Questions for the Candidates

The American presidency is a tremendous responsibility. It encompasses a vast range of powers and deals with issues encompassing both domestic and foreign policy. This preeminent constitutional position truly calls for our national best; our best in leadership, experience, knowledge, wisdom, strength, and humanity. Reflecting on even a few of the principal contemporary challenges facing the presidency, the larger-than-life nature of the requirements for the office immediately becomes clear. A list of contemporary challenges illustrating this point, prepared in the form of questions for the candidates, includes:


Major Focus

  • What is the single most important issue facing the Nation?
  • What are the five most important issues facing the Nation?
  • What are the qualifications for the ideal American President? Which of these do you have? Which of these do you lack?
  • Are you prepared to be Commander-in-Chief of the United States military?
  • Do you believe presidential debates should be an effort to clarify for the American people how the candidates would address major national problems?

National Security

  • What specifically would you do to deal with the global threat posed by ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and other radical Islamist terror groups? At minimum your response needs to include your policy toward ISIL in Iraq and Syria, as well as both the political/ideological and military dimensions of your response to these groups.
  • Given the likelihood that the political/ideological dimension of the struggle against radical Islamist terror groups can be most effectively engaged with the help of the vast majority of Islamic countries and peoples, how would you propose to reach out to Muslims in the United States, as well as to member states of the Islamic Conference, to mobilize an ideological response to ISIL and other such extremist groups both within the United States and internationally?
  • How, if at all, would you strengthen the United States military? Specifically, how would you strengthen the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corp, and the overall war-fighting capability of the United States;
  • What criteria would you use to determine when, where, and how United States armed forces should be committed abroad?
  • During any period in which United States armed forces are engaged in combat, would you meet regularly with professional military leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Combatant Commanders, to take full account of professional military advice?
  • How would you strengthen the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community against domestic and foreign threats?
  • How would you strengthen the National Security Council system to more effectively integrate through the NSC interagency process the resources and knowledge base of the full United States Government? To use a military reform analogy, the Goldwater-Nichols legislation sought to make the warfighting capability of the United States a more unified service effort; it added a more focused “purple” dimension to cooperation in combat operations across the services. Should we work more effectively in the always combined politico/military challenges to go more “red, white, and blue” in integrating skills and resources of the full United States Government, for example, through more effectively integrating a State Department “governance structure” component in operations such as Iraqi Freedom?
  • How would you address the growing threat, nationally and internationally, of cyberattack and cybercrime?
  • Would you support an enhanced missile defense shield for the United States, whether fixed land-based or mobile sea-based?
  • How would you work to reduce nuclear proliferation and to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists?

Restoring Economic Growth

  • Our Nation has become mired in low growth. What specifically would you do to increase the growth rate?
  • How, if at all, would you change the current corporate and individual income tax systems? What effect would your changes have on the national growth rate?
  • How would you address American energy policy, including energy independence and sustainability?
  • Do you believe that America is over-regulated? If so, how would you control the “regulatory state?”
  • Do you support free trade agreements? If so, what criteria should be used to determine a good agreement?
  • How would you strengthen small business in America; the backbone of the economy and employment?
  • How would you address the Nation’s eroding infrastructure?
  • How would you encourage greater participation of women in the workplace?
  • What changes, if any, would you make to strengthen the Nation against future financial crises? Do you believe that any of the legislation or regulations adopted after the 2008 financial crises were a mistake; if so which ones and why?
  • Do you support continued independence of the Federal Reserve Board in carrying out monetary policy? What should be the goals of monetary policy?

The Deficit & Entitlements

  • What specific measures would you take to address the looming debt crisis and to bring the deficit under control?
  • What changes, if any, would you make in the Social Security system? Would you support “Social Security Optionality” if it were shown to enhance retirement returns for working Americans and significantly reduce the wealth gap?
  • How would you control the rapid growth of expenditures in federal health entitlements, including Medicare and Medicaid?

Health Care

  • What changes, if any, would you make in federal health care programs, including the Affordable Care Act/ “Obamacare”, Medicare, Medicaid, and NIH funding for basic research?
  • Would you support a substantial increase in federal funding aimed at curing and reducing the disease burden of particular diseases, such as those in the arthritis complex, if it can be shown that the cost of the research would be returned many times over in reduced federal expenditures for health care?
  • Would you support a more robust national response to mental illness? If so, how?
  • What would you do to lessen the risk of global pandemics and enhance the capacity of the United States to deal with any such pandemics?

Foreign Policy

  • Other than the threat from Islamist terror groups what do you regard as the most important foreign policy challenges facing the Nation, and how would you deal with them?
  • How would you propose to strengthen cooperation between the United States and our NATO allies?
  • Should the United States make clear to Iran, in the aftermath of the “nuclear agreement,” that if Iran violates the agreement in ways suggesting movement toward a nuclear bomb, the United States will take whatever actions are necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining the bomb?
  • How would you deal with Iranian terrorism and secret warfare around the world?
  • How would you deal with the Syrian Civil War?
  • How would you deal with Russian aggression against Ukraine?
  • How would you deal with China’s aggressive actions, including its’ “nine-dashed-line” in the South China Sea?
  • How should the United States deal with the continuing conflict in Afghanistan?
  • How would you deal with the North Korean gulag and its nuclear program?
  • What posture would you take toward the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
  • Would you support Senate advice and consent to the Law of the Sea Convention following its successful renegotiation meeting all of the conditions set by President Ronald Reagan, as urged by every American President of both parties, every Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a unified American industry?
  • How should the United States interact with the United Nations? What UN reforms would you support? Should the United States seek to strengthen the Community of Democracies as a UN caucusing group? Should it support an integrated ready reaction force from member state military units to deal more effectively with humanitarian disasters? Should it work to achieve greater focus on deterrence, rather than depending on a hoped for after-the-fact response? Should it work capitals more effectively in important UN votes?
  • Would you support democracy and the rule of law around the World? If so, how?
  • How should human rights, democracy and the rule-of-law be implemented toward major powers such as Russia and China, friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia, and authoritarian regimes actively setting aside democracy such as Venezuela under Chavezism?
  • Would you support an initiative previously funded by the Congress in a feasibility study and explored by Freedom House pursuant to the congressional mandate (Freedom House being a non-partisan organization founded, among others by Eleanor Roosevelt, to fight Nazi extremism and promote democracy) to establish a democracy/rule-of-law training center for Africa funded jointly with the European Union in order to support more effective training for democracy in Africa?
  • Should the United States have insisted on greater improvement on human rights in Cuba, as well as return of the American “hellfire missile” in Cuban hands, before proceeding toward a normalization of relations?
  • How would you strengthen the Foreign Service and the Department of State for more effective United States diplomacy?

Immigration Reform

  • What changes, if any, would you make in current immigration law and policy, and why?
  • How would you strengthen United States borders?
  • How would you strengthen the system for preventing visa overstays?
  • How, if at all, should the Nation change its priorities for legal entry?
  • In working out a comprehensive solution would you favor legalization or full citizenship to deal with the substantial number of long-term workers in the United States who are not lawful residents but who have otherwise complied with the law?
  • What policy would you support toward refugees and asylum, including refugees from Syria and Iraq?

The Criminal Justice System

  • What changes, if any, would you make in the federal criminal justice system?
  • Are too many Americans in prisons and jails? If so, specifically, what should be done?
  • Have we overused criminal penalties? If so, what changes should be made?
  • Have we adopted unnecessarily harsh penalties in some settings? If so, what changes should be made?
  • Have we failed to more effectively address alternatives to prison or jail time as alternatives in criminal convictions? If so, what changes should be made?
  • What changes, if any, should be made in our criminal process to reduce wrongful convictions of the innocent?
  • How would you address the crisis in community/police relations?
  • How would you address “the war on drugs?”
  • It is widely recognized that significant segments of American society do not understand their stake in upholding the rule-of-law. What would you do as president to change this?
  • Would you support programs in the public schools educating against drugs and crime and supporting the rule-of-law?
  • Consistent with the Second Amendment, what changes in the laws, or enforcement of the laws, would you make to reduce the chances of firearms in the hands of terrorists, criminals, or the mentally ill?

Education Policy

  • What changes, if any, would you make in federal education programs?
  • What is your position on “common core?” Why?
  • Should the federal government encourage Internet programs available to all for education as desired? If so, how would you encourage such programs?
  • Should the government work through partnerships with industry to encourage training in needed skills? If so, how would you set up such partnerships?
  • What is the role of school based education in fostering the development of a culture supportive of the rule-of-law? What steps would you take to encourage educators to help address this issue?

The Environment

  • Do you believe that climate change poses a problem? Why or why not? If you believe that it is a problem how would you address it?
  • Would you support a mix of cost-effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including nuclear and enhanced technologies for burning fossil fuels, as well as solar and wind?
  • Do you support the Keystone pipeline? Why or why not?
  • Leaving aside climate change, what would you do, if anything, to protect and preserve the environment?
  • Given the BP uncontrolled blowout in the Gulf, would you task your Administration with reviewing the adequacy of environmental and safety regulations for offshore oil and gas development? Would you support the use of Probabilistic Risk Assessment as a tool to lessen risk in outer shelf oil and gas development?
  • Would you eliminate the mandate for ethanol in gasoline?

Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

  • Do you support equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of nationality, religion, gender, or race? What actions have you taken that would demonstrate this?
  • There has been too much scapegoating within our national politics with one faction blaming our shortcomings on “wall street” and “billionaires,” and another blaming “the media” and “illegal immigrants.” Would you serve as president for all Americans, or continue this unproductive scapegoating?
  • How would you balance the civil liberties of Americans against the need for intelligence collection and other modalities for protecting American lives against security threats?
  • What measures, if any, would you take to support women’s rights and enhance opportunities for women in the workplace?
  • What actions, if any, would you take to protect and enhance religious liberty?
  • Would you respect the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade?
  • Would you respect the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges?

The Family

  • What actions would you take to strengthen the American family; the foundation of personal and national strength;
  • Would you eliminate the marriage penalty in the income tax code?
  • Would you reduce or eliminate the estate tax which raises little revenue and favors consumption over family? Would you give a taxpayer’s children the same estate tax exemption as their spouse?
  • Would you eliminate any provisions in the “safety net” which are serving as disincentives to marriage?

Freedom & Authority: The Role of Government

  • How would you “right-size” the federal government?
  • What is your view as to the principal roles of The Presidency?
  • What is your view as to the proper use of Executive Orders and signing statements?
  • What congressional reforms do you believe are needed to enhance the functioning of the Congress in its appropriating and law-making roles?
  • What is your view as to the role of the federal government versus that of the states? Do you support a robust federalism?
  • What is your view as to the meaning of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution which provides: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people?”
  • What criteria would you support in appointing federal judges, and particularly Supreme Court Justices? Would you support a continuing active role for the Court in policing the constitutional fundaments of democracy; fundaments including separation of powers, bill-of-rights protections of the individual from the state, federalism, protection of the integrity of the electoral process, and a robust free press?
  • Do you believe that “textualism;” that is, an approach focusing solely on the language of a statute, is the proper mode of statutory interpretation? Or do you believe that statutory language, like all use of language, must be interpreted in its fullest context, and thus, where known, “legislative history” should be at least a part of that interpretive process? Given the inherent semantic and syntactic ambiguity of statutory language taken to the Supreme Court, do you believe that “textualism” properly defers to legislative authority? Given the large number of statutory provisions the Supreme Court must interpret, would this important issue be part of your criteria for selection of Supreme Court Justices?
  • In your opinion how much of the 2008-09 financial crisis was caused by government action? How much was caused by the private sector? Specifically what do you view as the contributing factors from each?

Your Administration

  • How would you lead the Nation? Please describe your leadership style?
  • How would you select your Vice-Presidential running mate?
  • How would you select senior level officials for your Administration?
  • Do you believe that the Congress should streamline laws and regulations for presidential appointments to facilitate more timely transitions?
  • What would you do to facilitate greater cooperation between you as President and the Congress?
  • Would you respect the independence of the courts?
  • Would you respect the independence of the Federal Reserve?
  • How frequently would you hold press conferences with full opportunity for press Q and A?
  • Would you serve as president for all Americans, regardless of their economic status, race, religion, or party?
  • Would you put the interests of the Nation above party or personal advantage?
  • Can you, without private reservation, take the constitutionally designated oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”