More Questions for the Candidates

By Michael Kaufman

I’m glad the president showed up for the second debate. At the first one he reminded me of a boxer approached by a mobster before a big fight and told to go in the tank or else something terrible would happen to his children.  (I’m not joking: For the first time in years I thought of the chilling book Weigh-in: The Selling of a Middleweight  [1975 ] by former middleweight contender Fraser Scott.) Most people think Obama won this one, which is fine by me.  Romney’s bully-boy tactics, which served him well in the first debate, fell flat when Candy Crowley—unlike Jim Lehrer—refused to roll over and play dead.

I like the “Town Hall” format that allows audience members to ask questions directly to the candidates. I’m not sure how they decide who gets to be in the audience and who gets to ask the questions though. Some sort of screening takes place beforehand, which makes things a lot less interesting.  I would have liked to see an audience member ask Romney why he is afraid to show more of his tax returns, for example. What doesn’t he want voters to see?  Then the president might say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

And I would have liked to see someone ask the president why on earth he is waiting until 2014 to bring the troops home from that futile and murderous war in Afghanistan? Have we learned nothing from history?

Surely someone should have asked Romney about the Sensata employees (and their families, friends, and neighbors in Freeport, Ill, now dubbed “Bainport”)  who don’t understand why Bain is closing the plant after a year of record profits and, yes,  moving production to China. Is this what you call job creation, Mr. Romney? How does this square with all your complaints about China’s “cheating” and “not playing by the rules?” Would you consider using your influence with your pals at Bain so they keep the plant in Freeport?

Mr. President, I liked your explanation about eliminating the “middle man” (private banks) so  student loans can be offered at a lower interest rate and at payoff terms more favorable to hard-pressed borrowers. Why not call for doing the same thing with health care? Eliminate the middle man (private insurance companies) and have a single payer system that comes out of the general tax fund? Healthcare costs will be lower and the onus will no longer be on employers, large and small, to provide health insurance to employees. Speaking of which, why do you let Romney get away with the spurious argument that “Obamacare” is responsible for the rising health costs that deters businesses from hiring fulltime people? This trend has been going on for all the years that healthcare costs have been skyrocketing. That’s why Walmart hires so many part-time workers; it’s a major cause of outsourcing.  You are right when you say that the cost has gone up by a smaller percentage since passage of the Affordable Care Act—but it was already too high, so  that isn’t exactly going to impel companies to start hiring again. (Don’t worry about being called a socialist: the opposition already has you pegged as a non-citizen, secret Muslim, Black militant reincarnation of Joseph Stalin anyway.)

Mr. Romney, how can you say you want to create “good paying” jobs when you and your fellow Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage? It is so low now that anyone working full time for those wages cannot support a family. Won’t raising the minimum wage help achieve your goal of reducing the the number of families who have to rely on food stamps?

I can think of many more questions for the candidates between now and Election Day. But now, dear Zest readers, it’s your turn. If you were to have an opportunity to ask a couple of questions of the candidates, what would they be?

Michael can be reached at





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7 Responses to “More Questions for the Candidates”

  1. Jeffrey Says:

    Good piece, Mike. I have a question for Gov. Romney.
    You know, it’s one thing to say you’re going to tell off those Chinese guys and brand them a bunch of currency manipulators on your first day in office.
    But what’s your next move when they turn to you and say, “Right pal, and what are you going to do about it?”
    That’s my question, Gov.: What’s your next step? Have you even thought about a next step?
    Or is this another grand Romney scheme, i.e., a lot of tough talk but not a clue about what to do when you’re dismissed as an American punch line.

  2. Gene Kaufman Says:

    Great piece Mike. Right on target. Romney is obviously hiding embarrassing things in his tax returns. And tyour solution to health care was dead on. Every other industrialized country has a national health plan built in to their tax structure.
    Americans are “taxed:” by the insurance companies and don’t seem to realize it. Way back, on the West Wing Live Debate, Jimmy Smits suggedsted a single payer, government run health plan. It made so much sense I looked for headlines in the next day’s papers. Even O’Reilly in his debate with Jon Stewart suggested something similar. Again no headlines.

    Good writing Mike.

  3. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey and Gene. Since writing this I’ve learned that only voters who identified themselves as “undecided” were allowed to attend the debate and submit questions. Does anyone know if that will still be the case at the last debate? It makes no sense to me.

  4. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Here is a link to column forwarded by a politically conservative reader who likes the questions it addresses to President Obama. The column is by David Limbaugh, younger brother of Rush. I didn’t like it but I found it an interesting read for a variety of reasons. You can read it yourself at:

  5. LeeAgain Says:

    Even though they, themselves, are not elected, I would like to see a debate between the candidates’ wives. Which ones have a sense of vision about America’s future and which think life is just one big Tupperware party?

  6. LeeAgain Says:

    An afterthought: Mike, you chose a most interesting topic. It’s sure to spark much interest. It’s a most insightful piece. Nice work, good thinking.

  7. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Thanks, Lee. Your idea for a debate between the spouses is certainly an advance over the old “favorite cookie recipe” we used to see before the presidential elections.

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