Election 2016

5 Town Hall Questions That Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Should Be Asked

In the wake of "pussygate" and Wikileaks, these candidates have more than ever to answer for.


Gillespie screen cap

The second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton starts tonight at 9 P.M. ET. We'll be blogging and live-tweeting the debate right here at Reason.com, so do come back early and stay late. For different places and ways to catch the debate, go here. It will be a "town hall" style event, meaning that questions will be asked by a group of people right there in the room. And of course, despite being on the ballot in all 50 states, neither Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Jill Stein will be allowed anywhere near the stage because, well, you know, the debates were explicitly designed to focus all energy and attention on the Republicans and Democrats who created the system.

Be that as it may, here's a few questions I'd love to see asked and answered at tonight's debate.

  • Is that Trump audio tape grounds for stepping down? Donald Trump, do you stand by recently surfaced comments from 2005 in which you lay out a pick-up strategy that seems short on seduction and long on groping ("When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy"). Many Republicans who endorsed you have called for you to step down because your language offends them. Why are they wrong to desert you?
  • Are those Clinton emails from Wikileaks for real? Hillary Clinton, are the emails recently released by Wikileaks accurate? They purport to include transcripts and summaries by your campaign of speeches given to various audiences around the world. In one of them, you talk about the need to have public and private positions on issues that often are very different from one another. Throughout your campaign, you have (like Donald Trump) championed protectionism and attacked NAFTA and other free-trade deals. Yet, you apparently said, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere." What exactly is wrong with free trade that you will only defend it in speeches closed to the press?
  • What kind of jobs, if any, can government help create? Both of you say that America has been "de-industrialized" because of free trade and bad international deals that you will fix. Do either of you have any idea of when manufacturing jobs peaked as a percentage of the workforce? And does it give you pause to learn that it was in 1943 at about 38 percent of all non-farm jobs (the red line in the chart below)? What sorts of jobs do you think government policy can realistically help to increase and what specific policies would you pursue to that end?
St. Louis Fed
  • What about your foreign policy? Do you consider American foreign policy in the 21st century to be successful in advancing our national interests and securing our safety? Is there a meaningful difference between the ways Presidents Bush and Obama conducted themselves? Characterize your theoretical approach to foreign policy and talk about the various roles that trade, immigration, diplomacy, and military intervention should play.
  • What is your general philosophy of government? Just 29 percent of Americans identify as Democrats and just 26 percent identify as Republicans, figures at or near historic lows for each of your parties. Confidence in the ability of the government to handle international problems (49 percent) and domestic problems (44 percent) are also near all-time lows and about 55 percent of Americans agree government is doing too much to solve our problems, compared to 40 percent who think it's doing too little. Define your general philosophy of government: Do you think government is trying to do too much or do you think it needs to be doing and spending more, as you both propose in your budget plans?

Other than the first question, I'm not confident any of these will be discussed. But here's hoping.

And again, be here at 9 P.M. E.T to catch Reason's live-blogging and tweeting of the second presidential debate.