Eugene Robinson Live (Sept. 26)

Eugene Robinson
Sep 26, 2017

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

Read Eugene's latest: If Trump’s not a white supremacist, he does a good impression

Hi, everybody, and welcome to our Tuesday discussion. Where to begin? The GOP's effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act looks dead, again,. This time, actually, it might be not just merely dead but "really most sincerely dead," as the Munchkin coroner said about the wicked witch. The window for Senate action with just 51 votes closes at the end of this week. And I can't imagine what would make Mitch McConnell want to go through this process yet again. The biggest story at the moment is the utter devastation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands due to the hurricanes. This could turn into a slow-motion Katrina situation, tragically. And meanwhile, President Trump is obsessed with whether or not football players take a knee during the national anthem. Maybe it's better to have him focused on that than on North Korea... Let's get started.

What can we as citizens do to make certain President Trump hears in no uncertain terms that we find white supremacy and racism virulent in all forms and that he is only inciting unrest and potential violence with his words?

Say it loud with your votes in state and local elections and in the 2018 midterms. That's the most effective kind of political speech.

This is definitely a dog-whistle issue and entirely about race. However, NOONE should use company time to protest or comment on political or social issues. This is no different than an employee at WAPO spending the first ten minutes of the day telling her coworkers about her pro-choice or anti-abortion (doesn't matter which for the example) viewpoints and handing out flyers or sending emails about it. Social media has given "everyone" a voice so Americans think they should be able to voice their opinion everywhere. Wrong--at work the focus should be on work.

Your analogy is off. I wager that the national anthem is not played at the begging of each day at your workplace. But if it were, would your employer require everyone to stand or be fired? Would not someone who was fired for not standing have an EEOC case? 

Producer's note: Sorry Gene (the Robinson one) is here to chat! Edit mistake on my end. Chat on!

Has there been any progress in Congress to limit the Presidents ability to start a war?

If you take the Constitution seriously, no such progress should be needed. The power to declare war is given to Congress. The real question is whether Congress will ever assert its right to decide when and where we go to war, and so far there is little indication that Congress will do so.

Hi Eugene, The Republicans are already killing HC. Whats going to happen when they just let it implode?

In the Senate, at least, there's a realization that the Republican Party now owns the health care issue by virtue of controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress. Political self-interest might compel GOP leaders and even President Trump to do what is necessary -- sit down with Schumer and Pelosi and work out some changes to the ACA that make it work better.

Personally, I don't think it belongs there and by being there makes sports political, especially when it's introduced by saying, "To honor the miliary", or something similar.

However it started -- with baseball, I'll bet -- the anthem is such a part of U.S. professional sports that it's not going to be eliminated. Everyone should just remember that the armed forces fight to defend our rights, including the right to peaceful protest.

But is the GOP bill really dead? Didn't Rand Paul (Kentucky) flip his soft "no" vote on the last bill? Where is Murkoski (Alaska) on this?

You're right to be nervous because it's never over til it's over. I'm told that Paul's "no" is much more definitive than last time, because he wouldn't just be voting to repeal the ACA, he'd be voting to approve a replacement that has lots of stuff in it he hates. Murkowski never tips her hand, but I've been told by people who cover the Hill more closely than I that she is extremely unlikely to vote for this bill. I'm told that the GOP's ceiling looks like 48 votes. At the moment.

I am a liberal but I understand that there is more than one way of looking at an issue. But do you get the sense of your own knowledge or from talking to your sources that the President understands the complexities of the issues? It doesn't seem like he does when he calls names, i.e., Rocket Man, when that is an unstable leader who may soon have nuclear weapons.

One correction: Kim Jong Un, whom President Trump calls Rocket Man, already has nuclear weapons. Reporting in my paper and others from the White House indicates that Trump's understanding of the issues is "broad brush," and that's being charitable. I think we're seeing that all his supposed  art-of-the-deal magic doesn't work if he doesn't grasp even the outlines of policy.

What is the political side of ignoring Puerto Rico and the devestation? I'm completely lost as to why we don't see more help being sent down there? Is the media too caught up in the recent presidential tweet storm?

The president has announced plans to visit Puerto Rico next week. There is zero upside to letting a horrible situation deteriorate further -- and letting more people die. This could indeed by Katrina in slow motion, and we all know how that worked out politically for the incumbent.

Heck, Congressman (and 1996 GOP VP candidate) Jack Kemp famously commented about non-whites, "I can't help but care about the rights of the people I used to shower with."

The GOP hasn't been Jack Kemp's kind of party for a long, long time.

I'm astounded that no one's hardly done anything about Puerto it a race thing or because PR is mostly Democratic? Just wondering.

Those are the kinds of questions that will be asked if the administration doesn't move quickly to provide relief. It complicates things that Puerto Rico is an island, and also that power and communications were knocked out. It also complicates things that the Virgin Islands could be used as a staging area for Puerto Rico, or vice versa. But I think people will ask why there wasn't a quicker seaborne response by the Navy and the Coast Guard.

I'm trying to understand how the GOP could continue to pursue a strategy to repeal ACA at any cost. Aren't they smart enough to realize that, if any of their plans actually passed, eventually 30+ million American who lose their coverage will turn away from their party ? Aren't they better off for having FAILED to repeal Obamacare rather than live with the ultimate consequences of Trumpcare ?

Republicans are worried about the wrath of the GOP base if they don't do what they've been promising to do for seven years. But McCain, Collins and the others are doing their colleagues a big favor by blocking these slipshod bills. If one actually passed, I believe, it would be much worse for the Republican Party.

"Would not someone who was fired for not standing have an EEOC case?" My understanding is the there is an NFL policy that all players are out and standing for the anthem. If that is a condition of employment, the right or wrong, doesn't an NFL owner have standing to "discipline" the employee? The same way the NFL doesn't permit special player tributes in the form of Peyton Manning's tribute cleats to Johnny Unitas.

Nobody goes to a Cowboys game to watch Jerry Jones. people go to watch Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot. Throughout professional sports, power has shifted toward the athletes and away from ownership and management. It's one thing to close ranks against still-unemployed Colin Kaepernick, who had that one Super Bowl year but then struggled. Even NFL owners, a pretty conservative bunch, realize that at the end of the day, they can't treat the players like peons. Without the players you don't have a league.

I know this would not fly with $ focused Repubs but what about a discussion concerning the obscene profit that some aspects of healthcare are bringing? Isn't addressing this a positive way to make HC affordable. Yes, I know I am pointing toward medicare expansion, but the profit part is not being aired enough (I think).

We spend far, far more per capita on health care than other advanced countries, and by some measures those countries get better results. If you started from scratch -- and maybe we should -- you'd design a far different, more efficient system. One think I hope we would somehow keep is that our system does innovate. I want a single-payer system. But if I ever get seriously ill, I want to be able to go to world-class hospital centers such as Johns Hopkins or Sloan Kettering or M.D. Anderson.

Hi, Gene! With Moore the clear front runner to replace Sessions it looks like we could actually have a race between him and Doug Jones. I'm in Mobile, which is largely disconnected because of culture and distance from Montgomery and Birmingham, where a lot of efforts are being made to turn out African American voters for Jones. Any ideas about what we can do down here? We recently had a mayoral election and turnout in some majority black areas was <5%--and that was with a black candidate running.

Get yourself some volunteers, tell them to wear their walking shoes, and go door to door.  And don't just do it once. Do it as many times as needed until you begin to get the message across that voting matters.

I'm starting to hear rumblings of the federal government botching the Hurricane Maria response there, but I've also read and heard officials talking about the difficulty of getting help there because the ports and airstrips were so heavily damaged and so many of the roads are blocked by debris. Seems like we can send all the ships and planes in the world but if they have nowhere to land, it won't help much. I have also heard of helicopters airdropping supplies to hospitals. I may be a liberal, but I'm also a former Fed so will give them a chance to do their jobs before I start blaming them.

Agreed. And it's hard to preposition supplies and relief equipment beforehand -- a hospital ship, for example -- when you know a monster hurricane is on the way. But it was foreseeable that most or all of Puerto Rico would lose power, that roads would be impassible and that communications wouldn't work. So there should have been a plan for dealing with all of this. And maybe there was. We'll see in the coming days.


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