Heartland questions for GOP wannabe debate

Wouldn’t it be a gas to be one of the journalists for the upcoming GOP presidential primary debate Wednesday in Milwaukee?

I had the fun of doing that once way back when Tommy Thompson and Tony Earl were debating on who should win the Wisconsin governorship in 1986. Tommy had just been nailed with a couple of speeding tickets as he barnstormed across the state in a vigorous campaign.

Tongue in cheek, I asked Tommy what the maximum speed limit should be. He laughed, and so did the audience. It wasn’t the heaviest issue in the campaign by a long shot, but it sure was fun.

The Wednesday’s debate is a national show so the two people running the debate are national level journalists: Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of Fox News. Let’s give them a hand with the following questions that could be asked:

  • Presidential Mental Acuity —What is your backup plan if you start losing your mental acuity during your term starting in January 2025? (I was in the press conference in Washington DC near the end of President Reagan’s second term, and he was stumbling with some of the answers. He was deftly ushered off the podium by Frank Carlucci, his experienced Chief of Staff. Carlucci finished the press conference, and then he and Nancy Reagan ran the Oval Office until Reagan left office. Reagan died in 2004 from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, and the press never had reported his early onset. On my return to West Bend, I did write about his failings in the West Bend Daily News.)
  • Out-of-Control Health Costs —Health costs are bankrupting American families and wrecking small companies financial sustainability. Neither party is talking about health cost reform. What do you propose to do about it?
  • Health Care Trust-Busting — One of the major drivers of health cost hyperinflation is consolidations of major hospital corporations and of health insurance giants. Will you engage an aggressive trust-busting to eliminate that source of consumer rip off?
  • Hanging Tough with Ukraine – Some Republicans and Democrats have gone wobbly on Putin’s outrageous warfare. Western allies have the opportunity in Ukraine to purge the world of Putin’s expansionistic brutality and suppression of human rights. We are spending about 5% annually of the nation’s defense budget in support of the brave Ukrainians. Will you continue to support Volodymyr Zelenskyy with arms and humanitarian assistance at the roughly $40 billion annual level?
  • Education Prices Out of Reach — Like health costs, the cost of higher education in America is going through the roof: $25,000 per year at a good college is on the low end of the spectrum. Elite universities can run $50,000 to $75,000 or more. Are community colleges at $5,000 per year a big part of a nationwide solution? What is your strategy for making higher education more accessible.
  • Climate Change – What would be your top three initiatives to lower the increase and impact of global warming, a reality that now looks to be beyond debate?
  • GOP Abortion Position – The Roe vs. Wade reversal on the U.S Supreme Court has thrown Wisconsin abortion law back to an 1849 state statute that established almost a complete ban on abortions. Should there be a federal law that supersedes the ancient state laws?
  • Artificial Intelligence – What will your administration do to eliminate the downsides of AI, while still allowing its powerful potential to make lives better for the world?
  • Getting Rid of AR-15 — Do you favor taking the AR-15 assault weapons out the hands of civilians?

These obvious questions undoubtedly overlap those that the moderators will ask of the GOP hopefuls. Note that there are no horserace questions about who’s ahead and behind in the moment.

That’s where journalists spend their air time and column inches. The above questions deal with substance that most Americans care about in their daily lives.

Asking questions is the easy part for political dialogue. May the candidate with the most pragmatic answers prevail. May those with non-responsive answers go away after this opening debate.

If the debate winnows out enough GOP candidates, one might emerge to take out Donald Trump who decided to bail out of the debates.

One last thought on Trump’s absence from the Milwaukee debate: his over-the top-narcissism may account for ducking the contest against brilliant opponents.  What if he lost his cool and lost? Could his ego stand not being seen an outright winner? He couldn’t stand coming off as a loser in 2020?

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