I generally hate presidential “debates,” which are really no such thing. Let me predict how things will go: The moderator will ask a question, the candidates will answer whatever question they wish had been asked because it better fits their prerehearsed answer and then they’ll move on and do it all over again with the next question. Lots of focus-group tested catchphrases and buzzwords will be thrown around, lots of empty platitudes will be uttered, and both sides will declare that they “won” an event with no winner.
Jennifer Granholm has some questions she’d like the moderator to ask of both candidates. Predictably, the questions are much tougher for Romney than for Obama — she is, after all, a Democrat with close ties to the president. But some of the Romney questions are good:
1) In a Republican primary debate, you and your colleagues refused to take a deal that allowed $10 in cuts for $1 in tax revenue. Today, would you still refuse to take a 10-to-1 deal? At the end of 2006, you signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes. Are you still bound to that pledge? Would that pledge trump your oath to uphold the Constitution? Would you vow here to never raise taxes, no matter the consequences?…
3) Be specific: Name the top three exemptions or deductions in the Tax Code that you would limit or eliminate in order to create a revenue-neutral tax structure that lowers the top rates from 35 percent to 28 percent.
And if they ask that last question, President Obama should offer to give him as much time as he needs to answer it, since that was Ryan’s excuse for not doing so the other day — gosh darn it, there just wasn’t enough time. The problem, though, is that Romney will give bullshit answers to those questions. He won’t give any specifics because he knows that any answer he gives will create immediate opposition. And the moderator will let him get away with that, even if he makes some noise about the question not being answered. What a moderator with any guts would do is just stop the debate and say that he isn’t going to move on to the next question until Romney answers it and names a specific deduction that he would be in favor of ending, and let the whole thing sit there in silence until Romney actually answers it. But that isn’t going to happen. And if it did, Republicans would scream bloody murder about the obvious bias and unfairness of it all.
As I said, her questions for Obama were mostly softballs, so let me offer a few questions I would ask the president if I was the moderator.
1. You have said that you only support the narrow version of the State Secrets Privilege, yet your administration has asserted the broadest possible version of that privilege in every single legal challenge to the government’s actions in regard to terrorism and illegal surveillance since you took office. How can there be any limits on executive authority to violate the constitution if the victims of unconstitutional actions are never given their day in court to prove their case?
2. The U.S. is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, which obligates us to prosecute anyone who orders or engages in torture for any reason whatsoever. Do you believe that Bush administration officials or American personnel in the military or the intelligence services ordered or engaged in torture? If not, why did you feel the need to sign an executive order banning torture? And if so, why haven’t you appointed a special prosecutor to prepare charges against those who have?
3. You have justified your decision not to prosecute anyone for torture by saying that it’s important to look forward rather than backward. Yet your administration has prosecuted more people who have blown the whistle on illegal actions by the government than all previous presidents combined. Why is it only important to look forward and not backward when doing so covers up the government’s illegal actions and not when doing so helps bring those illegal actions to light?
Here again, the answers to those questions would be total bullshit. What else could they possibly be? A moderator who took his job seriously could ask follow up questions and not allow Obama to get away with a facile answer, but that isn’t going to happen either. And if it did, Democrats would scream bloody murder about the obvious bias and unfairness of it all. Welcome to America’s absurd political discourse.