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If GOP wins, expect more obstruction -- Opinion Focus with Eugene Robinson

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Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 2:00 PM

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Eugene Robinson: Hi, folks. Welcome to our regular therapy session. Today's column was about politics -- what if the GOP wins? -- but of course we can talk about anything and evertything. So let's get started.

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Bipartisanship: I tend to be conservative in my views, but I do believe in looking at all points of view on any given issue. Do you see any opportunity after the election or when the new Congress begins for less partisanship? If not, how can members of Congress begin to spend more time working together, other than being voted out of office? Finally, I do not only place the blame for partisanship upon Republicans; Democrats have displayed too much partisan rancor in my opinion and both parties should be "encouraged" by the electorate to be more willing to compromise.Thanks for taking this question, and I do enjoy reading your columns.

Eugene Robinson: bipartisanship is what you want, then you can certainly blame both parties -- but I honestly think you have to blame the GOP more, at least in the past two years. Republicans have voted no on measures that THEY THEMSELVES PROPOSED in the past. Democrats have at least had to negotiate with their own Blue Dogs, who have taken positions similar to those that Republicans used to take before deciding to Just Say No.

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Dealing with the Deficit?: Hey, Eugene. You're probably right that if the R's take full control (both House and Senate), they'll refuse to raise taxes and "nip at the edges" of any meaningful entitlement reductions, If so, will the deficit commission's report (due in December I think) be DOA? Wouldn't its recommendations provide cover for at least a semblance of courage by the so-called people's representatives? Thanks

Eugene Robinson: If all the stars aligned, the deficit commission report would give cover to the White House and Congress to at least push through a Social Security fix that kicks the can considerably down the road. That's the one thing that could potentially get done, I guess, but I'm not hopeful at the moment.

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Willfully Ignorant: I'm 60 years old and have never been so dismayed about our once great country..If I am to believe the polls and the pundits, we are about to return Congress to the same party that has critically wounded our country economically, morally, and spiritually. It seems like we gave Obama 12-18 months to fix this awful mess and now collective amnesia has set in..I could blame the Dems' spinelessness, the very effective right-wing echo chamber lead by Fox News, or the so-called liberal MSM that mostly seems cowed and intimidated by the right wing..But I'm starting to lay blame on the American people who seem to bask in their willful ignorance..Dumber seems better in this post-truth, for profit media era we are in...Maybe we deserve what we are getting and what we are about to get...

Eugene Robinson: I'm fairly certain that if the Republicans win control of one or both Houses of Congress, they will face the same impatience -- and probably suffer in 2012.

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Deficit reduction . . .: A fine column today. One quibble. There is actually a third way to reduce the deficit that doesn't involve raising taxes or cutting spending -- it's growing the economy. A growing economy, increases tax revenue, which in turn reduces the debt burden if you control for everything else. It's not always true, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. It might not be popular to say it these days, but investing in public infrastructure and technology often does yield significant long-term returns (e.g. think of the Interstate Highway Program, the off-shoot industries that benefited from the space program, or the internet itself, which was the result of defense research projects in the 1970s).As corollary: Herbert Hoover taught us in 1929-1932 it's possible to crash an economy and accelerate the growth of the national debt without adding one cent of new spending. So, if the recovery is as fragile as it appears to be, the GOP plans to cut federal spending likely will destroy even more jobs and it's quite possible that the moves will be counter-productive in terms of deficit reduction too.

Eugene Robinson: I agree, and most economists agree. I guess the laws of economics are different in Tea Party Land.

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Rhode Island: Gene, why do the tea party types rail against bank bailouts, but oppose financial regulation? Why are they always screaming about "their" Constitution, then claim there is nothing in the Constitution about separation of church and state? (Hello, Christine O'Donnell). Why are they ranting now about their individual rights being trampled - where were they when the Bush administration was pushing through the Patriot Act and performing illegal wiretaps?Help me, Gene.

Eugene Robinson: You're on you own, in terms of trying to nail down a specific, cogent Tea Party philosophy. You're referring to O'Donnell's surprise at hearing that the First Amendment has anything to do with the separation of church and state. Amazing, even for her. And on the subject of individual rights, if we all should be free to do whatever we want to do, then surely gay people should be able to get married. And women should have full reproductive rights. But there I go again, looking for consistency.

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When is the last time: a elective newcomer to Capitol Hill was actually able to do something that could seriously be considered "changing the way Washington does business" or "shaking things up"? I mean seriously, is this type of campaign rhetoric naive, or arrogant, or both?

Eugene Robinson: Both.

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Help Me: Gene, I'm feeling so anxious about the upcoming elections. If the TPers/radical right get their wish, we will be even MORE stagnant than we are now. Say something to give me hope. Tell me Angle/Miller/O'Donnell will not be coming to town.

Eugene Robinson: I'm pretty confident that O'Donnell won't be coming. Jury's still out on Angle and Miller.

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cry me a river: so your line is changing - the new GOP folks will ruin everything, vs. W. ruined everything? Ok then. Just as long as you never hold Obama accountable for anything...

Eugene Robinson: I left open the possibility that the GOP, if it takes one or both houses, would work with the administration to actually get something done. I don't think that's the most likely outcome, but it could happen.

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Tea Party: If the tea party candidates get to Congress, I don't see how they can stick to their nutty ideals. They will at least have to work with the R's if they want to get anything accomplished (like bringing back the pork for their districts); and if they do, this will mean going back on what they ran on. I predict that, when they arrive on the Hill, their stays will be short-lived (hoping, anyway)!!

Eugene Robinson: The interesting dynamic will be the GOP leadership -- whether in the majority or the minority -- and the Tea Party candidates who get elected. At least some of the Tea Partyers will hold firm for "originalism" or the gold standard or whatever. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will have a lot of alligator wrestling to do to keep them in line.

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"Maybe we deserve what we are getting": This is what I thought in 2000 when we elected Bush. I thought that we'd get what we deserved and we'd be shocked into our senses. But that didn't happen. Things got worse and we re-elected the clown. Now the public is feeling hungover and acting as though it elected Obama in a drunken stupor. But self-flagellation doesn't work unless you're just trying to hurt yourself. Instead of being disillusioned we need to fight back.

Eugene Robinson: "Self-flagellation doesn't work unless you're just trying to hurt yourself." My sentiments exactly. Pass it on.

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GOP plan for governance: I'm firmly convinced that the GOP plan today and for tomorrow if elected is to "flatten the tires enough to make the car drive poorly but not so much as to crash it. Then when Dad, Obama, gets his license taken away, fix it and drive it as if nothing were ever wrong, save for the former driver." Is there any other way to see their actions and rhetoric and 'plan' for the future?

Eugene Robinson: This assumes a cleverness and skill at political and economic engineering that I think is beyond the GOP's capacity. The fact is that if John Boehner is speaker of the House, he's going to have to pass a budget with a trillion-dollar deficit -- or else shut down the government. And we know how well that works...

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Compromise: I think I figured out congressional compromise.The Republians want 10, but start by demanding 100. Dems respond with saying no, but...Democrats negotiate in good faith. Republicans pretend to, but when they compromise on 50, they still vote no.50 eventually passes over Republican shouting and rending of fabric.They get 10 times what they wanted they're happy.The Demorats got nothing, except "something was done".Repeat ad nauseum.

Eugene Robinson: That's pretty much been the pattern. Democrats have opened all these negotiations over legislation with Republican ideas already incorporated into the initial draft. In part, this is because Democrats have to deal with their own Blue Dogs.

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partisanship: Are you an objective columnist or are you a obama/democrat/liberal apologist. I am an independent and will not read columns that are outright partisan (either way). I used to (irregularly) read your columns. I thought you were an objective columnist. Of late you come across as a obama apologist. Please tell me what you are so that I can decide if I will read your columns in the future.

Eugene Robinson: If by "objective" you mean "doesn't have any ideas or convictions," then no, I'm not objective. I have no affiliation with either party. On most issues, my thinking is more in tune with that of the Democrats, but there are exceptions. I'm an opinion columnist, and I don't believe there are precisely two sides, deserving equal weight, to every argument. Now you can decide.

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Jimmy McMillian: What do you think of Jimmy McMillan and his "Rent is Too Damn High" Party? I love it. I'm tempted to move to New York just to vote for the man. He makes sense AND he rhymes! The beard needs to go, though.

Eugene Robinson: You're referring to the New York gubernatorial candidate who stole the show at the debate. What was with the gloves, though? Does it have anything to do with his being a self-described karate expert?

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Is it sexist?: Is it sexist to object to Sarah Palin in part because her voice is so screechy at campaign rallies? When we turned on the network news last night that was the first sound that greeted us. Is there something wrong with Republicans' hearing?

Eugene Robinson: During the presidential campaign, I got a stern lecture from a reader about something I had written about the timbre of Hillary Clinton's voice, and I took it to heart. The gist was that we should be able to get used to the fact that women's voices sound different from men's voices. That said -- and at the risk of another lecture -- Palin's voice isn't exactly like Helen Mirren's. It's not even like Christine O'Donnell's.

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Leftist Economic Strategy: How long would it take for you to start considering that Obama's policies might not be working? It's been over two years, and the economy is, in many ways, weaker now than when he took office. We all know you have a lot of credibility invested in the current administration's programs, but at some point wouldn't you have to admit that the "progressive" economic plan just doesn't work? Instead, it seems you go from blaming the previous administration to blaming the out-of-power (for now) opposition. In truth, the political left has held all the power for some time, to no apparent good effect. So please tell us (to re-state my question): What would it take?

Eugene Robinson: A proposed alternative that makes sense.And for the record, please, the economy "is, in many ways, weaker now than when he took office?" In what ways, precisely? When he took office, we were in recession; now we're not. When he took office, the economy was shedding private-sector jobs at the rate of 600,000 or more per month; now, we're gaining private-sector jobs every month, albeit far too slowly. When he took office, Wall Street was teetering on the abyss, the auto industry was about to expire, etc. Now, Wall Street is paying back the TARP money -- and paying itself big bonuses again, which I don't cheer -- and the auto industry not only has a pulse, but is doing pretty well. Come on, you can do better than that.

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Radical Idea. Your thoughts, Please: I think we should do away with the concept of direct election of senators by the people (and I would also include president though we have SOME buffer there in the electoral college.) I've always thought the Senate should be comprosed of the "elder statesmen" of society. I'm sure you'd point to O'Donnell as an example of someone who doesn't quite fit this bill, I'd point to Al Franken as an example on the other side.

Eugene Robinson: So how would senators be chosen? By the state legislatures, as the Founders wanted? Would that really make things better? The real problem, it seems to me, is the ridiculous Senate rules that make the place dysfunctional.

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Tea Party support for the Constitution?: The Republicans and Tea Party folks claim that their belief in the U.S. Constitution is sacred yet Christine O'Donnell clearly doesn't even know that the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion and Joe Miller has private bodyguards handcuff and fake-arrest people who dare to express their First Amendment right to free speech. Why are voters falling for this claptrap?

Eugene Robinson: Remember, polls show that people think even less of the Republican Party, generically, than they do of the Democrats. If they vote for the GOP, it will be in protest.

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I don't believe there are precisely two sides, deserving equal weight, to every argument: Thank you. I just wish every media outlet in the US would realize that as well. It seems that they want to give weight to every crackpot idea out there in the name of fairness and balance. They need to stop acting like a kindergarten teacher.

Eugene Robinson: Let's not unfairly cast aspersions on kindergarten teachers, who at least try to teach the difference between right and wrong. And at least Politifact and others are making an attempt at truth-squadding -- although we, the media, should be doing that truth-squadding ourselves.My time is up for today, folks. Thanks so much for dropping in, and see you again next week.


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