Tuesday, June 14, 2016

End of the Free Ride: 19 Questions the Mainstream Media Should Have Been Asking Donald Trump

by Nomad

Donald Trump's celebrity status has allowed him to say just about anything he wants without much scrutiny by the word-bite-hungry news corporations. Isn't it time- past time- that the free ride stop? After all, this isn't a reality TV audition. 

The news media has come under a lot of fire for journalistic malpractice when it came to Donald Trump. In March, Nick Kristof, a New York Times columnist wrote a piece on that subject called “My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump.” He accused the mainstream media of giving Trump undeserved free coverage while somehow skipping over the candidate's obvious shortcomings. 
Our first big failing was that television in particular handed Trump the microphone without adequately fact-checking him or rigorously examining his background, in a craven symbiosis that boosted audiences for both.
The truth is, the media has needed Trump like a crack addict needs a hit.”

It was in some ways a double standard too. During the primaries, other candidates were held to a much higher standard, meaning they were obligated to be sane and provide sensible replied to often difficult questions.
For Trump, it was a completely different story from the moment he first stepped onto the stage. No claim was too outrageous for the news media to treat as rational. Trump was allowed to talk about what he wanted to talk about, the way he wanted to talk about it. And news reporters appeared to be happy to allow him to mutter whatever nonsense that popped into his head.

This trend didn't start with Trump.

VP Candidate Sarah  Palin proved to the world that to a seriously uninformed candidate, any question that the candidate didn't want to answer could be dismissed a form of  "gotcha journalism."  
Queries as innocuous as "which newspapers or magazines do you read?" can be labeled as somehow tricky by the defensive candidate. 
In this election cycle, we have seen a talkative candidate extremely short on specifics, unless you count "it's gonna be great" a coherent policy statement.  

The questions I have composed might fit into the category of "gotcha" but they wouldn't be particularly difficult for a credible and knowledgeable candidate. 

1. You've stated that you think water-boarding was an acceptable means of information collection. For example, in Indiana earlier this year, you told the crowds:
"I love it. I love it, I think it’s great. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding."
Are there any other Bush-era practices you would support? Specifically, do you think practices, like extraordinary rendition for torture by proxy or the incarceration of suspected "evil-doers" without trial or due process, should be used tool to fight terrorists? Can you foresee a situation in which torture could be used by US law enforcement against American citizens?

2. When asked about your favorite biblical quote, your answer was "an eye for an eye." How would apply this religious precept to your foreign policy?  To domestic policy?

3. A conservative Supreme Court Justice, the late Antonin Scalia, often declared that there was no generalized right to privacy according to the Constitution. Do you agree? In the name of fighting terror, should the government be given free rein or should there be limits? Specifically, under what circumstances do you think warrantless surveillance of American citizens should be permitted?   

4. If the government of Iraq should be in danger of collapse, would you send US troops back in to support the present administration? Afghanistan? Is Libya an exception? Egypt? Israel?  Where do you draw the line as president when giving military support to allies?

5. Under what circumstances would you consider the use of nuclear weapons?  In what situation would you consider the use of biological or chemical weapons? 
Would you completely rule out a first strike capability if CIA intelligence revealed an impending attack? 

6. Today America spends much more than any other nation on its military. While calling for cuts in spending in every other area, Republicans think that military spending cannot be cut without harming our national security? Do you agree? How much more spending is required, in your opinion, to be sufficient?

7. Federal law requires presidents to disclose their financial and real estate holdings, but nothing forces a president, vice president, House member or senator to sell off assets upon taking office. Given your extensive business transactions, how would you address the possibility of conflicts of interest?

8. Obama's critics have said that the president didn't get to the root of the problem when the financial system crashed. Out of all of the thousands of people directly or indirectly involved, only one Wall Street executive, Kareem Serageldin, actually served any prison time. Do you agree with Obama's decision? Or, do you think executives of banks and other financial institutions should have been held criminally liable for unsound business practices that led up to the economic collapse of 2008? 

9. How would you define a terrorist organization? Could you give examples of groups you think qualify as a terror group? Do you think the KKK is a terrorist group?

10. Today America spends much more than any other nation on its military. The United States spent $581 billion on the military in 2014, while the eight next-highest spenders combined spent about $531.9 billion. While calling for cuts in spending in every other area, Republicans think that military spending cannot be cut without harming our national security? Do you agree? How much more spending is required, in your opinion, to ensure the nation's absolute security?

11. Many Republicans feel that deregulation would give American companies a competitive advantage? They claim that things like environmental protection laws are negatively impacting our ability to compete with nations like China and India. Do you agree or disagree?

12. Do you believe that there is a problem of income inequality in America? If so, what is your policy as president to resolve this problem?

13. Some of your critics have accused you of being a racist. The dictionary defines a racist as a person who "a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another." Do you think the white race is superior to other races? 

14. Staying with this subject, do you think there is a problem with racial inequality in America today? Have you ever heard of the term "white privilege"? Do you think it exists or not?

15. You have said in the past that you think wages are too high, referring to raising the minimum wage. Should there also be caps on CEO salaries?

16. Do you think women have too much input in their own reproductive choices? Do you think state governments -rather than the federal government- should have the final say-so when it comes to abortion options? In cases of rape, incest or situations in which the mother's life is in danger, should abortion be allowed? 

17. Can you explain how you define the term "religious liberty"? Do you think Christians deserve special legal protections over other religions or not? Do you believe the government must be neutral when it comes to religion or not?

18. You've talked about banning Muslims from entering the country as a means of preventing terrorism. How would you deal with the 3.3 million American citizens who are Muslim?  Can you rule out mass incarceration of Muslim Americans in the event of a major terrorist attack? 

19. One American president said that when the president does it, it's not illegal. Do you agree? Do you think that an American president should be bound by the same laws as a regular citizen? Do you think that the president should have to obey the Constitution at all times?

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Of course, this list is not complete but it is a good start. I don't consider any of them to be so-called "gotcha" journalism. To answer these questions, however, requires precise communication skills, a degree of forethought and careful circumspection. 
But that's exactly what we expect from an American president.

To ask these questions requires more than a cameraman, a microphone, and a clipboard. Any reporter willing to ask Trump these serious questions must also be prepared for a man who is experienced at answering in exactly the way that suits him. He has shown that he is eager to sidestep the hard questions, to skip past the challenges with irrelevant diversions or misleading incorrect information. 
That was once a standard for American journalism. It was once a source of our pride and a model for the rest of the world.

In short, an interviewer has to come prepared not to ask questions to a colorful celebrity but to a person who could actually be the next president of the world's largest economy and its largest military.