GOP presidential debate

Determine the questions that the candidates are required to answer.


Glenn Greenwald
May 4, 2007 3:35AM (UTC)

As part of the GOP Presidential candidates debate -- which begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight and can be viewed on MSNBC and at its website -- there is a mechanism for the public to vote on which questions ought to be posed to the candidates. That process is sponsored by The Politico, which already held Round One of the voting to pick the highest-vote getters.

As I indicated on Tuesday, Silent Patriot of Crooks & Liars and I jointly submitted three different questions, and -- thanks to voting by readers of this blog, C&L, and from Atrios -- all three questions ended upon among the top vote-getters in Round One.

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The three questions:

* Should the President have power to imprison U.S. citizens without charging them with a crime and without providing them a judicial forum in which they can contest the accusations against them, as the Bush administration did to American Jose Padilla?

* Do you think the process of waterboarding -- where the U.S. takes prisoners, straps them to a chair, and pours water on their face so they are in terror of drowning to death -- is a practice consistent with America's moral credibility in the world?

* A recent worldwide poll showed that under the Bush presidency, America has become the third most unpopular country in the world -- right behind Iran and just ahead of North Korea. Why do you believe that has that happened?

During the debate itself (scheduled to begin in ten minutes ago), they will provide instructions as to how to vote for which of the top questions will be actually asked of the candidates. The Politico has insinuated without actually saying that the questions will be selected purely by popular vote -- i.e., without their discretion or intervention -- but that remains to be seen. But I think it would be interesting to hear all of the GOP candidates answer those questions, and since they have little time to do so, pressure will be applied to have them actually answer with short, declarative and responsive sentences.

I'll likely watch the debate and post any observations, if I have any to make, in this post. Feel free to use the comment section for running discussion or for whatever else moves you.

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Voting for the questions are here . It's still unclear if ours will be listed.

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The whole voting process seems, unsurprisingly, to have been a sham, more something to enable The Politico to generate attention for itself, rather than a real vote. They seem to be selecting the questions they want, rather than the ones which actually received the most votes.

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The worldwide jihadist movement is powerful, growing, and scary, and they want both to take over and destroy the U.S. That is what I have learned so far.

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At least three of the candidates raised their hands to say that they don't believe in evolution, but I'm not sure which (that was one of the few questions asked that was a top vote-getter).

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Is this practice of giving candidates pop quizzes as though they are in seventh-grade ("What's the difference between Shiites and Sunnis? How many troops have been killed, and how many injured in Iraq") a new innovation in our great media, or is that something to which candidates have always been subjected? Maybe they can ask them to do multiplication tables at the next debate.

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It's very interesting how Ron Paul -- who is basically spouting basic limited-government Goldwater principles -- is considered a bizarre outcast in today's Republican Party. That became most evident when most of the candidates embraced the idea of a tamper-proof national ID card.

And it was very moving to hear the vigorous and angry defense of Lewis Libby by Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo. How hilarious to watch leading Republicans express outrage at the idea that someone would be charged with perjury without there being an underlying crime (the answer from Gov. Gilmore was at least commendable). Thankfully, the Republican Party would never try to punish anyone for mere perjury without there being an underlying crime.

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Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan with a borderline-religious reverence that is actually uncomfortable to witness. That's probably due to the fact that Republicans need some standard-bearer and the one they have chosen for the last six years is so toxic that his name can barely be uttered.

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In my naive belief that The Politico really was going to select questions based on the vote totals (as they strongly implied they would do), I was trying to figure out how to encourage people to vote and thus missed the first several minutes of the debate. But Joan Walsh watched from the beginning and has some observations about the early questions and answers here.

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I understand completely why the candidates weren't asked about detention of American citizens, torture, or the collapse of the U.S.'s credibility in the world. We needed instead to know about organ-selling policies and how the Republican candidates felt about whether it would be a good idea for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House.

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In Comments, MacCheerful describes exactly what was so revealing about Chris Matthews' snickering question about Bill Clinton and the snickering answers from the candidates.

Then again, it could have been much worse. As Dover Bitch noted, this exchange occurred yestetrday when Matthews interviewed Guiliani campaign manager Mike DuHaime:

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MATTHEWS: Who would win a street fight? Rudy Guiliani... Just think of a street fight, now, up in Queens somewhere. It's a dark night. It's about two in the morning. Two guys are out behind the building, right? On a vacant lot. Rudy Guiliani or President Ahmadinejad? Who would win that fight?

DUHAIME: I'm putting my money on Rudy on that one. I think Rudy will take that fight.

MATTHEWS: If he wins that notion, he's the next president. That's one to look for. Who's tougher than Ahmedinejad? Because he's our biggest worry right now.

As D.B. adds: "That's how DB is going to vote. Can Candidate X beat up a five-foot, two-inch, 51-year-old in a dark alley? Good thing we didn't have a wheelchair-bound leader when we had to liberate Europe while fighting a separate war in the Pacific."


Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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