Pixel Tracker

Friday, February 22 , 2019, 2:34 am | Fair 42º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Mark Shields: The Real Questions to Improve Our Presidential Debates

By wide consensus, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was one of the two breakout stars in the last Republican presidential debate (Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was the other). Cruz is clearly a very smart man who is capable of saying some really stupid things.

The GOP griped about the CNBC debate format and questioning. During a debate recap on Fox News, Cruz asserted that unless you vote in a Republican primary, you should not moderate a Republican debate.

In other words: Sorry, Bob Schieffer, Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw. Yes, you all qualify as superb journalists with earned reputations for fairness, but unless you can first pass our partisan loyalty test, you cannot participate.

Cruz then explained that the moderators at these presidential debates should help conservatives determine who would be the best and most consistent conservative. Forget about any questions on serious matters that might reveal the knowledge, values, wisdom or temperament of the candidate.

What citizens need to know, by the Cruz criteria, is who gets perfect scores from the anti-tax Club for Growth and who most adamantly opposes background checks for gun-buyers.

No one is objective, and a media pass doesn’t change that. We are all shaped by our own individual experiences.

What the good journalist — of whom there are many — always strives to be is fair. So in the interest of fairness, permit me to suggest some questions that might just make our debates both more interesting and informative.

“When President Gerald Ford debated his challenger, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, columnist Joseph Kraft asked this question: ‘Americans all know these are difficult times. ... They don’t expect something for nothing. ... As you look at the next four years, what sacrifices are you going to call on the American people to make? What price are you going to ask them to pay?’ How would you answer Joe Kraft’s question?”

“What is the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline today?” A suggested follow-up: “Gas is about two dollars a gallon cheaper today than it was when Barack Obama was running for president seven years ago. What credit, if any, does President Obama deserve for the falling price of gasoline?”

To Democratic candidates: “What has been President Obama’s biggest single failure in office?” To Republicans: “What, in fairness, has been President Obama’s single major achievement in office?”

“If you could propose, with assurance that it would be ratified, just one amendment to the Constitution, what would it be?”

“Why do you think the Japanese kamikaze pilots when they flew their suicide planes bothered to wear helmets?”

“Who was your favorite Beatle?”

“Name two major issues where you disagree publicly with the majority of your party.”

“This is the nation that put a man on the moon and rebuilt as thriving democracies two destroyed tyrannies — imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. What do you see as the next frontier for the United States to conquer?”

“Without mentioning the name or positions of any opponent or party, tell us in two minutes why you should be president.”

“We are about to have our second presidential election in a row without a nominee who is a veteran. Did you never think about enlisting in the U.S. military to serve your country?”

This last one is my personal favorite. “Mike Mansfield served honorably in the Navy, Army and the Marine Corps before he was even old enough to vote — and later went on to serve longer than any American in history as both U.S. Senate majority leader and U.S. ambassador to Japan. He directed that on the simple grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery there be inscribed the following: ‘Michael Joseph Mansfield, Private U.S. Marine Corps.’ In one sentence, tell us what you would want your epitaph to say.”

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >