Eugene Robinson Live (Aug. 13)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to our chat. I guess August isn't a slow news month here in the dystopian Other Dimension we seem to have fallen into. Today, President Trump delayed the next round of tariffs on Chinese consumer goods, thus allowing the financial markets to gain back some of the ground they lost when he declared the tariffs in the first place. This has to be the dumbest, most futile trade war in history. Speaking of China, I'm starting to worry a lot about Beijing's potential reaction to the Hong Kong protests, which shut down one of the world's busiest airports for a second day. Yesterday, meanwhile, the Trump administration announced a new rule designed to limit legal immigration, and -- not at all by coincidence -- the change will have the most detrimental impact on Latinos and other people of color. Whatever it takes to Make America White Again, I guess. And of course there's the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in federal custody. I really liked everything better in our Home Dimension and would like to get back there soon. Let's get started.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today and for chatting. To me, the orphaned baby photo pretty much sums up everything that is problematic with Trump and illustrates the "not normalness" of the whole debacle of his presidency. Here's my question: what do the Democrats do with it, if anything? Do they risk politicizing Trump's politicization of the tragedy, thereby leaving themselves open to the same charges? To me, the whole thing is so appalling on its face that no further comment is necessary, so let's focus on the myriad other reasons why he has to go.

There are not words for that photo from El Paso. But we can't turn away from it. We have to confront everything and realize just how awful the Trump interregnum is. And then we have to end it next November.

It is a survival issue, and I would appreciate it if it were framed as such. (Not accusing anyone specifically, but if Bernie Sanders were to say that winter is coming and everyone should dress warmly, it would not be seen as a left-wing position--or maybe it would be, and the folks at Fox news and in the Republican party would be advising everyone to go outside is t-shirts and Bermuda shorts.)

For the life of me I don't understand what Republicans think they're accomplishing when they try to deny science. Do they think not believing in gravity would allow them to fly? I get that President Trump is clueless -- genuinely so, it appears -- but there are Republicans who paid attention in school and understand what's happening. Yet they pretend otherwise.

In my opinion, anyway. Left wing Trump criticizing the Post (fake news?) because you all don't love him to death? Wait, not you, the owner. It's not like he's my choice, anyway, but clearly he's seeing something sailing away.

Running against the media is a stock political tactic. But it's not a good look for Bernie, in my opinion.

I may have missed coverage of this, but hope you can help clarify. A legal immigrant with a job is having payroll and withholding taxes taken out of their paycheck. These taxes fund Medicare and unemployment. Has the administration answered the question of why they shouldn’t have access to these services if they have paid into them?

No. But it's not about the money. It's about being able to deny some black and brown immigrants the right to remain in this country and discouraging some others from even seeking to stay.

Yes there are stories that Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are managing to generate some excitement. But what seems more apparent to me is that people are just so beaten down by Trump and McConnell that they are weary and afraid to get exited. If that's the case, the questions is whether they can be gotten to the polls and, whether excitement (however nice it might be) is even necessary. What do you think?

I think a lot of people are indeed excited about a lot of candidates, but there are so many of them that no one has garnered a critical mass of excitement. Wait until the field narrows down and the primaries and caucuses actually begin. You'll see excitement.

The president is yo-yo-Inga on the tariffs and the markets are going for the ride. What’s the long term damage from this roller coaster activity?

Long-term, I don't know. Short-term, I hope it finally makes the business community acknowledge how unreliable and unsuitable Trump is.

Thanks for your insights. I'm going under the assumption that everything he says is a lie. What happens we we REALLY have a crisis and we need our leaders to be forthright...OY

We just have to hope such a crisis does not arise, because we're wholly unprepared.

In your opinion what is the winning strategy to win 2020 presidential election and what can be done to limit or cancel the negative effects of his decisions and appointments

Unite behind a candidate who is clearly fit to be president. Then get out the vote.

Hi Eugene. Thank you for your clarity in these insane times. I know that there's some unwritten rule that former presidents don't interfere with the current president's actions, but considering the circumstances and that there are so many living ex-presidents, couldn't they get together and conduct an intervention with Trump? Not sure what it would do, but it would certainly demonstrate the severity of the crises we are facing and maybe make an impact on someone.

So they issue a joint statement -- and then what? Do you see that tipping the scale on impeachment? On removal? On employing the 25th Amendment? I'm afraid that I don't.

Biden's continuing gaffes concern me but not as much as the presumption that comes with it. Polls aside, he is not a sure thing. He's a three-time loser at running for President, he's in his late 70s, and he carries a long and somewhat problematic track record. His whole "Me & Barack" schtick will only take him so far. I'd take him in a heartbeat over Trump but there are a LOT of red flags on his campaign.

I'm not advocating for Biden or any specific candidate, but I don't think everyone is going to think the eventual nominee is perfect in every way. If enough people agree with you that they would take him or her "in a heartbeat over Trump," then Trump loses. Regarding Joe's "gaffes," that's the way he's always spoken or tried to speak. If Democrats decide he's not up to the job of taking on Trump, they'll pick somebody else.

My Italian grandfather immigrated in 1916. There were no laws to break. He came with $10 in his pocket, according to immigration records. He found work in a shipyard, helping to build ships for WWII. I found a US government poster from that era, "Hip Hip Another Ship!" which shows a man with dark hair and skin, lookin g triumphant and wrapped in a US flag. The government was actively recruiting for immigrants to get to work -- and portrayed them as patriots. We have always used propaganda to welcome or demonize immigrants, depending on the needs and whims of those in power.

Thanks for sharing your family's story, which is a familiar one.

Maybe it's different because of where you stand, but I'm find with a candidate or his campaign pushes back against the press. That shouldn't be off limits. Bernie Sanders is somebody I give less benefit of the doubt though. He and his campaign also seems like they want nothing but flattery by everybody, not just the national press.

I wasn't complaining. For the Washington Post and other media outlets, being attacked by candidates who don't like their coverage comes with the territory. I said it wasn't a good look for Sanders because blaming the media usually means that voters aren't as excited about your campaign as you would like them to be.

Do you have any opinion of this fiasco? I'm not a conspiracy person but my mind is going into overdrive on this one.

I'm not a conspiracy person either. At the moment, it just looks like a monumental failure by the Bureau of Prisons. Which reports to AG Bill Barr. Who reports to President Trump. I wish somebody would take responsibility, but I guess the buck never stops anywhere in this administration.

I'm so mad at Joe Biden. Why did he have to run? I love him, but I don't want him to be president. Make no mistake: I'd vote for him over Trump in a hot second. But he's a campaigner, not a candidate. If he'd stayed out of it, he'd go gangbusters on boosting the eventual Dem nominee and rake in votes from the center. But now, he's just tarnishing his legacy and nullifying any chance he has to help the eventual ticket. Darn it, Joe!

Wow, that's some tough love. The role you describe may eventually be the role Joe Biden plays. But right now, he remains well ahead of his competitors in the polls.

Gene, Wouldn't you agree that working-class US citizens should look at the immigration issue through the lens of numerical advantages vs disadvantage? In other words, if there is a finite resource called 'jobs', logically shouldn't working-class US citizens seek to limit the entrants into the available US job pool? I don't understand why progressive leadership encourages working-class US citizens to advocate for an immigration policy that is not in their best interest.

The resource called "jobs" isn't finite. There are some industries where the working-class citizens you speak of might compete directly with new immigrants. But I don't believe the unemployed auto workers of Ohio and the laid-off coal miners of West Virginia are going to move to Mississippi to take those chicken-plucking jobs opened by last week's ICE raid. And for any citizens anticipating their own retirement, the influx of working-age immigrants helps keep Medicare and Social Security viable. 

Trump supporter/not supporter thing breaks down based on how familiar people are with their own family's immigration story? I guess you exclude African Americans (who overwhelmingly were kidnapped, not migrants) and Native Americans and anyone whose ancestors became US citizens by conquest of Mexican territory, not migration at all. But after that, how many people who can say "I wouldn't be here if you needed to have money upon arrival when my ancestors arrived" are still supporters of Trump. It seems a very odd mindset to me.

Yet there was Ken Cuccinelli, who has a very similar story, announcing the new policy.

My vote: Tulsi Gabbard. She's a tool whom the Russians can manipulate into an independent run. Keep an eye on this.

I will keep both eyes open. 

Do you think they'll be a drop-off of actual voters in the evangelical camp, despite their tolerance for Fearless Leader?

I doubt it, at this point. If they're okay with everything they've seen from Trump thus far, I can't imagine what would make them reconsider. You'd think that maybe reading the Bible would have some impact...

In reference to the ICE raid at the chicken processing plant. Why is there no effort to prosecute the managers and owners? With a plant of that size and workforce a lot of people had to be involved to hire that many undocumented workers. How did they handle payroll, taxes, benefits, and financial audits? The HR department had to know, the payroll people had to know as well.

Of course they HAD to know. And I'd be interested to learn whether, and to what extent, they might have helped fudge their employees' paperwork. But the administration seems uninterested in going after the employers. Persecuting and traumatizing the workers seems to be the idea.

Any chance someone will investigate if the Trumps, et al., are shorting the market as he flip flops around on the tariffs?

The SEC ought to be on the lookout for such activity. Ought to be.

But he wasn't always 76 years old.

Absolutely true. I'm just saying that he pretty routinely got lost in his sentences when he was 46.

Best thing I heard today (Morning Joe?) so far was that Barr's responsibility for the system failures that allowed the suicide is analogous to the responsibility Hillary Clinton bore for Bhengazi. Can we have endless hearings and investigations right up to November 2020?

I think maybe we should.


Alas, I also think -- I know, in fact -- that we should wrap things up for today. Our time has expired. Thanks, everyone, for participating, and I hope to see you all 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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