July 13th, 2020


16 questions for tonight's debate

Ramesh Ponnuru

By Ramesh Ponnuru Bloomberg View

Published Dec. 15, 2015

Instead of just criticizing the presidential debate moderators after the fact, I've decided to suggest a few questions for them to ask on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. I don't know if the questions will be good for ratings, but I'd like to know the candidates' answers to them.

1. Nearly all of you have criticized President Barack Obama for setting policy on his own, without congressional approval. What steps would you take to rebalance power between the White House and Capitol Hill?

2. Do you believe that the president has the authority to launch a military attack overseas without congressional approval?

3. Mr. Trump, you've repeatedly said that you'd rapidly deport all illegal immigrants in the U.S. and then let many of them come back after they've been vetted. Why not just vet them here?

4. Sen. Rubio, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that, under the bill you co-sponsored in 2013, immigration would roughly double over the next decade. To what American problem is such a large increase in immigration the solution?

5. Sen. Rubio, you said in 2008 that Florida should get ahead of other states in establishing a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions. What accounts for your change of heart on this issue?

6. Ms. Fiorina, you've said that a reformed tax code could easily fit in three pages. When will you show us your preferred three-page code?

7. Sen. Cruz, you've vowed to repeal Obamacare. What steps if any would you take to make sure that Americans who have gotten insurance through the Affordable Care Act would be able to stay insured?

8. Another one for Sen. Cruz: Before you nominate a Supreme Court justice, how confident would you have to be that your nominee would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and return policymaking authority over abortion to legislatures?

9. Dr. Carson: As you may know, conservatives and libertarians have been debating whether "judicial restraint" should be considered a virtue. Do you think federal judges are too willing to strike down federal and state laws, or not willing enough?

10. Also for you, Dr. Carson: Some of your fellow candidates on this stage say that defeating Islamic State will require American boots on the ground; others say that our allies, combined perhaps with American air power, can do the job. Where do you come down?

11. Gov. Bush, you said in a previous debate that the federal government shouldn't be involved, "directly or indirectly," in state decisions over educational standards. In 2011, however, you praised the Obama administration for offering states "carrots and sticks" to get them to change their education policies. Have you changed your mind about federal involvement?

12. Sen. Paul: In a recent article, you argued that the Fed has distorted our economy and also said that recessions are a "painful but necessary corrective process." Just to clarify: Are you saying that the U.S. needs to go through a recession now?

13. Gov. Kasich, you've said that as part of the war on terrorism, "we must be more forceful in the battle of ideas." Toward that end you've proposed that American diplomacy and broadcasting should make the case for "the core, Judeo-Christian Western values" of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. How does describing those values as "Judeo- Christian" and "Western" fit into a strategy for promoting them in the Middle East?

14. Gov. Kasich, you've also made a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution a core part of your campaign. Under that amendment, would federal courts step in if Congress and the president failed to agree on a balanced budget? Or would it be enforced in some other way?

15. Gov. Christie, you've said that Coloradans who smoke marijuana should enjoy it now, because when you're president the federal law against it will be enforced. If states don't cooperate in enforcing the federal law, how will a Christie administration enforce it? How many more agents do you contemplate hiring at the Drug Enforcement Administration?

16. Sen. Paul, what do you think of Gov. Christie's answer?


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Ramesh Ponnuru has covered national politics and public policy for 18 years. He is an author and Bloomberg View columnist.