Right wing columnist, and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer has spent some time and come up with some questions that he would like to get the 2016 Democratic presidential nominees to answer. He apparently thinks they’re really smart and that liberals would have trouble answering them. I’m not running for president, and I don’t feel like I would be the most qualified person for the job. That said, I’m still going to have some fun answering each of them.
The 2016 presidential campaign season has begun in earnest, and so has the season of presidential gotcha journalism — at least it has for Republicans.
Gotcha journalism is the attempt by journalists to ask questions that make interview subjects seem uncompassionate, incompetent or otherwise unqualified for office.
Sometimes, gotcha questions really do reveal a lot about the candidate — their values, policy prescriptions and other things that provide citizens with a window into their character or competency.
More often, however, gotcha questions aren’t directly relevant to the duties of the office the candidate is seeking and thus are seen as coming from a hidden agenda.
Ironically the fact that you would even consider asking many of the questions you came up with, especially given how you worded some of them, shows us that you’re not really that compassionate yourself. Personally I’m glad you won’t be running for office, and I hope that none of the GOP candidates that think like you win in 2016.
I’ll confess to a degree of ambivalence when it comes to political gotcha questions. Perhaps it is because I recognize that they are disproportionately asked of conservative candidates, and meant only to embarrass them.
You should actually be embarrassed by the fact that you would even consider asking a presidential candidate some of the questions you want to ask. Spoiler alert, as you might have guessed by my title, many of them are going to be really stupid.
Recently, Republican presidential candidates have been asked whether they would attend a same-sex marriage, whether they believe in evolution, and whether they would outlaw contraceptives. Before that, there were gotcha questions about infidelity, the use of illegal drugs, and which newspapers they liked to read.
Sorry but many of those actually are really good questions. For example, since evolution is a scientific fact, with so much data backing it up, asking whether or not a candidate believes in it, is relevant. It gives us a good idea as to just how educated he/she is, and if he/she completely rejects reality. We don’t want someone in office who would make decisions based on pseudoscience. He/she would be much more likely to do that if he/she believes in nonsense like creationism. We also want someone in office who understands why it isn’t a good idea for us to teach that evolution is “just a theory” in our schools.
In the interests of fairness, here is a list of questions honest journalists should consider asking Democratic candidates, especially those running for president.
When does life begin? And when does that life become a human person deserving of constitutional rights?
A ) Technically life does in fact begin at conception, however we are not yet people until we start to become self aware. A zygote ( when the baby is just a clump of cells ) clearly isn’t capable of personhood yet. It may be alive, but its not self aware, and it cannot make decisions for itself. Its wrong to kill a baby after its born, because, first off, its never going to put its mother’s life in danger. Second the baby can feel pain. Last but not least, even through its not as aware as it will be as an adult or even a child, it is far more aware than when he/she first started growing in their mother’s womb.
You say you support women’s right to make their own reproductive choices. Do you support any limits on abortion? Third-trimester abortions? Abortions of fetuses who can feel pain or live outside their mother’s womb? Abortions specifically targeting unborn girls?
A ) I do have somewhat of a problem with abortion in general, but only because in an ideal world, they would never be necessary. Every single pregnancy in that ideal world, would be wanted, and the mother’s well being would never depend on terminating it. Abortion thus wouldn’t be an issue at all, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a universe where women can get pregnant from being brutally raped, contrary to what some ignorant politicians might say. Women can even die from complications in their pregnancy.
I don’t think it would be a good idea to ban abortion, even if we include exceptions for rape, and the life of the mother. Even ignoring a women’s right to choose, outlawing abortion, does little to actually stop abortion, for the most part, it just harms women. Increasing the availability of contraception and supporting comprehensive sex education, ( not abstinence only which has been shown to never work ) does far more to lower the number of abortions than outlawing it. If you really want to limit the number of abortions, that’s what you should be doing instead.
Do you believe nuns should be forced to buy birth control or face crippling fines? Do you support the Obama administration’s health care mandates that force people of faith to subsidize abortion and life-ending drugs and devices or face the force of law?
A ) No one who isn’t going to use birth control should be forced to buy it for themselves. Other than that the answer to everyone one of those questions is a yes. The Hobby Lobby decision was wrong and religious business owners, or any business owners shouldn’t be able to force their values onto their employees.
What do you think should happen to private business people with strong and deeply held religious beliefs who choose not to serve at a gay wedding? Should they be driven out of business? Should they be bullied into compliance, perhaps through some sort of re-education program?
A ) Private business owners who refuse to serve gay people are like private business owners who think they shouldn’t have to serve black people. They’re bigots, regardless of their religion. If people could use their religion to get around the 1964 civil rights act, we would still see “whites only” signs on business across the South, and even in other parts of the country. Would you like to see racists who think that the Bible forbids interracial marriage, be able to refuse to serve mixed race couples? Should people who refuse to serve gays be driven out of business? Yes. Should they be made to comply with anti discrimination laws? Yes. As long as what your customers want to do with the product that you’re selling isn’t against the law, its none of your business. Gays and lesbians are not harming Christians or anyone by simply existing. Having to obey the same laws as everyone else and serve them doesn’t persecute you.
Of course I don’t support forcing homophobes into some re-education program. We didn’t need to force Southerners into re-education camps during integration, to make them change their minds about black people.
Does the liberal virtue of tolerance include tolerance for those who oppose gay marriage?
A ) If I come across someone on the street who opposes gay marriage, I will tell them that their opposition is misguided. That said, the government doesn’t have the right to force them to change their views. Forcing them to obey anti discrimination laws and sell wedding cakes to gay or lesbian couples, isn’t the same thing. Homosexual business owners shouldn’t be allowed to refuse service to a homophobic fundamentalist Christian couple either.
Many of your supporters consider those who believe in the traditional view of marriage as the union of a man and a woman bigots, akin to racists. Do you agree with this view? If so, how do you reconcile this with the fact that you opposed gay marriage until very recently?
A ) I would say I was wrong, but most of society agreed with me at the time. It is bigotry to oppose marriage equality. The fact that most people didn’t support gay marriage until recently doesn’t change that. The fact that most Americans opposed the right of interracial couples to get married until the later half of the twentieth century doesn’t make that any less bigoted either. Many of the arguments put forth by modern day marriage equality opponents today, are very similar to the ones people used against interracial marriage, and are just as invalid.
A question specifically for Hillary Clinton: Do you still believe, as you said you did until quite recently, that marriage is “not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman a fundamental bedrock principle”?
A ) I’m not Hillary, but assuming she said that I would imagine that her views have changed to include same sex couples. Thankfully, she seems to support marriage equality now, hopefully not just to get more people to vote for her.
Another question for Hillary: In the 2008 campaign, you suggested Americans would not be able to sleep well at night knowing that Barack Obama would be the one taking an emergency 3 a.m. phone call to the White House about a foreign policy crisis. Based on your conduct in the Benghazi affair, do you think voters have reason to doubt your ability to protect Americans from foreign threats?
A ) Not sure how I would answer that question if I were Hillary, however, she could point out that she didn’t have anything to do with what happened in Benghazi.
You say that you are a person of faith. When is the last time you attended a church to worship? Would you attend a service in a church that did not support gay marriage or abortion?
A ) How do you know if the person you’re addressing is a Christian to begin with? Most likely he / she is given that most Americans are, but couldn’t he / she belong to another faith assuming they are religious? Also the number of times someone went to church or temple or whatever, isn’t relevant to whether or not they would make a good president. I’m not a Christian, my beliefs actually come closer to deism than anything else, ( not really sure I qualify as that either through ). If I were a Christian, given how I feel about those things, I’d still have a hard time in a church where the pastor railed against “the evils” of homosexuality and abortion. Even so, I wouldn’t support taking away the rights of anyone to go to any church they wanted, even if it opposed those things. The Catholic Church is officially anti gay marriage, anti abortion and anti birth control. That said, there are Catholics who are pro marriage equality, pro choice, and pro birth control. Are they any less Catholic or any less Christian, for having those views? Its not for the government to decide who are the “true followers,” of any particular faith.
As a Christian, do you believe in the biblical account of creation? How do you reconcile that account with your belief in evolution?
A ) Again I wouldn’t call myself a Christian, but evolution isn’t incompatible with Christianity. There are plenty of Christians that see no conflict between evolution and their faith. The only Christians who have a problem with it, are the ones who insist in a literal interpretation of the Bible. I’m sorry if you don’t like to hear this, but a belief in things like a six thousand year old Earth are demonstrably false. While a young Earth has been debunked long ago, there is plenty of evidence for an ancient Earth that’s billions of years old.
The scientific consensus is overwhelming. The vast majority of scientists, especially in relevant fields of study, accept the theory of evolution, regardless of what religion that they happen to belong to. The people who call themselves “scientists,” who believe in some form of creationism, on the other hand, are usually either frauds like Kent Hovind or not someone in a relevant field, assuming they actually are scientists at all.
Do you believe that the American people are undertaxed? Which taxes do you want to raise? Name two taxes you would cut?
A ) Hmm… You actually came up with your first good one.
You won’t like my answer Mr. Bauer, but the rich, especially the one percent need to pay their fair share. They’re not paying enough into the system. Trickled down economics is bunk, so to expect cutting taxes for the wealthy to be some magic bullet that will always improve the economy is wrong. It doesn’t work that way. I don’t really know what federal taxes if any should be cut in particular, right now. However, government provides valuable services with the money it collects via taxes. Both guns ( the military ) and butter ( social services ) are important. We also need to spend more money on scientific research. If we’re going to cut taxes we’ll need to first cut wasteful spending on things that we don’t need. Than we can think about cutting taxes.
In fairness, this question about taxes, might actually be a “gotcha question” since candidates including the ones running as Democrats might have a hard time answering it honestly without upsetting their big donors.
Is America facing a severe threat from radical Islam? If not, what is the nature of the threat from terrorists?
A ) No the threat from Islamists to the United States has been exaggerated. They’re not the ones who are going to turn our country into a theocratic dictatorship, if it ever happens. Americans will not, in significant numbers support implementing sharia law. Despite this, right now there are massive fears of Sharia being implemented in the United States, which are utterly baseless and have been used to justify bigotry against Muslims. Muslim are a tiny minority in this country, about zero point nine percent of our population in 2014. While that is higher than in the past, its still pretty low. It wouldn’t be possible for them to take over and turn the country into a theocracy, even if each and every one of them wanted to, and most of them do not.
Christian fundamentalists are the ones who are currently violating the first amendment trying to impose their religion on students in our public schools. Just one recent example. A while back, a Buddhist student was subjected to a class where the teacher taught a fundamentalist form of Christianity, and pressured him to worship Jesus, even through that’s a clear cut violation of the establishment clause. Mr. Bauer, If you care so much about threats to our freedom, why aren’t you more concerned with fanatics like Bryan Fischer? He literally expects us to believe that the first amendment applies only to Christians ( most likely only to his version of Christianity ) and that people have no right to practice any other faith in America. He even has a blog at the American Family Association, which despite being monitored as a hate site by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is still respected by many conservative Republicans.
Also, do you believe that all terrorists are Muslims? Most domestic terrorists are not and have never been Muslims. Why shouldn’t we be more concerned with the threat from far right domestic terrorists? They’re just as real as terrorists who operate in the name of Islam, foreign or domestic.
Name two decisions that President Obama has made or policies he has implemented that you disagree with, and explain why.
A ) That’s the second question you asked that’s actually good and might challenge the presidential nominee. However two out of thirteen “gotcha questions” so far, qualifying as “gotcha questions” isn’t doing too well. Fine, three out of thirteen if you count the one for Hillary about Benghazi, but only because it might pose somewhat of a problem for her. Still not doing too well Mr. Bauer.
So let me see? Can I think of two specific Obama policies that I disagree with and why?
His perpetual drone strike policy seems to have backfired, and has actually led to more radicalism and hatred of the US. Beyond that, most of the people killed by our drones haven’t been the bad guys, but innocent civilians instead. I know we need to fight wars and we want to keep our troops out of harms way as much as possible, but we really need to come up with an alternative to these drone strikes, unless we find a way to drastically reduce the amount of collateral damage.
Not as egregious, but I really wish Obama had come out in favor of marriage equality sooner. I’ve got to give him credit for doing it eventually, but he took a bit too long, and it would have been nice if he could have openly supported it from day one.
Which conservative publications do you read or news outlets do you consume? How do you ensure that you are exposed to the best arguments of those with whom you disagree?
A ) I don’t read too many conservative publications ever since I stopped being a conservative, but that entire time I was exposed to what conservatives thought on a daily basis. Interestingly, unlike many of the conservative websites, the left wing blogs that I read, usually link back to the original commentary or video when they try to refute a conservative’s ideas.
That was actually another decent “gotcha question,” but that’s still only four out of fourteen at best, and that was your last question.
Most people would call the questions above tough and incisive but not out of bounds. Too bad so many politicians feel they can brush them aside simply by labeling them “gotcha questions.”
Actually I would say that most people outside of the Right, at least, would call a majority of them “not very good questions.” With some exceptions they could easily be answered by liberal or progressive candidates.
That’s not right. Political candidates — especially those seeking to become leader of the free world — should be able to answer any question, so long as it is at least somewhat relevant to the job he or she is seeking.
Which is something on which I agree.
So ask away, journalists. But let’s give Democrats the same treatment you give Republicans.
Go right ahead. If you or one of your fellow conservative Republicans want to ask a Democratic nominee one or more of these questions, go ahead. You might not like their answers but they’ll probably be able to answer most of them more easily than you think. Most of them really aren’t very good “gotcha questions”