Opinions Live with Eugene Robinson: Trump clearly didn't have a safe Memorial Day

May 26, 2020

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Hello, everybody, and welcome once again to our weekly discussion. I hope everyone had a pleasant and safe Memorial Day weekend. President Trump didn't, judging by the truly insane nature of his tweets and his stubborn refusal to ever wear a mask. At this point it's simply unacceptable that Twitter doesn't take down the Trump tweets that clearly, brazenly violate the company's policies. He's a bully, and the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, not kneel down. It's your playground, Jack; kick Trump out until he learns to behave. Every once in a while it really hits me how tragic it is to have such a petty, venal, incompetent man as president, especially at a time of real crisis. November can't come fast enough. Vote, everyone. Vote. Let's get started.

After all his posturing, first before Easter and most recently re this past weekend, about churches reopening, I expected to see President Trump spending all day Sunday attending a succession of church services, to demonstrate his sincerity. Actually, no I didn't. Pleasuring himself by going golfing, that I anticipated.

I saw that coming, too. All that huffing and puffing about how churches are essential, and of course he goes golfing instead because that's who he is. Open your eyes, evangelicals. He only pretends to like you, doesn't begin to understand you, and plays you for suckers. 

This attention-getting phrase is dramatic but it overlooks, or is slient, regarding the heroic efforts of NYC hospital medical staff to save lives and the success of the medical workers and their non-stop care as measured by the lives they did in fact save and all those patients who left the hospitals "recovered" from the virus.

You refer to today's column. I meant no slight to the heroic medical workers who saved so many lives, at such great risk to themselves. They are true heroes. I was just being accurate, I believe, about those harrowing days when hospital corridors were lined with desperately ill covid-19 patients and refrigerator trucks were parked outside to hold the bodies of the dead.

Is it possible that the president is afflicted with frontal temporal dementia with an associated condition of a palsy? His verbal assaults, paranoia and his a posture may be indicative of this condition. I would trust you to investigate this. Thank you.

I am not a medical doctor. My editors would not allow me to diagnose the president, nor would I attempt to do so. Knowledgeable readers are under no such restriction, however.

Where is it? Something simple that will resonate. Eugene, the totally mute unimaginative DNC is still stuck in 18th Century; so how about a Nationwide contest sponsored by WAPO? Winner gets a Eugene Robinson Jersey and hat, like the Heileman/Schmidt jerseys. An example might be "MAKE AMERICA HEALTHY AGAIN!" Tweeting our thoughts to we in the choir isn't gonna cut it. Thank you for your consideration and your service to mankind. 

The Post as an institution doesn't, and shouldn't, enlist in any political party. That said, since I'm an opinion columnist, I'll express my desperate hope that the DNC is paying attention to what you say. Why are Republicans so good at communicating in a punchy, pithy way and Democrats so bad at it? Why?

Will he actually leave or claim fraud and refuse?

I have to answer this question this week. The answer is that he will do both. He will claim fraud, wallow in alleged victimhood, and leave the White House on Jan. 20. Assuming, as you say, he loses the election.

Why has no one charged Trump with perjury or any other action for all of his false statements? Why has the press not printed a list of statement by statement that were out right lies by Trump With the truth next to each lie? Why has the press not called him a liar?

The president has immunity for liability stemming from his official acts, and he would doubtless claim that his statements and tweets are official. But Lord, where have you been? We call him a liar literally every day. The Post has documented more than 18,000 lies since he took office. 

Do you believe that Trump is a genuine threat to American democracy? When I compared him to Mussolini 3 years ago, my friends chuckled. They’re not laughing anymore...what do you think?

My evolution is the same as yours. I don't think he's a threat to our system of regular elections and handoffs of power. But he has damaged our democracy by eroding its underpinnings. There has to be some compunction about telling blatant lies. Officials have to be capable of feeling shame. It will take much effort, and much integrity, to rebuild what we once had.

Doesn't Joe Biden now have to nominate a black woman for Vice President? Biden wins with a 65% turnout; a black woman will help Biden get there. Michelle Obama is the black woman that would without question achieve a 70% turnout. Could Michelle Obama turn down America under the present circumstances? And Barack could be Secretary of State.

When Michelle Obama says she's not running for office, I believe her. Not gonna happen.

Last Fall there was some chatter that Trump might dump the VP for Nikki Haley as his 2020 running mate, and Haley was said to be gunning for the job. With Pence in charge of the COVID-19 response, doesn't he make a convenient scapegoat for how botched the response was? Any chance Trump will dump his VP?

I doubt Trump will dump Pence, but loyalty has always been a one-way street for this president so anything is possible. 

Has no one pointed out that President Trump keeps erroneously calling the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918 the "1917 Flu Epidemic?" I heard him make that mistake again on TV just 2 days ago (May 19). My own grandfather came down with it on Thanksgiving Day 1918 and died of it a few days later. The fact that he can't even get the year right makes you wonder about the rest of his understanding.

This is one of the weird tics that Trump has. He gets some wrong idea in his head and it can't be dislodged with a crowbar. It's strange -- but, again, I'm not a doctor and can't diagnose him.

By all reports President Trump spends considerable time each day and/or night watching television. Plus, it’s obvious that considerable time is spent “tweeting”. This is clearly a considerable amount of time on a daily basis. What aspects of his job is he forced to delegate to others to keep our country running that other presidents have taken care of personally?

Most of it, clearly. Which is probably a good thing, on balance, given his tenuous grip on things like facts and logic.

Why are none of us receiving advice on how to survive Covid-19 when we catch it? It looks like we will all get an opportunity to experience it, with the morbidity higher for people with comorbidities, with ethnicity apparently among them. There's ONE study from Northern Europe that suggests that higher levels of Vitamin D are protective and lower the intensity of Covid and also lower the morbity rate. Why do I hear so little of it in our media? Why don't my doctors know about it? We've had 90,000 opportunities to "learn"-- what have we learned about prepping ourselves to survive?

Medical professionals are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of covid-19 studies, most of which are preliminary and can only be taken as suggestive, rather than definitive. I'm not aware of the study you reference, but I think we'd have heard more about it if Vitamin D really looked like a magic bullet against this disease.

Hi Mr. Robinson -- Thanks for your wonderful and insightful columns. I have two questions: 1) Your thoughts on why/how we are all supposed to rely on poll numbers favoring the Dems in November? I know I felt pretty broken after all the 2016 optimistic predictions proved so wrong and am completely unable to summon any optimism for 2020. Do you have reason to believe the polls are more reliable this time around? 2) Trump continues to receive endless free air time from all the cable news stations 24/7, which was thought to help his election in 2016. Any thoughts or solutions?

Polls are snapshots, capturing moments in time, and all of them have margins of error. The national polls in 2016 were quite close to the final result -- remember, Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes -- but the state polls missed Trump's surge in the Rust Belt. One factor that's different is how we, the consumers, read the polls -- what expectations we bring. In 2016, hardly anyone thought Trump could really win. This year, we may be overcompensating by thinking he's some kind of political colossus towering above a supine nation. Objectively, I believe, he is eminently beatable and probably will be beaten. 

How are you personally able to maintain your poise and equilibrium so well in the face of so many falsehoods presented daily by President Trump?

Oh, I'm not. There are times when I want to throw things. I do think, though, that I've internalized the fact that the president lied yesterday, he's lying today and he will lie again tomorrow. This is shocking and unacceptable, but that's reality. Until we, with our votes, change it.

In your columns, you seem pretty confident that Trump is headed toward defeat, and may even take the Senate with him. And honestly I can't imagine him doing much to broaden his appeal, or the number of dead and unemployed to drop. But other columnists and analysts portray the election as very close, and perhaps even favoring Trump. And most people I talk to seem convinced we're headed for another four years of this (the main argument being "We got cocky last time, and look how that turned out"). Can you say anything to convince them, and me, that our national nightmare really will end in November?

Look, I'm not sure it would be good to go into November feeling as if Trump's defeat is a foregone conclusion. Quite the contrary: I think the attitude should be one of desperation to get every single anti-Trump voter to the polls and make sure that every one of those votes is counted. If and only if that is made to happen, I believe, Trump is toast.

Hi Gene -- thanks for taking questions today and for your recent column. Many pundits and such have said that sooner or later the cost of going all in on Trump will be too high and his Republican enablers will start peeling off to save themselves. Are we seeing any moment away from him at all, even now with the Republican majority in the Senate in real doubt, the strong disapproval of Trump's abysmal handling of COVID 19, and Trump himself in a very competitive race for re-election? Are they getting any sort of nod from McConnell to do what you can to save yourself, or is he too busy on his one man crusade to remake the federal judiciary while he still has the majority to care much about anything else beyond that?

McConnell cares above all about his Senate majority, much more than he cares about the presidency. But endangered GOP senators seem to have decided their best option, or perhaps their only option, is to stick with Trump hell or high water. Polls right now suggest that water is well above flood stage, but of course the test won't come for another few months.

Yes, it was a dumb thing to say and Biden rightly apologized. But it was dismaying to see the amount of high-morality media coverage that one ill-advised remark got when compared with the gushing of garbage that flows from the Trump Twitter account. (And, yes, Jack Dorsey needs to show some spine here re removing the Scarborough staffer smear.)

Agreed, on all counts.

In the next election, where or who is the nexus of power to improve Biden chances of election? I am worried by his appearance of weakness even though he is leading in polls.

You might recall that there was a lot of angst about Biden's "weakness" during the primaries, yet he beat all comers. Maybe he's not as weak as some people seem to think.

I can't disagree at all with your introductory stance about how Twitter should take down Donald Trump's tweets, but you know exactly what'll happen--he'll cry victim, call Twitter a Trump-hating platform of the left, say that nobody in the history of Twitter has ever been treated so badly, etc.

Of course, but who cares? Twitter is supposed to have rules, and he should be treated like anyone else when he violates them.

Does Trump and the GOP have any idea what they'll do if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act in June

They don't have a clue.

Any chance Republican Senators, especially Chuck Grassley, will do something more than sit on their hands while Trump systematically destroys independent oversight of his Administration?

I really doubt it. Trump keeps firing inspectors general, and what has Chuck Grassley done? What has he even said? Don't hold your breath.


That's all for today, folks. Our time is up. Thanks for participating, and I'll see you again next week. Stay safe!

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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