Eugene Robinson Live (Sept. 17)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to our chat. Lots going on, as usual, and hard to know where to start. Today we lost the great Cokie Roberts, a great journalist who reminded us all of the time when Washington actually functioned. My column today is about the wreck President Trump is making of all three branches of the federal government -- a kind of Dubious Achievement trifecta -- and how hard it will be to set things right once he's gone. Meanwhile, Trump is threatening Iran, kinda, maybe; Brett Kavanaugh is back in the news, in his usual way, involving alleged harassment; Israelis are deciding Netanyahu's political fate as we speak; Corey Lewandowski is about to testify on the Hill; and the Democratic candidates had a debate last week which seems to have changed not much at all. Let's get started.

Just the thought of that makes my head explode...where DO we start? And WHERE? Your thoughts...

Pretty much in the same order I discussed the three branches in the column. It will be difficult, but straightforward, for the next president to restock the executive branch with competent public servants instead of Trump's hacks. The biggest step toward fixing the legislative branch would be taking the gavel away from Mitch McConnell, which is up to you, the voters. And hardest of all will be restoring faith in the judiciary, which will take time.

How does a post-Trump President repair relationships with American allies?

I think our closest allies have basically written off the next 16 months and hope that the United States returns to normal. They'll be patient. But if Trump is reelected, I think they'll seriously begin planning for a world without American leadership. 

So the candidate who there about 10 pieces per day telling us how awful and terrible he and his campaign are is also now the reason gun control legislation is going to fail because of what he said just six days ago? I mean what nonsense are Mayor Pete and Sen. Coons (who nobody mentioned has endorsed another candidate) that there was a "golden moment" to pass something especially since Toomey-Manchin passed in April 2013 and there's been nothing even close since. The President leaked that he won't sign any universal background checks and McConnell has nicknamed himself the "Grim Reaper" and also said he'd kill any gun reform laws, but ignore all that because Beto O'Rourke ruined it?

Beto hasn't "ruined" anything. Background checks poll at upwards of 90 percent. There's no backlash against them. Either Republicans will listen to the will of the people who elected them or they'll stick with the NRA. 

But on this, I do - Trump is a nuisance, but it's the Senate that is enabling him to do the damage he's doing, they are the group that confirmed all these terrible cabinet members. First and foremost get McConnell and his crew out out of office - Trump wouldn't be such a bad president if he hadn't had McConnell to protect and support him and his antics. Trump is just the outward face of the evil, McConnell is the soul of the evil, and he can keep finding New Faces.

By all means, let's get rid of Moscow Mitch. But Trump would be a bad president no matter who the majority leader was.

seems to have lost a lot of momentum. Do you see her getting her groove back? If so, how?

Harris is a question mark. I think she's somewhat out-of-focus. Maybe she needs an issue on which she can drive the debate.

I'm probably wrong, but I kind of want Warren to have a really bad news cycle or a bigger dust up in a debate than John Delaney before I'll really buy into her candidacy. I want to see how she deals with not glowing coverage since it's coming to start the day any of them get the nomination.

Well, she did recover from the DNA test fiasco, so she has some resilience. And she's the best retail politician in the field -- she draws the biggest crowds and spent four hours last night taking selfies with fans. I have two questions about her: Can she translate her retail skills into the wholesale skills needed for a general election campaign? And can she convey the boldness of her proposed policies in a way that makes enough people feel hopeful rather than uneasy?

We have going on this week: maybe war or at least some military engagement with Iran; reinvestigation (because it never happened the first time) of a sitting SCOTUS justice; impeachment investigations ongoing of the president; administration refusing to pass on information from a whistle blower in the National Security apparatus; needing a CR because there is no way the appropriations bills will pass; a major auto workers strike; possible corruption charges against the Secretary of Transportation and whatever else I am missing. I can't even keep track of it all. Oh, and Joe Biden is evidently at least a few decades out of date on the research about what holds back student achievement in impoverished schools which he keeps equating with majority minority schools. Blech.

You think you're exhausted? Those of us who have to write and talk about all this stuff for a living are pretty much on fumes.

Hi Gene -- thanks as always for chatting with us. As an armchair political observer it seems to me that Elizabeth Warren is quietly gaining some momentum and I for one would be very happy if she were the nominee and I think she has the potential to give it to Trump. I think the world of Joe Biden and all that but I fear that if he wins the nomination we are going to spend the entire campaign analyzing his gaffes and shortcomings to death while Trump skates by, unchallenged on his overall unfitness and unrelenting dishonesty. I'd love to know where you think things are at, though.

I know a lot of people who are ready to write Biden off, yet he remains atop the polls. Maybe he'll begin to slide. Maybe he'll get beaten in Iowa and New Hampshire, and South Carolina won't turn out to be the firewall he hoped. But I'm reminded of the fall of 2015, when Trump was leading the GOP polls any my colleagues were writing columns about how Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz was really in the lead, even though that wasn't what the numbers said. It looks to me as if Biden's lead is pretty durable, and I'm guessing that many voters don't care about his "gaffes" -- a word from the dumbed-down language called Journalese. If and when he clearly demonstrates that he's not sharp enough anymore to do the job, I think he'll slide. The fact that he's kind of a marble-mouth (which he's always been) is not seen as disqualifying -- at this point, at least.

If the Nixon administration had insisted that John Dean, G. Gordon Liddy, Jeb McGruder, Haldeman, and Ehrilichman, couldn't testify because of executive privilege?

That long-ago Congress and long-ago Supreme Court never would have allowed such a thing. 

I'm not a Trump guy, but why does America need to lead? The rest of the world is all for American leadership when it means our military protecting them, while they spend very little of their GDP on defense, yet are constantly complaining about our foreign policy and our values. Trump isn't wrong about everything.

I guess the short answer is that if America doesn't lead, others will -- or maybe nobody will. We have by far the biggest economy and most powerful military. If we can be a force for peace and stability in the world -- a big if, these days -- then everybody is better off, especially us.

Here is what annoys me about these media screw ups, like the one at the Times with Kavanaugh and Bloomberg smearing the Labor Dept. aide as anti-semitic. It's the fact they don't answer questions and run for the hills. Bloomberg ordered their employees to stop talking about the Ben Penn Fiasco, and the Times as not responded to questions from Margaret Sullivan and others. I thought the truth was important? that accountability was important. Apparently it is for everyone except media organizations.

You overgeneralize -- thinking of "the media" as some sort of coherent aggregate is wrong; that's not the way we work -- but I do take your point. Media organizations have a duty to be transparent, just like other powerful institutions do. I sincerely believe we're making progress in this direction, generally, but some of us have a long way to go. For starters, I think the NYT and WaPo were wrong to get rid of their ombudsmen.

Think they get it together in time so they don't lose 2020? Trump can't win but Democrats can lose.

As I've said and written several times, I think our old conception of right, left and center is obsolete. That may be how the interest groups still sort themselves, but I don't think it's how voters sort themselves anymore.

Having moved to gun nut state, one thing I learned is NOBODY likes the people who carry an assault riffle at the gas station or wherever. I think if the Beltway, even the ones who go to shooting range once or twice a year, actually interviewed these people, they'd see them as the a**holes they generally are and not worry so munch about placating them while my own kid has to go through active shooter drills which makes me pretty angry?

Don't tell me, tell your senator. Tell the NRA. Most gun owners know that nobody should go around toting an AR-15 and that nobody needs one to shoot a deer.

I think the angst over Beto's remarks are overblown. As Mayor Pete himself noted weeks ago, Trump is going to tar whoever gets the Dem nomination as a communist-socialist-terrorist.

Totally true. 

While you list the detriment that POTUS is to the current state of govt. I think the challenge is simpler than that. It boils down to how much more are the Dems going to take out of my pocket vs. all this other stuff (that doesn't affect the normal person). You can see in the Presidents hesitation to do things that will hit home, or a large swath of voters (like war). I think that the normal voter who follows GOP policies are simply thinking (lets say they make $50k), Do I take $5k out of my pocket for Dem policies? and Dems need to emphasize what the public is getting for that investment.

I'm pretty sure all the Dems would say that $50k-a-year voter is going to have a bit more money in his or her pocket while the $5 million-a-year voters have a bit less.

Is John Bolton now thinking, "Maybe Trump will finally do what I wanted all along!"

My guess is that Bolton is thinking something more like "Free at last!"

I think you've just identified Trump's modus operandi, namely trying to grind down all his opponents.

That's definitely a deliberate strategy, I believe. He's relentless. Don't get worn down.

Don't think it's very quiet. Every week there more coverage of her and it might be overhype since she still has a lot of ground to gain to secure that nomination.

Elizabeth Warren has been gaining ground for months yet still is just basically tied with Bernie Sanders in second place, well behind Joe Biden. Is there enough runway left for her to gain altitude?

Apparently his MO will be to try to stall on answering questions.

Big surprise. Lewandowski is thinking about running for the Senate and wants Trump's endorsement. No way he was ever going to answer questions.

As I watched the Democratic debate, I thought, "Any of these people would be a better President for America than the incumbent."

I thought the same thing. Polls indicate most Americans probably agreed.


Another thing we can all agree on, alas, is that our time is up for today. Thanks for participating, everybody, 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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