The Questions That Won’t Be Asked
in the Presidential Debate
In tonight’s presidential debate between George Bush
and John Kerry, not only will we get lame answers to the questions asked,
but the questions themselves will be lame.
Thomas Pynchon said, “If they can get you to ask the
wrong questions, they don’t care what the answers are.” And we can expect
that the questions tonight will be the same old requests for government
solutions to today’s social problems
that, in almost every case, are the result of previous government solutions
to social problems. So it doesn't really matter what the answers are.
If only just one of the questioners were free of the
media mindset, we might get some truly compelling questions. After all,
these candidates have said some of the silliest things imaginable for people
who want to be President. They’ve left themselves wide open for pointed
questions. Too bad they won’t get any.
The right questions wouldn’t make the candidates any
more attractive as presidential possibilities, but at least the questions
would require them to think up answers that aren’t already scripted in their
Here are a few such questions . . .
Mr. Bush, you said in 2000, and now you’re repeating
it, that the difference between you and your opponent is that you believe in
smaller, limited government. But government has grown by nearly one third in
just the past four years. You haven’t vetoed a single bill passed by your
Republican Congress. Is this what you mean by limited government
— limited to
whatever you want?
Mr. Kerry, every one of the proposals you’ve made to
fix what you perceive as today’s problems has been in the direction of more
government. Are you saying that only government can solve problems
government programs always deliver exactly as was promised
— that no
government program has made things worse?
Mr. Bush, you said in 2000 that you wanted a humbler
foreign policy than Mr. Clinton had. Then you told the rest of the world
“You’re either for us or against us”
— meaning that
any nation that didn’t follow your leadership was to be treated as an enemy.
And you also said you didn’t believe in nation-building, but now you’re
telling us you’re going to build democracies in the nations of the Middle
East. Can you give us an example of your humbler foreign policy
— or explain
how your dreams don’t constitute nation-building?
(If, by some miracle, this question is asked, George
Bush probably will answer with one of his favorite slogans, “9/11 changed
everything.” If so, the follow-up question should be . . .
But the World Trade Center had already been bombed in
1993 — a
bombing engineered supposedly by the same people who engineered 9/11. And a
couple hundred U.S. Marines were killed in a terror-bombing in Beirut in
1983. Terrorism has been a problem for decades. Don’t you really mean that
“9/11 changed everything” only in the sense that it has given you the excuse
to impose foreign and domestic policies that the American people would never
have stood for before 9/11?
Mr. Kerry, today federal, state, and local governments
spend well over half of all the health-care dollars spent in America. In
addition, insurance companies spend another quarter of the health-care
dollars only because of income tax policies. And yet only a very small
minority of the American people are happy in this government-dominated
health-care system. Doesn’t it seem decidedly not humble to suggest that you
can make a situation made bad by government intrusion somehow better by
expanding government intrusion?
Defying the American People
Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, every relevant poll of the past
15 years indicates that the American people overwhelmingly think that
government is way too big. And yet neither of you tonight has proposed
reducing the size of government in any way. Two presidential candidates who
have proposed reducing government dramatically have been shut out of these
debates. Do you think that’s fair to the American people?
Mr. Bush, you’ve said over and over and over and over
again that America and the world are safer without Saddam Hussein. And when
the enormous toll of American and Iraqi deaths are pointed out to you, you
say the deaths have been worth it in order to get rid of Hussein.
My question is this: how many deaths are worth one
Hussein? A million? A hundred thousand? A thousand? One hundred? Suppose
only two deaths had been necessary to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Would you
have sacrificed those two lives
— if the lives
were those of your daughters? Or are your daughters more important than the
sons and daughters of the thousand families who have already sacrificed,
with more to come?
Mr. Kerry, In 2002 you voted to give the President a
blank check on Iraq to do with as he saw fit
— to go to war
or not go to war, as he chose
— to believe
what he was told about WMDs or demand to see fool-proof evidence first, as
he decided — to
sacrifice thousands and thousands of Iraqi and American lives or not
sacrifice thousands and thousands of Iraqi lives, as he saw fit.
Now you act as those he betrayed your trust. You’re
whining to us that “it was the wrong war at the wrong time fought in the
wrong way.” But you’re the one who enabled him to start that war.
Has this experience taught you anything about the
purpose of the Constitution in limiting the power of the President, about
Congress taking responsibility for decisions and not washing their hands of
them like Pontius Pilate? Or can we assume that as President you will
arrogate to yourself all the same unconstitutional powers that George Bush
has confiscated for himself?
Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, for the past 60 years, our
government has invaded and bombed foreign countries, propped up unpopular
dictators who claimed to support the U.S., and bribed foreign countries to
support a meddling U.S. foreign policy. No terrorists have claimed to hate
U.S. democracy, freedom, or prosperity, but they have stated unequivocally
their hatred of U.S. foreign policy. My question is this: Do you consider
the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11 an acceptable price to pay to continue a
meddling U.S. foreign policy?
And Finally . . .
Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, has either of you ever read the
Bill of Rights? If so, how do you square the Bill of Rights with your
health-care and education programs, your support of the Patriot Act, your
allowing the government to lock away and forget about people who have never
been charged with a crime?