Eugene Robinson Live (Jan. 23)

Eugene Robinson
Jan 23, 2018

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

Read Eugene's latest: Trump is being used, and he doesn’t even know it

Hi, everybody. Well, our brief national nightmare -- the government shutdown -- is over, at least for the next couple of weeks. (Our long national nightmare, the Trump presidency, continues.) For their effort, Democrats got six years of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program -- and nothing else, really, except a promise from Mitch McConnell to allow bills, amendments and votes on immigration. Even if he follows through, there is no guarantee (to put it mildly) that the House will follow suit. It's not at all clear, however, that holding out longer would have produced a better result. Like everything that happens these days, the shutdown will probably be forgotten in a week as we all move on to the next outrage or crisis. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, came out last weekend in a reprieve of the landmark Women's March. Would've been nice if we, the media, had noticed. Let's get started.

Though I did not vote for Mr. Obama, I respected him and said so to any that inquired of me even though I did not like several of his policies. I thought he was a speaker that was quite eloquent. I stood for him as my president when some on the corner would deride him. I wish that you sir....might have a modicum of respect for our sitting president though he is in opposition to your views. You shame me as an American when you speak of him as you do. Consider

I respect the office, but I believe President Trump dishonors it in a way no other president has done -- not in my lifetime, and perhaps not ever. In our system, fortunately, the people are sovereign and the president answers to us, not the other way around. 

It's not just Stormy Daniels: unless Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff a complete fabrication, there are other women whom Trump's lawyer “took care of" with cash in return for nondisclosure agreements (NDOs). But if the publicly relevant problem here is the money and the silencing rather than the sex, the public has a right to know more. Could some third party enable these women to nullify their NDOs by giving them the same amount of money they got for their silence-- money they could then pay back to Trump's attorney? Otherwise, as with so much else that's important about Trump (see taxes, business deals), I guess we'll just never know, will we?

Perhaps some billionaire will read your post and follow your suggestion. Even if not, my guess is that if there are other women who were paid for their silence, Daniels won't be the only one we hear about.

Why does Paul Ryan honor a convicted serial pedophile Dennis Hastert by citing his "rule" as the reason NOT to allow a vote on bipartisan legislation?

Even if former speaker Hastert hadn't had his seamy leagal troubles, his eponymous rule would be a ridiculous and self-defeating way to try to run the House of Representatives. There is much legislation -- including DACA, for example -- that probably would pass if Ryan just brought it to the floor; Democrats and moderate Republicans would provide the necessary majority. But requiring that a majority of the GOP majority agree to legislation before a vote is allowed means paralysis, since the GOP caucus is divided on so many issues. Ryan should sit down with Nancy Pelosi for a lesson on how to be speaker. I'm serious about that. Her Democratic majorities had internal splits, too, but she got things done.

What happens when we get to Feb 8 and either the senate or the house has not pur up DACA legislation?

Well, that would be the question, wouldn't it? Even if McConnell immediately puts the Senate to work, without preconditions, it simply isn't possible to revamp the entire U.S. immigration system in the next 16 days. So will he allow a vote on a clean DACA bill? Maybe. But it doesn't sound as if Ryan will allow such a vote in the House -- and if he did, and it passed, it's not clear to me that President Trump would sign it. Although if somebody could distract Stephen Miller and John Kelly for a few minutes, he might...

If I remember correctly, most "illegal" immigrants in this country, did not cross our southern border, or the northern border either. They arrived via air travel. Also, I think I read that most of illegal drugs in the US don't come across the border from Mexico either. If this is true, why don't Democrats bring this up every time Trump and Republicans talk about their stupid wall?

Democrats do bring up the fact that most of the undocumented simply overstayed their visas and the fact that few people are even trying to come across the border. The wall is symbolic -- and a ridiculous waste of money. Even the administration now admits it won't actually be a wall at all, but rather an intermittent fence where there is no natural barrier, such as the Rio Grande. It's not about border security, it's about fulfilling a campaign promise.

Hi Mr. Robinson and thanks very much for taking questions. On Jan. 17th WP published an article: "Trump’s argument in record-keeping case: ‘Courts cannot review the president’s compliance with the Presidential Records Act’". I found the article very disturbing, especially considering the lying, corruption, and overall untrustworthy behavior of Trump and his people so far. I understand that there's been a whole raft of important stuff going on, shutdown included. But don't you think this is worrisome?

The federal judge who heard that argument was skeptical, and I think higher courts will be skeptical as well.

The federal employees are going to get paid for the involuntary time off and CHIP has been extended for six years, so it isn't the worst possible outcome, but the president just "won" by taking a carefully crafted bipartisan immigration deal that gives each side a bit of what they want and a bit of what they don't want (and is VERY far from what the democrats would like) and treating it like a far left fantasy list. This does not bode well for two and half weeks from now. Letting your underlings negotiate the best deal they can and then treating it as a starting point, is a great technique for NYC real estate, but senators aren't the underlings of the president and at some point presidents don't get absolutely everything they want. There was never ANY chance that he was going to get a commitment for 100% of funding for the wall in one year, and that is what a spokesperson seemed to demand this morning. And, to be perfectly honest, a promise to be nice from Mitch McConnell isn't worth a heck of a lot. I think we are going to be closed again on February 9th. and for more than three days.

That's possible. But as you note, U.S. senators do not appreciate being treated like dupes and flunkies. It's not inconceivable that McConnell would get frustrated enough to let the Senate pass a clean DACA bill plus a token amount for the wall and then dare the House and the president to say no.

So much has happened in the meantime, but I'm still curious about the president's physical and his health. Before the press conference, even Democrats from President Obama's team were speaking highly of Dr. Jackson, but once he spoke publicly it sure looked like he drank the Trump Kool-Aid. (And yes, I'm a "girther." No way Trump is 6'3".) So shocking to see a supposedly no-nonsense Navy professional come out and gush about excellent genes, he's so healthy, he'll never get sick, yes I'm paraphrasing, but really. To me, Trump looks as if he might keel over at any time. Your thoughts?

If Trump is six-three and 239 pounds, then I'm the King of Thailand. It cannot be pure coincidence that those numbers put him right at the upper limit of "overweight" -- one more pound and he'd be obese. In reality he's about six-two -- like all men his age, he's shrinking -- and I'm guessing around 250. According to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and other physicians who looked at the test results, he has moderate heart disease and an elevated risk of heart attack.

Research shows that African Americans have among the most conservative viewpoints on immigration. How does the Democrat party reconcile this disconnect with one of their critical voting blocks? How does the Democrat party convince African Americans that increased immigration does not come at their expense?

I'm not sure where your research comes from. But even if it is correct, then obviously immigration would not be a top-rank issue for African Americans since they're certainly not flocking to the Republican Party.

DACA is not easy if you're trying to actually resolve the problem of people that were brought here as children. Do they get beyond just legalization and a path to citizenship? That won't pass the House if they keep the Hastert rule (not a fan) in place. If they get citizenship will they be able to sponsor their parents who originally broke the law? And they keep talking about 800k. I don't even remember what cutoffs Obama used. USA Today that said the real number was around 3.6 million. That's just the start of the list. Polling says 85% agree with protection for Dreamers but they is a whole lot going on underneath that general polling question.

Your numbers are confused. The Washington Post says the number of dreamers is about 700,000, so that's the figure I now use. Nobody says there are 3.6 million. If the dreamers get a path to citizenship, as I believe they should, then they ought to have the right of any American to sponsor parents into the country. Some parents would already be here, some others wouldn't want to come, and the process of sponsoring in a relative takes years. Let's estimate that at the outside, granting citizenship to all the dreamers today, instantly, would mean that five years from now there would be 1.5 million more immigrants living here than if we had rounded the dreamers up and kicked them out. In a nation of 323 million, that is negligible.

We already know that there is no too low for Trump to go, but how low can legislators go? They lie, vote against the needs of their constituents, and, it appears, many will make money off the tax cut bill. The hypocrisy is overwhelming and the fact they don’t understand how it makes them look is ridiculous. Should we have any hope for the future of our country?

Those legislators are in office because voters put them there. The solution is to replace them with legislators who will do better. That is why the November election is so important.

I recall well that so much media fury in the aftermath of the Lewinski revelation and subsequent Starr report was around Hillary's reaction, the future of their marriage, etc. Implied in this was that Hillary Clinton was a woman with dignity, who might take action against the piggish behavior of her husband. Why do we assume that Melania Trump has no such dignity? Why isn't there endless media speculation on when the dam will break on the Trump's marriage, that she will walk out on him, etc? On the one hand, if it were a sign that we are growing up about such things, then perhaps it's a positive development. But I don't think we have grown up that much. We just kind of assume that Melania is a willing hostage who values the material benefits of her marriage more than she respects herself. Sad, really.

You ask very interesting questions, and I'm afraid I can't answer them. I think you're right that we make assumptions about Melania Trump that we have no right to make.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today. I totally get why the Dems did what they did to end the shutdown (for now), but that requires looking at the total picture and being able to recognize some of the nuances of it (something that is not part of our particular political process, and never has been, at least in my memory). I am concerned (make that horrified) that this will somehow come back to bite the Democrats in the mid-terms, the next best chance to try to turn things around. What's your take? Is there any damage from the "cave," and if so, is it long lasting? Or will Trump's next blow up/tweetathon make it all irrelevant?

The safest bet to make right now is that any given news event has a half-life of approximately three days. After that, poof. I honestly don't think it's likely to matter one way or the other.

I think the President appears to have no core beliefs because he has no core beliefs, that simple. He is a showman who wanted to use the campaign to advertise his brand using other peoples money. Having said that, my question is do you think Trump will even want a second term?

Probably, but I can't even think of that right now. Too busy trying to survive this first term.

So you believe Mueller's Trump Interview will signal the "near end" of the investigation? Or will just be a mid-point? Every door he opens--leads to 100 more doors!

I'm amused by all the speculation about what Mueller's interview schedule means for the state of his investigation. The truth is that it's impossible to tell whether he's near the end or not. He might well want to interview any or all of the witnesses more than once -- including the president.

The emoluments clause is being abused daily by this President. The media and Congress are being willfully blind about this in America face crime. How can people not conclude media and politics are not corrupted together?

You know about these Emoluments Clause violations because of the media, so we're doing a lousy job of covering them up. The fact is that we in the media do not have the power to force Congress to do anything. You as a citizen, however, have the power to replace your elected representatives with new ones.

1. Why do you think #Dems lost the #shutdown narrative when polls show that more Americans blame @GOP than @TheDemocrats? 2. What can Dems do to help ensure passage of #DACA in the Senate AND the House? 3. What is the future of the centrist group of senators? Are they a new power base in Congress? Thank you sir for your insights and contributions to our democracy. It's journalists & the FBI who are in the trenches protecting our democracy, and giving activists the truths that we need to amplify & the stories that motivate us to act.

The answer to all your questions is the same: Republicans hold majorities in both the Senate and the House. Therefore they literally control the agenda. You can't lead from the minority. If Democrats want to enact a program to their liking, they need to flip those majorities in November.

Does this man understand there is more to this March than just women upset The Democrats lost? That we truly believe there was corruption, tampering with not just social media but the flipping of votes. That we are disturbed he is a sexual predator, bully and totally unqualified for the office he some how holds? That we are embarrassed that he is a national disaster and he taunts an equally crazy man. That we believe if he didn’t have something to hide he wouldn’t interfere with the Mueller investigation? That we the citizens have hired his unqualified corrupt family without proper clearance or credible experience as well as his cabinet is destroying our democracy?

If he reads this chat, now he knows. (Spoiler alert: He only reads what fawning aides clip out of the newspapers for him.)

Hastert is the eponymous one. The rule is his namesake.

You're right. I love copy editors. (I really do.)

After every government agency is pared to bone or eliminated and the GOP destroys all safety nets, what then? What are they hoping to accomplish?

I think that what you said is what they're trying to accomplish.


And that's all the accomplishment we have time for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks so much for participating, as always. I'll be back next week, hours before President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address. What could go wrong?

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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