SOLOMON: Alternative Questions For the Cadidates
It's probably just as well that journalists won't be on stage to question Bill Clinton and Bob Dole during the debates. The vast majority of reporters who end up on national television are dedicated conformists. But what if the debaters had to face questions from journalists who bypass the media herd?I contacted some independent-minded journalists to find out what they'd want to ask at the upcoming debates if they had the chance. Here are their questions:* Jill Nelson, former staff writer for The Washington Post: "In what ways will your administration address the tremendous rage, alienation and violence prevalent among young people in this nation?"* John Hess, ex-reporter for The New York Times: "As you know, federal tax policy has been redistributing wealth from the poor and the middle class to the rich. What would you do about it?"* Tara Roberts, an editor at Essence magazine: "How will you speak for a community, like young black women, that you don't share any commonalties with? Why should they vote for either of you?"* Jay Bonasia, director of the National Student News Service: "The General Accounting Office reports that college tuition has increased by 234 percent over the past 15 years, while income has risen just 82 percent and inflation 74 percent. Higher education is increasingly funded by students, not our society. Why is this trend occurring, and what will you do to reverse it?"* Juan Palomo, religion reporter for the Austin American- Statesman: "Both of you have made much of your Christian religion as a foundation of your moral values. Given that, could you tell the American people: At the end of the day, when it's just you and your God -- no political consultants, no aides, no adoring supporters -- how do you explain to that God those actions resulting from your putting political gain over principle, especially when you know that those actions will hurt, in one way or another, those whom Jesus referred to as 'the least of your brothers'?"* Andrea Lewis, associate editor, Pacific News Service: "What realistic alternatives do you see for jobless people who are losing access to food stamps and welfare benefits?"* William Wong, columnist at AsianWeek magazine: "Immigrants are being blamed for costing the government too much money, when in fact they contribute a great deal to our economy and to our society as a whole. Where do you draw the line on immigration policy?"* Emil Guillermo, former host of All Things Considere on National Public Radio: "Affirmative action has been under attack in this campaign. If existing laws are overturned, what solutions would you come up with to assure equal opportunity for all?"* Kim Heron, assistant managing editor of the Detroit Sunday Journal, a publication of striking Detroit newspaper workers: "Joblessness -- and all the corrosion to the soul that goes with it -- is not only high in many ghetto neighborhoods, it is at unprecedented levels. Why haven't you proposed an approach that even acknowledges the magnitude of the problem?"* Patrice O'Neill, executive producer of "We Do the Work" on public television: "Both parties have presented 'family values' as a cornerstone of the '96 campaign. While corporations have swelled investor dividends by downsizing and moving jobs overseas, the bottom line for working families is sinking. Millions of Americans work more than one job -- which leaves little time for family -- and still live near the poverty line. What kind of accountability should U.S.-based corporations have to American workers and their families? What role would you play as president in holding them accountable?"* Ben Bagdikian, former national-news editor at The Washington Post: "Among the developed industrial countries, Americans are the lowest taxed, counting all kinds of personal taxes. That being so, why have both major parties stressed tax- cutting when this country has deteriorating school buildings and lacks universal health care and other benefits those foreign countries enjoy?"* Morton Mintz, former Post reporter: "The Congressional Budget Office says that Congress could cut federal spending sharply by denying the mortgage-interest deduction to the wealthiest Americans. Limiting the deduction to loans of no more than $300,000 would save $34.8 billion in just five years. Should middle-class homeowners, and renters who can't afford to buy a house in the first place, continue to subsidize mortgage-interest deductions for buyers of the most expensive homes?"A barrage of these probing questions would be a nightmare for Clinton and Dole. But it's not on their worry list. In the narrow world of big-name journalism, such questions are out of bounds.**********************************************Politics '96: The Power of Babble By Norman SolomonDOLE-FULLY SIMPLE"From packing the federal courts with ideological liberals to running up the white flag in the war on drugs to taking a go- easy approach in prosecuting criminals, this administration's crime policies can be summed up in the phrase 'Speak loudly but carry a small stick.'" -- Bob DoleIn other words: On Oct. 16, 1976, Gerald Ford said that "Jimmy Carter wants to speak loudly and carry a fly swatter." Twenty years later, I'm into recycling bad rhetoric the best I can.***"We're going to do what the naysayers believe can't be done. We are going to balance the budget and cut taxes." -- Bob DoleIn other words: And that's only the beginning. Next, we'll invent a perpetual-motion machine, discover the fountain of eternal youth, repeal the laws of gravity and abolish death for everyone but criminals.***"Jack Kemp and I, on the other hand, have proposed one big idea. It's called putting you in control of your life by letting you keep more of what you worked so hard to earn." -- Bob DoleIn other words: Jack and I hope you're as simplistic as we are.***"Many of our political debates come down to these fundamentals -- to a basic conflict of vision. We see it in the protection of the American flag. This is more than an abstract, constitutional argument. It involves our deepest commitments as a people. Is anything sacred? Is anything hallowed? If the American flag is not held sacred, then nothing is sacred in our society. If the American flag is violated, it is a crime against the memory of heroes. The reverence we feel for the flag in our hearts must also be reflected in our laws." -- Bob DoleIn other words: Since I'm superior to Clinton in patriotic fervor, I'd be glad to trample on the First Amendment while saluting Old Glory.