The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson Live (June 13)

Eugene Robinson
Jun 13, 2017

Chat with Post columnist Eugene Robinson about his latest columns and political news today at 1 p.m.

Read Eugene's latest: Trickle-down economics is a nightmare. Kansas proved it.

Hello, everybody, and welcome. Well, it just gets weirder, doesn't it? That "All Praise to Dear Leader" cabinet meeting that President Trump held yesterday was truly disturbing. It really was something that could have taken place in North Korea, or maybe in Stalinist Russia. It was tragic to see the cabinet members, some of them men and women of substance, abasing themselves like that. Stomach-turning. Today we await Attorney General Sessions' appearance on Capitol Hill, at which he will try to explain his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Meanwhile, however, Mitch McConnell is preparing to ram through a health care measure that will take away insurance coverage from millions -- I can't be more specific because no one is allowed to actually see the bill. No hearings, no markup, no nothing. And this is supposed to be the world's greatest democracy? Let's get started.

That cabinet meeting. It looked like a Saturday Night Live sketch. How can these people look themselves in the mirror this morning?

I have no idea. Only Mattis managed to preserve a shred of dignity by praising the men and women of the armed forces -- not the puffed-up Dear Leader who was presiding over that embarrassing farce. The others forfeited credibility and self-respect. It was just awful.

I keep thinking I can't be surprised by anything Trump does, but his orchestrated Cabinet meeting/love-in made me think again -- particularly about the Cabinet members. Is there no point at which a serious, sober person says to himself "screw this, this is idiotic, I'm outta here"? Is the lure of power so great that it reduces big people to jello?

That's a very good question. There should be such a point, but that spectacle went far beyond it. So maybe these cabinet members are literally shameless.

Gene, I appreciate you devoting such a clear column to the failed 5 year Brownback trickle down "experiment" at the expense of Kansas. My question now is how the Democrats can best educate voters on how the Kansas debacle will become country-wide if the supply side, trickle down economics of the GOP continue to become policy. Maybe the Democrats should start calling themselves "The People's Party" and make "Remember Kansas" their slogan now, before the 2018 midterms. Bottom line is how to get voters to finally understand and no longer buy the 40 years of supply side mendacity that the GOP has dished out. Maybe it's impossible but this insanity of voting for the same draconian party policies over and over, with hopes for a different result, has to stop.

The encouraging thing is that in Kansas, voters and GOP state legislators decided they'd had enough. They took a huge step back toward sanity. I just hope we don't have to run this failed experiment on a national scale before people in the rest of the country (and sensible Republican officeholders) wake up.

For the most part, the MSM covered the horse race in the 2016 election, not the meat of the issues. Now, I fear the same thing is happening all over. It's all about "he said/he said" rather than the most important issue: a hostile foreign power attacked our democracy (every intelligence agency agrees) and our president and Republican Congress have tried to block an investigation into this alarming (and ongoing!) attack at every turn. That is THE story. Meanwhile, Trump wins when the media focuses on anything else. C'mon guys. Stop acting like cats chasing a string around the floor.

Sorry, I totally disagree. Issues were covered in extraordinary depth during the campaign. Most of what we know about what the Russians did has come to light through reporting by the MSM. It is also necessary to cover who's up or down in a presidential race -- and what the president of the United States is saying and doing on a given day. 

I really enjoyed your article today. My question is what can the Democrats do to get what you are saying into a palatable message? Why do you think its not connecting? IMO, these guys are constantly trying to fix something that isn't broken.

I agree that the Democratic Party's messaging has been incredibly weak. The party needs to relearn how to connect with voters. That said, the Democratic candidate did win the popular vote, so it's not as if there's no messaging at all. It just could be better.

Hi Eugene - another great column today, wish more people read what you write. Anyway, I'm self-employed and would love to have the chance for my LLC to qualify for low, low taxes. At the same time, most of my work is in the low-income housing sector, which will be decimated if Congress gets its way. So, I think I'd rather pay the higher taxes, still have work and still feel like my work does some good. So many people sneer at "safety net" programs. They fail to see that housing programs help people pay more taxes. Health care programs help people return more money to the economy. Jobs programs - same. Food and heating assistance programs - same. Taking away safety nets just costs us more. And we've all seen that trickle-down NEVER works. CEOs and stockholders put more in their pockets. It doesn't bring more jobs, or better jobs. I just can't believe we're even having this conversation again.

I can't believe it either. You perfectly illustrate why the GOP prescription for the economy can't possibly work. But why do we need to go through the exercise? Isn't history enough proof?

We already know, since so many Republican leaders said they would do so, that if Hillary Clinton were elected president they would initiate years of investigations on day one. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz in particular was salivating over the prospect, then decided to leave Congress when denied this opportunity. While there would be no basis for legitimate Clinton investigations, the Trump presidency is filled with a magnitude of causes for concern and there no doubt will be more. Where is the moral outrage and righteous indignation now? Even Senators Graham, McCain and Rubio who had shown some signs of backbone and integrity, are backing down.

Republicans are obviously afraid of getting on Trump's bad side. If his approval numbers continue to fall (now at 36 percent, per Gallup), and support among the GOP base erodes, I predict some in the Capitol Hill leadership might grow backbones. Maybe.

Dear Eugene: My state has 2 Dem senators, but even so, I've called their offices to express my thoughts against the repeal of Obamacare and Trump. Since Mitch McConnell's office won't take my call because I'm not a constituent, what can an ordinary citizen do to stop the runaway train that is the Trump White House (would Trump really be able to fire Mueller before he's even warmed his office chair at DOJ yet? This is madness!) It feels like the deck is hopelessly stacked with the GOP controlling the 3 branches of government. Help!

Don't hold your breath waiting for some stroke of magic to end the Trump presidency. We'll see what Mueller comes up with, and of course Trump could totally self-destruct, but the realistic thing to do is work to help Democrats take one or both houses of Congress in the midterms next year. And I should note that the judicial branch has been pretty righteous thus far.

Thank you for holding another Live Chat, Gene. Although there is constant chaos emanating from this administration and so many issues demanding our attention, my primary focus since the election has been health care and, specifically, the GOP's efforts to make good on their long-standing promise to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") with what if passed will be a terrible piece of legislation -- all in the name of lining the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of children, the poor, disabled, sick and elderly. The House rushed through a version which the CBO says will, among other disastrous impacts, lead to as many as 23 million more uninsured Americans by 2026. Despite initially claiming that they would start from scratch with their own health care bill, the Senate now appears to be not only following the same tactics as the House but also adopting much of their bill (Senator Cornyn has said the Senate version will incorporate 70-80% of the House version). So my question is, what if anything can be done to ensure transparency from the Senate Republicans regarding the version of the American Health Care Act ("Trumpcare") that they are creating in secrecy and trying to rush through without any public debate, committee review process or allowing for Democratic amendments?

Can anything be done to ensure transparency? Not much. Senate Democrats can take maximum advantage of the arcane Senate rules to gum things up, but if McConnell wants to pass a bad bill that no one has had a chance to read, let alone debate, he can probably do it. I say probably because while he's created the impression that he has the votes, I'm not sure he does. If he did have them, I think he would have called a vote by now.

"sensible Republican officeholders" - are there any left?

 I sure hope so. We're going to need some.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today. Is it fair to say that, whatever thought or hope there was that she would be a moderating influence on Trump, that hope is somewhat misplaced at best and a total joke at worst? Besides that, I don't she did herself any favors by complaining the other day that she hadn't expected things to be so nasty...coming on the heels of the nastiest campaign ever waged by a presidential candidate (her father) in our history. I guess the larger point is this -- let's face it, nothing is going to moderating this president, ever. This is what we have to work with.

I believe Ivanka Trump is seriously trying to have it both ways. She wants to be a public person and be respected by A-listers in business, media and high society. But she also wants to be part of her father's administration, which is anathema to those people. Those aims are mutually exclusive. 

Now the Senate Republicans have decided that the media can't do interviews in the hallways?

Incredible. This seems to be all about hiding the health care bill from public view. Sunlight, after all, is the best disinfectant. And the GOP wants to operate in the shadows.

Is there any threshold that would cause significant numbers of Republicans to bolt from Trump? New evidence of collusion with Putin and the Russians? Firing Mueller? Strangling a kitten on live TV in the Rose Garden? Actually shooting a bystander on 5th Avenue. Is there any actual line he could not cross?

We haven't found such a line yet. I continue to believe, or at least hope, that it does exist, out there somewhere.

I keep running in my head even if something is found that is an impeachable offense doesn't the invoking of impeachment have to come from the House or DOJ. If they won't do it the Dems have no power to take action in this case is that correct. IT is keeping me up nights.

Any member of the House can propose articles of impeachment, but as a practical matter the House speaker decides whether impeachment actually comes up for a vote.

There's really no way to stop it, right? If Collins et al are willing to go ahead with it? Is there any chance that it the secrecy is to protect the fact that the Senate bill will be less cruel and not more cruel? To protect the moderates? Can we hang onto any hope?

You might cling to the hope that the House bill can never pass the Senate, that the Senate will come up with something that can never pass the House, and that this whole exercise is so Republicans in both chambers can go home and tell constituents "We voted to repeal Obamacare" -- regardless of whether a repeal ever becomes law.

Here's what I don't understand: if the GOP thinks those Town Hall audiences fighting for health care were an aberration, they may want to brace for cover. Because I think if this tax cut masquerading as a healthcare bill goes through, we will have civil unrest the likes of which we've never seen. EVERYONE is impacted by healthcare, and it's truly a "life and death" situation for millions of us. Shred the safety net, beware the payback.

Some Republicans realize they're playing with political dynamite. They feel they're damned if they do pass an ACA repeal and damned if they don't.

I thought the Senate was where sanity would finally be restored and this atrocity would die a quick death. What happened?

If the Senate passes a bill, we'll look back and say that Mitch McConnell happened.

Didn't we get Obamacare by Harry Reid pushing through " a bad bill that no one has had a chance to read"?

Not even remotely comparable. More than a year of hearings and debate, with massive public input, preceded passage of the ACA. McConnell won't even let anyone see the Senate bill, much less argue about it. 

taken along with undoubtedly test balloon comments about what Trump may be planning point to the fact that the GOP is seriously concerned that "unpleasant" truths will be uncovered.

Do people actually believe the fallout from firing Mueller would be preferable, for the administration, to the public airing of whatever Mueller finds out? If so, fasten your seat belts.

Do you think if the democrat wins the Georgia special election next week that it will erode support that the president has in congress?

A Democratic win would dramatically heighten GOP fears about the midterms.  And yes, you might see some opening some daylight between themselves and Trump.

That's it for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks so much for participating, and I hope you all come back 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.
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