Search results for the tag, "Political Campaigns and Elections"

September 15th, 2007

Uncomfortable Questions

Recently, I posed a bunch of questions for the candidates. The questions were a way to trip up these presidential hopefuls, to make them squirm—and to think on their feet. Happily, at least vis-a-vis the Democrats, Bill Maher did just that earlier this week:

The video is above; the transcript, via the Boston Globe, is below.

1. Which would you honestly say is more likely to contribute to the death of your average American: A terrorist strike or high-fructose corn syrup and air that has too much coal in it?

2. Why should Americans vote for someone who can be fooled by George Bush?

3. Since 1980, the percentage of Americans who are obese has risen steadily to an all-time high, and a recent report by Trust for America’s Health said things were getting worse. In addition, SAT scores have declined and 38 percent of fourth-graders are

4. If the Ten Commandments constitute our greatest source of morality, why is it there no commandments saying do not rape, do not torture, or do not commit incest, yet there are commandments against swearing, working on Sunday, and making statues to other gods?

5. What criticism would you apply to the voters? Do you think they’re fair with you guys? Are they fickle? Are they shallow? Do they make informed choices? Do they pay attention to the right things? Do you ever, on the real now, feel like we’re spoiled brats who can’t take the truth and have to be lied to?

August 27th, 2007

Questions for the Candidates

Obama, McCain, Hillary, Romney, Rudy, Brownback, Biden, Edwards, Richardson

Here are some questions I’d like answered. As Dave Weigel observed of his queries, “It’s just a list of nags that the candidates might not have talking points for. And those are the sorts of queries they should be getting every day.”

For the Full Field

1. Do you believe that only [Mormons, Baptists, Catholics, born-again Christians, etc] go to heaven? Do you believe that only [Mormons, Baptists, Catholics, born-again Christians, etc] should go to heaven?

2. (A) Where do you get your news? (B) Do you read a newspaper on a daily basis? If so, which one or ones? (C) Do you read blogs? (D) If so, which ones?

3. Should using marijuana for medical reasons, as prescribed by a doctor, be illegal?

4. Everyone agrees that the tax code is too complex. How would you simplify it? Note: the question concerns tax reform, not tax cuts.

5. Running for president, especially in the age of YouTube, invites a massive amount of scrutiny. What aspects of a candidate’s life, if any, should be private? For instance, is it appropriate to report that a candidate’s children are not campaigning for him?

6. Name three things you did in your administration to increase transparency.

7. Why do you want to be president?

For the Democrats

1. What role, if any, would you task Bill Clinton with in your administration?

2. Do you send your children to private school? If so, why do you oppose giving vouchers to parents who are too poor to do the same?

3. What is the purpose of government?

4. Why or why not is the death tax good?

5. Should late-term abortion be legal?

6. You believe that abortion should be legislated at the federal level, via Roe v. Wade, but that marriage should be a state issue. Isn’t this a contradiction?

7. Did U.S. foreign policy contribute to the reasons for the attacks of September 11, 2001?

For the Republicans

1. Is it wrong for the GOP to nominate for president someone who is pro-choice?

2. Would you allow an abortion in the case of rape or incest, or for the health of the mother?

3. Why does defining marriage as between a man and a woman necessitate the denial of more than 1,000 rights to gay couples that the federal government grants to straight couples?

4. In arguing against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gays from military service, Barry Goldwater said that you don’t have to be straight to shoot straight. Do you agree?

5. Is homosexuality a choice, or is it biological?

6. Of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jerry Fallwell said, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'” How did those “who have tried to secularize America” help 9/11 to happen?

7. Is global warming a naturally occurring or man-made phenomenon?

8. What is your exit strategy for Iraq? At what point do the costs outweigh the benefits?

9. What one cabinet position would you abolish, if any?

10. What role, if any, did Iraq play in the attacks of September 11, 2001?

January 30th, 2004

New Hampshire Primary: The Best and Worst of Politics

A version of this blog post appeared in the Hamilton College Spectator (January 30, 2004), in the Utica Observer-Dispatch (February 3, 2004), and on (February 5, 2004), and was noted on the Hamilton College Web site (February 3, 2004).

With 11 other Hamilton students this past weekend, I volunteered for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in Keene, NH. Listening to the Democratic candidates in person and their supporters’ questions, mixed with many personal conversations, including phone and front-door solicitations, led me to some general reflections on American politics.

First, just because you like political science doesn’t mean you’ll like political activism. In the former, one debates whether Saddam was a threat or whether we could have contained him. In the latter, one lambastes either the absence of weapons of mass destruction or the people lambasting that absence.

Second, slogans trump substance. Howard Dean declares himself “pro-education.” John Kerry asks, “If George Bush wants to make foreign policy an issue in this campaign, I say, ‘Bring it on!’” Al Sharpton refers to “weapons of mass deception.” Yet while these sound bites generate applause, they say nothing. Who, after all, could be anti-education in the broadest sense? We may laugh, but we learn nothing about a candidate’s positions.

Third is the job known as “visibility.” It’s as simple as it sounds: you stand in a well-trafficked public place waving a big sign featuring your candidate’s name. Yet while such advertisements may quickly inform passersby of a candidate’s relative popularity, they appeal to a herd mentality: vote for Dean because everyone else is.

Fourth, asking volunteers why they support a candidate or why they abhor Bush or how Kerry differs from Dean reveals an uninformed populace. Typical answers cite not political positions but personalities.

Fifth, supporters criticize their opponents more than they promote their own candidate. On one particularly flagrant occasion, while I took a break to read a book for my history class titled Inside Hitler’s Germany, one man asked me, “Reading about Bush, huh?”

Sixth, presidential campaigning requires the skin of an oak tree, the excuses of a Hamilton student pleading for an extension on a final paper, and a lockjaw smile. Remember, though, that we all have skeletons in our closets, and they’d tumble out if scrutinized by every reporter across America.

In the end, I’m glad I went, because I experienced politics at its best—no place is busier politically than Iowa or New Hampshire during caucus and primary season—and politics at its worst: mud-slinging and anti-intellectualism. Of course, I can say these things only because I harbor no political aspirations.