The Washington Post

Eugene Robinson Live (June 20)

Eugene Robinson
Jun 20, 2017

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

Read Eugene's latest: After the mistrial, what’s left of Bill Cosby’s legacy?

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again. Well, the world hasn't gotten any less crazy since last we spoke. The Senate is moving ahead in total secrecy with a bill affecting one-sixth of the economy -- secrecy beyond the kind that Mitch McConnell once called unacceptable, and a bill that President Trump has called "mean." Imperiled GOP senators are right to pause and think hard, because they're going to own this abomination and they'll have to defend it. Today's big political story is in Georgia, where Democrats think they might steal a House seat. And my  column today took a break from Trumpland to go to an equally depressing place, Cosbyland. Let's get started.

The reason the GOP sees no need to hold hearings on their healthcare bill is that they all know it's actually a tax-break-for-the-rich bill, which has nothing to do with healthcare, so it doesn't need hearings. Or having realized how "hard" it is to craft a reasonable alternative, are they hoping it fails so they can tell their base, "At least we tried to get rid of Obamacare, now onto tax breaks"? Blaming Obama, Hillary and the Dems every step of the way, of course.

The strategy may well be to have the bill fail and say we tried, or pass a bill that is DOA in the House -- that way, GOP senators and representatives can go home and say we voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, never mind that Obamacare doesn't actually get repealed and replaced.

For some idiotic reason, the New York Times editorial board thought the nearly fatal shooting of Rep. Scalise was a fabulous opportunity to resurrect that lie about the Gabby Giffords shooting supposedly being caused by Sarah Palin's target map. But that conspiracy theory was totally debunked less than a week after the massacre took place. Jared Loughner's extreme mental illness was the only factor in that shooting. Rhetoric played no role at all. The Times' editorial board issued a mealy-mouthed correction; they should have issued a full-blown retraction and apology. You have undoubtedly heard us conservatives complain of overwhelming liberal bias emanating from the New York Times. Well, I have now placed before you a prime example of that bias in all its toxicity. A ruling from the bench, please?

I don't like writing about the media, just because it's like navel-gazing, but clearly the Times, a great newspaper, blew that one. It happens. The Palin angle was debunked by the Post's fact-checking team (among others) long ago. I have written, and sadly will someday have to write again, that terrorist acts should be blamed on the terrorists who commit them. Period.

I thought the Senate had a rule that the CBO must score the bill before it gets voted on...is this not true?

Supposedly there will be a Congressional Budget Office score next Tuesday or so, a full two days (maybe) before the vote. We'll see.

Do the Senate and House still need to reconcile the differences? I assume there will be some differences.

They will, and of course the outcome will depend on how great the differences are. The House will be under tremendous pressure to go along with what the Senate does, but perhaps you've heard of the Freedom Caucus. They're not big on going along with their own leadership, let alone going along with moderates in the Senate.

With all the news focused on Russia...did the media miss reporting on the GOP healthcare bill and more importantly the process? Even though some have started to report on it now, but might be too late.

Nobody missed the health care story. Reporters covering Congress have been pounding on that door from the beginning. The problem is that nobody has been able to see the bill. I spoke with Sen. Bob Corker this morning, and he's a pretty important Republican senator, and he said he hasn't seen the bill.

A tragedy and yet I feel for the officer. Why did Castile more than once not comply with commands from the officer? That would make me very nervous.... abosolutely.

But Philando Castile did comply, according to testimony at the trial. He did everything the officer told him to do. He was reaching for his identification -- not the weapon that he had every legal right to carry. We ask a lot of police officers and I greatly respect and value what they do. But Officer Yanez was wrong -- and all the police officers I know say he was wrong.

Everyone I know is horrified by the violence on the baseball field. But unlike the Reps and Senators on tv, we wonder how it is that those reps say "who would ever think an attack could happen during a baseball practice at 8 am?" The parents of Sandy Hook, the moviegoers in Aurora Co, and the families and friends of every gun victim through the decades would. And while we all appreciate public service, and pray for the survivors, it would be refreshing if those reps would connect the dots from the attack to lenient gun laws. Please Eugene, can you tell us how to interest Congress in SOLVING this problem endemic to the US?

Beats me. Writing columns obviously doesn't help, since I've written a bunch. I don't know what will ever prompt a change in our insane gun laws.

Hi Gene, First, always enjoy your columns. Second, you strike me as person who, while writing from the liberal perspective, would also read the conservative side of an argument to understand where the other side is coming from. Can you recommend any conservative writers who you think make cogent arguments about issues? I consider myself a progressive liberal but I also want to understand where the conservative argument is coming from and lately all I seem to get out of the conservative side is: 1. Business = God 2. Rich people shouldn't have to pay taxes 3. If you're poor it's your own fault but if you're white maybe we'll throw you a few crumbs 4. Why can't you gay people stop whining about equal rights and get back in the closet where you belong and 5. Who told you women you could have an opinion I assume I'm just reading the wrong people but the conservative argument just seems so...mean...to so many people. Any suggestions?

You are reading the wrong people. My Washington Post colleagues Michael Gerson, Kathleen Parker (though she may be in danger of losing her conservative card), George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Jennifer Rubin would be good places to start. 

Why do you think MSM is ignoring the GOPs effort to repeal the ACA by providing minimal coverage and continue to give 24/7 coverage on Russia?

Please. Nobody is ignoring it. I think your real question might be, "Why isn't the MSM stopping the GOP's repeal of the ACA?" And the answer is that we can't. You can, however. Call your senator and let him or her know what you think.

We only hear about congressional investigations on Russia involvement in the election as well as Mueller's but who in the government is trying to protect our democracy in the next elections?

An excellent question. I hope Gen. Kelly at Homeland Security is coordinating efforts to do just that. He should be.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today. The Republicans seem to think that alienating voters by ramming through a health care bill sight unseen/read is worth the risk. What's your take? Are they apt to pay a price, or will it be a typical Dems stay home and then complain later when nothing changes? (I say that as a Dem who finds mid-term elections incredibly frustrating...at least the last couple).

Look, either Democrats get serious about winning midterm elections and state-level elections, or the GOP majorities in Congress endure. There's no in-between. 

Opted out of trying to follow the gush of political sewage from the Trump administration? On one hand I see why not turning on the tv/radio or computer or shutting off your Dish network seems appealing in the onslaught of bad news, but the other side is that you remain uninformed about what is happening, and less like to take action, of any kind.

It doesn't seem to me that many people are tuning out, but maybe there's a partisan difference. In cable news,  the Trump Insanity has been very good for MSNBC (in terms of ratings), pretty good for CNN,  and a drag for Fox News. Readership of the Washington Post and the New York Times is up, probably because that's where so many of the scoops are coming from. But maybe some people who distrust the "mainstream media" are covering their eyes and ears.

Senate plans to set a cap on insurance benefits even to those covered by EMPLOYER health insurance Have you heard anything about this?

I've heard that, but of course I haven't seen the bill.

Of the people that would be hurt by anything the Republicans do how many either don't vote (50% of eligible don't vote on anything) or wouldn't vote for a Republican anyway? I keep seeing stories about how Republicans are going to hurt their own but who says that the voters and people who might be hurt are the same people? I think this a brutal question but it's politics only, not a care about actual people and health care which is the way I think politicians think about voters. See Democrats and white working class voters. Same thing.

Every analysis I've seen says that repealing the ACA and replacing it with something like the House bill will have greatest impact in red-state communities that voted Trump. That's one of the paradoxes of this whole repeal-and-replace crusade.

Repealing ObamaCare is one thing.Creating a healthcare bill for the American people is quite different.Republicans try to make it sound like the same thing and #45 supporters are swallowing the lie.Wait until they start choking and realize that choking is not covered.

President Trump's loyal supporters are obviously willing to cut him a lot of slack. But their patience is not unlimited.

Thanks for taking questions from all points on the political spectrum. The NY Times has gotten more than one story wrong lately and isn't the only newspaper to have done that. That being the case and the fact that Comey said the media gets many things wrong and the over use of anonymous sources is a recipe for making the media look untrustworthy, isn't it?

Ninety-nine percent of the reporting about the Trump administration has been 100 percent accurate, and proven so. People have been blaming the messenger for thousands of years, so it's nothing new. It is true that we should be more vigilant about our policies of not using anonymous sources unless it's absolutely necessary. But often there is no choice, and we're in the business of publishing news, not suppressing it.

I'm delving into sensitive waters here, but a close friend in law school whose father was plugged into the African American political class felt that there was a need to protect rising African American stars at almost any price. He told me that in the context of Harold Ford Sr and William Jefferson. But I'm wondering if it's applicable to Cosby - he represents one of the first African American celebrities to have meaningful crossover appeal. There would have been a desire either not to believe, or to hide, malfeasance. If that's true, can we see this as a rite of passage as we become a more truly equitable society?

When was this conspiracy of "protection" in effect? I must have missed it. Going back at least to Adam Clayton Powell Jr., there is a rich history of African American politicians who screwed up -- just like white politicians since time immemorial -- and paid the price. Same for entertainers and other celebrities. Malefactors of all colors, of course, have reason to try to hide their malfeasance. Didn't "Dollar Bill" Jefferson hide his cash in the freezer? The Cosby case is just sad for me because he is someone I once admired.

If the Dems don't win Georgia will that put a damper on the 2017 mid-terms?

I'm sure that a loss today would be disappointing for Democrats, but if they asked my advice, I'd tell them to draw lessons from it -- what kind of voters were they able to attract, what kind of voters went home to the GOP at the last minute, which messages worked, which didn't, what was the impact of spending all that money on television ads, what was the impact of social media, what was the Trump factor, etc. 

It's single payer. Social Security and Medicare have stayed because they benefit everyone. And until something benefits everyone.. someone else is going to think they are (or are being) screwed.

I think single-payer is the answer. Ironically, the inadequate mess that Republicans may be about to pass could be such a disaster that it makes single-payer a more viable option.

 

That's it for today, folks. My time is up. 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.
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