Another debate, another opportunity to ask serious questions about “serious candidates.” Let’s review some questions that might actually press the candidates tonight – that might inform voters hoping to make the right choice come November 2016.
To Hillary Clinton: You have frequently accused Republicans of manufacturing bogus anti-Clinton scandals,, including charges that President Clinton acted inappropriately with a White House intern—charges that proved true. You also made false statements about the firings of Travel Office employees, a scandal known as Travelgate. More recently, your initial comments about not having classified information on your personal email server were also untrue. Aren’t Republicans right to pursue these deceits? Shouldn’t Americans demand honesty in our leaders?
To Bernie Sanders: You have advocated Socialist policies similar to those embraced by Francois Hollande in France – higher taxes, especially on high-earners, and pro-worker regulations such as lowering the retirement age and requiring that all part-time jobs be at least 24 hours per week. These approaches and others, which target income inequality, have driven labor costs up in France while productivity has declined, leading to a stagnant economy, and the flight of many wealthy Frenchmen to other countries and unemployment of 10.3 percent. Why should Americans think that such programs, which international organizations like the IMF have criticized for their impact on growth, will work better in the U.S. than in France?
To Martin O’Malley: During your first four years as Governor of Maryland, you pushed through 40 increases in taxes, fees and tolls. Some say this drove more than 72,000 residents to leave your state, many of whom took up residence in nearby Virginia. This exodus cost Maryland billions in revenues. Do you think it was a mistake to raise the cost of living and of doing business in your state?
To Lincoln Chafee: You first went to Washington as a Republican Senator. You then became an Independent; you are now running for the Democratic nomination. Why should people take your candidacy seriously? Do you take it seriously?
To Jim Webb: You have expressed reservations about the Iran deal, and said that Congress should have had more input in the framing of the agreement. Do you think that President Obama and John Kerry were so intent on achieving a “legacy” deal that they gave too much away and demanded too little?
To Hillary Clinton: In March, the House Select Committee on Benghazi subpoenaed your emails and other materials related to the attacks in Libya. You said in an interview with CNN in July, "[I] never had a subpoena." Further, your frequent emails to and from former aide Sidney Blumenthal related to events in Libya were not handed over; the Committee only discovered their existence when they received correspondence from Blumenthal. You said early on that you had chosen to use a personal server because it made life “simpler” to use only one device. But now we know you also had an IPad. Can you explain these lapses?
To Bernie Sanders: You have long advocated for the use of wind and solar energy, and have opposed nuclear, gas and oil. In Vermont, such preferences have resulted in escalating energy costs, as the state effectively shut down its cheap nuclear power plant, which was providing 70 percent of the state’s power carbon-free. The state also forbids fracking to increase natural gas production, in line with your preferences. Electricity from wind and solar today runs four to six times the cost that was being charged by Vermont Yankee Nuclear, which the state forced out of business in 2014. As a result, Vermonters pay the eighth highest electricity prices in the nation. Is that good policy? Doesn’t it particularly hurt low-income people, whom you so strenuously presume to represent?
To Martin O’Malley: While you were mayor of Baltimore, crime dropped 42 percent; your popularity soared amongst residents and small business owners who saw safety as essential to the city’s growth and prosperity. Now, many residents of color charge your administration with introducing overly tough police enforcement of the kind that led to death of Freddie Gray and the riots this past summer. Do you agree that strict law enforcement of the kind you introduced to Baltimore inherently threatens the rights of minorities?
To Lincoln Chafee: What, you’re still here?
To Jim Webb: Your service as a highly decorated Marine and Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration gives you considerable credibility in foreign affairs and military matters. In the past you opposed letting women serve in the military, and then advocated letting the Pentagon decide when and where women should participate – a position some say cost you your teaching job at Annapolis. There is now a big debate underway, with the Marine Corps resisting a White House mandate that would open all jobs to women, including infantry positions. Do you still think those decisions should be left open to our military leadership?
To Hillary Clinton: You said last year that a nation’s foreign policy needs organizing principles, and that “don’t do stupid stuff” is not such a principle. You have likened the fight against terrorism to the battle against Soviet-led Communism. You have also hinted that President Obama has been too cautious in this struggle, a position that many Americans share. Do you think that you should have pushed President Obama harder to adopt your more muscular approach in arming Syrian rebels? Has his approach significantly weakened the position of the United States in the world, and do you share the blame for that?
To Hillary Clinton: You have made a point of being an unswerving supporter of Israel, especially as the country came under criticism for the battles in Gaza. You have noted that some of the attacks on Israel have been motivated by anti-Semitism. Given your staunch support, why don’t you agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in opposing the Iran deal?
To all candidates: Do you agree that the media is playing much too great a role in this primary season? That granting unfettered airtime to Donald Trump and orchestrating these debates so as to maximize ratings over providing helpful information is doing a disservice to you and other candidates?