Monday night’s CNN debate at St. Anselm marks the unofficial kick-off of the campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, so today’s program is the pregame show, with a parade of pundits marching by to handicap the race, including Mark Steyn, Michael Barone, Candy Crowley, Jim Geraghty, Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Mary Katharine Ham, Guy Benson, and Rich Lowry.
There are dozens of accomplished, competent conservative and center-right commentators and analysts. They just don’t get to ask questions at GOP debates. That job is always reserved for the folks from the MSM who are on President Obama’s side.
Debate prep for candidates and correspondents alike should include Dan Henninger’s WSJ piece on Tim Pawlenty’s very good week, the Washington Post’s latest sideswipe at Romney (how could the reporters have missed AEI’s Steven Hayward’s explication of the ground on which Romney and all the GOP candidates should stand on climate change issues?) and the transcript of the interview with Jon Huntsman below, which poses key questions on China, marriage, gun control and Israel exactly as they should be asked if the answers are intended to help a GOP primary voter make up his or her mind. Example: Reporters shouldn’t ask whether a candidate “favors traditional marriage,” or opposes “opposes gay marriage.” They should instead ask the sort of question which presents the real situation a president would face on the issue. I asked Governor Huntsman whether he would veto a repeal of DOMA. His answer drew fire from my audience, as did his answer on whether he would veto an assault weapons ban until he clarified his position. Reporters seeking to serve the GOP primary voter will ask specific questions about issues that move GOP primary electorates. Thus “Do you believe in global warming” is practically useless as a guide to a candidate’s position, but answers to “Do you support cap-and-trade or a carbon tax” tells the voters exactly what they need to know.
I don’t hold out much hope for the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader panel on Monday night, but some suggested questions in addition to those I posed Huntmsan yesterday would include:
Should the current federal income tax rates be extended and if so, for how long?
At what level should corporate taxes be set?
Will you take the Lean Six Sigma pledge that commits to a balanced budget by 2017?
What role, if any, do the pre-1967 borders of Israel play in the current Middle East?
If all other means prove incapable of halting Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon, would you use American military force to disrupt the program?
Do you support the Ryan Plan on Medicare reform and if not, how would your plan differ from it?
Should the retirement age be raised for Social Security?