Very often - not always, but usually - news media moderators of presidential debates aggressively go at Republicans but are prone to lob softball questions at Democrats. It’s as if they pitch to strike out Republicans but try to make it easy for Democrats to hit it out of the park.
Truly good journalists either are not biased or are able to keep their bias under control sufficiently well to not let it be a weapon to unfairly assist or unfairly injure any candidate they question.
In the quest to elicit the truth for the public and help give voters better insight into a candidate, journalists need to play a Devil’s Advocate role and not play favorites.
We rarely see this - and we’re not likely to see it in tonight’s South Carolina Democratic presidential debate.
So here are some questions I would put forth were I cross examining these candidates tonight. Each of them is difficult, brutally blunt, and designed to try to force the candidate to refrain from vague gobbledygook that conceals rather than reveals. No candidate is spared from the toughest questioning.
Yes, these questions being asked here of left-wing Democrats are crafted by this committed conservative Republican. But they’re the type of Devil’s Advocate questions any true journalist could—and should—ask. And, yes, if called upon to do so, I could come up with equally brutal Devil’s Advocate questions to put to President Donald Trump or any other Republican.
I’ve made these questions as lengthy as they are in an effort to be effective in preventing evasion of the answer or successful defusion of it by use of gibberish. While, of course, not every one of these questions could likely be worked into the debate, each one is, I submit, a question it would be interesting to have answered.
1. You and congressional Democrats accuse President Trump of seeking dirt on you and members of your family. But what you dismiss as dirt, he and others would describe as unethical conduct, albeit legal, that profited from your high political position in ways that crossed the line into corruption. Tell us why there’s nothing corrupt or unethical about each of these Biden family member practices:
While you were playing a key role in America’s dealings with China and Ukraine, your son Hunter was awarded an equity fund deal of $1.5 billion from the Communist Party-controlled Bank of China, despite his having no experience in equity fund finance or experience in China, an arrangement that could still yet pour millions into his pocket; and in Ukraine he partnered with an oligarch whose energy company was suspected of being corrupt, for which he was paid $1 million-a-year, this despite the fact that he had no prior experience in Ukraine or in the field of energy.
While you were playing a key role in the rebuilding of Iraq, the president of a struggling construction company that was hoping for government contracts to remain in business met with the Office of the Vice President. Three weeks later they made your brother James their executive vice president, despite his having no real background in construction. This company shortly thereafter received lucrative government contracts and your brother James made millions from this.
When you began playing a key role in U.S. assistance to Costa Rica, your brother Frank suddenly became the beneficiary of great assistance from the Costa Rican government for such business ventures as a huge solar energy park, despite his having no background in solar energy, and developing a lavish country club, despite his having no experience in building such developments.
These are just a few samples from many of family members potentially leveraging their connection to your political influence to greatly enrich themselves. You’ve claimed that you’ve never discussed any of their business schemes with them, which strains credibility. But certainly you knew about them and you turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to them. Why? This may not be illegal, but please now tell us why there is nothing corrupt or unethical about each of these Biden family member practices. Tell us why you think it passes the smell test.
2. During the 2012 campaign, you often boasted that “General Motors is alive, and Osama bin Laden is dead.” Yet you had, in fact, urged President Barack Obama not to order the operation that succeeded in killing bin Laden. Why? What if President Obama had heeded your advice and bin Laden was still alive conducting terrorism attacks? Would you feel guilty?
3. You’ve called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the leading advocate of The Green New Deal, “brilliant.” Please explain which ideas of hers you consider most brilliant—and why?
1. For the first eight debates, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) rigidly enforced ever-increasing-in-difficulty rules for qualifying to make the debate stage—and, as intended, the number of qualifying candidates kept diminishing. Five days before you declared your candidacy, you wrote a check for $800,000 to the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, which then redistributed your $800,000 among the DNC and state party organizations. The DNC later drastically revised its rules to make it possible for you to qualify to be included in these debates. Was this a quid pro quo? Does this pass the smell test?
After Mr. Bloomberg answers, would those of you who think this passes the smell test please so signal by raising your hand?
2. Bloomberg News, which you own, is one of the world’s largest media organizations, with about 2,700 journalists in TV, radio, magazine, and digital operations. It announced that it will continue what it calls its tradition of not investigating you, you family, or your wealth—and that Bloomberg News will now extend the same policy to every other candidate competing in the Democratic presidential primaries. But it will not extend this “hear no evil/see no evil/speak no evil” investigative policy to Republicans. Isn’t this the sort of thing that is causing the public to distrust the news media? Don’t you think the fact that a major news organization muzzles journalists and orders them not to investigate stories that might be embarrassing to you or to any of the other Democratic candidates on this stage is something that the American people should find very troublesome?
After Mr. Bloomberg answers, would those of you who think the American people should feel disgusted knowing that a news organization is covering up for any political candidate or public official, please so signal by raising your hand?
1. Your only experience in government is eight years as mayor of a very small city—it ranks as the 308th largest city in the United States; it doesn’t even make the top three in Indiana; many communities classified as towns are far larger; it has a reputation for violent crime; and USA Today ranks it among America’s 20 worst cities. What makes you think that being mayor of South Bend, Indiana, proves that you’re qualified to be president of the United States?
2. In previous debates you’ve asserted, or at least strongly implied, that your military service qualifies you to be commander-in-chief. Most of your time as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve was spent at a center not far from your home to which you drove for weekend duty once a month, although you were called up for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan where you from time to time drove or guarded a superior office along routes that were dangerous places to be. Is it your view that anyone of similar rank and experience should be considered qualified to be commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military power?
And if the mayor answers yes, would those of you who agree please raise your hand?
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
1. You have presented yourself at these debates as a level-headed public official who works well with people. But a column published recently in your home state, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has resurrected stories that paint a very different picture of your temperament and self-control. It reports that you don’t deny throwing things at employees and that you seem to enjoy humiliating people, an example of which being that you once made a point of eating your lunch with a comb to humiliate a staffer who had failed to include a fork when delivering your salad to you. An article in Politicio describes you as among “the worst bosses in Congress.” You had the highest turnover rate in the Senate. Vanity Fair has referred to your having a “reputation for cruelty and repeated emotional abuse.” You’ve criticized President Trump for not acting presidential. These reports certainly don’t portray you as one who acts presidential. Are these reports about you, as President Trump might put it, “fake news”? If true, how do you explain your bad behavior?
Sen. Bernie Sanders
1. You proudly label yourself a socialist. America’s Soviet enemy called themselves the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Another enemy of the United States, Hitler’s Germany, called themselves Nazis, short for National Socialist. You have a long history of expressing admiration for such tyrannical dictators as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, whose socialist policies have turned Venezuela from being the richest country in South America into one of its poorest, with many of its people now starving and where inflation and political oppression are destroying their lives and robbing them of hope for a decent future. It’s been said that people can vote themselves into socialism, but they have to shoot themselves out of it, which is what’s happening right now close to us in Venezuela. Given socialism’s abysmal record in the world, why should the American people risk following the example of the Soviet Union and Venezuela by embracing your call for a “political revolution” to impose a socialistic agenda here?
2. Your plan and the plan of Sen. Elizabeth Warren to spend untold billions of dollars to replace college tuition with government-guaranteed free college and to award taxpayer money to erase tuition loan debts raises great issues of basic fairness. What about the people who don’t go to college but instead go to work? Why should they be forced to help bear the cost of providing a college education to strangers so that those strangers will be able to later land higher paying jobs than they themselves will likely ever have? Why should people who took responsibility to pay off their student loans be forced to help pay off the loans of those who didn’t? Why shouldn’t people who took the responsibility to pay off their student loans receive a refund from the government if we’re paying off the debt for those who didn’t bother to pay off their student loans?
3. Since you so strongly believe America needs socialism, given your age and health, will you commit to selecting a fellow socialist to be your vice president?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
1. Harvard Law School for some time hyped you as “a woman of color.” Why didn’t you speak up and point out that all one has to do is look at you to realize it’s ridiculous to claim that you’re a person of color? Why did you go along with such a lie?
2. You said that you were a Cherokee Indian—and that claim has been proven to be false. You said that you were fired from a teaching position because you were pregnant—and it turns out you voluntarily left that job. Last August you tweeted that Ferguson, Missouri, white police officer Darren Wilson had murdered an unarmed black man named Michael Brown—but surely you must have known from all the unusually extensive news coverage that both a Grand Jury and an Obama Justice Department investigation had confirmed that after committing robbery and assault, Brown had attempted to grab officer Wilson’s gun and was again charging at him when he was shot in what was determined to be justifiable self-defense. You promised months ago that you would never rely on PAC money to help finance your campaign for president—and already you’re breaking that promise. Given your pattern of saying things that simply aren’t true, why should the American people not see you as a dishonest politician who can’t be trusted to tell the truth?
After Sen. Warren answers, would former Vice President Biden please tell us his opinion about Sen. Warren’s in effect accusing the Obama–Biden administration of being complicit in the murder of a black man?
To All Candidates
1. Nearly every one of you has endorsed implementing The Green New Deal. Republicans and other critics say it’s lunacy economics that would destroy our economy and cause a severe depression. Please explain why they’re wrong and you’re right about these provisions: It calls for Americans no longer having the option of traveling by air, thereby making trips to Hawaii, Europe, Asia, South America, or the South Pacific extremely time consuming and impractical. What makes you think this is reasonable and realistic? It calls for retrofitting every building in the country—every office, every plant, everything, including every private home. What makes you think this is reasonable and realistic? It even calls for doing away with cows and cattle and government-guaranteed economic security not just for anyone unable to work but also for anyone who is unwilling to work! Please explain how this enormously costly plan would be a good deal for the American people rather than what Republicans and other critics say it would be—an ordeal. Sen. Warren, last week you said, “I not only support a Green New Deal, I don’t think it goes far enough,” so we’ll go first with you and ask that you also tell us what else you want included and what the additional cost would be.
Other candidates, besides explaining why Republicans and other critics are wrong and you’re right about these specific provisions just cited, please also state whether you agree or disagree with Sen. Warren that The Green New Deal doesn’t go far enough—and why.
2. Each of you has suggested that we need to ask the rich to pay their fair share in taxes. Setting aside the fact that government doesn’t ask us to pay taxes—taxes are not some invitation or request we can decline—what annual income do you believe deems someone to be rich? And what do you think is the “fair” share the rich should have to pay? That is, what percentage of their income tax should they pay in taxes? Just to refresh your memory, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other neutral experts, the top 20 percent of households pay 27 percent of their income in federal taxes while the bottom 20 percent pay only about 2 percent; and the top 1 percent pay 38 percent.
This may be a long question, but we can move along quickly because all each of you is being asked is to say exactly what income level you believe should qualify one as being rich and exactly what percentage of that person’s annual income should be surrendered to the federal government. Please—no repetition of glittering generalities like “fair share.” Again—what annual income do you believe deems someone to be rich? And what do you think is the “fair” share the rich should have to pay? Be very specific.
3. Democrats like to say you believe in science. Republicans and other critics say you are biology deniers. Former Vice President Biden has said that “there are at least three genders,” something he never asserted in all his years in the Senate or during his previous campaigns for president or vice president. As a party, Democrats have embraced the notion that a person who has a penis, a person with one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, must be considered a female if he says he thinks he’s a female, and a person who has a vagina, a person with two X chromosomes, is a male if she says she thinks she’s a male. Critics who view such thinking as biology denial point out that it is resulting in a situation in which males claiming to be female are defeating females in athletic contests and in which a lot of young people are undergoing radical irreversible drug and surgery procedures that may ruin their lives. Why are you Democrats embracing this notion that none of you touted before just recently adopting as policy? And if you believe there are more genders than male and female, please tell us how many, name a few, and explain exactly what visible sign identifies it as different from male and female?
4. Each of you publicly condemned President Trump for ordering the attack that succeeded in its mission to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a terrorist responsible for killing or severely wounding thousands of Americans. Do you wish Soleimani were still alive—or are you glad he’s dead? And if you’re glad he’s dead, isn’t this an admission that President Trump did the right thing and you were wrong to berate him for doing it?
5. Please name three, or at least one or two, specific accomplishments—specific accomplishments, not mere vague statements about some positions you’ve taken on issues—very specific accomplishments that you think clearly demonstrate that you are a much better choice than the current president and all of the others standing on this stage to be President of the United States.