I fell asleep watching the second Republican presidential debate—the main event, not the preliminary—an hour into the program. Frankly, the schoolyard taunts and tit-for-tats did not become our democracy. But I really don’t blame the candidates. No, the fault lay squarely on the shoulders and reporter’s notebook of moderator Jake Tapper of CNN whose questions were geared to bait the candidates into infantile attacks on each other rather than engage them in serious dialogue about the issues confronting our nation and the world at large.
To be sure, some of the would-be-presidents tried to refocus the discussion, but they were could not succeed in elevating the evening into anything resembling a Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Here’s what I was hoping the candidates would be asked (in random order) so that America could better gauge their competencies and strategic visions:
*Since all said they would tear up Obamacare upon assuming office, what health coverage would they immediately provide those who are presently covered by the Affordable Care Act? Are there provisions of the ACA they would keep? What provisions would they jettison and why?
*What is their strategy for dealing with Iran in the absence of a unified international coalition?
*What should Europe do about the refugee crisis? What should the United States do?
*Ronald Reagan amnestied illegal aliens. Would they? If not, why wouldn’t they follow the example of Ronald Reagan?
*Reagan raised taxes. Would they, if it meant reducing the $18 trillion national debt?
*Infrastructure in our country is deteriorating. What would they do to reverse that trend so that our roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and rail systems are up to 21st century standards? How would they fund any improvements they would propose?
*What should be done about the minimum wage? Should it be increased, reduced or stay at the current level which many economists believe cannot sustain a family of four above the poverty level?
*How do they view current race relations? What steps, if any, are needed to improve them?
*Is there a need for OSHA to protect the safety of workers? The FDA to protect consumers? The SEC to protect investors? The EPA to protect the environment?
*What is their vision about the way we can improve the education of our children? Is there any role for the federal government in this process?
*In 2008, would they have signed on to the auto industry bailout?
*Given their support of Israel, what is their position vis-a-vis a two-state solution incorporating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Should it be demilitarized? Should Israel be permitted to retain strategic defense positions within the Palestinian state?
*What role would alternative energy programs play within their administration?
*Should the federal government endorse equal pay for women? If not, why not?
*What changes to Social Security do they advocate and why?
*Should those 18 and older be required to perform some form of public service, be it in the military or some other program that benefits us all, such as the WPA programs of the New Deal?
*What specific changes to the federal tax code do they want enacted?
*What social welfare programs would they eliminate or sharply reduce in their budgets?
I’m sure I could think of other questions, but in the interest of time and space, let’s end the list here and hope that during the next debate the moderator and other journalists asking questions will concentrate more on substance and less, much less, on style. We are, after all, looking for the next president, not the next Miss America (or in Donald Trump’s world, the next Miss Universe).