Politics & Policy

Is Libya a Better Place Today, Post-Qaddafi? And Other Questions CNN Should Ask Tonight

Debate prep in Las Vegas, Nev. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The Democratic debates finally kick off tonight, and they are under a cloud of controversy already thanks to the report that DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz disinvited one of the party’s vice chairpersons. We will see whether the debates match the ratings and vigor of the prior two GOP debates. In the interest of making sure these debates are something more than an hour-long exercise to get Hillary Clinton in fighting shape for the general election, here are some questions I’d like the CNN debate moderators to ask the candidates (but let’s not kid ourselves here, we know they won’t):


For all candidates:

Do you believe Americans have the right to draw, illustrate, or otherwise portray the prophet Muhammad in cartoons, films, memes, and art?

At what point do you believe a human being takes ownership of her own limbs and organs?

In regard to abortion restrictions and a woman’s right to choose, especially as it relates to the 24-week point and beyond, what is the difference between what you believe and what convicted serial killer Kermit Gosnell believes?

Do you support President Obama’s EPA restrictions on emissions even though science reporters at the New York Times admitted in a recent story that restrictions will do nothing to combat climate change by themselves?


For Hillary Clinton:

You’ve come out against “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, NAFTA/free trade, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (drafted by current vice president Joe Biden). What part of your husband’s accomplishments do you still stand by and agree with?

What part of your husband’s accomplishments do you still stand by and agree with?

In an e-mail sent on January 30, 2010, to USAID administrator Rajiv Shah and your aide Cheryl Mills, you stated, “I sent you emails [redacted] before removing their email info so pls do not forward to anyone and delete after reading. Thx” Why were you instructing your aide to delete e-mails?

Knowing what we know now about CIA intelligence regarding conditions on the ground in Libya prior to September 12, 2012, why did you stand in front of four flag-draped coffins and blame a YouTube video for a terrorist attack that killed our ambassador and three other brave Americans on the anniversary of 9/11?

In between interviews with CBS, you cheered Moammar Qaddafi’s death: “We came, we saw, he died!” Is Libya a better place today than it was under Qaddafi before his death?

Why did you continue a relationship through the State Department with Sidney Blumenthal despite explicit instructions from President Obama and his advisers not to continue it?

In response to recent issues and scares about your health, will you be releasing your health records in full?


For Bernie Sanders:

You are currently campaigning on the rise of income inequality America. You have noted that youth unemployment is at a record high and that the real unemployment rate is 11.5 percent, in contrast to the rate of 5.1 percent that the Obama administration is taking credit for. Are you accusing the administration of misleading Americans?

Do you still believe that lack of orgasms cause cervical cancer? Do you stand by past writings in which you claimed that women fantasize about being sexually assaulted?

You have said that American citizens should have less access to deodorant and sneakers. How would your administration go about limiting it, and how would your administration go about selecting which brands are allowed?

Mr. Sanders, why are you yelling at that podium?


For Martin O’Malley:

You ran for governor of Maryland and were elected on the basis of a tough reputation for fighting inner-city crime. The character of Tommy Carcetti from HBO’s The Wire was actually inspired by you. Your criminal-justice reforms are being blamed in Baltimore for a disproportionate crackdown on low-income African Americans for minor drug offenses. Do you stand by this image you campaigned on and which Hollywood has glorified?


For Lincoln Chafee:

We hear a lot about how much Black Lives Matter. Candidates are having a national dialogue about the shooting of black men by police and mass incarceration. Would you like to explain why you have a testimonial and endorsement on the front page of your website from a former Klu Klux Klan Kleagle, the late senator Robert Byrd?


For Jim Webb:

You opposed the invasion of Iraq. Do you have any concerns about Secretary Clinton’s potential foreign policy as president, knowing she voted for that war?


How debate moderators Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash, and Juan Carlos Lopez handle their questioning will clarify whether the DNC and Mrs. Clinton intend 2016 to be a coronation. We will see if  CNN and other media are actually interested in challenging these candidates on their past positions. Even the craziest of them.

— Stephen L. Miller is a writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He publishes The Wilderness, which focuses on viral politics and social media.

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