Eugene Robinson Live (Feb. 12)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our chat. Well, it's a newsy Tuesday, as usual. We don't do slow news days anymore. I guess the biggest headline so far is that congressional negotiators have reached a deal to avoid another government shutdown, and President Trump sounds as if he's going to sign it. He doesn't have much choice, does he? The last shutdown was a political disaster for him and his party. He gets less money for border barriers and fencing -- he'll call it a wall, of course -- than he could have had in December; and the money comes will all kinds of new restrictions. Trump is "not happy," he just said, but there were no veto threats. He sounded as if he's going to try to reprogram other funds toward the wall -- without making an emergency declaration. We'll see. Meanwhile, in other news, today's column is about the hot mess in Virginia, where the state's embattled top officials are all clinging to their jobs. And "El Chapo" Guzman just got convicted in federal court in Brooklyn. Let's get started.

I could have sworn on a pile of Bibles that Nancy Pelosi said not one penny would be given for a wall? 1.3 Billion sure sounds like it can buy a whole lot of steel slats to secure the border.

Democrats (led by Pelosi) voted to give him $1.6 billion for barriers and fencing in December. Trump threw a tantrum, forced the longest government shutdown in our history, and ended up getting nearly $300,000,000 less. Someone should send him a copy of "The Art of the Deal."

Remember when you spoke from the pulpit about how evil Judge Kavenaugh was for being a rapist? Will you do the same for Justin Fairfax? Or because he's an African-American and a Democrat, will you just give him a pass.

Obviously you haven't read today's column. It's unclear whether you've read any of my columns. I never called Kavanaugh evil. I did say that he should not be confirmed for the Supreme Court. And I said today that Fairfax should resign -- and that if he doesn't, he should be investigated by the legislature. 

You've preached from the pulpit accusing so many Republicans of being Racist. Equating Ed Gillespie voters as clan members. Will you now do the same for those in the Democratic Party in the great state of Virginia? There's no excuse for Blackface.

Today I'm going to preach about reading my column before demanding that I do something I've already done. 

Bet you won't answer this question! I am sure you undonditionally support the Dems "Green New Deal" but do you also support the average Americans electric bill increasing by an average of $3800 a year? For me that would mean I would be paying more than 100% more electricity and I am guessing thats on top of having to go completely eletric and get rid of current HVAC system which has natural gas as a fuel source for heat. Sorry geothermal and solar just wont work for my townhouse. Dems should rename their "New Deal" "The Road to the Poor House" but I guess since I get paid cause I dont want to work and support a socialist govt with my taxes that it will pay all my bills.

Boy, you conservatives really should take a deep breath and maybe put away your copies of the Green New Deal for a few days. When everybody's blood pressure gets back to normal, actually read the thing. It's a set of bold policy ideas built around one premise: The necessary fight against climate change can help build a fairer, more prosperous society. I believe that's true. We'll be able to evaluate actual Green New Deal policies and programs when they are proposed. So far, it's what Speaker Pelosi called it -- a "green dream" -- but it's the right kind of dream.

...being impersonated on SNL? What an honor!!!

It was the first time. And it was surreal.

Nancy Pelosi said there wouldn't be a penny spent on a wall. But it looks like President Trump just acquired $1.375 billion for barrier funding that will cover roughly 55 miles of new barrier. The 55 miles is double the amount allocated in the last spending agreement. So much winning!

The border is 2,000 miles long, roughly. I think there are 625 miles of existing border fencing of some sort. If this deal is approved, there will be 680. Wow.

Imagine: If, if, Donald Trump were forced out of the presidency before the end of his term, elevating Mike Pence to POTUS, (or if Trump decided not to run for reelection for whatever reason) would Pence be the Republicans' strongest candidate in 2020? I think they might want to put the whole Trump debacle behind them and nominate someone less closely associated with Trump. You know Democrats would tie Trump to Pence like glue, in fact, I can't imagine any Democratic campaign ads that didn't feature Mike Pence standing next to Trump, looking on approvingly, smiling and nodding, reminding voters that Pence was at Trump's side the whole time.

I don't think Vice President Pence would be the GOP's best presidential candidate in that event. I don't see him as ever being the party's standard-bearer, to tell the truth. I do think that when the Trump Era is done, the party will want to try to move on -- and Pence is too closely associated with Trump.

Trump's El Paso rally site only had space for 6,500 (notwithstanding his higher attendance claims). Any word on how many attended Bet O'Rourke's simultaneous competing rally? I heard "thousands" but wonder how many thousands. (Am secretly hoping he beat Trump's turnout).

Newsweek did the most comprehensive effort I've seen to pin down the crowd sizes. Bottom line: It was very close, maybe a slight edge to Trump:


Mick Mulvaney's assertions that they would just build the wall by grabbing money from "low risk of litigation" pots of money, was meant for the classic audience of one. Because there was no way that anyone with any DC experience/political instincts/two brain cells to rub together would think that there was any place from which they could grab money that the Democratic House wouldn't defend in court as unconstitutional. Guessing that Trump has heard that certain strategies (not paying 80% of the agreed upon fee to a small business person) are low risk of litigation for decades since not paying is one of his major business negotiation strategies. Was it meant to convince Anyone except the president?

I agree that the audience-of-one was the president. In two years, you'd think President Trump might have learned that you can't run the U.S. government the way he ran the Trump Organization. But I guess not.

I read your article and agree with the overall premise. I would like to know when arriving at that premise what kind of investigation and for how long are you talking about? Showing the results in sunlight is absolutely right, & easier in the Northam/Herring instance, but for Fairfax are you talking about the same kind of investigation that Cosby & Weinstein have undergone? I sure didn't feel confident in the results of the Kavanaugh hearing because I felt the investigation was given short shrift. In the case of both accusers in the Fairfax situation I wonder why they are not bringing criminal charges as opposed to asking for impeachment hearing appearances when both have judicial resolutions available to them because the alleged crimes are within the statute of limitations. Going forward I would finally like to see in any #metoo cases that they are brought to the courts when the statute of limitations covers the crime to provide an answer beyond he said she said. Not interested in any more show trials with legislators putting on performances.

I didn't specify exactly how the investigations would work because I don't know. It can be figured out, though. What I can't figure out is how the state can go on as if none of this had happened. Virtually every leading Democrat in the state has called for Gov. Northam to resign. Most have called for Lt. Gov. Fairfax to resign. Some, including Northam, have said Attorney General Herring may have to resign. So now everybody goes back to business as usual? I don't see how that's possible.

Why is it that no reporter seems to call him out on his lies? Minutes ago he said he would take money already appropriated to build wall. Is this not illegal?

Bless your heart, but some days we have time for nothing else but calling out the president's lies. What we are unable to do is stop him from lying. We call out the lies; he repeats them anyway. What do you want us to do? In my opinion, lying constantly to the American people should be considered a serious breach of the president's duty. I would argue that it should be seen as potentially an impeachable offense. 

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today and for chatting with us. As a MN resident I'm a big fan of Sen. Klobuchar and while I have no idea what her chances are, I find these stories of her supposed "difficulty" as a boss to be very hypocritical and yet another distraction. Even before she ran for the Senate she was known to be not the easiest person to work for when she was Hennepin County Attorney and yet she's won election and re-election without breaking a sweat. I think it's far to say that any number of the other 99 senators now serving are just as difficult and yet we somehow don't hear about that (and yes, I know that it might be a different story if they were running for president). I also think there's an element of sexism at work here that is disturbing. Certainly if she was verbally or physically abusive that would be another story, but there's no evidence that I know of for that, and my fear is that she's going to get bogged down in this debate instead of talking about what she would do as president. Your thoughts?

I don't think this is going to bog down her campaign. It is true that over the years she has had considerably more turnover in her staff than most other senators. But I don't think primary voters will punish her for being demanding. And in a general election, any Democrat is going to come across as a better boss than Trump.

I'd like to clear the board on the VA scandals. In theory, would it be allowable for Fairfax to resign first and be replaced by Northam (I'd love to see Tom Perriello take over), and then Northam resigns and then the Fairfax replacement takes over?

I believe this would indeed be possible.

Any comment on the portrayal of you by Kenan Thompson in the cold open on Saturday night's broadcast?

A source gave me a heads-up earlier that evening, and my first thought was "I hope Kenan does it!" because I think he's amazingly talented and funny. He didn't really go for the voice, but that wasn't the point of the skit. I think of his other characters -- Rev. Al, Big Papi, so many others -- and it's an honor to be added to the list. As I said, it was surreal.

Is she too nice or too mean? They're current discussing that she's being called both. And how much of the too mean is a sexist double standard as opposed to anyone with her style might be a bad boss?

Being too nice and too mean might be a good combination.

Are you worried that we'll have another crisis March 1st about the debt ceiling? Is this going to be Shutdown Countdown #3?

I don't even want to think about the debt ceiling. With Democrats in control of the House and a president who likes to brag about the stock market, we ought to be able to muddle through.

I have to admit I was surprised that 57% of black Virginia voters supported Governor Northam while only 37% of whites did. I suspect it's because they knew how endemic blackface portrayals were, even in the 1980s.

It's just that when racism is discovered in a white official's past, we're not shocked. 


Shockingly, folks, our time is up for today. Thanks for participating, and I'll see you 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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