Presidential Campaign

Some tough debate questions for Clinton and Trump (really)

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The advance word is that the first debate between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on Monday may set records for viewership. That makes sense. The potential for entertainment is high, while the fear and loathing of each candidate by voters is, according to most polls, also setting records.

{mosads}”Monday Night Football’s” action may pale in comparison to the cage-fight potential of Clinton vs. Trump, round one.

But will we actually learn anything? If past debates are the template, few real questions are asked and even fewer clear, distinctive answers proffered.

I’ve gone down this quixotic road before. Last fall, after pouting about a similar lack of precise “make them answer questions.” (For guidance on asking questions, please see my previous piece in The Hill).

It seemed to work, at least a little. So let’s try again. As a public service, here are some questions for the candidates.

(But first, one rule of the debate: When answering, a candidate cannot mention any other candidate or party. The candidate can only respond to what he or she will do or not do or consider.)

Questions for either or both candidates

• There are disagreements to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Accepting those disagreements, what steps or programs do you propose to improve healthcare for as many Americans as possible?

• What specifically do you propose to ease the financial burden of higher education on students?

• In September, the Senate passed a $9.4 billion water infrastructure bill. Is this sufficient and what are your priorities in upgrading the teetering infrastructure and what elements comprise “infrastructure” in your mind, such as roads, railways, sewage and water system, the electrical grid?

• What should America’s national goals be for space exploration and earth observation from space, and what steps would your administration take to achieve them?

• Beyond limiting the numbers of immigrants and improved screening, how would you specifically make our immigration policy stronger and better and what will you do with such individuals as the dreamers?

• When is it OK to arrest a reporter? What is your view on freedom of the press? Should there be new laws, such as shield laws, to protect journalists or fewer protections?

• Would you have pardoned President Richard Nixon? Why or why not?

• What are your five core values and how do they shape how you lead?

• How do you see your party becoming after your win election? 

Questions for Clinton

• Why have you had such a difficult time convincing voters that the first female presidential nominee of a major party does not represent change?

• You have said that you regret your vote as a U.S. senator for the war in Iraq. What do you regret from your time as secretary of State?

• Would you endorse first lady Michelle Obama if she ran for the U.S Senate?

• Why those sunglasses?

• The intense dislike of both candidates is at record levels, according to polls. How will you draw people together to work towards the common good versus pandering to individual or “special interest” groups and how do you convince people to switch from seeing you as “Killery” to Glinda the Good Witch?

• When we first met in 1987, we talked about education. American students have fallen in many international rankings of science and math performance, and the public in general is being faced with an expanding array of major policy challenges that are heavily influenced by complex science. How would your administration work to ensure all students including women and minorities are prepared to address 21st-century challenges?

• David Axelrod recently tweeted, referring to the delay in discussion your recent health issue, that “antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?” What is that cure?

• Science and engineering have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since World War II. But some reports question America’s continued leadership in these areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation?

• In a World Series with the Yankees and Cubs, which is more than just hypothetical, who wins?

Questions for Trump

• Why didn’t you fully examine the particulars of President Obama’s birth before raising questions that you now admit were false? Do you owe the president an apology? Is this a template for your style of leadership?
When you think of the positive contributions of Hispanics to America, what do you think of?

• You recently visited Flint, Michigan, to campaign. Flint’s residents, of course, have been damaged with a series of serious problems with their drinking water that culminated with lead contamination. The long-term security of fresh water supplies is threatened by a mind-boggling array of aging infrastructure, aquifer depletion, pollution and climate variability. Some American communities have lost access to water, affecting their viability and destroying home values. What steps will you take to ensure access to clean water for all Americans?

• Do you know how many emails President George W. Bush lost?

• How did you screen the Hispanic workers who built the Trump hotel that just opened in Washington to ensure they were not bringing drugs, not bringing crime or were not rapists?

• Public health officials warn that we need to take more steps to prevent international epidemics from viruses such as Ebola and Zika. Meanwhile, measles is resurgent due to decreasing vaccination rates. How will your administration support vaccine science?

• When we met in 1999 during your campaign for the Reform Party nomination, you delighted in telling many of your crowds that it is always good to get a prenup. Following your advice, what should the prenup that Americans demand of you before they vote for you to be president?

I will have the popcorn ready.

Squitieri is an award-winning reporter and communications veteran and an adjunct professor at American University and Washington and Jefferson College.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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