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Jewish World Review Oct. 3, 2000 / 4 Tishrei 5760

Morton Kondracke

Kondracke
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What questions should be debated?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I WAS a presidential debate panelist once, in 1984, but it looks as though PBS's Jim Lehrer now has a lock on the moderator's job. So, what should he ask the candidates next week?

There is always a tension in question-writing between the issues that voters care about the most, the ones the candidates are talking about - which, this year, tend to be the same -- and the issues the moderator feels haven't been addressed adequately.

Lehrer should probe in all areas. And even though he's rigorously fair and self-effacing -- to such excess that he doesn't vote in presidential elections -- there's nothing wrong with honing questions to an edge that might challenge the candidates, or even cause them some discomfort.

Both candidates are making charges about the other's allocation of the budget surplus. Vice President Al Gore charges that Texas Gov. George W. Bush would give it away in tax cuts. Bush charges that Gore would spend it all.

I'd love to see Lehrer prepare a set of charts showing how Bush aides add up Gore's spending programs and how Gore's campaign estimates Bush's budget, then ask each to explain why the opposition has it wrong.

This would be a test of their knowledge of the details of their own programs and of their ability to defend their priorities.

And here are some other areas deserving exploration and some zingers (well, not all are zingers) for Lehrer to consider:

-- Priorities

What legislation will you submit to Congress in your first 100 days? What executive orders? -- Social Security

Gov. Bush, you say it's safe for people to invest some of their Social Security in the stock market. But what happens in a recession, when investments lose money? Will the government make it up or are workers out of luck?

Vice President Gore, experts say it's impossible to keep the Social Security system solvent for the next 50 years without cutting benefits, increasing taxes, or getting a better return on investments, as Gov. Bush wants to do. Are you for cutting benefits or raising taxes?

Gov. Bush, if workers can invest nearly a third of their Social Security taxes, it's money that can't pay current benefits. Some estimates of the "transition cost" to your program run to $1 trillion. Where does that money come from?

-- Health care

Vice President Gore, during the Clinton administration the number of uninsured Americans has risen from 35 million to 44 million. Your own proposal only calls for all children to be covered by the year 2005, leaving millions of adults uninsured. With a $2.2 trillion budget surplus, why aren't you being more aggressive in solving this problem?

Gov. Bush, Texas is one of 40 states liable to forfeit federal child-health money because you failed to enroll enough eligible children. Is this the record of a compassionate conservative?

-- Education

Mr. Vice President, your parents sent you to St. Albans School, not to D.C. public schools. Why shouldn't poor parents have the same option when their public schools fail them?

Gov. Bush, you opposed a pay increase for Texas teachers in 1999 and increasing teacher pay is not a major item on your education agenda. Can America have first-rate schools if teachers make, on average, only $40,000 a year?

-- Medicare

Gov. Bush, you want to offer seniors a choice of private insurance plans to cover prescription drugs, but the nation's health insurance companies say they won't offer such plans. How can your program work? Vice President Gore, you say that drug company profits are exorbitant. Are you planning to have the Medicare bureaucracy set profit levels the way it now sets prices for medical procedures? What will this do to the drug innovation that cures diseases?

-- Energy/environment

Gov. Bush, do you believe that global warming is a serious problem? What will you do about it?

Mr. Vice President, in your book, "Earth in the Balance," you say that higher energy taxes and prices are necessary to lower consumption and protect the environment. Why are you trying to depress the price now? Is it because this is an election year?

-- Foreign/defense policy

To both candidates: If Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic imposes martial law to keep himself in power, should the U.S. intervene militarily to force him out? What if Iraq's Saddam Hussein tries to disrupt world oil supplies? What if 1 million Africans are about to be killed in a genocide, as in Rwanda?

If there's time, Lehrer should also ask about missile defense, curbing TV sex and violence, religion, hate crimes and late-term abortion.

And finally, he should ask both candidates: White House bedrooms and even Camp David have been used to raise millions in campaign cash. Will this continue if you're president?



JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

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08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
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07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
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06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
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05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
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05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
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04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
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12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
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10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

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