Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson: Vice President Kamala Harris?

Dec 03, 2019

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Welcome, everybody. Um, it's kind of a busy day. President Trump is at the NATO summit and, to put it bluntly, can't seem to shut up. He has spent two full hours haranguing reporters today, so far, with more opportunities still ahead. He has called Rep. Adam Schiff "deranged," claimed not to know Prince Andrew, and slammed French President Emmanuel Macron -- who, by the way, seems to have put Trump on the defensive with his critique of NATO and his sharp instruction to Trump, face to face, to "let's get serious." Oh, and back in Washington, we're waiting for the release of the House Intelligence Committee impeachment report. And in Madrid, meanwhile, a UN climate change conference is debating the fate of the planet. And it's just midday. Let's get started.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today. Polling regarding the impeachment probe seems not have changed much, despite the overwhelming evidence (in my view) of wrongdoing. Does that surprise you at all? Is is fair to say that nothing, and I mean nothing, will move Republicans and independents? (for the record, I'm still a believer that impeachment is/was the right thing to do, no matter what the polls show).

The polls, basically, have not budged. Which means most Americans are in favor of impeachment, while a substantial minority are not. The question, in my opinion, isn't what might or might not move Republicans, at this point. The question is whether the president's actions were such that he must be impeached. I believe they were.

With emissions still increasing, our reality is no longer about curbing climate change, it is about adapting to it. China, India, and the US are not going to make the cuts needed in 5-10 years just to plateau the emissions.

Our reality has to be twofold: both mitigation and adaptation. There have to be urgent efforts to curb emissions; and there have to be urgent efforts to help us cope with the warming that has already taken place and the further warming that is inevitable. We can't focus on just one or the other.

Why are democrats getting so skiddish about impeachment for fear of revving up Trump's base? Unless I missed a memo, didn't their candidate get three million more votes in the last election? Why can't democrats just be like republicans for once: play to their base and dare independents to vote for someone else? Daring independents to vote for Trump seems like a pretty winable bet -- and as an added bonus, they'll be doing the right thing in the process?

I'm on record as being against the skittishness you describe. President Trump is going to inflame his base somehow, no matter what Democrats do. And if anyone wants to wager that being impeached (though probably acquitted in the Senate) is a political plus for a president seeking reelection, I'll take the other side of that bet.

Virtually all experts in the field are saying we have a 3-alarm fire happening. And many people, including you (thank you very much), are spreading the word and saying we have to do more. A lot more. We also have plenty of people saying the opposite. In terms of action, I'm afraid there's no practical difference between the recognizers and the deniers. I just don't see the action taking place. The Green New Deal is a big plan. Maybe the right one, maybe not, but it certainly seems to be at the scale that's needed. And it doesn't have support. It would be political suicide for government leaders to do a 180 and put every available resource towards this huge problem. So they don't do it. And the problem seems too big to tackle without all major governments on board. How in the world can we protect our children and their children? It seems we are powerless here. Am I wrong?

The world will address climate change at some point. The questions is whether we do it now or wait another 20 or 30 years, when effective action will be even more expensive and disruptive -- and the damage to the planet will be much more grave. It's our choice.

I had to agree with most of them that Trump is likely to be re-elected. Not that any of us were happy about it, quite the opposite, but everyone was feeling rather resigned. I wanted to cheer up the table, and mentioned that there was one possibility that could turn the tables. Bolton could come up with an October surprise in his book. I'm thinking, absolute proof that the administration does have a back door to the Kremlin, that Putin has dictated most, if not all, of his foreign policy moves, and that the leverage is that for the past two decades or so, Putin and the oligarchs he controls have been the only thing preventing the financial explosion of the Trump empire (as in the net worth of the whole thing is a couple of million bucks or possibly even negative if you take into account off book loans). Not that I think Bolton really could have written proof of that, but he might know it in other ways. Bolton would be very hard for the "Republican classic edition" people to ignore.

It is significant that many people believe Trump will be reelected. It is also significant that polls unanimously show him losing to the major Democratic contenders. The 2020 election is likely, in my opinion, to be close. If you want Trump to lose, don't sit around waiting for John Bolton to swoop in and somehow save the day. Instead, get out and work for his Democratic opponent. 

I've been watching morning shows today, and just saw The View. Panelists are freaking out about his use of the phrase "No Malarkey", calling it confusing and not understandable by Millenenials and first time 18 year old voters. Is it really too much to ask young people to look up words they don't know? I realize these people have had helicopter and snowplow parents; I don't recall adults bending over backward to spoon feed me anything - I had to learn, ask, research or educate my self on what I didn't know. Are they really so feeble they can't explore things unfamiliar to them? When do they take agency of their lives?

Sounds to me like that "View" discussion was, ahem, a bunch of malarkey.

Do you think Attorney General Barr will manage to defuse the power of the Inspector General's findings much as he did with the Mueller report?

The attorney general does not get to edit the IG report. Period. He does get to submit a response, and I guess we should expect him to do so. But the report will be the report and there's nothing he can do about it.

Honestly, I would have bet on another Francophone. I pictured him slamming Justin Trudeau, but than again, the summit isn't over yet?

Macron seems to have decided to get under President Trump's skin, and he is successfully doing so. Macron's play may be an attempt to take over European leadership from the lame-duck Angela Merkel. Or maybe he's just had it with Trump. In any event, Trump seemed defensive and rattled.

This might be more of a technical question, but how does polling translate when it's a caucus state such as Iowa?

Caucus states are harder to poll accurately, and they often produce surprises. So pay attention to the poll numbers in Iowa but don't bet the ranch that they are right.

Would you have picked Pete Buttigieg as the one of the less well known Democratic candidates to be seriously contending with the top tier 70-somethings? I don't think I would.

Buttigieg is a young candidate who doesn't seem, let's be honest, very young at heart. 


Oh, and speaking of the Democratic field, it just got smaller. Sen. Kamala Harris just dropped out, according to the breaking-news banner on my tv screen. Just what we needed. More news.

Gene, I just saw that she is out of the race. That saddens me, because I thought she had the potential to be a great candidate with the potential to take down Trump. What do you think went wrong?

To be honest, I don't really know. The conventional wisdom is that voters just couldn't get a handle on who she is and what she stands for. I thought she was a talented candidate and predicted she would do better. But in politics, like in Hollywood, nobody knows anything.

Maybe Macron is angry about Trump's latest tariff threats?

He probably is angry about that, but I wouldn't expect such annoyance to be expressed so publicly. I believe Macron knows what he's doing, or thinks he does, and so he must have a reason for putting Trump on the defensive. Maybe it's the old "punch the bully in the face" theory.

Do you think the tariffs on Brazil were a puerile attempt to punish them for supplanting the US as China’s major soybean supplier?

Possibly. But it certainly shows other world leaders that flattering Trump and trying to suck up to him, as Brazilian President Bolsonaro has done, gets you squat.

do you think we'll see most of the 1-4%ers drop out before the end of the year? Things seem to be gaining momentum

Generally speaking, campaigns end when they run out of money. So if you want to know who's likely to drop out next, pay attention to how the candidates' fundraising efforts are going.

Eugene, I disagree that being impeached is not a political plus for Trump. He will surely be acquitted in the Senate and this will just give him more ammunition against the Democrats. The facts don't matter, and I fear this process will just make the Democrats look bad.

But how does it help Trump? Are there really people on the fence whose thinking goes, "Gee, Trump got impeached, I think I'll vote for him"? If people are going to vote for him because they dislike the Democrats, they'll probably do that anyway, impeachment or no impeachment. At least that's how it seems to me. Maybe I'm missing something.

It is the view of a lot of us on the center left that the Republican Party has given up on honesty, decency or serving the people of the United States when it doesn't suit their interests, which seems to be quite often. Where is this party going to be, as a political force, in the next 5 to 10 years?

Our two political parties are resilient and adaptable. When one loses enough elections -- like the Democrats during the Reagan era -- it changes itself. So I think the Republican Party will ultimately change -- but only if voters force it to.

Any thoughts on why Warren has slipped so far in the last month or so? She's still my #1 so I am a bit baffled.

I think Democrats just haven't made up their minds yet. Don't count Warren out -- she can bounce back -- but nobody has this thing in the bag. We could potentially have four different winners in the first four primaries, followed by a mixed result on Super Tuesday, followed by... well, I don't know what. We might not know the nominee until quite late in the spring.

Sure takes the pressure off Boris Johnson, who doesn't want Trump messing with his election chances.

Johnson will be on pins and needles until Air Force One is wheels up. He's deathly afraid that Trump will say something in support of his candidacy, and that this backing will cost him precious support among British voters, who generally can't stand Trump. 

Today, Trump says he doesn't know Prince Andrew, the man who escorted him to Westminster Abbey last year. He lies about everything...world leaders can't trust him, we -- the voters -- shouldn't. How do we cope?

Take a walk. Take a nap. Hug someone you love. Live your life, and then work like hell to get President Trump out of office.

More breaking news -- the House Intelligence Committee report just dropped. Cable news anchors are now reading it live.

Good afternoon. Without necessarily taking sides, it's probably a good thing that the 67 Senate votes needed to oust a president are difficult to obtain. If it were easy to remove a president from office, it would happen quite often due to all of the partisan disagreement. And constantly breaking in a new president would likely destabilize our government. That's why the best way to remove a politician from office will always be to vote on election days.

I actually agree with you (though I would surely vote to remove this particular president). Removing a president is supposed to be hard. But the impeachment clause is in the Constitution for a reason. The Founders intended it to be used when necessary. My view is that if it is not used against this president, then why is it even there?

A lot of them are going to have to go out and convince suburban Moms that "not guilty" was a perfect vote. Judging from the retirements I suspect a lot of them think so, too.

My view is pretty close to yours.

With the candidates proper desire to seek diversity and inclusion, the group that seems to be left out are older Americans. Malarkey is not part of my lexicon but Biden used the phrase effectively in his vice presidential debate (seven years ago). Surely there are enough policy positions, items from his record and legitimate items to bring up. The talking and mocking heads should remember that old boomers do one thing very well, we vote.

I agree. Malarkey, baloney, who cares? That's not the basis for deciding whether Biden should be the nominee or not, in my opinion.

What are the chances she's been tapped for a VP run?

I think she would be on a lot of short lists for vice president. I can especially see how a presidential candidate would value her prosecutorial ability. The veep candidate often fills the attack-dog role, and Harris seems to do that quite well.

Why is it so hard to find the weekly Ranking Committee analysis? I find it very enlightening but can’t find one from Friday Nov 29 unless you guys took it off for the holiday. And re: Harris I had such hopes for Kamala Harris and she became a parody of a candidate, equivocating about every position. Was sad to watch. She reminded me of Julia Louis Dreyfus character Selina Meyer on Veep.

Gee, maybe her consolation prize is an armful of Emmys?


Whew! That's it for today, folks. Thanks for joining in, and I'll see you again next week!

Power Rankings took a week off last week. You can find the landing page for all rankings here.

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 2009, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America" (2010), "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson lives with his wife and two sons in Arlington.
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