Election 2016

Debate Questions for the GOP Candidates

Some questions informed by reporting on the campaign trail...



The news that Fox News's Neil Cavuto will be one of the moderators for this week's Republican presidential debate should reassure anyone fearing a replay of last month's CNBC debacle. Cavuto was known in the New York Sun newsroom as "The Great Cavuto." The other moderators who will be participating—The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Baker and Fox Business News's Maria Bartiromo —are no slouches, either. But I've yet to run across any of them up in New Hampshire on the campaign trail. So in case any of the three need any last-minute inspiration, here are some questions, informed by reporting, that might be illuminating to see answered, or at least asked, on Tuesday night.

For Jeb Bush: You said last week in New Hampshire that you wouldn't change ObamaCare's requirement that insurance policies issued to parents allow the purchase of coverage for their children through age 26. If a parent or a company wants to buy a policy that ends the coverage at age 25 and a half, or at age 24, and the insurer wants to sell that policy, why should there be a federal law that outlaws such policies? Where in the Constitution is the federal government granted the power to interfere with the ability of a willing buyer and a willing seller to contract for such a policy?

For Sen. Marco Rubio: Last week in New Hampshire, you cited commercial aviation as an example of the success of regulation. Have you ever thought about it, instead, as an example of the success of de-regulation? Or considered how a lot of the hassles of commercial aviation—the ones, like security screening, that wealthy passengers are willing to pay extra to fly on private jets to avoid—are examples of problems caused by regulation?

Speaking of regulation, you'd impose a new requirement on colleges and universities to disclose the earnings of graduates by their major field and degree. Where in the Constitution does the federal government get the power to do that? And isn't the cost of administrators hired to comply with unreasonable government mandates one of the reason college tuitions have gotten so expensive, anyway? Don't you think the private sector can figure out a way to solve this problem—if it even is a problem—without the federal government stepping in?

Last week at a campaign event in Nashua, you criticized ObamaCare, saying, "ObamaCare has high deductibles and high co-payments. It's a disaster at every level." Is the Republican critique of ObamaCare really going to be that its subsidies are not generous enough? How do you propose to slow the growth of health care spending or reduce waste without making it more consumer-driven, meaning consumers, rather than third parties, pay a substantial share of the cost?

Last week at that same campaign event in Nashua, New Hampshire, you said of the Constitution, "It doesn't grant the federal government power; it limits the federal government's power." Did you really go to law school? What are articles I, II, and III of the Constitution if not grants of power?

For Sen. Ted Cruz: You voted against fast track negotiation power for President Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Are you going to want that authority from Congress to negotiate your own trade deals as president? Can you explain why Republican voters should be comfortable that on trade, you agree with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrat Hillary Clinton that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal? Do you really in your gut oppose this free trade deal, or are you just pandering to anti-trade talk-radio hosts and their audiences?

Do you see any irony in the fact that a Canadian-born Cuban-American such as yourself is basing his campaign in part on opposition to President Obama's "unconstitutional amnesty" for illegal immigrants?

For Donald Trump: Last week in New Hampshire, responding to a question from the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, you said you supported the use of the government's property-seizing eminent domain power not just for roads and bridges but also for private commercial projects such as casinos or oil pipelines. In essence, in answering about the substance of the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court case, you sided with the Supreme Court liberals such as Justice Ginsberg and against the court's conservatives such as Justices Scalia and Thomas. Why should voters trust you to respect private property rights if you are elected president?

For Dr. Benjamin Carson: You've said you'd have responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, by threatening the Saudis that we'd seek energy independence if they did not turn over Bin Laden. What specific steps would you have taken to achieve such energy independence if the Saudis did not respond, and how would those steps have affected American consumers and American companies that operate in global oil markets? How would you respond to another terrorist attack on American soil or on an American facility overseas during your presidency?

NEXT: Students at Yale, Missouri Beg College Administrators to Play Mommy and Daddy

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  1. Im no Rubio supporter but your treatment of him is a little harsh. I’m sure he was referring to the bill of rights not the body of the Constitution. Slip of the tongue doesn’t make someone an idiot. Just like Barack Obama isn’t an idiot for saying there’s 57 states.

    I’ve also heard Rubio criticize Obamacare on the overall merits. Not sure why criticizing it specifically for failing to meet one of the results promised to the public when it was passed (lowering premiums and deductibles) means he’s suddenly a statist welfare queen.

    Again, not a Rubio fan (his arguments for expanding Earned Income Tax Credits are fundamentally flawed) so for you to get me to come on here and defend him must mean your potshots are particularly egregious.

    1. The seven extra states are Old Mexico, S. Alaska, N. Montana, N. Maine, New New York, North Minnesota, and The Yooper State – North Michigan.

      1. You forgot Atchafalaya.

  2. I was going to bet that this was written by Napolitano.

  3. Dr. Carson: I have a knife in front of me. Which of your opponents would you like to stab?

  4. My question to any pro-drug war candidate.

    Where in the US Constitution does it give the federal government the authority for the war on drugs?

    1. better to ask the question to “THE pro drug war candidate”, and then snicker as they try to figure out which one of them you were addressing.

  5. Um, bin Laden wasn’t in Saudi Arabia…I feel like that’s a relevant critique of Carson’s nonsensical answer.

    1. unless it’s based on where the hijackers were from….but yeah, his original statement is its own critique.

  6. just hook them up to polygraphs already…if you think trump was good for ratings.

  7. For all of the candidates: I have hear a nice crisp five dollar bill. Will any of you punch Donald Trump on national TV in exchange for this as a campaign donation?
    Follow up: Ok, what about for four dollars? Three? Two? Rand, that’s kicking, I specifically said “punch”.

    1. Can we get a kickstarter for this? How much money for someone to be able to punch DT in the throat?

  8. “Can you explain why Republican voters should be comfortable that on trade, you agree with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democrat Hillary Clinton that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal?”

    This is a stupid question. The legitimacy of an idea is not based on who else has stated agreement.

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