Eugene Robinson Live (May 15)

Eugene Robinson
May 15, 2018

Read Eugene's latest: Real Americans are a myth. Don't you dare buy it.

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again. Well, today's news mostly consists -- so far -- of reverberations from yesterday's news. The horrific scenes at the barrier between Israel and Gaza, where some 60 Palestinians were killed, were beyond description; not far away, Ivanka and Jared looked nice, though. In other news, over the weekend China pledged to invest $500 million in a project in Indonesia that includes a Trump-branded property, and in an amazing coincidence, President Trump suddenly became desperately worried about job losses at a big Chinese electronics firm. Funny how that happens. My column today tries to put an end to the nonsense about "real Americans" and "coastal elites." Even if you live near an ocean and have progressive views, you are as "real" as any other American and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Sad note this morning: Tom Wolfe, the stylish writer who inspired a generation (mine) of journalists, passed away at 87. He's going to that Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in the sky. Let's get started.

Does it frustrate you that when the press secretary does not answer the question asked, or in her answer, tells a lie, the next reporter fails to follow up, or call her out on the lie, but simply goes to their prepared question on another topic? As if the non-answer or lie never happened Couldn't the White House press just get together & agree not to do that? Instead, agree to follow up or call her out on the lie, instead of moving to another topic?

I've moved beyond frustration. I rarely watch those briefings anymore when they're televised, because what's the point? I'm increasingly puzzled as to why the White House reporters bother to show up. Follow-up questions would just demonstrate that Sanders or whoever refuses to answer the question, which is already obvious. Going to the next topic is usually another waste of time. What is the point anymore?

Donald Trump has created a them versus us mentality in this country that make people vote against their own interest. What can I do in my local community to help turn this thinking around?

Trump didn't create it but definitely has taken it to a new level. Solutions are going to arise from the grassroots level, not filter down from the top. So listen, talk and work in your community on issues you and your neighbors find important.

"The miner and the barista don’t actually have equal say, because of the way the electoral college works, but let’s leave that aside." No, let's not. All those "real" Americans who voted for Trump say they feel disrespected. Baloney! You want disrespected? I live in the reddest part of the state of Missouri. You should have seen all the "Obama" signs some of us had the temerity to in our yards. Why? Our votes didn't count. Didn't matter then. Sure does now. I have one true representative in Washington: Sen. Claire McCaskill. Yeah, I write or call Roy Blunt or Billy Long now and then, but let me tell you, it's a fool's errand. Until we fix the electoral college and gerrymandering, I'm permanently disrespected. Shout out to Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

That's grist for another column or two or three. Clinton got 3 million more votes and Trump became president. And residents of the District of Columbia still live under a system of taxation without representation.

Events are happening so quickly sometimes it's hard to even keep up with it all. No wonder we all feel the world is going haywire...

Even for those of us who get paid to keep up, it's increasingly difficult. There's no time to process event no. 1 because you might miss events no. 2 through 5 in the meantime. Maybe our ability to absorb and understand information will speed up accordingly. I wish it would.

Hi Gene -- thanks for chatting with us today. You have "diplomats" (yes, I'm being snarky) Jared and Ivanka smiling and dedicating plaques at the same time that people are being killed in protests against the very act in which they are participating. Does the WH care? And really, does the American public care, or is simply too much "over there"?

Obviously the White House doesn't give a damn. I believe those awful images had more resonance among the public, though.

In a video-byte world, nothing is more important than optics and the "real" crowd has co-opted old glory while "elites" seem to view flag-waving as chauvinistic. Given this, would you agree that progressives do themselves irreparable damage when, compared to the stars and stripes, there are more Mexican flags at immigration rallies or LBGTQ flags at the marches for women?

Not in my eyes. I do think it's good, however, for progressives to reclaim and proudly display the Stars and Stripes. We should reclaim the flag. It belongs to us, too, and we need to have a say in what it stands for.

George Will and Steve Schmidt have both dumped hard on Pence recently and politico has an article about Trump "dominating" the VP. In the privacy of the Naval Observatory, Pence can't possibly adore Trump as much as he pretends to in public. What's his strategy? Worship Trump in public to gain the love of the base, even if he's sold his soul to the devil? Pence gets the job if Trump is impeached or resigns, but if not, Democrats can tie him to the worst of Trump and Pence doesn't have the charisma and whatever else it is that makes the base love Trump. What's your read on Pence at this point?

I think Pence believes that patience is a virtue and that he can avoid being tarred with the worst excesses of the Trump era. I think he believes he'll be in good position to run for president, whether in 2020 or 2024.

I think at this point he can most easily be understood as an abusive husband, only he has multitudes of wives who keep going back to him no matter what he does, and in spite of what rational minds think. His abuse victims are all the Republicans in Congress, and many Republicans who held their noses and voted for him. They will keep going back to him, because it is their pathology to do so. The whole country needs a restraining order and counseling. What do you think?

That analogy almost works. I'm not sure whether pathology is the reason why the abuse victims don't leave in this case, though. I think there's a hefty dose of self- interest -- they're frightened that if they turn against Trump, the base voters will turn against them. And they may be right.

What can I do to help rid America of these people?

Vote in the November midterm. Participate in a voter registration drive. Help get voters to the polls. 

It was with great interest I read your "Real Americans" blog. I'm continually frustrated as an Indigenous person (Mohican/Lunaape, AKA Delaware) and governance, policy, and evaluation scholar that all of our contemporary arguments, publications, protestations, do NOT include pre-contact or treaty law (which is ensconced in constitutional law). Unfortunately the Colonial fictional (or to the least incomplete and un-scholarly) narrative continues to cause harm and be reinforced by every post, newscast, initiative, publication, keynote, presentation, etc. My question: How can we over come this if the educational, professional, and academic pathways (curriculum, people, organizations, etc.) systemically reinforce this ignorance and/or racism? The arguments of it happened long ago do not hold and having a scholarly discussion, let alone critical thinking, is VERY hard to do. This political and legal distinction of sovereign nations is a fact. And the Marshall Trilogy cases, amongst others-including the Bible and Doctrine of Discovery, are the contemporary legal basis for which Tribal Nations and Indigenous people in North America and globally get screwed. At times it feels so daunting yet our spirit and ancestors push us onward. How can the original people become more mainstream and it become a real part of contemporary policy, evidence based practice, governance, and government discourse? Anushiik (thank you). Respectfully, Nicole Bowman-Farrell, PhD, University of WI-Madison.

I wish I could give you a useful answer. Like many people, I know that treaty law exists and... that's about it. I don't know about the Marshall Trilogy cases you mention, for example. That's my fault and I'll try to learn more about the legal status and treatment of the original Americans.

He seems to be following up on all his worst impulses (that others presumably tried to temper in the first year of the administration) and reneging on the good ideas because the last person who talked to him didn't like it. But there is one really big thing that he can do by himself that he has talked about and hasn't done yet - shut down the government. Would he actually refuse to sign a CR that Ryan and McConnell managed to get passed in late September? Or tell them that he won't sign anything they can hope to pass with help from the Democrats. Because the last time he signed a CR, he said he would never sign another one like it, and I don't see how one that makes massive cuts to the social safety net (seems to be where this is heading) can make it out of the Senate (thank goodness). Schumer might not have fallen on his sword for the dreamers, but I bet he will for Medicaid.

He might do it. His calculation to this point has been that a shutdown would hurt him more than it would help him, because he wants to be seen as a can-do businessman. A shutdown would be can't-do and look like swampy business as usual. But if Fox & Friends says a shutdown would be a good idea, watch out.

Hi Gene- what's your understanding of how/when Mueller put his probe in hiatus around Nov? It seems to me that the probe should go on without any consideration of the election or other external issues.

The investigation will not have a hiatus but it is Justice Department policy to try to avoid filing charges or taking other such public action near an election, for fear of influencing the election. I know, I know, Comey and the Clinton emails. But that's the policy as I understand it.

It's the Trump White House's own people who are leaking all these insider things. Maybe they need to think really hard about the REASONS that their own people are leaking, rather than lashing out at the news media. Why do you think they leak? (My hunch is that some things are morally "beyond the pale," most recently the McCain crack).

Meaghan McCain observed that such a flood of leaks only besets a leader who does not inspire loyalty. This is the leakiest White House anyone has ever seen, in my estimation.

Why is it okay for the leftist progressives to call traditional Americans (by which I mean believing in God, two parent mom & dad families, getting up and going to work etc.) Fascist Nazis who want to bring back slavery, but it's not okay for me to call them degenerate perverts?

I hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of leftist progressives who believe in God, live in two-parent mom and dad families, and get up and go to work every day. Most of us, in fact. 

Hi, Gene, Bless you for today's column. As a liberal, I'm sick to death of being painted as a traitor, unpatriotic, something other than a real American (a fake American? Is that anything like fake news?). Especially when it comes from people who may mean well but are taking actions that are hugely damaging to our country both domestically and internationally. I shudder to think where we'll be standing when the Trump era ends, but I can't imagine it will be as good a place as it was at noon on January 20, 2017.

That's a safe bet. This country has a lot of resilience. I hope it's enough.

As an Orthodox Jewish male, I cannot see why Benjamin Netanyahu decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem before a peace accord or some type of concession to the Palestinians before the move. Us Jews know without a question that little of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was always the Capitol of Yisrael. We don't need an embassy to confirm this. Violence and death ensued over the premature move and Pres. Trump as well as Netanyahu must have seen these deaths and violent demonstrations coming. Most Jews here in the U.S. and in Yisrael know that this was the wrong move. Why can't our leaders follow the will of the justified masses in lieu of their own individual ways. It makes no sense. Thoughts?

Basically I share yours. I believe Netanyahu has all but closed the door on a two-state solution, and Israel now is left with a de facto one-state solution. Palestinians, including Gazans, can't be denied political and human rights forever. There will be increasing pressure on Israel to grant full rights to the Palestinians, and either doing so or not doing so will change the fundamental nature of the Jewish state. I don't think that's what Israelis really want and I don't think it's what friends of Israel really want, but it's the path Netanyahu has put the nation on.

If debates should arise the first question should be about if the candidates are aware they need to win the electoral college.

Lo0k, everybody knows the rules. Trump won. He's president. It just happens to be a fact that more people voted for her than for him.

Would you ever consider becoming a speech writer for a candidate?

I don't think that's my calling. I've been a journalist for too long, and I've enjoyed the luxury of a column for too long, to be able to voice eloquent and full-throated support of some policy that I know is wrong. That would happen, and I'd write a lousy speech because my heart wasn't in it. 

"So listen, talk and work in your community on issues you and your neighbors find important." Ha! You know what's important to about 40 percent of them? People buying lobster with food stamps. I can't reason with stupidity.

You could try to explain what the SNAP program really does, who benefits, why it's important, and all that. But I know, it can be hard.

As much as Trump and his minions want the Mueller investigation to wrap up for their own reasons, I'm also growing impatient for the endgame - a long overdue reveal and resolution of all that Mueller has learned. In your opinion, is there a sense of an ending coming? Seems hard to believe the Special Counsel would spring a bunch of potential bombshell material too close to the midterms...

The one thing we know for sure about the Mueller investigation is that we have no idea how far along he is. There were reports that he plans to deal first with the obstruction of justice question, then later with collusion. Maybe one before the election and one after? I really have no idea. He and his people don't leak. Most of all of what we get out of the probe comes from public court documents or from leaks from those who have been interviewed and their lawyers.

Hi Eugene, Have the media determined any ways they are actively fighting back against such threats? This is a real and significant issue under the current administration. How best can the public continue to support high quality journalism? I (and the activist group of which I am a member) support CPJ and other foundations and orgs that support investigative, political journalism.

Faithfully subscribe to the news organizations you value. Subscribe to your local paper.  Good journalism costs money. There are important stories going uncovered in cities and state capitols across the country because news organizations can't afford the reporting power needed to dig those stories up.

I just see this as a way of showing abject obedience to our overlords. I obey the laws and pay my taxes and that's all the allegiance any institution is ever going to get from me, and the only time I'll root for the USA over another country is in sports. Why don't all these constant flag-wavers just tattoo the old stars and stripes across their forehead to prove how patriotic they are?

That's what makes America great. Nobody can make anybody wave a flag if they don't want to.


As much as I might want to, folks, I can't wave the flag of this discussion any more today. Our time is up. Thanks for participating, and I'll 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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