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Jewish World Review Jan. 19, 2000 /12 Shevat, 5760

Don Feder

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Questions that haunt the presidential candidates -- IF YOU COULD ASK one question of each of the presidential candidates, what would it be?

If I had them in a locked room (nowhere to run, nowhere to hide), I would pose the following queries:

Al Gore -- On Dec. 15, 1999, at a New Hampshire forum, a lady asked if you believed Juanita Broaddrick's claim that the man you called "one of our greatest presidents" raped her. You said you didn't know how to evaluate her story.

Now, really, Al, after working closely with Clinton for seven years, you should be able to vouch for his character. Yet you didn't tell the questioner, "While it's difficult to know what to think of Mrs. Broaddrick's allegations, I can assure you that Bill Clinton isn't the type of man to force himself on a defenseless woman." If you have so little faith in the president, how could you attest to his greatness?

As a follow-up question, if there's a sealed indictment waiting for Clinton when he leaves office, and you succeed him, will you issue a presidential pardon?

Bill Bradley -- You've criticized Gore for introducing Willie Horton in the 1988 primaries, saying, "It proved in the course of the campaign to essentially be a poster child for racial insensitivity."

How exactly was it racially insensitive to knock Mike Dukakis for defending a furlough program that gave a lifer the opportunity to kidnap, torture and rape?

Are you saying it's wrong to criticize a candidate for being soft on crime if the beneficiary of his misplaced compassion happens to be black?

If Willie Horton had been white and his victims black, would you also have opposed a discussion of the case on the grounds that it might incite African Americans against Caucasians? Or are you advociating a double standard on race and crime?

George W. Bush -- Does breaking promises about taxes run in your family?

The Forbes campaign is using an ad that features Mary C. Williams, head of the Houston-based Taxpayers for Accountability. Williams notes that, in 1994, you signed a pledge stipulating that if elected Texas governor you wouldn't raise the sales tax. Yet three years later, you tried to do just that.

Your campaign is artfully dodging (the pledge was signed with an auto-pen, the hikes you pushed were more than offset by proposed cuts). Still, a promise is a promise. If your written word can't be trusted, how can we rely on your current tax-reform proposals?

John McCain -- Even though you've served in the Senate for 13 years, out of 54 Republicans in that body only four have endorsed your candidacy.

Is this lack of support because your colleagues believe your campaign-finance proposal would devastate the GOP, or have they simply been on the receiving end of your famous temper once too often? If the latter, what does that say about your fitness for the presidency?

Steve Forbes -- When asked if you would use trade to protest human-rights abuses in China and counter Beijing's military threat, you mutter something about putting unnamed officials on notice. This year, our trade deficit with Beijing will approach $70 billion. We're exporting fewer and fewer goods to the People's Republic.

A Hong Kong newspaper recently quoted China's defense minister, Chi Haotian, musing that war with the United States is inevitable. On what basis, then, would you continue our deluded trade policies with a future adversary?

Orrin Hatch -- Touting your experience as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 1995, you boast that the rest of the candidates combined don't have a "smidgen" of your knowledge of how to pick judges.

Are you proud of the fact that as committee chairman you've served as a rubber stamp for the activists Clinton has put on the bench (of 344 confirmed, you voted for all but three)? Are you saying that 99.4 percent of Clinton's picks meet your criteria on judicial appointments?

Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes -- Vanity aside, what are you doing in the race? Polls show you with between 1 percent and 3 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. Apparently, your roles in the campaign are to siphon off enough support to keep a conservative from challenging Bush/McCain.

It would take an interrogator of Clarence Darrow's skill to get a straight answer from the candidates on any of these questions -- plus a room with the exit doors bolted.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate