease fires and demanded their people stay in homes to increase the death count. The goal in their charter is the destruction of Israel, not their own state. These are undeniable facts. The question is how does the ME replace them with either Fatah or Egyptian leaders. They are not fit to lead and calling them the rightful leaders is a joke (because they have killed their opposition and not held additional elections).

I'm no fan of Hamas, which indeed seeks the destruction of Israel. It is also true that Israel seeks the destruction of Hamas. This war has brought neither side closer to achieving its goal.


"Judicial overreach"; "this panel's interpreation is pretty silly"; and the like. Judges Griffith, Edwards, and Randolph are extremely smart and incredibly acomplished, and more important, are very sincere in their attempt to do their jobs well. They have written 3 separate opinions on a vastly complicated issue. I wish you would keep your commentary focused on the political side--"health care is a major problem facing our country and I hope our government finds a way to provide greater coverage"--and less on the legal side. Your criticism of the judges is unfair, poorly researched (pages of painstaking legal analysis that took weeks to create were released literally hours ago--you have it all figured out?), and, in my own opinion, incorrect.

I think the gist of what you're saying is in the final sentence -- you disagree with my view of that ruling. (So did the Fourth Circuit panel, as you must be aware.) I did say that I haven't had time to read the opinions carefully. What I didn't mention is that I've actually had a good deal of experience writing about appellate court opinions -- for a while, before I came to the Post, I covered the California Supreme Court; that was back in the Jurassic. Anyhow, it's pretty clear what the question is -- whether Congress intended to rule out federal subsidies or left some ambiguous language in the bill. I think reading that language and concluding that it's crystal clear is, well, silly.

Hi Eugene -- now that we have two opposite results, how will that impact the Republicans' messaging on the issue? Isn't it a little awkward to say that one court has it right, the other doesn't? And in terms of the public's view, how closely are they paying attention?

It's a wash. 

I agree with you on the coverage of the war, but I would like to see a discussion of the issues leading up to the war: blockades, checkpoints, economic sanctions, etc. During a war is often the best time to resolve the issues that led to it. Wars are bright shiny objects to us in the viewing/reading public; avoiding them takes a open conversation. Your thoughts?

There have to be leaders on both sides who want to resolve issues and make peace. That is not the case right now.

they clearly dislike the organization and view them as a threat. However their stated goal is not to dismantle Hamas, but to dismantle the tunnels and stop the rockets. Hamas literally has it in its charter to kill all the Israelis and retake all of Israel. These are pretty massive distinctions.

I've been to Gaza. Again, I'm no fan of Hamas. But when Israel tries its best to bomb the organization's leaders into oblivion, it's pretty hard to convince anyone that the aim is not to dismantle Hamas.

Thank you for reminding folks about the 1983 Korean Airliner being shot down by the USSR during President Reagan's watch. What was his reaction? Reagan demanded an apology to the world and continued a number of sanctions — but he decided not to suspend arms control talks. The Manchester Union-Leader editorialized that “if someone had told us three years ago that the Russians could blow a civilian airliner out of the skies – and not face one whit of retaliation from a Ronald Reagan administration, we would have called that crazy. " Keep in mind that this was during the Cold War, and that the flight had departed from the U.S., with dozens of American passengers, including a sitting member of Congress – President Reagan told a National Security Meeting that 'we’ve got to protect against overreaction. Vengeance isn’t the name of the game.'”

And Reagan's reaction to the Marine barracks bombing was also not to seek vengeance but to pull U.S. forces out of Lebanon. 

Firing pinpointed missiles at weapons stores where innocent civilians are being forced to serve as human shields, or lobbing missiles randomly on an enemy population while forcing one's own innocent civilians to serve as human shields so if they're attacked they can be proclaimed martyrs?

Have you been to Gaza? If you have, you know how densely built and populated the place is. There are no pinpoint weapons that can destroy targets there without killing civilians. I'm not being polemical, just stating a fact.

Neither am I. But the fact that, to me, keeps getting lost in all this is that these are OCCUPIED territories. They are not Israeli. And the settlement-building in Israel is deliberate and blatant provocation. (For the record, I'm a white-bread Catholic with no dog in this fight.)

That's absolutely true. No question about it. But let's not be naive about Hamas.

That's it for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks for joining me for all the judicial breaking news, thanks for keeping the Israel-Palestine discussion civil, 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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