You must ask good debate questions

I have long been a critic of the questions asked in debates. This year’s presidential primary debates have been no exception to this rule, building off the poor 2012 presidential primary debates. Last night, the moderators took the line of questioning to a new low, to the extent the panel of candidates had a field day in criticizing the askers.

Not that all questions that got a reaction were bad questions, but the number of inane questions were more than a few. I think asking about the budget deal was a reasonable question as well as asking about Rubio’s recent decision to leave the senate and missing votes, yet that question could have been framed better.

Yet, the moderators gave the gavel to the debaters. They played into a narrative that there is a main stream media bias against the GOP. This is part of a larger effort to discredit non-conservative media when the stories contradict reports on conservative media. This is a long-standing public relations ploy to discredit the other source.

As an independent voter, I have long been frustrated at the media for not reporting real news, not reporting in-depth or accurately, and not reporting news that is derogatory to funders. There is too much shallowness in mainstream news which begs for follow-up questions of people giving pat answers. This is why I tend to get my news online from more reputable sources and watch and listen to more credible news sources like PBS Newshour, BBC World News America and NPR. Documentary shows like “Vice” and “Frontline” are very well done sources of information. I have also been a long time critic of pseudo-news sources like Fox News and MSNBC for spin-doctored to biased reporting and, more so in Fox’ case, simply making things up.

A recent example showed a Fox pundit reporting as fact a story from a spoof website, a candidate picking it up and then it being reported as news on Fox News. Yet, the underlying data was never verified as made up. The sad part is this is done all too often and not only on Fox, but Fox is more known for its lack of veracity than other sources.  We must have more veracity in news reporting regardless of your political persuasion. Ironically, one of the better news sources is John Oliver’s comedy show called “Last Week Tonight,” which has an in-depth story that is steeped in fact, such as stories on unscrupulous pay-day lending, gouging by for-profit colleges, ludicrous criminal justice practices, addressing climate change concerns, not regulating the supplemental drug business, etc.

My favorite part of debates is to read the Fact Check reports (see below for a link). While the debaters were claiming media bias and crying foul with the questions, it did not stop them from spouting several untruths. Donald Trump took offense at a question which he felt was contrived, but actually was sourced by a contention he made on his website. There the moderator dropped the ball, as she could have retorted that it came from his site. Carly Fiorina spoke inaccurately about job losses under Obama when there have been net job gains. Chris Christie overstated a crisis in Social Security funding saying the problem was more grave than it is.

Yet, Christie and Ted Cruz were correct that better questions should be asked. To me, the ideas from this field are weak overall and this needs to be ferreted out. “If the deficit is so important, why is your tax plan so budget negative?” would be a good question to ask. “If economic injustice is so important, why are you not advocating investing in our infrastructure, proposing a repeal of Obamacare and not supporting a living minimum wage? Or, if you do not like what we are doing in the Middle East, what do you propose we do?” These are questions to which what I want to hear answers.

The debate did flush out a few things. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul probably need to reconsider their candidacy. Bush should have listened to his mother from the outset. Marco Rubio, Cruz and Christie showed well and should rise in the polls. John Kasich is right about the absurdity of the leaders’ proposals, but he needs to be listened to more as many of Ben Carson and Trump’s ideas are absurd. The others did not shoot themselves in the foot, but probably did not shine as well as they should have.

I have long thought that Kasich is the best candidate, but stands little chance of winning in this party at this time as he is too moderate. Collaborators who get things done are less appreciated. I also believe Rubio will eventually emerge as the candidate, yet he is giving away an advantage with his comments about the senate and desire not to run again and is running away from his greatest success in the bipartisan immigration bill which passed the senate.

So, it will be interesting what unfolds over the next many months. But, moderators please ask some good questions and know your facts.


7 thoughts on “You must ask good debate questions

  1. Good pod sty. I came across a fun comment today: “Whether or not you like Ben Carson you have to admit he has forced us to ask some hard questions — like ‘have we been overestimating the intelligence of brain surgeons?'” (Speaking of hard questions!)

    • Don’t you hate autocorrect? Carson has some bizarre views. Last night , he had a hard time explaining his tax plan and first denied being involved with a healthcare company, then said he made speeches on their behalf. Politifacts said he also did videos which the company uses declaring his debate statement as false. But, it is his bizarre statements that give me pause.

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