Eugene Robinson Live

Apr 21, 2015

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

Greetings and welcome to our weekly chat. As I was saying (in this morning's column), it's time for the Senate to confirm Loretta Lynch after needless months of waiting. It looks as if there's a deal, finally, to bring her name to the floor for a vote. At present count, it looks as if there are just enough votes for confirmation. Which is absurd, actually, since Republicans actually think highly of her, judging by the way they've speedily confirmed her in the past. But let's hope the count holds and Eric Holder finally gets his freedom. In other news... well, there's politics, and U.S. warships steaming to the waters off Yemen, and all kinds of things to talk about. Let's get started.

19 Republicans? Does that side of the aisle have data that shows HRC being especially vulnerable? I think she's beatable but either they think she is extremely weak or some of them are trying out for 2020. What do you hear/think?

AT least in part, it reflects the fact that there is no longer a GOP Establishment -- at least none worth the name -- that can call all of the shots. There's a lot of ferment within the party. That's both good and bad for Republicans, I think.

The term "completely unrelated" in your column is correct. This scenario of "we won't confirm your nominee until you pass our controversial legislation" reminds me of spurned children fighting on the playground or what I refer to as "nanny nanny boo boo" political tactics. Is this something we have seen throughout our history or should we give due credit to the recent congress for this?

This isn't a first, but you have to consider the context. Many, many GOP senators actually like Lynch and think she would make a fine attorney general. If there were some question about her competence or even her ideology, I'd have a better time understanding the long standoff. But there isn't.

Hi Eugene -- thanks for taking questions today. As Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court on whether to extend marriage equality nationwide approach, Marco Rubio is trying to thread the needle -- as in, I don't support same sex marriage but I'd have no problem attending a same sex wedding. Of course, this answer pleases no one. How do you expect this issue to play out in the Republican primaries? And with regard to the general, how can a nominee with anything else less than full support expect to win younger voters...and really, the healthy majority of Americans who support marriage equality? And if the Court issues a sweeping ruling, does that let Bush, Rubio, Walker et al off the hook, while Cruz and Huckabee (if he gets in) continue to rail about the need for a federal constitutional amendment (which will never happen?)

I think you've pretty much figured it out. I'm not sure how it helps to say that you're against same-sex marriage but would attend, or have attended, a same-sex wedding. Which side is going to be happy about that stance, at this point? I don't think it's possible to win younger voters without just saying that you should be able to marry the person you love, period. If there's a sweeping ruling, the hemmers and hawers will say well, it's out of our hands, nothing more to see here, everybody move on.

Do you think Bill Clinton will be able to help Hillary's campaign or will he hurt?

The flip answer would be "both." But sure, he'll help her. Bill Clinton is one of the most adroit politicians we've ever seen. He wasn't ready for the Obama challenge in 2007-2008 but I'm betting that he'll be ready for anything the Republicans cook up in 2016.

By now you have undoubtedly witnessed the spectacle of dozens or reporters chasing after Hillary Clinton's campaign van like they were trying to chase down the Beatles. Contrast that with the comment on MSNBC after Marco Rubio announced his candidacy, when Mika Brezinski called Sen. Rubio "a little boy". Also Rubio and all the other GOP candidates have opened themselves up to non-stop interviews, while Mrs. Clinton is ignoring reporters' questions like they all have cooties. Now do you see why we don't trust the mainstream press?

I'm sorry, but if you think Hillary Clinton is getting  an easy ride from the media, you must not actually be reading the coverage. Or the commentary. If you want to demonstrate liberal bias, you're going to have to find some other test case. 

Seems like she can't win. Had she made this a political lunch and worked the crowd she would have been criticized. (I'm having flashbacks of a very funny SNL skit of Bill at a fast food restaurant eating off of diner's meals.) Is there any legitimate reason to find fault with candidates not calling attention to themselves when in a public place?

For Hillary Clinton, there's no difference between going into a Chipotle accompanied by a brass band and going into a Chipotle looking like Mata Hari or Greta Garbo. 

Ask a member of the press, how do you feel about Hillary Clinton's relationship with the press during this first leg of her campaign? It seems like she's been almost completely inaccessible.

If I were trying to cover her, I'd be livid. At some point I intend to go out and view the campaign up close, and if she's this cosseted, I'll be an unhappy camper. From her point of view, though, I get it. In her position, I'd probably also keep the likes of me at arm's length as long as possible. You can't do so forever, though. At some point, the vibe will change.

Hello Eugene, Do you believe Bernie Sanders may consider a run for the 2016 election?

I think he might run for the Democratic nomination. I'm quite confident that he will not run as a third-party candidate.

Eugene: (A shortened version of an earlier posted question). Bloomberg released a poll last week that found two thirds of Republicans would support Israel over the United States in any dispute over policy, which is a remarkable finding. As someone who grew up in the Bible Belt of South Carolina I believe you understand why conservative evangelicals believe this, as they believe blind allegiance to Israel is necessary to trigger Armageddon, the End TImes, and the Second Coming. We usually think only of things like abortion or same sex marriage as "religious" issues, but it is clear the GOP has become a theocratic party. The crackdown on how the poor can use their food stamps, for example, is rooted in what ought to be a discredited theory of the Prosperity Gospel. My question is, how do we have a debate on policy in this country when one side is not using facts, as we would normally understand the word, but theological conviction to determine the course of the nation? Faith should not be dismissed--I am a Christian myself--but faith is not open to rational argument. It makes compromise impossible. We don't like to talk about religion in this country, but I think we have to, and my question is how we have a debate about the appropriate role of religion in the public square without causing a holy war?

I think it's simple: We should all understand -- as the Founders did -- that there must be no "religious test" for public service. That's one of the many things they got exactly right.

If the Post and other newspapers give Hillary's history (Rose Law Firm disappearing documents, travelgate, cattle futures, Benghazi, funding of Clinton Foundation, email server) the same treatment as the Post has given to Mitt Romney's exploits with the scissors as a 16-year-old and Columba Bush's 20-year-old jewelry purchases, then I'd be convinced that there's no bias in coverage. But right now, most of what I read about Hillary's past comes from more conservative outlets. Hopefully, the Post will right its ship soon.

The Post wrote one front-page story about Romney's teenage bullying and one front-page story about Columba Bush's shopping habits. The Post has run run how many front-page stories about those Clinton topics? Certainly hundreds. Puh-leeze.

I have voted for democrats 99% of the time. I don't blame the republicans for all of the gridlock happening; I blame democratic voters for not turning out. What are your thoughts?

I believe that this is not, as many commentators claim, a 50-50 country, ideologically. I believe that if you take into account all voting-age Americans, the country is more like 60-40 in favor of the Democratic Party's position on most issues. If those "missing Democrats" would register and vote, Congress would look quite different. 

Would a meaningful candidate challenging HRC for the democratic nomination like O'Malley, help her - i.e. fine tune her positions, or hurt her, - expose weaknesses?

If you can run as a prohibitive favorite, why would you prefer to face a viable opponent? If I were Clinton, my view would be: Been there, done that, didn't work out as planned. 

How did we ever get to the point where millions of dollars are spent on local campaigns and national campaigns are so far beyond that. It needs to stop. How to stop it?

I can think of one thing that would stop it: 100-percent public financing of election campaigns. Given the Supreme Court's recent rulings, that would seem to require a constitutional amendment. Not going to happen, at least anytime soon. So no, I don't think it's going to stop.

Do we really want to go through all of this again? While I am a Republican and do not want her to win the Presidency, in the past week and beyond, it has been the same thing as the 90s. While the left will certainly blame the Republicans and those on the right, at some point where there is smoke, there has to be some fire. Bimbo eruptions? Truth. Emails being deleted after being questioned by Congress? Truth. Questions regarding funds going to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State? Appears to be true. Lack of a single interview with the press since announcing and the same staged events with pre-approved questions as in the 90s? Check. We could certainly go back and forth on this and refer to the famous "vast right wing conspiracy" (which proved to be a false statement as the President of the United States did have an affair with an intern), but is this really productive for the country? I generally find her to be inauthentic. The whole Chipotle thing was more humorous than authentic or a candidate that wants to look like they are in touch with the "common man." The videos made on this topic ("guacamole or no guacamole? Burrito or a bowl?") are comical, but likely have a lot of truth to them. I would much rather have Elizabeth Warren or someone else run and have a true debate on their ideas rather than a coronation and then four years of scandals. I'm sure over the next 20 months, we will hear a lot about sexism following eight years of racism (as opposed to opposition to their beliefs which is the truth among my Republican friends. Just because we dislike the President's policies, we are not racist as many on the left believe), but we really need a leader to move us forward, not inquiry after inquiry about the Clintons making money off of their positions (cattle futures or Whitewater anyone?), the "First Dude" and who he's eyeballing (or groping) this week, and two people out for themselves and who have no level of embarrassment whatsoever. Would Hillary Clinton coasting to the Presidency be a good or bad thing? And from a "Press/Media" perspective, how do you feel about her not talking to the press and having all events in very staged and controlled environments? (At least Jeb Bush is taking real questions from voters and handling them with humor when they are a shot across the bow.) Thanks.

I'm guessing you don't like the Clintons. If enough people feel the way you do, she won't be president. But I'm guessing that many Americans' view of the Clinton years is not so jaundiced. And I've already predicted in a column that over-the-top attacks against Clinton will only tend to make Democrats circle the wagons around her. But we'll see.

Eugene- The anti marriage people have been unable to make a decent argument for how same sex marriage hurts opposite sex marriage, so now they are claiming same sex marriage causes an increase in abortions. It sounds like a dumb SNL skit, but it isn't. Is this a sign that they are running out of ideas to stop SSM?

Absolutely. Running on fumes. 

Hi Gene, I was wondering your take on the former Md. governor's possible run for Prez. I tuned in late to his NPR interview and didn't know who was talking but I really liked what he was saying! Is it too easy to be dismissive of any non-Hillary candidate?

If Clinton were to stumble catastrophically, Martin O'Malley would be in position to capitalize on the situation. Barring this eventuality, I frankly don't think he can defeat her the way Obama did in 2008. But let's see what happens the next few months.

How can anyone with a (pun alert) straight face claim that same sex marriage causes increased abortions, when same-sex sex can't cause conception?

I'm tempted to conclude there must be some fundamental misunderstanding of how conception actually occurs. 

David Koch today said he likes Scott Walker, is the GOP nomination race over?

No, because the Koch brothers said they intend to kick the tires on the entire GOP field before making a decision. But they do apparently intend to pick a favorite in the primaries this time. I don't believe Walker has their support sewn up by any means.

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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