Knowledge is Knowing the Right Answer. Intelligence is Asking the Right Question. A Response to Jason Minear's Editorial on Challenging Yourself to Ask the Right Questions of Our Candidates

I would like to personally thank Jason Minear for his contributions to this site. He is a valuable resource who forces us all to look at things a bit differently than we casually do. 

My case.  I was watching a television program the other day and NBC's Matt Lauer was interviewing Beth Stern, wife of famous Howard Stern, about her love of cats and her cat foster care and adoption service.  I have known from reading, watching, and listening to many "celebrity programs" that Matt Lauer and Howard Stern are close friends.  Lauer even wrote the forward to one of Stern's books.  Lauer was quoted recently as saying of Stern, "He is a dear, dear friend. He is one of my best friends. And anytime you sit down to do an interview with Howard, you expect the unexpected."  

During the interview, which was about CATS (no, not the musical, but little, furry creatures), Lauer kept inserting himself into the interview - "everytime I am at your house, I can see how much you and Howard love each other" and "since I've been at your house several times,  I know if you have guests you wait until the end of the evening to introduce the guests to your cats ..." etc ad nauseum. 

  Matt Lauer

Matt Lauer

  Howard Stern

Howard Stern

The point is that Lauer was the interviewer in this segment, and it was obvious that he could not keep himself out of the interview. It appeared to me that Lauer wanted the audience to know that he and Howard Stern were good friends, which, in many ways, interrupted the flow of the interview.  It was so blatant that, yes, the cat issue was made, but it turned more into a conversation about Beth Stern's husband and Lauer's freindship.

Although I agree with Jason Minear's list of questions that beg serious answers from the candidates who are running for the office of President of the United States, I fear that our media has become (intentionally, which makes it worse) so much imbedded in the discussion that they no longer are "casual question-askers" but rather integral parts of the discussion.  If moderators were to ask Mr. Minear's questions of the candidates and leave themselves and their own political agendas out of the discussion, we MAY find out more about the candidates and have more food for fodder when the actual voting time comes.

Interviewers want to be part of the discussion, making it impossible to ask "good" and "relevant" questions of the candidates.  The interviewer or debate host or moderator (I mention "host" because moderators have become much like "talk show hosts" during the debates) are representatives of the network for which they work which causes this disparity of questioning.  They want to be so much a part of the conversation that they either want to "attack" candidates with "gotcha" questions (to Donald Trump:  "Are you a comic book version of a presidential campaign?") or have a personal agenda that actually becomes submitted into the debate.  This is wrong, obviously.

  Brian Williams

Brian Williams

This act of selfishness and this "look at me" style of "journalism" (Brian Williams) has become so commonplace that the questionners do not ask pertinent questions. Debates have become "spectacles" on who can outdo each other, and I am not speaking of the candidates.  

In fact, Republican candidates and campaigns have been up in arms over the contentious tone and what they called “gotcha” questions at what was billed as an economic-focused debate. In a letter to NBC Chairman Andrew Lack, (RNC Chairman Reince) Priebus said he was suspending their partnership for the debate, scheduled to be held at the University of Houston on Feb. 26, pending further discussion with the network and the Republican presidential campaigns.

Consider this line of questioning from CNBC's John Harwood to Donald Trump at the most recent Presidential Debate.  Are these questions or just thinly veiled political beliefs being expressed by Harwood toward Trump?

If you watched the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate there would have been little proof for you to understand that the debate was "supposed" to be about the nations' business issues. As was cited in the Business Times regarding the latest debate "fiasco" - "It’s not just CNBC’s competitors that are criticizing the network’s handling of the debate. As Time’s Zeek Miller noted, “the CNBC panel found itself overwhelmed by emboldened candidates and underprepared for them to challenge the premise of contentious candidates. The result was the most tumultuous debate of the cycle, rather than the substantive policy debate the network had telegraphed.

“The CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith,”  Reince Priebus (Republican party chairman) wrote. “We understand that NBC does not exercise full editorial control over CNBC’s journalistic approach. However, the network is an arm of your organization, and we need to ensure there is not a repeat performance.”

Recently, one of the more level headed, mindful, and discriminatory minds of our generation, Jason Minear, wrote an insightful article where he asserted that:

"My motivation for this article comes from how information is provided to us today. Is the current political vetting process the best we can do?  Is it reasonable to think that we can adequately make an informed decision when candidates communicate in themes, a 45 second debate response, or a sound bite? How do we get through the media bias of what’s best for ratings? Who can speak the loudest? Or who can have the best “gotcha” moment? How do we get through the Facebook news feed of modernized yellow journalism? Why do we need the “big reveal” for cabinet members? Is it reasonable that we attend every stump speech from every candidate or read stylized fluff on their websites?

The goal of this article is to change the political conversation.  The content below is written primarily from a national perspective but if you are interested, the same type of a conversation needs to take place at a local level." 

A few of the questions Minear proposes that should and must be asked of the candidates are as follows:

  • What are your priorities?
  • Who will be in your cabinet?
  • How will you evaluate your success? 
  • What mistakes have you made in public office or on the job? What have you learned from those mistakes?
  • How will the country become financially sound during your tenure? 
  • What will you do for the world to view us more favorably during your tenure?
  • How will you support the military branches?
  • What is your plan to improve the economy? What benchmarks can we expect each year?
  • Where are other countries beating us? And what can we do to catch and surpass?
  • What areas are we superior from other countries and how will we maintain that?
  • Where do you stand on abortion/Roe v. Wade?
  • Put the following Ben Franklin quote into perspective one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter..
  • Please comment on each of the Bill of Rights and Amendments and put modern context around those that need modernized interpretation. Please be sure to comment in detail on amendments 1,2, and 4. (thedailyarch.net - November 30 - CHALLENGE YOURSELF AND "YOUR" CANDIDATES. HOW TO SORT THROUGH THIS VERY DIFFICULT ELECTION CYCLE ASKING JUST THE "RIGHT" QUESTIONS! at http://www.thedailyarch.net/thisjustin/30-1).
  Megyn Kelly

Megyn Kelly

  Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper

Is the current political vetting process the best we can do?  (No.  Of course not.  Political debate moderators and journalists in general have become celebrities themselves [Anderson Cooper, Megyn Kelly] and most definitely want to be a huge part of the conversation; hence, they will ask questions they feel they want answered.  Additionally, in the fast paced world of 30 second sound bites and 1/2 day news cycle, I am sure that those doing the vetting process either don't care - "it will be forgotten before tomorrow" or have become obsessed with their own opinions and ideals.  Also, a Trump/Kelly feud becomes a 30 minute Trump appearance on Fox News which benefits both Trump and Fox).

How do we get through the media bias of what’s best for ratings? (I honestly feel that the days of an unbiased media are over. I fear that the power of "newscasters" such as Walter Cronkite to Tom Brokaw to Dan Rather to Katie Couric to Judy Woodruff to Brian Williams to Anderson Cooper has taken total control of the political conversation in this country).

Is it reasonable that we attend every stump speech from every candidate or read stylized fluff on their websites? (Of course it's reasonable to expect this, but it isn't going to happen because the news cycle, the "journalists", the news programs are constantly in wait for the next candidate to utter a statement that would allow for the sound bite and for the next wave of criticism of that particular politician.  I am quite confident that there may be as many journalists at a Trump or Clinton or Sanders press conference than supporters, waiting impatiently for that candidate to say the "wrong" or "right" thing that gives them air time on the nightly news, at least for a few minutes, and then it's on to the next gaff).

The problem is, who, really, in this day and age of our First Amendment freedoms which are constantly under attack will have the wherewithall, the "guts' to be frank, to ask these questions? Those journalists telling the story are often seem more like "political pundits" and policy hacks who know nothing about what it is like to live "outside the beltway" and to live as we "normal folks" live day to day, in our dog eat dog world. 

To me, Minear's questions are more than fair and appropriate that should be asked of all of our political candidates, particularly those who are running for the highest office in the land.

However, on a final note, what role do the candidates have in forcing these issues on to the main stage?  How responsible are the candidates for shaping the issues themselves.  It was an interesting call for the Republican candidates to come together to protest over the treatment they received from CNBC.  It then provided more fodder for the likes of media experts to explain to the dunderheads that the Republican candidates cannot take pressure.  In fact, even President Obama made fun of them by saying "If they can't handle questions from a news source, how are they going to react to China and Russia?"  This said by a man who obviously has extremely thin skin, reads his speeches from a teleprompter, stumbles over his words when the teleprompter is not available, and despises "gotcha" questions.

Maybe we should just ask the question of candidates and interviewers alike:  Would you all just kindly tell the truth?