Questions for the Candidates: What We’d Like to See Asked at Tonight’s GOP Debate

To: Interested parties
From: Randy Borntrager, Political Director, People For the American Way
Subject: Questions for the candidates: what we’d like to see asked at tonight’s GOP debate
Date: June 13, 2011

Tonight, seven prominent candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will take part in a debate in New Hampshire. As these candidates introduce themselves to Republican primary voters, it’s important for them to speak honestly about their visions for the future of the country. The following are some questions to which we think the American people deserve to hear these candidates’ answers:

Michele Bachmann

At this year’s Faith and Freedom Conference, you promised a repeal of the president’s healthcare reform law. Yet you didn’t suggest an alternative. Does Paul Ryan’s plan to ration Medicare and Medicaid by issuing vouchers and block grants adequately represent your vision for the American healthcare system?

You have called the minimum wage “superfluous,” and have on multiple occasions voted against increasing it. Would you support abolishing the minimum wage?

You have associated yourself with and even publicly prayed for the “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” ministries and its leader, Bradlee Dean. Do you think it’s appropriate, as a public official, to associate yourself with a man who claims that Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, is using gay rights to topple the Constitution and introduce Sharia law ,and that executing gays is “moral,” and who recently was booed off the Minnesota House floor for giving a prayer that insulted President Obama?  

Herman Cain 

When asked whether you would appoint Muslims to posts within your administration, you unequivocally said you would not. Backtracking, you later said that you would, as long as they “put the Constitution of the United States of America first.” The real question is, Mr. Cain, would you put the Constitution first? As you know, the Constitution prohibits a religious test for office, and discrimination based on religion is illegal. As president, you are charged with upholding the Constitution and enforcing federal law – how can the American people know that you will uphold these principles?

You have also said that you would be willing to appoint openly gay people to your administration. If you did so, would you allow their spouses or domestic partners to be on the federal health plan?  

Newt Gingrich 

You have promised, if elected President, to “get the whole country to resemble Texas.” As you know, Texas ranks 50th in the percentage of the population without health insurance, 50th in percentage of insured children, and 50th in percentage of women receiving prenatal care. Compared to other states, Texas also rates poorly in measures of poverty and education. Which Texas policies in these areas would you like to see adopted for the entire nation?

You have repeatedly worked with and praised celebrity historian David Barton, who promotes a discredited “Christian nation” view of the country’s founding, claims that the Founding Fathers were against teaching evolution almost a century before Darwin’s path-breaking writings on this subject, and insists that Jesus opposed the minimum wage. As president, would you seek Barton’s guidance and counsel? 

You made your career by being an intensely partisan figure who encouraged Republican unity over getting things done. If elected president, how would you be sure to govern for all people—not just those who voted for you? 

Ron Paul 

As a libertarian, your core principles reflect the notion that the government should have as little involvement in people’s lives as possible. Why, then, do you frequently align with the Religious Right when they decide it is acceptable to legislate to restrict individual freedom? Are your positions on freedom of choice and marriage equality truly libertarian? As a presidential candidate, is it fair for Americans to assume that your libertarianism does not extend to social policies that affect individual Americans in their daily lives?

You’ve said you’re willing to let the U.S. default on its debt in order to prove a point. How would you explain the economic havoc caused by a default to working families who are hurt by it?

Tim Pawlenty 

You’ve stated that if you’re elected president, you would reinstate the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  Repeal of this policy is supported by a majority of service members, Congress and the American people. If elected president, how would you implement such plan? What would you tell gay men and women who have joined the armed forces with the belief that they will be able to serve their country openly? How will a return to DADT affect recruitment, retention and overall military readiness?

The 5% growth that your economic plan hinges upon was never achieved when you were governor of Minnesota. How do you plan on implementing 5% growth nationwide when that goal was never reached during your governorship?  

Mitt Romney 

Among many about-faces on social and economic policy, you have renounced your previous support for abortion rights. Do you support “personhood” bills, such as the one currently being considered by the Alabama legislature, that grant zygotes and fetuses the full rights of “persons,” thus banning all abortions and common forms of birth control”?

As governor of Massachusetts, you implemented a healthcare plan that bears many similarities to President Obama’s signature reform plan – and to much success. On the campaign trail, you have completely renounced that plan, and have gone so far as to apologize for it. As president, will you backtrack from effective policies should they become politically controversial? How will the American people recognize which of your principles are permanent, and which bend with the prevailing political winds?

Rick Santorum 

In a recent interview with Rush Limbaugh, you reiterated your denial of the man-made causes of climate change, calling climate change science “patently absurd” and a “beautifully concocted scheme” to allow the “government to come in and regulate your life some more.” Do you believe that 90 percent of climate scientists have colluded to warn the world of a problem that doesn’t exist? If so, are there any matters on which you trust the scientific community?

You have said that you “would sign a bill tomorrow to eliminate the 9th Circuit [Court of Appeals].” Do you believe that Congress and the president should have the power to eliminate courts whose decisions they disagree with? How does this affect the core Constitution principle of  separation of powers.

You have criticized President John F. Kennedy for his strict adherence to the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. What is your interpretation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause? Does it allow for government endorsement of Christian theology? Of Muslim theology?

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