Candidate Question Time

If you had the ability to attend a presidential debate, and ask a question of the candidates that each or at least most of them would have to respond to, what would it be? Caveat: please try to make your question something that you would actually want to know about the candidates that you don’t know already. To make it just that much more interesting, let’s assume that the question gets asked to both the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Here’s mine. It is kind of a departure from my usual concern about maximizing congruence between my own policy preferences and a candidate’s platform:

Richard Nixon was swallowed by the Presidency. Whatever good might once have been in the man, it got lost in the pursuit of the Presidency and the trappings and the power of the White House. When you are President, the most stressful, demanding, and intensely political office in the world, what will you do to keep yourself human, to keep your moral compass functioning — to keep yourself from becoming the kind of person that Richard Nixon became?

richard nixon photo

Image by manhhai Candidate Question Time

I’d expect most of the candidates to give boring answers, some vague, eye-roll inducing blather about their families and prayer. Insert the talking-through-a-trombone sound of the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons here. Such a response would tell me that they had no actual answer to the question at all.

Were one of them to offer something more insightful and plausibly useful — a deeper-than-pat-sound-bite answer — that would indicate to me a sincere concern about doing the right thing, and having given some sober thought to what it will be like to actually do the job. Even if I didn’t agree with that candidate on policy issues, I’d be more inclined to support that candidate because such an answer would reflect the sort of temperament and character I’d prefer to see in a President.

I frame the question as I do because I see a healthy dose of Richard Nixon in quite a lot of this crop of candidates. Most of all in Donald Trump: he already is the man that Richard Nixon became, and it’s frustrating that at least 30% of Republican voters apparently either can’t see that, or don’t think it’s a particularly bad thing. But I see ample potential for a President Hillary Clinton or a President Ted Cruz to become a twenty-first century Nixon, too.

Or, maybe I’m missing the boat here. If you don’t think my question would elicit any useful information, then pose a better one of your own!

Image by Seattle City Council Candidate Question Time


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44 thoughts on “Candidate Question Time

  1. First, “Have you ever been blackmailed? If so, how did you respond? What will you respond if someone finds some dirt on you as POTUS?”
    Second, “You are entertaining the thought of becoming POTUS, a position that has historically led to the deaths of many who chose to serve, often at a particular group’s instigation. Will you name that group, and will you go against them if chosen to serve?”

    These… are not-nice questions. Luv to know the answers though.

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  2. Keeping in mind the likely makeup of the Congress, what is your top legislative priority and why?

    What will you do if govt revenues fall way below expenditures? Will you run a deficit or cut programs? If the latter, where do you see making major cuts?

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  3. If elected Preznit, would you set up your official email account thru a server privately maintained in your current home or would you use the already set-up .gov site?

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  4. “Which journalists do you already have in your pocket?”

    “Can you provide the short list of people (non-heads of state) who know that you will call them back as quickly as humanly possible if you get a memo saying that they called you?”

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  5. “What was the proudest you’ve ever felt? Why? What other emotions did you feel during the experience?”

    I’d shake my ahead at any pat answer about “serving the people of this fine nation”; I considered including a disclaimer about leaving aside professional/political life, but I’d actually want to see if they go with the BS answer. I think the next most likely answer would have to do with the birth of a child(ren), hence the follow up questions which would indicate the degree of actual humanity they possess. Anything other than those two would be a wild card of sorts and likely informative one way or another.

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  6. [Note: My question is played out here for GOP candidates. However, it can easily be mirrored for the DNC brood. And obviously, it would obviously not worked universally had Rand Paul not dropped out of the race at this point.]

    During the Bush administration, the Democrats were critical of the President’s use of executive order to essentially avoid or even draft legislation. They referred to this practice as unconstitutional and an abuse of executive power. At the time, your party and you individually supported those actions by that administration. Now, during a Presidential administration run by the other party, you have been frequently been quoted saying that the exact same action of executive order is unconstitutional and an abuse of power. In fact, you now claim using this tactic is “tyranny.”

    Senator/Governor/Doctor/ ____________, how do you square that circle, and what would you say tonight to those voters that see these kinds of antics as proof you are merely saying whatever you think will get you elected?

    And as a follow up, would you be willing to make a promise to voters now, on this stage, that you will sign no executive orders as Commander in Chief? And if not, since you claim they are tyrannical, why not?

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    • For clarification, is the use of “Commander in Chief” supposed to be a subject-matter limitation? Many of the executive orders are minor matters of agency organization or the details of instructions provided by Congress. Eg, Congress says the USDA shall manage some function; the President, by executive order, creates a sub-department with some organization somewhere within the USDA to execute that management. Even many of the orders done in the role of Commander in Chief are routine, related to promotions, assignment of general officers to specific jobs, etc.

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      • A candidate who pledges to not sign ANY executive orders demonstrates that he has not undertaken even a casual study of how the President actually gets the job done and therefore that he is not to be taken seriously.

        A candidate who pledges not to sign any MAJOR executive orders sounds like he’s waffling and is therefore not to be trusted.

        A candidate who pledge to be mindful of his role within a divided government when issuing executive orders might be granted the benefit of the doubt, if the candidate is otherwise relatively trustworthy and apparently intelligent.

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        • *shrug*. A candidate who says “Congress — and even the Courts — will provide the appropriate oversight of my use of executive orders, just as my use of executive orders is one such check against both of them” is one who, you know, understands it.

          Then again, my beef with executive orders is generally over the content, not the existence, of.

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  7. If you are the person responsible for rescheduling Marijuana away from Schedule 1, will you do so?

    If it turns out that it is Congress, will you entreat Congress to do so?

    If it turns out that it is the Attorney General, will you ask for the Attorney General’s resignation if zhe does not do so?

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  8. What was the last book you read that changed your view on the subject? What did you read afterwords and how did that effect the view change from the former book?

    What do you have in your pockets?

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    • “I’ll tell you what book changes minds all over the country. It’s called Art of the Deal — does anyone here have a copy? Can you hold it up? Ma’am, can you hold up that copy you’re holding for the TV cameras? By the way, aaron, did you know there are more TV cameras pointed at me right now than at any other person in any debate ever? But back to the question. It’s a great book, Art of the Deal, a great, great book. Yuuge best seller, the biggest selling book of all history, if you look at the people who know how to count that kind of stuff up, they say that all the time. And places like Harvard and Yale and ITT, they actually make kids read it because it’s so important. Everyone loves it. It’s right below the Bible as the greatest book of all time.”

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      • “It’s a great, great book. People all over America love that book. It’s called the Art of the Deal, and let me tell you, I make great deals. All over the country I’ve made great deals. People love the deals I’ve made. They’re great great deals. Just tremendous….”

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      • This is so dead on I’m frightened. Heavy use of mono- and di-syllabic words, frequent use of superlatives, sentence endlessly running on and shifting focus halfway through, the bald aggrandizing lie about the book’s sales performance, use of the favorite word (“huge”) and half-remembering the Bible at the last second.

        We should have a contest with half actual Trump quotes and half fake quotes written by Tod like this, and see if anyone can tell the difference.

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