Eugene Robinson Live (Aug. 27)

Aug 27, 2019

Read Gene's latest: Trump’s Obama envy is getting even worse

Hi, everybody. Feeling kind of rudderless today, doubtless because that's the state of our great nation. If you witnessed President Trump's performance at the G-7, you saw that we -- and the free world -- do not have a functioning leader at the moment. We have an erratic and ill-informed manchild who has no idea what he's doing and whose word is totally untrustworthy. Every single word, including "and" and "the." It was the G-6, and I can just imagine what the conversations were like when Trump was off sulking and the adults could talk among themselves. He has managed to put Xi Jinping and (of course) Vladimir Putin in charge of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. And meanwhile, the Amazon burns. Let's get started.

Even the White House correction doesn't make any sense. If you regret not making the tariffs on China higher, then make them higher now. As far as I know, they haven't. If they needed a fake reason to explain what the "second thought" was, they should have said it was not imposing the tariffs *sooner* which, though a lie, is at least something that can't be instantly rectified in the present. I have never been a PR person in my life, and even I can come up with that. And the entire communications staff couldn't? Are they on the D team at this point?

The White House communications team is totally superfluous at this point. Stephanie Grisham doesn't even try to do press briefings. All she does is come up with convoluted lies to try to correct the bald-faced lies Trump tells (such as Melania Trump's personal regard for Kim Jong Un, whom she has never met). Trump is his own comms director and he thinks he's doing a great job, which tells you all you need to know about his general awareness and competence. It's pathetic, and it would be laughable if not for the fact (unfortunate, at this point) that what the president of the United States says always matters. Still. But maybe not for long.

Let’s for a moment make the happy assumption that he is voted out of office next year. What then? While I don’t think he will insist on staying anyway, he is going to be very bitter and tweet like a teenager who got fired from his job for incompetence. This may go on for years, and anything the White House or government does is going to elicit a comment (or several). I hope… hope hope… that these tweets are not blasted all over cable news. While he’s President, I understand… but not when he is an ex-president.

Things will change instantly when he's an ex-president. But yes, he will surely tweet his little fingers off. I hope we in the media keep that in perspective. He will still be a hero to his base, but he will be yesterday's news.

Would you recommend impeachment or Article 25? Why? (Or would you just sit on your hands?)

I recommended it a long time ago. I still recommend it. (It's actually removal, and it's under the 25th Amendment, and the vice president and the cabinet have to do it.) But it's not going to happen unless Trump does something unimaginably crazy. Like nuking a hurricane.

and the Brazilian government is refusing foreign aid. Doesn't that mean the rest of us are doomed, no matter what we do about climate change?

Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world -- not quite as big as Italy's, a little bigger than Canada's. A good deal bigger than Russia's. Twenty-two million dollars won't make the difference one way or the other. The current president, Jair Bolsonaro, is Trumpier than Trump -- a climate change denier who wants to exploit the Amazon. I realistically don't see much of a chance to work with Brail to save the Amazon until he's gone.

on the Sunday talk shows, the Democratic debate stage, and is relegated to a "niche" concern to this administration. I want to see the candidates for the Democratic nomination connect the dots with all the other concerns that they are discussing. After all, there are very few policy goals that climate change won't affect -- infrastructure? check. immigration? check. economy? check. health care? check. Kitchen table issues. Foreign policy issues. Since it is a concern with such wide ranging effects, why won't the DNC allow any debates that focus on this topic? Are they afraid it will turn people off?

Beats me. I think a climate change debate would be good for the party, but apparently the party's leaders disagree.

The one where they can predict how kids will do in life based on which ones can resist eating a treat now based on a promise that if they wait, they can get two later on. Trump is the kid that flunked that experiment. If anyone had done any strategic planning, surely they would have taken a harder stance with Chine very early on. First of all, it would have maximized the amount of time it would take for Xi to wait him out (though China still gets the benefit of never having to face nationwide elections). Second, it would have brought on any economic impact early, so they could have tried to blame it on President Obama - it would have been a lie, but they do a lot of lying. There has been no strategy at all. No getting tough stuff out of the way early in the term. No holding on to some good stuff to spring on everyone just before the midterms and then for the re-election. I guess I'm glad that the Trump family is as bad at politics as they are at their other businesses, but this need for there to be something "fantastic" happening at every moment may be just as damaging to him as the substantive policies being terrible.

These are good insights. Trump's way of doing business is to treat each day as a reality-show episode. That's not only insane, it's self-defeating.

So when does "she has good policies" become what those policies actually are, single-payer healthcare, government paid college tuition, continued trade wars, breaking up specific tech companies (because it worked so well when the government tried this with Microsoft in the 1990s) and all financed solely by a wealth tax that WaPo have pointed out is unlikely constitutional and any talk of tax increases only the non 0.001% is "Republican smears" or whatever. Oh nothing to date on climate change or immigration. I mean to say when do we stop just blanketing all what she proposing in "lots of plans" and start talking about what she wants to do and not only frame in the way her campaign wants it to be.

Um, you seem to know Elizabeth Warren's plans in considerable detail. So I guess we're doing a lousy job of hiding them from public scrutiny.

Hey comments like that will give fruitcakes a bad name,

Some would say it's not possible to give fruitcakes a bad name, but I would have to disagree. When I was a kid, my grandmother would make two kinds of fruitcake. One was weird (it had coconut in it, I think, not that I dislike coconut) but the other was sublime.

You have been very frank in your assessments of Donald Trump’s lies. However, do you ever feel that traditional standards of journalism are ill-equipped to address his behavior and the resulting treatment in the press (not deliberately) normalizes it?

It took us a while, but I think we (speaking here, somewhat grandly, for The Media) have finally developed the muscles and moves needed to cover a president whose word is totally unreliable and whose behavior is so erratic. I still don't see how it's possible to totally ignore him, so it may be the case that by covering him at all we normalize him to some degree. 

Nixon was pardoned, and the criminals involved in the Iran Contra Affair were pardoned also. Do you think it's a real possibility that Trump would be pardoned or does he face realistic chances of doing some time?

I honestly don't know. I once thought it unthinkable that a former president might actually face incarceration. Now I just don't know. 

Seems like Trump's claim of a China phone call re-starting trade talks was a lie. I believe it was intended to keep the Dow average from cratering like it did on Friday. That's a lie told to influence the price of stocks by someone who is heavily invested there - or at least heavily politically invested. Why is this not an impeachable offense?

One hopes somebody at the SEC is keeping an eye on stock trading by the president, his family members and his cronies. Add that to the list of impeachable offenses...

The media is all agog over this Monmouth poll that shows Biden losing some ground. It's just one poll so why is the media salivating over it like it's fresh meat thrown to a hungry dog?

Because it says something so starkly different from what other polls have said. Focusing so much on that one poll is a mistake. It may be an outlier or it may be the canary in the coal mine -- and we won't have the slightest idea until more polls come in.

Trump is really getting markedly worse, isn't he? It's not my imagination?

I realized today that my last three columns in a row have all been some variation on "he's getting worse." I think he is -- or, perhaps, we're getting to see the reality that was always there. Without a communications operation, Trump is unmediated. (And, I'm guessing, unmedicated.)

Unsure if you ever visited the Neuschwanstein Castle, but I remember reading about the fall of the "Mad King" Ludwig II of Bavaria who built it. There was a standoff between him and his ministers. His ministers had to power to declare him mad and thus unfit, but he had to power to dismiss his ministers at any point without cause. In the end, the ministers struck first. Mention it because the 25th Amendment assume the President wouldn't be able to stop his or her Cabinet and Vice President because they are in a coma. Really Trump would just fire all his Cabinet before they could do anything.

The way to do it would be for Vice President Pence to convene the Cabinet without the president's knowledge, declare him unable to discharge the duties of his office, and then quickly report that fact to the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate. Then Pence would be president. Trump could appeal, and Congress would make the ultimate decision. It would take a two-thirds vote of both chambers to keep Trump from resuming his presidency. None of this is going to happen. If Trump orders it, this bunch will probably go ahead and nuke a hurricane.

Would he have taken away their socialized medicine?

The clever Greenlanders would have been able to keep it by renaming it Trumpcare.

FYI - CNN is broadcasting climate change townhalls with all of the major candidates next week.

Thanks for the info.

I don't see anyone in the Democratic race who would pardon him. But State of NY charges are the most likely ones to put Trump in prison. By far. And it would be money laundering/lying on mandatory disclosures.

I think you're right. There's a scenario under which Trump could resign before leaving office, then Pence could be sworn in and issue some sort of blanket pardon. But it would be hard for him to cover all possible federal offenses. And of course a pardon would have no impact on potential state charges, which I agree look more menacing to Trump.

Chances the other leaders choose to stay elsewhere, or cancel the entire event?

If he were to have the G7 at Doral, that would seem to me a clear and unambiguous violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Add it to the list...

What motivates people like Tom Cotton to fall on grenades for Trump? Are they planning to make him President-For-Life?

Ambition. Tom Cotton has a lean and hungry look. He wants to be president someday and apparently wants to keep the faith with Trump's base. 

It might make for a plotline on "24" or "Homeland," but "Cabinet move quickly" on anything, let alone overthrowing a sitting President seems pretty fictional regardless if it's Trump or Nixon or Obama.

Totally. Not going to happen. Perhaps should, but won't.

Hi Gene, What are your thoughts on Joe Walsh challenging Trump? His views are abhorrent, and he has said some absolutely disgusting things. On the other hand, if he makes it to the general election as an independent (a big If, I know), and shaves even one point off of Trump's vote totals in WI or FL, that could be seismic. I think it's possible to condemn his views and inflammatory rhetoric while welcoming his *presence* in the race as a tactical benefit to those of us who want Trump gone.

"Abhorrent" is an understatement. But as a matter of practical politics, presidents who face credible primary challenges tend to lose general elections. So the more traction Walsh gets, even if he doesn't run in the general, the worse Trump's prospects become.

I am a Canadian who like most people who are not Americans, has had a complicated attitude to the United States. While it took decades to get action on acid rain, the EPA did some great work in reducing emissions and protecting the environment in other ways. While your country has propped up cruel dictators, it has also been a leader in foreign aid during disasters. Then came the latest President, and while he provided lots of laughs through his actions and through commentary by Colbert and others, as more chickens come home to roost, it is harder to laugh. The latest powerful symbol of his failed presidency was his empty chair at the G7 climate change talks. The world is quite literally burning, and he holds a press conference in which he shows that he doesn't know that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK. The worst thing is that I and so many citizens of other countries feel so helpless. We can't vote or donate, and it seems like Americans can't seem to help themselves. What hope is there for the world, when what is called the world's greatest democracy cannot find a way to rid itself of someone who is so clearly unfit for office?

This is a question that I believe many people around the world are asking. At this point, it's about Trump. If he's reelected, then it becomes about us. We have a job to do next November, and we'd better get it right.


With that, we'd better quit for the day. Our time is up, I'm afraid. Thanks for participating, everyone, 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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