Eugene Robinson Live (Sept. 10)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to our chat on a busy day. The breaking news is that John Bolton, the national security adviser, is boltin' for the exit. President Trump tweeted that he had fired Bolton, but Bolton immediately sent out his own tweet -- and texts to numerous journalists -- making clear that he had resigned, not been fired. (Don't mess with Yosemite Sam.) The final straw may have been Trump's ill-starred attempted Camp David summit with the Taliban, but Bolton -- a bona fide foreign affairs expert, even though he's wrong about almost everything -- must have been steaming at the way Trump was marginalizing him. Trump prefers the advice of those who know much less about the world, or (shudder) following his own naive instincts. I never thought I'd ever express the slightest hint of regret at Bolton leaving a position of power, but it does mean that one of the few administration officials who know anything about anything is gone. In other news, I just saw a bulletin reporting that Bibi Netanyahu is threatening to annex a chunk of the West Bank, which would be calamitous. And today's column is a reminder that unimaginable human suffering continues in the Bahamas. Let's get started.

Did not see that one coming.

President Trump had relegated him to the margins. The national security adviser is supposed to fill the vital role of synthesizing and prioritizing information coming in from State, Defense and the intelligence community. Trump doesn't think he needs information, apparently. He knows it all.

My theory is that Trump's (delusional, narcissistic) dream was to usurp the term "Camp David Accords" from President Carter, whom he's derided, in hopes of bolstering his (Trump's) own desire for a Nobel Peace Prize. As if his tone-deafness in scheduling it for the week of the anniversary of 9/11 weren't bad enough...

I think you may be right. Remember, Trump sincerely believes that he can make any deal with anybody as long as he can get them together with him in a room. This is patently, demonstrably false -- name one deal he's closed as president -- but that's what his famous gut tells him. It was a ridiculous idea from the start, and of course it all fell apart.

Once again I hear declarations that Republicans in Congress and in state offices secretly despise Trump and are "almost ready" to turn on him. OK, I understand they are afraid/unwilling to take any public stand at all. But what about privately? There are things they could be doing to impede Trump without going public. I see no trace of this. In fact, abolishing state primaries seems an unnecessary endorsement (I do understand this is party, not government, but my main point stands).

I'm with you. I no longer pay attention to what Republican members of Congress and party bigwigs say about Trump in private, because it's clear they have no intention of doing a damn thing -- or even saying anything in public. My advice is not to hold your breath.

Hi Gene -- thanks so much for taking questions today. Trump's greed, incompetence, and instability are plain for all to see on a daily basis, and yet there seems to be no urgency on the part of the Democrats to do something. We keep hearing about impeachment without really being impeachment, hearings on this and that, attempts to get documents that are routinely ignored by the Republicans and the administration, on and on. I keep hoping there has to be some grand strategy and Speaker Pelosi knows what she's doing, but I have grave doubts. To me it's a no brainer, but here it is one year out from the election and they're sleepwalking, and the same old nightmares of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory are making their way into my sleep.

Sigh. You're right, of course. As I asked in a column not long ago, if you're not going to impeach this president, then what president would you ever impeach? I actually don't think impeachment or non-impeachment matters very much in terms of next year's election. But Congress has Constitutional responsibilities -- not just Democrats in Congress, but Republicans as well. They have not done their duty.

I suppose this is a case of a broken clock still telling the correct time twice a day.

Hard to root for one party or the other in this fight. The one thing I can say about Bolton is that he is experienced and knowledgeable. He has read history books and can find Afghanistan on a map. The president is, let's face it, a foreign policy ignoramus -- but less eager than Bolton to start wars all over the place. 

I've asked you about Trump's inability to think long term a few times. Are the democrats doing the opposite? If they continue to play a long game where it doesn't really matter if they get Trump's tax returns or Deutche Bank records now, because they expect they will get them sometime between January and a year from October. It will hit like a ton of bricks during campaign season. I keep hearing, "they can't do this as the primary season gets going." Why the heck not? The plausible candidates are almost all senators. The Senate isn't going to be investigating much of this, if anything at all. It is fodder for the campaign, sets a nice background for promising anti-corruption bills, and keeps the president on the edge of hysteria. It also provides fodder for his Republican challengers. I don't see why they can't just keep doing this and even have an impeachment vote AFTER the election. Just make sure that the moderate House members don't have to take that vote until after they have been re-elected.

All true. I keep coming back to the fact that Trump has committed outrageous and impeachable acts. The abuses of power alone would take longer than our brief hour to list. Doing the right thing ought to take precedence over gamesmanship about timing, it really should.

Who will replace Bolton now that Trump has picked Jared's coffee boy, who has zero foreign policy experience, as the new Middle East peace envoy? (I wish I were making this up: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/06/white-house-announces-jared-kushners-former-coffee-boy-new-middle/)

Not a clue. What seasoned, competent professional would take the job? It almost has to be some mediocrity who's unwilling to bring the president news he doesn't want to hear. 

I never thought I would be shocked and a little bit terrified of seeing Bolton go, but who is going to step in and be the adult in the room? That White House is more and more run over by incompetents, corrupts or barely-out-of-college people (I'm looking at you the new Middle East Envoy). Fingers crossed, we don't have any significant crisis in the next 18 months 'cause it will a disaster of epic proportions.

You're right. One of the big stories of this administration is the dearth of top-quality people serving in key roles. Every White House I've covered, Democratic or Republican, has been full of smart, accomplished, hard-working people at every level. Not this one. It's a Potemkin White House -- all facade, no substance.

Hey, it's yet another day in crazytown, and I truly believe the biggest reason Trump will not win reelection is Trump fatigue - Americans who are sick and tired of the daily drama and want to go back to a time when we weren't constantly thinking about what nutty thing the President did in the last 5 minutes.

From your lips to God's ear. I think that may indeed be a factor. The chaos is indeed exhausting.

The Trump administration seems to expel or lose staff like a tree in autumn. I guess people can only take it in that environment for so long. Tell me why again the GOP seems to keep propping up this lying loser?

Because Trump has solid support from the Republican base, and GOP members of Congress know that he will try to end their careers if they cross him.

One thing is weird is why her having just over ten million dollars raised from big-money donors for her U.S. Senate campaign being used to for her presidential primary campaign is why did this story take so long to get out? She seems to have taken her reelection in the Bay state for granted which of course she won, but it created a bunch of bad statistics for her. She didn't do better than 2012 race, she did worst than both Gov. Baker and also Clinton-Kaine did in Massachusetts and she didn't perform well in white working-class areas of Massachusetts. Maybe if she had spend some of those million of dollars to run even a single TV ad during the 2012 midterms in Massachusetts, that might have improved her standing and given some good stats to run for president on, but she didn't.

Warren didn't spend that money in her last Senate race because she didn't have to. And I don't think her victory margins in Massachusetts are an issue. But yes, she does need to explain why big money was okay then but isn't okay now.

Ok so it has been reported and it was widely televised that Trump revealed classified information to the Russians. I understand that legally war has to be declared in order for what he did to be construed as treason. However, since we are at war in Afghanistan and the Russians are on the side of our adversaries why isn't this treason?

As president, he gets to decide what's classified and what's not. So he may legally be able to tell the Russians whatever he wants. Shudder.

I read that no democracy has lasted and that it is about the right amount of time for this one to fail, as it seems to be, as it is in the UK as well. Do you have any knowledge of this historical maxim?

I don't believe there's any kind of sell-by date for democracies. Ours and Britain's are going through rough patches, but both can get back on track. I hope.

national security advisers clinton: 2 in 8 yrs bush: 2 in 8 years obama: 3 in 8 years trump: 4 in 2 years

Chaos. 

I understand that the reason that Pelosi doesn't want to impeach Trump is a) because it might help him as it did Clinton b) that he wants to be impeached (same reason) how valid is that mode of thinking?

I don't think Trump wants to be impeached. I think it would drive him crazy to have to bear that stigma. And as for Clinton, the fact is that in the election that followed his impeachment, Republicans kept control of Congress and gained the White House. So it wasn't the political disaster that some pretend it was.

Don't you think that scheduling the talks for this week was a rare public relations oversight by Trump? For a guy who is terrifyingly uninformed, he focuses almost entirely on optics--and this would have been a really bad look for him, on the left and the right. I don't want to go full conspiracy theory, but is it possible that this is why he abruptly cancelled? The American serviceman was killed more than a week before he announced that it was off. If that was the impetus, what took him so long?

I can't begin to fathom what's going inside the president's head, but my guess is that he cancelled the Camp David sleepover because he realized it was going to be a complete failure. The death of the serviceman is, as you intuit, a lame excuse.

I am despairing at how to even speak to Republicans any more, including people who I had counted as friends. I don’t mean people who are conservative or hold different opinions - I mean I have absolutely no respect or tolerance any longer for people who are propping up a president and administration that is so clearly incompetent, cruel, and destructive (on too many issues to count). How do we move forward?

I don't know. I guess we'll find out.

Do you think our President might be a bit jealous of the attention paid to the Democratic presidential primary and so he causes all this extra level of nonsense?

You're sensing that maybe he feels the need to be the center of attention? Like, every minute of every day?

The common refrain from "responsible gun owners" is they are law abiding citizens so new gun control laws would be an extra burden for them and they are not the criminals who cause all the gun deaths in mass shootings or petty crimes. Yet Tucker Carlson and Meghan McCain and whoever else is that Upper East Side crowd of millionaire pundits are saying that if a ban on AK-47 were to pass, gun owners not only wouldn't obey the law, they might also get violent. How weird is that and also annoying that some of your professional colleagues in the fourth estate are adopting that language when asking candidates proposing a mandatory buy back as if that is a rational and normal response to a law you disagree with?

I don't get it, either. If gun owners are not, in fact, responsible enough to follow the law, then isn't that an argument for banning as many guns as possible?

it seems to me that anyone accepting a job in the trump administration understands going in that s/he will be let go at some time in the future in the most humiliating way possible. why do people like Bolton think they're different

I'm thinking ego and ambition have something to do with it.

Is there any chance at all that this will stop? Or be stopped? The coverage of this idiotic decision is sickening to me, partly because it's that agency that my late father worked for for nearly 40 years.

From what I read in The Washington Post, looks like it's happening.

Do you think the Court will still be driving force in Republicans getting out the vote, or do Gorsuch and Kavanaugh getting confirmed sort of take that off the table for Republicans?

I think the Supreme Court had better be a driving force for Democrats in 2020. Who do you want filling the next vacancies? Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are an object lesson in how elections have consequences.

Eugene -- I'm a meteorologist who now works on federal flood-ready infrastructure policies in DC. Enjoyed your piece yesterday, and your last point in particular struck a cord with me. The resilience and adaptation piece of the disaster puzzle seems to often go underappreciated until AFTER a disaster. Building codes that are more forward thinking (i.e., account for future risk rather than consensus codes that are dated by the time they're published) and development decisions that avoid putting additional people and assets are key but typically receive extensive push-back from developers until after additional lives are lost and billions-plus in damages incurred. For example, there's been a $100 billion increase in flood-related disaster damages in every successive decade since the 1980s. This is all to say, what can folks like me and others working in this space do to help you and others in media help communicate the need and business case for proactive solutions? The data and case studies are there and growing (i.e., every $1 invested in disaster mitigation saves $6 in avoided future losses) but the needle in the right direction at a snails pace that still puts the US on an unsustainable costly cycle of disaster damage and repair. Thanks for your insight! Forbes Tompkins, Resilient Infrastructure Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts Flood-Prepared Communities Project

Thanks for your informative post. There's an old saying: "A stitch in time saves nine." We need to be making serious investments in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and every dollar we spend will save many dollars in years to come. 

If she didn't need or want the money for own race in Massachusetts, than put all the time and effort to do all that fundraising for it? People can donate to campaigns directly so why donate to Elizabeth Warren for Senate to have her spend anywhere else, but Massachusetts? Mitt Romney did the same thing is his U.S. Senate race from Utah. He did a lot of big donor fundraising and barely spend any of it and also spend that money in out of state. It's normal, but I don't really like people taking money I or somebody else donated to their campaign and spend it somewhere else or pocket it whether that person is Mitt Romney or Elizabeth Warren.

As you note, though, this is standard practice for both Democrats and Republicans. Maybe someday we will get the money out of politics, though first we'll have to change the ideological composition of the Supreme Court.

It seems like the events of the past 3 years have shown the weaknesses in our political system and the constitution. If the institutions, Congress, won’t take their responsibilities on and the effect is to get the courts setup to favor one side, then with gerrymandering and voter suppression the will of the people can be ignored. For example gun control

The system, on paper, is a good one. We just need to elect the right people.

Any chance that the sharpie incident will have any more impact on public opinion than more substantive lies or misconduct? Nothing seems to have swayed his supporters or enablers so far.

I don't think any one incident will flip the switch. That said, the weather map is something everybody's familiar with and can relate to. So it may have more impact than, say, questions about whether the president should be pressuring the Federal Reserve to resume quantitative easing.

How come some of Boris Johnson's Conservative Party members have the courage to stand up to him and his idiocy while the Republicans in the US Congress seem unable/unwilling to do so with Trump?

Beats me. Integrity, maybe?

 

That's all for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks so much for participating in a lively discussion, and I'll see you again next week!

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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