Although a debate stage with eight candidates is inherently conducive to a circus atmosphere, the debate moderators need to focus on questions which elicit substantive answers to specific policy questions from the candidates. Moreover, the liberal moderators from Politico and NBC should remember that they are overseeing a Republican debate. As such, their questions should stem from conservative premises, and should provoke thoughtful responses from the candidates – responses that will demonstrate their visions of conservative governance to a conservative electorate.
Another bonus proposal would be for the Reagan Library to screen the
audience more carefully to prevent outbursts of cheers and jeers,
thereby engendering a more serious atmosphere than the previous debate
(yes, we're looking at you, Ron Paul supporters).
Here are some proposed questions:
- Entitlements & Mandatory Spending: Everyone
likes to offer vague bromides about the necessity for entitlement
reform. What is your specific plan to reform the three big mandatory
spending programs? How will that plan uphold the integrity of the free
market and conservative principles? What is your plan for the
burgeoning "other mandatory spending programs," such as food stamps,
welfare, and extended unemployment benefits?
-Federal Reserve: Many conservatives have criticized
the Fed’s interventionist policies as the culprit for a weak dollar and
higher commodity prices. What reforms would you impose on the Fed?
Would you repeal the Fed's dual mandate to achieve economic growth,
leaving it to focus just on currency stability?
-Taxes: Some candidates have offered a more specific
tax reform plan than others. What specific rates would you propose for
the personal income tax, the corporate tax, capital gains &
dividends? Should we abolish the death tax? Which tax credits and
deductions, if any, would you keep? Do you believe in refundable
credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax
Credit? Do you support Obama's proposal to extend the 2% payroll tax
holiday for another year?
- Energy Subsidies: Should we abolish ethanol
subsidies, or merely reform them as some in the Senate have proposed?
What about farm subsidies? Should government invest any resources in
alternative fuels, or should that be left to private enterprise and the
Do you think there is any role for price & wage controls or subsidies in a free market economy?
- Nuclear Energy: Is the failure of Japanese
nuclear plants during the tsunami relevant to our nuclear energy
program? Do you think we should still pursue a robust nuclear energy
program in this country?
- Patent Reform Bill: Congress is set to pass a
patent reform bill this week. It enjoys broad bipartisan support, and
the president is touting it as an engine for job creation. There are
small minorities in both parties that oppose it. Do you think we should
transform our first-to-invent system into a first-to-file system? Is
this a jobs bill?
-Healthcare: Presumably, everyone supports the
repeal of Obamacare. Nevertheless, even before Obamacare, the cost of
healthcare had been skyrocketing. What do you think is the cause of the
high healthcare costs and what conservative solutions would you
implement to create downward pressure on healthcare costs?
-Downsizing Government: Everyone in the Republican
field repeats incessantly that the size of government is too big. The
power and scope of government is structured through departments,
agencies, boards, offices, and programs. Which ones would you
An American president is inherently limited in his ability to control
the entire executive branch by himself. How would you ensure that
inveterate agencies and offices, which are controlled by career
bureaucrats and have an innate proclivity to expand, are reined in by
-Transportation/ Infrastructure: President Obama is
pushing for a new infrastructure stimulus as part of his jobs plan. Do
you think that surface transportation should continue to be a primary
responsibility of the federal government, or should we abolish the
federal gasoline tax and devolve transportation spending to the states?
Over the past few decades the Postal Service and Amtrak have racked up billions of dollars in losses. Should we privatize them?
-Education: Would you repeal No Child Left Behind? What role, if any, should the federal government play in education?
-Housing: Should the federal government be involved in public housing, rental assistance, and housing finance activities?
-Immigration/Homeland Security: It
is universally understood that we must gain control over our borders.
What specific steps would you pursue to achieve a secure border? Do you
believe that the intent of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship
to the children of illegal immigrants? How would you ensure that
illegals don't receive welfare benefits or tax credits? Do you support
mandatory E-verify and Real ID?
What reforms would you institute to our legal immigration system?
Would you encourage changes to the volume of immigration? Do you think
that 1.1 million legal immigrants per year are too much? Would you
abolish the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?
There have been dozens of attempted terror attacks since 9/11,
many of which were plotted by legal residents, or even American
citizens. Most of them originated from Middle Eastern countries. What
reforms would you implement to ensure that there is more scrutiny of
those who originate from countries that represent security risks? Would
you make changes to our airport security system and the TSA to focus
more on targeted threats, while preserving the liberties of the vast
majority of travelers?
-10th Amendment: There has been a newfound alacrity for the 10th
Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United
States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are
reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” What do you
believe are the boundaries to which even state governments cannot
traverse, and must cede exclusively to the people?
-Trade: Are you concerned about the growing trade
deficit? Do you believe that the primary culprit is free trade, or the
fiscal deficit, along with imprudent domestic policies, such as
over-taxation and regulation? Should we support protectionist programs
like the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)?
-Life/Marriage: Assuming Roe v. Wade is not
overturned, what will you do to promote the sanctity of life as
president? If Congress fails to send a Federal Marriage Amendment to
the states, what will you do to preserve the institution of marriage
from becoming redefined?
-Iran: For everyone except Ron Paul; what specific
measures would you take to preclude Iran from meddling into Iraq and
from obtaining nuclear weapons?
-Arab Spring: Do you believe that pursuing democracy in the Middle East is a prudent or even laudable goal per se?
- Syria: As the Assad regime in Syria faces public
uprising, should we stay out, or should we work to bring down Assad?
What would you do different from the Obama administration in regard to
-Israel/UN: Do you believe that the creation of a
Palestinian state is in the best interests of our security concerns?
What role should we play in the U.N over the coming years? Should we
cut off funding?
-North Korea: Would you continue pursuing the
six-party talks with North Korea? If not, what policy would you
implement in order to more effectively keep this rogue nation in check?
- Iraq/Afghanistan: What would you do to prevent
Iraq from becoming an Iranian proxy after we pull out from the country?
As casualties mount in Afghanistan and the war enters its 11th year,
what do you see as our primary mission there? How would you pursue a
strategy of victory?
-China: Is China a strategic partner, a strategic
competitor, or an enemy of the United States? Do you view them as more
of an economic threat or a military threat?
-Russia/Missile Defense: From the pullout of our
missile defense program in Eastern Europe to the ratification of START,
we seem to be on the run from an increasingly belligerent Russian
government. How would you change our policy towards Russia and ensure
that our missile defense capabilities are not hampered by START?
Latin America: There is a growing trend of left-wing
quasi tin-pot Hugo Chavez-style leaders assuming power in South and
Central America. Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, El
Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela all have
governing leaders that have either exhibited antipathy and hostility
towards the U.S. in varying degrees, or opened alliances with our
enemies. Many of these states are allied with some of our enemies in
the Middle East, most notably, Iran. What is your plan to deal with
this creeping threat in the Western Hemisphere?
What would you like to hear from the candidates?
Cross-posted to RedState.com