Eugene Robinson Live (Oct. 10)

Eugene Robinson
Oct 10, 2017

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

Read Eugene's latest: Trump has more than three years left in his term. What are we going to do?

Hello, everyone, and welcome. Well, whatever you're doing today, it's got to be more fun than today's scheduled lunch meeting between President Trump and Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis. Trump was challenging Tillerson to an IQ-test battle this morning (as quoted by Forbes) -- and that is one of the less-unhinged things the president has had to say recently. He is upset that Sen. Bob Corker called the White House "an adult day care center" and said his aides spend all day, every day, trying to "contain" him. Corker, who is not running for reelection, is essentially demanding we face the reality that Trump is not fit to hold his office. I have yet to hear a Republican senator issue a full-throated denial of Corker's assessment. (Lindsey Graham perhaps came closest, but then again he also claimed that Trump shot 73 on the golf course yesterday, so his credibility is questionable.) So we have an unfit president -- with three years and change left in his term. What are we going to do? My answer is that Congress has to step up and provide adult leadership -- and that if this GOP-led Congress won't do it, then we have to elect a new Congress that will. When the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the president could lead us into World War III, it's time for everyone to pay attention. Let's get started. 

It seems inevitable that the Trump Presidency will not end well, even if he serves out his term. Is it more likely that he is removed by one of the provisions laid out by the Constitution, he resigns, or loses a primary? Or does a third party challenge emerge, either with Trump doing a Ted Roosevelt or with someone else doing a Ross Perot?

I think the chances of impeachment or resignation have to be considered quite low, simply because those are such historically rare events. Maybe special counsel Robert Mueller will come up with a smoking gun, but it's wrong to count on that. Our system has checks and balances built in, and Congress has a duty to constrain an out-of-control president. As for what happens in 2020, it's way too early to predict.

Was there a specific reason why you did mention the real possibility that Robert Mueller's investigation results in a criminal indictment of Trump? There would seem to be a completing symmetry in using a legal memo from Kenneth Starr's investigation to issue a well and truly earned indictment. I understand that Starr had statutory power that Mueller now lacks, according to the opinion piece Ronald Rotunda wrote in June. But it is the most direct way to demonstrate the seriousness of what we have allowed to happen right here in the USA. And to offer the current president a resign or be prosecuted plea deal.

I agree that this could be a possibility, though I'm not a lawyer and don't have an informed opinion on whether a sitting president could be criminally charged in this manner. I do think in general that it's a mistake to put all one's eggs in the Mueller basket, though.

Yeah, the guy is nuts but I don't see Democrats getting the Senate. I heard a rumor that the top three made a pact. If one goes they all will go. I think that would be the tipping point for enough serious Republicans along with Democrats to remove him from office. I think that could happen if everyone moves along the same page and quietly. A legal coup.

I assume you're referring to Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson. I don't agree, however, that "his staff resigned" will be considered an impeachable offense. It might, however, stiffen the spine of some Senate and even House Republicans.

Hi Gene -- thanks for your column today and for taking questions. We seem to have a keen psychic bond, because I woke up this morning with the same thought. What are we going to do? Related to that, I was fortunate to be able to hear Tavis Smiley speak at the university where I work this past weekend. He talked about how every "empire" in history has a moment where they have to decide what's next...are they going backward or forward? And our turn has come in a way that we've never experienced before. I truly feel like we are teetering in a very frightening way, and something has to happen, and soon. Sadly, since they control everything, the ball is in the Republican's court, and as long as Trump has the base, they're going to cower in the corner and hope for the best. As you say, trying to change Congress seems the best bet. Do you think there's a chance that could actually happen, or is it a long shot?

Sure, there's a chance. Look, I don't think Trump is going to change. After six more months of this, it's possible that we'll see the early signs of a wave election that threatens GOP majorities in both chambers. But we're not there yet.

you write that the generals are trying to keep mr. trump under control. With so many generals around what would prevent them from actually staging a coup and arresting mr trump? this may be why the framers of the constitution didn t want military men in important cabinet positions. this scares me ..

I covered South America shortly after Argentina and Brazil had returned to democracy from years of military rule. I covered the end of the Pinochet regime in Chile. I have a real thing about the necessity of having civilians, not generals, in power. It is ironic, then, that I now have to count on generals to staff the "adult day care center" that is the White House. One thing I'm sure of, however, is that our generals are nothing like those Latin American generals of old. Our generals don't do coups.

Mexico has very stringent immigration laws and yet the US gets criticized for protecting the borders and the citizens of this country. Why is it ok for millions who came to this country including my ancestors and went thru the process, and then the other millions who broke our laws to come here and live off the US taxpayers?

I don't know when your ancestors arrived, but it may well have been before there was a formal "process" beyond getting on a boat. (Mine arrived more than two centuries ago that I can document, not having had a choice in the matter.) In any event, you are wrong to assert that undocumented immigrants "live off the US taxpayers." Economists agree that they make the country wealthier.

I find it hard to rationalize how this country will survive when everybody has an opinion and no one is working toward the same goal, make life better for all Americans. I belong to no party, worked on Obama's 1st pres campaign and kept quiet for eight years. Why can't those who lost the election accept the results? The electoral college is the same yard stick we've had for years and all the bickering is getting nothing done.

I don't know where people get the idea that critics of President Trump don't accept the results of the election. Of course the electoral college is determinative. Of course he won the election. That doesn't mean, though, that he's up to the job. 

Is there talk in Congress (behind the scenes) about removing Trump from office? Are there enough Republicans on board yet to make this happen?

Not that I know of.

Trump is undermining the ACA with executive actions and other forms of sabotage, cutting back on EPA regulations, standing by as Congress fails to extend funding for children's health care insurance, failing to take decisive action to aid hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, readying to decertify the Iran deal and kick it over to Congress, fueling divisive culture wars, ruining relationships with Congress, agitating the North Korea dictator who loves to fire missles equipped with nuclear warheads, undermining the efforts of his Secretary of State, and protect his family at all costs as they break ethics rules. How will we withstand the damage our POTUS inflicting on us? And how much damage will be done next year, and the next, and so on? How do we stop it?

As I wrote in today's column, the president has great power but Congress does too. Congress can constrain an out-of-control president and at least mitigate any damage he might do. And if this Congress won't step up, then in 2018 we have the responsibility to elect a Congress that will.

Hello Gene! I always appreciate your columns and appearances on MSNBC. Trump and his minions have created a new sense of what is “normal” and “acceptable” in the fabric of our society and in government. Trump’s incompetence is only matched by his ego and bellicosity. There is very little that he holds sacred or respectful. As someone most successful in creating chaos and confusion, he is so contemptuous and resentful toward many of the ideals that many Americans embrace – unity, equality, charity, patriotism, etc. In this “new norm”, Trump’s entertainment value “trumps” any actual, real accomplishments. What is to become of us once he finishes his term – or God forbid, is reelected for another four years. How can any other viable, serious candidate emerge and successfully win over the electorate (aside from his 30% base) when he has so changed the rules of the game?

Other, serious candidates will surely learn how to use social media and other technology as well as Trump does. I believe we're in the middle of a political realignment whose final shape is not yet knowable. But the new landscape will become obvious with time, and candidates will learn how to navigate it.

Hi Gene, What are your thoughts on Trump's twitter attacks on Jemele Hill and the NFL regarding the national anthem. Appears to me another indirect (or perhaps direct) attack on African-Americans, a diversion from other more pressing issues, and pandering to his base. Appreciate your input as always.

The whole NFL-and-the-anthem thing looks to me like a way for Trump to rile up his base. VP Pence's political stunt the other day was particularly egregious. And for some reason Trump seems to believe he can't lose by attacking two African Americans (Kaepernick and Hill). I guess I should note, in fairness, that he also goes after "Liddle Bob Corker" and Rex Tillerson, who to my knowledge are not African American.

If it was proven that there was no collusion by Trump but simultaneously proven without any doubt that the Russians altered millions of votes and it was those votes that elected Trump, what would be the consequences? This would mean he was not elected by US citizens and was not the legitimate president. Of course this is an unlikely scenario in its purity but perhaps not impossible knowing what we now know. What would or could be done to remedy the situation?

Nothing. There's no do-over provision in the Constitution. I think your question is moot, though. I don't think there will be evidence that the Russians "altered" millions of votes; and if it is found that they "influenced" votes, the effect will be impossible to quantify. Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States. However, he is dangerously unfit to hold that office. That's the situation we have to deal with.

Gene, thank you for the weekly chat. I'm afraid that people are already predicting Trump will win again in 2020. I know you're not a fortune teller, but do you see any strong leaders from either party making a good enough impression now to be considered in 2020?

In 2013 did you see Donald Trump as potentially the next president? I doubt it. Way, way too early to say anything about 2020.

I saw the video clip of Ivana Trump's interview, and it seemed to me that her comment re "first lady" was nothing more than a throwaway line, and attempt at a pun, which absent Melania's smackdown response would've surely headed into oblivion, instead of becoming an issue. Instead, Melania comes across as being the lady who "doth protest too much, methinks." When will the Trumps learn that not every real or perceived slight should be responded to, or at least with wit rather than force?

I give Melania Trump a pass on this. The Ivana line was being portrayed as an "Oh-no-she-didn't" kind of thing, along with the boast about how often she talks to the president. The First Lady could have ignored the whole thing but I don't fault her for responding.

Do the Democrats and GOP survive, die out, or will some new conglomeration be using their names?

Political parties adapt or die. The Democratic and Republican parties have proved themselves to be enormously resilient over the decades. I think it's likely they'll figure out the changing political landscape and position themselves accordingly. 

It was worthy of SNL. No punches were pulled by Amber, Jenny, the other woman (whom I hadn't seen before) and other staffers shown in a video-clip.

I didn't see that, but I did just read Ronan Farrow's piece today in the New Yorker detailing his extensive reporting into Weinstein's behavior. I recommend it. Very powerful, with a lot of sources on the record. How was the company's (all-male) board not aware of what was going on? How was his brother not aware? The whole thing is outrageous and appalling.

The evidence suggests that the appearance of success is more important to Trump than actual success. Is this because he's too lazy to do the work necessary to be successful with his agenda or is it because he doesn't get the difference between style vs. substance?

Yes.

With so much important news each day (natural disasters, NFL, tax reform, IQs, etc) Mueller's work goes on, perhaps, a bit under the headline radar. Maybe this is a good thing - staying out of the line of fire, or firing?

It's a very good thing, from his point of view. One of these days he will surface, perhaps with a big bang. We'll see.

 

And that's it for today, folks. My time is up. Tune in again next week and we'll continue our group-therapy. I predict that by then we'll all need another session.

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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