Debate questions need updates

By: Steven Goodman – Opinions Editor

The presidential primary season is getting under way, as evidenced by the increasing frequency of Republican and Democratic debates scheduled. This is especially true looking into early 2016. While the stereotype of politicians dodging the questions asked by moderators is certainly still present, there is something else that has stood out to me in the two debates I’ve watched: many of the questions are regarding attacks that other politicians have made.

While this type of questioning could have some merit, it seems unproductive to ask a candidate how he or she would respond to some claim another candidate or politician made.

Honestly, it seems childish to me that a debate could be reduced to a he-said-she-said back and forth.

Certainly this tactic could be valid if it is used to clarify a candidate’s stance on an issue. For example, if another candidate commented on what a person’s policy stated, obviously that individual should have a chance to respond. In this way, the questions would remain relevant to what he or she would do as president rather than responding to some verbal attack.

Sometimes the moderators ask the candidates whether or not they think another candidate would be a good president. This happened in the most recent Democratic debate when a moderator asked Jim Webb if he thought Bernie Sanders could “serve as a credible commander-in-chief” based on the fact that he applied for “status as a conscientious objector?”

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe I’m taking the question at too high of a level, but I can’t imagine my desire to vote for any candidate would be decided by whether or not they think a different person would make a good president. I imagine some candidates asked this question would simply spin it around to talk about himself or herself, yet that doesn’t change the nature of the question.

Regardless of who becomes president in 2016, is it really that important what their response is to another candidate? Maybe the manner in which he or she responds matters, but the actual answer given isn’t essential to being a good or bad commander-in-chief. Instead, I hope the moderators focus more on questions that directly relate to actions a candidate would take as president.

The next Republican primary debate will be Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. the next Democratic primary debate will be Saturday, Nov. 14 at 9 p.m.

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