Opinion Focus

Eugene Robinson
Washington Post Columnist
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post opinion columnist Eugene Robinson was online Tuesday, June 3 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his recent columns and the latest news.

Discussion Group: Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood

The transcript follows.

Archive: Eugene Robinson discussion transcripts


Eugene Robinson: Hi, everybody. Well, is today the day? Do we get a claim of victory? A concession? Or do we soldier on, even though there are no primaries or caucuses left? If I had to place a bet right now, I'd wager that we don't get an airtight final resolution tonight -- maybe an interim resolution, an acknowledgment of the math, a nod to party unity. Until that long-anticipated flood of superdelegates finally breaches the levees, I don't see a definitive end to the Democratic contest. But we'll see in a few hours. Let's talk it over.


Fairfield, Calif.: Why can't Hillary convince the superdelegates that Obama can't win in November? The electoral college favors Republicans to begin with, and the Bradley effect and latent white racism will hurt Obama in many critical states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. I also believe that many Hispanics will vote against Obama simply because he is black -- having lived in Mexico, I saw how racist that society is and sense that such attitudes carry over into local politics here in California. With Hispanics, Asians and the rest of the components of the Bradley Effect hurting Obama, McCain may even carry California (despite what the polls say -- which is the definition of the Bradley Effect).

Eugene Robinson: Three reasons, I think. First, the results of the three special House elections this year, especially the ones in Louisiana and Mississippi, where Republicans -- running in ultra-safe GOP districts -- specifically tried to link their Democratic opponents to Barack Obama, and by extension Jeremiah Wright and anyone else Obama may have met. Democrats won those elections, and this gives superdelegates some confidence that he won't be a liability at the head of the ticket. Second, the fact that there are electability questions about Clinton as well. Finally, Obama won more elected delegates, and it's hard to overturn that.


Rockville, Md.: I guess you have to get Hillary to quit before she wins the nomination -- otherwise it would look bad for all the talking heads.

Eugene Robinson: Believe me, if she sees a way to win, she won't quit.


Baltimore: Eugene: Just finished reading the comments about today's column. I am simply amazed at the amount of vituperation expressed by folks who read you (and not just you, but Howard Kurtz, Richard Cohen, Dana Milbank -- any columnist). I honestly wonder what these people would be doing were it not possible to buy a PC at Best Buy for under $400. Seriously, were there millions of Americans wandering around seemingly in a blind rage before the Internet was invented? I am certain 99 percent of these folks never would have invested in a postage stamp to share their "insights." What are your thoughts?

Eugene Robinson: I've got to say that I too often am surprised at the level of anger in some of the comments. You should see my e-mail, too. I think there's something about the Internet that gives people permission to be exceedingly rude. Where all this anger comes from, I don't know.


Decatur, Ga.: Have you read Todd Purdum's latest piece in Vanity Fair on Bill Clinton? Do you think this laundry list of shady alliances and dealings (particularly in regard to his presidential library) would have destroyed Hillary Clinton in a general election? She says she has been vetted; I'm not so sure. Thanks -- I admire your work.

washingtonpost.com: The Comeback Id (Vanity Fair, July issue)

Eugene Robinson: I have indeed read Todd Purdum's piece. For me, the questions about the identity of donors to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Library -- and questions about Bill Clinton's business dealings -- are the most interesting. I don't care whether or not he runs with a fast jet-set crowd. I do care if he's abetting weird uranium deals in Central Asia...


Seattle: I think that regardless of the speech she gives tonight, Sen. Clinton won't be giving up any leverage she has at the convention in terms of platform and policy. In terms of the overall campaign, there were a lot of fundamentally solid policy ideas discussed, thanks mostly to Edwards, but Clinton and Obama picked that up after Edwards dropped. Clinton's main thrust since that time has been that Obama's stances are softer than hers, and I don't see that she's going to give that up.

Eugene Robinson: No, she isn't going to give that up, nor should she. I think she already has had a great impact on the party's policy positions, and I'm confident that she will have further impact no matter what happens tonight.


Baltimore: So far today eight superdelegates (well, two superdelegates and six half-superdelegates) have endorsed Obama, and there are solid rumors of 13 more. Will Obama get enough superdelegates today that the pledged delegates from South Dakota and Montana will put him over the top, or will there still be five or 10 to go tomorrow morning?

Eugene Robinson: If I had to put money on it, I'd bet that he still has five or 10 to go at the end of the evening. I can understand why some superdelegates -- especially elected officials in districts Clinton carried in the primaries -- might want to wait to hear whatever she says tonight before announcing.


Annapolis, Md.: Regarding the Clinton campaign denial of the AP story regarding her stepping down tonight, I have a technical question for you. The AP wouldn't make up the story out of thin air, so someone from inside the Clinton camp must have believed she would "concede". Correct? If so, what is going on inside the campaign to have two distinct strategies emerging from the candidate? Is it a sign of disfunctionalism, or is it reasonable to have the inner sanctum of the campaign really torn about what to do tonight? This is a rather rambling question, but I am just trying to get a handle of how such a big story could be leaked and then plugged up again.

Eugene Robinson: Two possibilities: Either there is a split inside the campaign about what she should say or do tonight; or the plan was not to say anything until after the voting ended in South Dakota and Montana. I suppose it also is possible that the AP's source was misinformed.


Richmond, Va.: Thanks for you insight and your wonderful way with words. As a right-winger in "recovery" I read you religiously! Okay ... have the Democrats fallen for the Obama flash-in-the-pan? Meaning: In the general election Clinton certainly would take West Virginia, while Obama likely would not. The same is true in my home state -- a Clinton is seemingly more likely to take Virginia than an Obama. Will there be Obama buyers' remorse?

Eugene Robinson: You're right about West Virginia. I think you're wrong about Virginia, though -- Obama won the state handily, it has been trending blue in recent years, and my guess is that he has a better chance there than she does. The two candidates envision different electoral-college maps that would lead them to victory -- Clinton sees herself taking the states Kerry took, plus Florida and Ohio. Obama sees himself taking swing states or red states such as Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico, and maybe even cracking the South with Georgia and/or North Carolina.


Columbia, S.C.: I understand that you were born in Orangeburg, S.C. Is that correct? If so, what is your opinion of South Carolina in general, and in particular as far as the changes you have seen in the matters of race?

Eugene Robinson: I was indeed born and raised in Orangeburg. I grew up at the tail-end of the Jim Crow era, so there's no comparison between the South Carolina of my youth and the South Carolina of today. Things aren't perfect by any means, but obviously much improved.


Columbus, Ga.: Did Senator Obama's chances in West Virginia improve thanks to his "cousin" Cheney's remarks yesterday?

washingtonpost.com: Cheney Apologizes For Quip on West Virginia (Post, June 3)

Eugene Robinson: Maybe just a bit. We've all wanted Cheney to lighten up, but maybe he should stick with the "prince of darkness" routine he does so well. Humor isn't his strong point, apparently.


Dryden, N.Y.: So, Gene -- will we be breaking up tonight? I really have loved our standing Tuesday night get-togethers. Thank you for wonderful reporting this primary season. Meanwhile, here's my take on what Clinton will do tonight! Check out " Rose's Turn," from the "Gypsy" soundtrack!

Eugene Robinson: Thanks. I don't know what the MSNBC Tuesday Night Crowd will do after tonight. Maybe Chris, Keith, Rachel, Pat, David, Norah and Chuck can come over to my house next Tuesday and we can talk to one another all evening while my son walks around with our video minicam.


Claverack, N.Y.: I understand Sen. Obama is not afraid to engage Sen. McCain on foreign policy (and indeed, he shouldn't be), but isn't every day he's not pounding on the horrific economy and offering solutions to working families a gift to McCain?

Eugene Robinson: Seems to me he has to do both. Ceding the whole national-security field to McCain would be a mistake, I think.


Washington: There are a lot of democratic women that are going to be very upset about Hillary not becoming the Democratic nominee. What should Obama do to win them over? Will the Clintons really work and campaign hard to make sure that Clinton supporters don't stay home in November, or even vote for McCain?

Eugene Robinson: I think the Clintons will indeed campaign hard for Obama (if and when he becomes the nominee -- and I see that AP is reporting that he has "effectively clinched," whatever that means). Whatever anyone thinks of the Clintons, they are loyal Democrats. And I don't believe either is physically capable of sitting out this election.


Washington: I happened to catch a snippet of "Road to the White House" on MSNBC yesterday, on which you and others were discussing whether or not Obama eats at Applebee's, implying that he cannot "connect" with "regular" people. Can all the pundits please stop attempting to channel so-called "regular people" by resorting to litmus tests like whether someone eats at Applebee's or likes NASCAR or whatever? It makes no sense -- and by the way, how can the pundit class claim to speak for "regular people" given that you all for the most part have similar backgrounds to Obama (i.e. Ivy League colleges, law degrees, jobs in politics, etc.)? Just because someone lives in Washington doesn't mean they aren't a "regular person." I have, however, eaten at Applebee's (many times), so I guess I have that part of the "regular person" test down pat.

Eugene Robinson: Look, I agree. I was making fun of the "Applebee's Test" for regular-person-hood. It highhandedly assumes that the Washington-New York-Los Angeles cognoscenti are complicated, multilayered individuals, while "regular people" are a simpler form of life. It's a bunch of manure.


Washington: Do you find it at all funny that after eight years, Dick Cheney decided to apologize for something -- and it ends up being a West Virginia joke?

Eugene Robinson: Yes, I do find it funny. I guess he also apologized for shooting his friend in the face. But for the war? Torture? Guantanamo? No regrets, apparently.


Bethesda, Md.: I'm the rare Black male who feels Sen. Clinton is better-qualified than Sen. Obama to be president. I know you and many others disagree, as is your right, and I definitely will vote for Sen. Obama in November. I was struck this week by the contrast between your columns and those of E.J. Dionne. They might well have been discussing completely different campaigns. Needless to say, I agree with most, though not all, of Dionne's comments. I hope the Democrats can in fact put this all behind them and work together to defeat Sen. McCain.

Eugene Robinson: Democrats who want to feel good about the party's prospects in the fall should look at the fact that participation in the Democratic primaries has soared, the fact that the party has attracted millions of new members (while the Republican rolls have been shrinking), the fact that the Democrats are likely to be much better financed, etc. The fundamentals still greatly favor the Democratic Party in November.


Roseland, N.J.: If Barak wants North Carolina, does he make it two straight tickets with John Edwards as veep? It would be exceedingly odd, but it makes a lot of sense.

Eugene Robinson: I don't think that's going to happen. Then again, who thought this whole political year would happen?


Anonymous: MSNBC reports Obama magic number down to 29. It happens tonight, or Obama wouldn't of rented out that arena.

Eugene Robinson: Maybe the networks should run some sort of ticker that shows the magic number going down, down, down...


Eugene Robinson: Thanks, everyone, for participating. My time is up for today. Time to put on my game face and get ready to gab until the wee hours. See you again next week.


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