Questions for the presidential candidates at their first debate
Monday, we will finally get to see, on the same stage, the presidential candidates who hate each other, find each other unqualified, and who long ago seem to have taken the gloves off in their smackdown.
Here are just a few of the questions I’d ask the man and woman who would like to be our president:
• People don’t like either of you, including politicians in Washington. Secretary Clinton, how will you bring together Democrats and Republicans, when your war with so many Republicans dates back to your years as first lady? And, Mr. Trump, notable Democrats and Republicans seem to find your style and policies confounding. How much can you really accomplish without the broad-based support of Republicans?
• Mr. Trump, you suggested that Congress shouldn’t consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and they haven’t. What would you do if you were President Obama and the Senate openly ignored your choice for Supreme Court?
• Mrs. Clinton, there’s a frequent line from courtroom dramas like Law & Order that goes something like this: “You said X when the detectives spoke to you and now you’re saying Y. Which is it? Were you lying then or are you lying now?” People don’t trust you. You don’t seem completely forthcoming, even about your pneumonia, until we see pictures of you stumbling into your SUV. How do we know when you’re sharing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
• Mr. Trump, are you going to release your tax returns? The longer you go without sharing them, the more people wonder if you’re hiding something. You believe your opponent selectively discloses details about herself all the time, but you’re not sharing something most, if not all, candidates have shared. What gives?
• Mr. Trump, you have suggested on a few occasions that advocates of the second amendment might have something to say about Hillary Clinton’s position on gun control. You claim that people misinterpret what you say because you didn’t mean what you said when you wrote it. Your rhetoric, were you to be president, would mean something far different from what it does when you’re tweeting. If you were president, would you tamp down the bluster that people might misinterpret? Do you feel you can and should be able to shoot from the hip, as it were, whenever it suits your interests?
• Neither of you seems ready to say the kinds of things we would hope to teach our children, such as “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong.” Can each of you name a situation or circumstance in public life when you made a mistake and you recognize that you could and should have done better?
• Okay, turning away from each other, what policy do each of you guarantee wouldn’t change one iota and for which you would be inflexible or unwilling to compromise if either of you became president? Candidates often make promises they can’t keep when they’re elected. Is there anything you will pursue in its current form from your platforms?
• You both must recognize that your own rhetoric has alienated voters and raised concerns among various groups about your ability to lead and act on their behalf. Mrs. Clinton, how would you reconcile with Trump’s “deplorables,” as you put it, and Mr. Trump, how would you represent Muslim-Americans, Americans of Mexican heritage or any of the other people you’ve alienated if you became president?
• This campaign seems steeped in negativity. What is the most positive message each of you can share? How would that positive message make people feel better about the election and, down the road, the prospects for themselves and for this country? Be as specific as possible.