Eugene Robinson Live (Dec. 12)

Eugene Robinson
Dec 12, 2017

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

Read Eugene's latest: A reporter who stood up to far worse than journalists get from Trump

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to our (hopefully) therapeutic discussion. Well, Alabama is under the spotlight today, as voters choose between accused pedophile Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. I'm paying no attention to the breathless reports about turnout or the polling-place interviews with voters, since that anecdotal evidence isn't really evidence at all. The polls were all over the place. I'm going out on a limb to say that it might be a close race, or it might be a landslide either way. President Trump, meanwhile, appears to be freaking out on Twitter about sexual harassment, especially the many accusations that are made against him. He was overdue for a Twitter freakout, I guess. Today's column, by the way, was about the late Simeon Booker, a pioneering African American journalist who risked his life many times covering the civil rights movement and write the unforgettable story about Emmett Till's brutal murder. He died at 99. His brave career reminds us what journalism is all about. He faced down angry racist mobs. We should be able to handle a few obnoxious tweets. Let's get started.

What are your thoughts on trumps tweets about Senator Gillibrand? I am in utter disbelief. How do we get the republicans to do something about the presidents behavior... 2 questions in one my apologies I just REALLY VALUE your opinion Mr. Robinson... cindy anderson

We tend to become numb to the president's outrages, but what kind of president attacks a sitting U.S. senator in this manner? Trump clearly has sexual harassment on his mind. I guess the issue, for him, is personal.

They way this phrase was spoken gave me chills. I thought this guy was an idiot back in his ten commandments days but now I must his wife to the list.

That chilling phrase from Moore's wife told me everything I needed to know about the Moores' true feelings -- not that I didn't know plenty already. And she was so proud of herself! Incredible.

Thank you for introducing your readers to the life of the remarkable journalist Simeon Booker. I wonder why I had never heard about him, being an avid reader of everything. His story helped offset the usual despair that comes with the news, both true and faux. I, and I suspect others, needed that. I asked a question a few weeks back about whether you thought the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” would pass. I was cautiously optimistic about the speed with which average Americans were gaining an understanding of what the bill would mean for them. Since the GOP has had to put off voting on a combined bill this week, due to so many competing demands from their own and from corporate lobbyists whom I understand were allowed in on this sausage-making while Democrats were not, they appear to be in trouble. Democrats are demanding the 100 analyst-strong Treasury Report, asserting that the bill would pay for itself, promised by Mnuchin. Do you feel any more optimistic than you did that this bill might die? I must be deranged to hope against hope like this...

I'm glad you liked the column about the great Simeon Booker. I'm sorry but I can't be optimistic about the tax bill. I haven't heard anything from Collins or the other maybes that leads me to believe they'll really kill the thing. Not yet, at least.

I don't even like Franken, his win in 2008 seemed shady at best, but his forced resignation feels like an overreaction. The man has taken thousands of pictures with people and there are 7 claims? I feel like there needs to be more evidence before a persons life and reputation are destroyed.

I do like Al Franken very much, both politically and personally, but I think the paradigm on harassment has clearly changed and I believe U.S senators should be held to the highest standard. His actions were not the same as, say, Harvey Weinstein's, but I can't disbelieve the women who say he crossed the line just because I like him.

Aaron Blake refuses to answer why the oldest POTUS hasn't released his records? #SomethingIsGoingOn Progressive dementia characterized by memory problems, disorientation Mood disturbances, Personality changes, apathy, poor judgment.

I'm sure Aaron just hasn't gotten around to replying. President Trump hasn't released medical records because he hasn't been compelled to do so. I wrote a column recently about his mental health because I see the same things you see -- as do the mental health professionals who write to me with growing alarm. I found it interesting that after the episode with the slurred words, Sarah Sanders announced that Trump will soon have a physical at Walter Reed. Seemed out of character for the White House to volunteer that information.

Glen Greenwald correctly points out that all of the "mistakes" made by the Post, CNN, and mainstream media outlets are all negative for Trump, just as all of Fox's "mistakes" are positive for Trump. How do you explain the fact that all of the many errors made by the mainstream media and documented by Greenwald go in one direction? Shouldn't that basic truth create some degree of skepticism about the motives of the outlets in question?

The motive of all news media, in my view should be to hold public officials accountable. The motive should not be to make excuses for them. I believe that accounts for the discrepancy.

Thank you, Gene, serving as a voice of reason in this time of what I really feel is a struggle for our American democracy. I feel it is becoming more and more difficult to really feel that Congress and the President have the true interests of the majority of American people in their minds and actions, given what they are doing. Trump promised to "drain the swamp," -- and he has, only to then install HIS swamp creatures to replace those he ejected. It seems that the power of special interests (i.e., interests of men like him) is winning, big time, over the interests of everyone else. Republicans don't seem to have any issue with that. Meanwhile, we have climate change issues to deal with (the WaPo story of the polar bear was just heartrending), nuclear war, and more. It's getting really down-heartening. I've called my (PA) senator, only to get a "leave a message" voice message (at 4:30pm). I can never get through, so not sure what that means--are that many people calling, or are they just putting the phones on hold? Any more thoughts of reason welcomed....

Keep calling. It matters. I don't believe Trump will ever change, so the only remedy lies in the checks and balances written into the Constitution. Congress needs to constrain this out-of-control presidency. If this Congress won't do it, we need to elect a Congress that will.

It seems as if journalists are working overtime during this admin. they're offering commentary late into the night, and before dawn the following morning. how do you and others manage this time-consuming routine? are these times an anomaly?

We're exhausted. We keep going because we have an important job to do, but yes, we're burning the candle at both ends and in the middle too.

Simple Question- In your opinion is this level of political chaos sustainable? I’m counting on the Congress, Robert Mueller and the Free Press to save us. Don’t let us down please. Thanks for doing what you do.

Every day seems to test the limits of the nation's tolerance for chaos. I have no idea, at this point, what "going to far" might mean. I hesitate to even imagine.

I fallasleep every night after listening to "The 11th Hour" on MSNBC and watch MJ (with you as the guest often) and find that Trump dominates the airwaves 24-7, really. The Russian mess, the racist statements, the anti-Nat'l security stance he takes on the NSA, CIA and FBI, the "quick or you'll miss it" Tax bill fiasco, the medical issues regarding his slurs, his phony "I've created more jobs in 10 months than Obama.." statements (FALSE: Obama created 196K per month to Trump's 170K in the 1st 10 months of their presidency), his wacky bombastic tweets, etc. etc. have really weakened my psyché and made me sadder about this country than ever before, even during Watergate scandal! Do I keep on hoping that he'll be impeached once Mueller completes his spec. investigation or resign? Do I just wear sunglasses outside to hide my shame in being an American (spiritually) or just throw my hands up and say, "What the hell??!!" Advice?

Persevere. The president, by virtue of the nature of the office, can always dominate the news cycle if he chooses to. Doing so is Trump's idea of governing. The whole thing is an embarrassment, but we are not powerless. Americans can change things with their votes in next year's midterm election, if they choose to do so.

In the face of gerrymandered districts, voter suppression legislation and generally low voter turnout, do the Democrats any realistic chance of taking the House? What about the Senate?

Taking the Senate would be tough; Democrats will have to struggle just to avoid losing ground in that chamber. The House is another matter. Even with gerrymandering, there are enough competitive districts for Democrats to take control. Only in a huge "wave" election -- which is not impossible -- could Democrats win both chambers.

I smell a blowout of at least 5 points in Alabama's special election tonight, I ave seen this before and VA (I know the set up is different) was a fine example of this "trend". Why is the media sporting a "close race" when they know Alabama residents, for the most part, do not want to lose business in their emerging technological state as well as remaining in the news as a negative force. Is it a ratings matter or do they genuinely believe Ray Moore will win?

Your scenario is quite possible. The argument against it is that Alabama is a much redder state than Virginia. But yes, that Virginia result was a total blowout win for Democrats. If Jones does win comfortably, Republicans should fear being wiped out next year.

In the recent past, pundits felt that if Trump went after Mueller, a Constitutional crisis would be triggered. In the face of seemingly renewed vengeance to undermine the investigation, is it likely that Trump and Co. will succeed in killing it?

Not likely. So Trump and his allies are trying to delegitimize Mueller and his staff, as a way of undermining his findings.

First of all, thanks for doing a live chat. I live in Florida, but I am from Horry County, SC, not too far from where you are from. Anyway, if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, what do you think the repercussions will be in the Republican party?

Worse than heartburn. Maybe an ulcer. Republicans will have Roy Moore as their albatross. They would have to immediately launch an ethics investigation. Mitch McConnell would have to decide what committee assignments to give him. And imagine the crazy things he would say and do on a daily basis.

Do you agree with Chuck Todd that if Jones had a more moderate position on abortion this race would be over?

I don't know what that moderate position could be. If he were anti-abortion, he would certainly get more Republican votes. But he is pro-choice. I don't think there is a "moderate" pro-choice position that anti-choice Alabama Republicans who vote on that issue would find acceptable.

I suppose people are looking for a medical excuse for impeachment or something, but it's possible just to be a horrible person without having a mental illness. And Trump has always been a horrible person.

Mental deterioration and horribleness are not mutually exclusive.

I realize that reading the major papers like the WSJ, WP and NYT and listening to cable news, notably MSNBC, makes me a more informed citizen, but it is also making me feel more grey over the recent election and disastrous Presidency of Donald Trump.There are some days that I don't even want to get out of bed to go to work because of the deluge of bad news he creates day after day. Should I chill and refrain from TV News and the papers for awhile to clear my head? It seems like this may be a Catch-22?

It may be against my own best interests to say this, but everybody needs to take breaks from this onslaught of nonstop news. Just tune out every once in a while. This is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Hi Gene, So we have a reasonably healthy economy, yet Trump seems to enjoy no popularity benefit from it. A deeply unpopular tax cut bill that has a strong chance of passing, and may end up as the only legislative accomplishment of this entire Congress. Multiple failed attempts to repeal a now-popular Obamacare. We also have a fired-up (to put it lightly) Dem base, that will only grow more emboldened in the next 11 months. What do you anticipate as the GOP strategy leading into the mid-terms? Are they passing the tax cut *in anticipation* of huge losses? Do they think that gerrymandering alone will save them? I'm trying to wrap my head around their thought process, which seems to be little more than paralyzing fear of Trump's supposedly formidable base. Thanks.

Republicans believe they have to pass a tax cut to have anything positive to sell to their base and their donors next year. After the Virginia election, many Republicans I know see the midterms as an exercise in damage control.

Can you explain this one?

No, I can't. Nor can I explain why anyone considered him qualified in the first place to conduct American foreign policy.

Hi Gene- I am struck by the line being used for Trump and Moore that since they were elected, any past sins or criminal violations are absolved. Could a reporter ask " is it the Admin position that by being elected, any previous charge or violation from the candidate is now moot?" Not a wordsmith but you get the idea, I hope.

I'm struck by that weird line of argument as well. That would be an excellent question to pose to Sarah Sanders. In fact, I believe reporters have tried to do so. But while we can ask the right questions, we can't force her or anyone to answer them. Reporters don't have subpoena power, alas.

I've been asking the Fix for a few months, if the oldest American President has released his full medical records, other than the Dr. Oz stunt! Neither has been willing to answer. Given the news about the POTUS drinking 12 diet cokes a day, sleeping a few hours a night, eating fast food, and refusing to exercise, isn't this a fair question? Also, doesn't Trump have a lot of these symptoms? Didn't he describe to Howard Stern how dating in the 90's was like Vietnam, and that the private parts of women were very dangerous? What am I missing here? 

The only thing you're missing is the fact that we cannot force anyone to release the president's medical records. If Aaron and Amber had them, I'm sure they would share them. How do you propose we go about getting them?

Jones would need Obama level turnout in the African-American vote, and then would need about 35% of the white vote (I think)... I just don't see that happening especially with Jones position on cultural issues.

Or he would need a lot of Republicans to stay home in disgust.

Given that net neutrality probably won't exist by the end of the week, are you still planning to hold chats in the future?

I will keep chatting. There is nothing neutral about this chat.

So, if it was out of character for the White House to volunteer that the Prez will get a physical at Walter Reed soon and that they'd release the results, why did they do it? Do they really think they can control or manipulate what the docs at Walter Reed conclude? Or are the people inside the White House as alarmed as all us and figure putting this out publicly makes it more difficult for Trump to back out, to refuse the neurological tests that are needed, to not release full results? Any other theory as to why they'd volunteer this info now about a medical appointment in JANUARY ?!

Yours is a very interesting theory. Very interesting indeed. We shall see.

That's it for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks for participating, and I'll see you 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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