August 3rd, 2020


Push the cornered Dem candidates when they're not able to run?

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published July 30, 2019

Quantity isn't a concern as far as this week's Democratic presidential debates in Detroit are concerned.

As in last month's gathering in Miami, we're in store for two nights of sturm und drang featuring ten candidates apiece (that will change in September, when stricter qualifying thresholds are applied to that month's get-together in Houston).

But quality is another matter.

CNN supposedly will sanction candidates who interrupt their colleagues (California Sen. Kamala Harris reportedly was the lead offender, in this regard, the last time the herd gathered). How the network plans to enforce that, in real time, is anyone's guess.

Unfortunately, there won't be any more "down the line" questions where candidates are asked for a show of hands.

Why CNN bowed to Democratic pressure and not do what NBC did in Miami (former Vice President Joe Biden said he "wasn't doing" any more such questions) is a sad testament to that network's cozy relationship with the party out of power.

And that raises yet another concern: how hard will CNN push the 20 candidates?

By that, I mean posing questions that put the more viable contenders between a rock and a hard place (i.e., the party's progressive base and more moderate voters who'll decide next year's election in the likes of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). 

Here are a few debate questions that I'd be pleasantly surprised if Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper —  the trio moderating Tuesday and Wednesday's panel — bothered to ask.

  • Less than 10 minutes away from the theater in downtown Detroit that's hosting the debates is the district office of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of the four "squad" members in the House of Representatives. She's likened Israel to Nazi Germany, has said the Holocaust gives her "a calming feeling" and wants a $20 minimum wage for tipped workers. If nominated, would you consider her or the others who constitute "AOC+3" as your running mate? If elected, would you consider any of the four for your cabinet? 
  • Rep. Tlaib also has accused Israel of conducting "racist policies" and wants an economic boycott of that nation. Do you agree or disagree? Israel is the second nation President Trump visited after his inauguration, following a two-day stop in Saudi Arabia. After you're sworn in, what's the first nation you'll visit?  
  • Recently, the San Francisco school board voted to paint over a mural depicting the life of George Washington — because, the board claimed, it evoked the subjugation of native peoples. Do you support what is literally a white-washing of American history? While we're on the topic of Founding Fathers, should a slaveowner like Thomas Jefferson remain on the $2 bill? Given that Woodrow Wilson was a segregationist, should Princeton University rename its public policy school
  • Have any of you had elective plastic surgery or a cosmetic procedure of some kind? At present, there's no private insurance market for plastic surgery. If you in effect do away with private insurance under Medicare for All, will plastic surgery be part of most Americans' coverage?
  • Last month, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held the first hearing on H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act — this is a bill first introduced by former Rep. John Conyers, a Detroit native. The estimated cost, according to Yahoo Finance estimates, is $17.1 trillion. Do you support the measure? If so, how would you pay for it?
  • While we're on this topic, should reparations be extended to all victims of discrimination in America?
  • Years ago, at a presidential debate, a CNN anchor asked the Democratic nominee if he favored the death penalty in the event that his spouse was raped and murdered. Last week, the Trump Administration announced that it would resume executing death-row inmates for the first time in over 15 years. In your opinion, what circumstances warrant capital punishment?
  • Last year, former Sen. Al Franken was pressured by a handful of his colleagues —  including one currently running for president — to resign from office in the aftermath of sexual misconduct allegations. Yet there was relative silence from within your party when Virginia's Democratic lieutenant governor was accused of sexual assault. And the party reveres John F. Kennedy, whose treatment of women would not be tolerated in this day and age. When it comes to #metoo and holding public servants accountable, how do we account for these double standards?
  • On a related note, Mr. Biden, why did you choose to look the other way when some of your most revered Senate colleagues were engaging in skirt-chasing and drunken antics in Washington restaurants?
  • Bill Clinton famously hedged his response when asked if he'd tried marijuana. But that was almost 30 years ago. Have you ingested a THC or CBD product in the past year? Do you support Sen. Harris' bill to legalize marijuana? If so, how would you tax and regulate the sales. What would you do with the revenue?
  • Immediately after assuming the presidency, Donald Trump returned the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office that President Obama had relocated to his private office in the White House residence. Assuming you're elected and it's your turn to redecorate the Oval Office, is Churchill once again on the move? If so, whose bust should take his place?
  • He received more votes than any Democrat who ran for president, yet other than the former vice president referring to "my friend Barack", why isn't this field talking more about the Obama legacy? Please explain why you're the Democrat in this field to whom Mr. Obama should lend his support.
  • For all the lip service given to bipartisanship in Washington and working across the aisle, can you name a single piece of Republican-drafted legislation that you've supported or would co-sponsor? Can you name a single Republican whom you'd consider as a running mate or a member of your cabinet?
  • Recently, WalletHub used a series of metrics — crime rates, quality of schools, health and safety — to rank the top 150 cities in America (here's the full report). Detroit sits at the bottom of the list. Given that this city has had Democratic mayors for nearly 60 years now, what does that say about your party's governing skills?
  • Hillary Clinton lost Michigan by less than 11,000 votes — 0.2% of the statewide vote. She also received 293,000 fewer votes than President Obama in 2012. Do you believe that was the result of Russian meddling in the 2016 election? Or was it due to tactical blunders — for example, Mrs, Clinton never stopping by a United Auto Workers hall in Michigan?
  • If you win this election, will you agree to a mental exam given that no sane sane person would want this job?
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