How would YOU answer these 18 questions from the NYT?

18 questions

The New York Times put 21 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination “on the spot” by putting them in front of video cameras and asking them 18 questions.

My man Joe Biden declined to participate. Make of that what you will. (I could write a separate post on why it doesn’t bother me, I suppose, but I probably wouldn’t persuade anyone who is bothered.) On the other end of the cooperation spectrum, Elizabeth Warren was the first to be interviewed and even came in a second time, because the NYT added some questions after her initial session.

I haven’t watched all the videos, or even most of them, because I have a life — and as y’all know, I don’t make electoral decisions based on this or that specific issue — and if I did, it wouldn’t be on many of these issues. But I’ve skimmed the accompanying story, which you might wish to do to save time.

How the non-Biden candidates answered the questions doesn’t interest me as much as how y’all would answer the questions. So here they are, each with a brief answer from me. The links take you to the video answers:

  1. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns? Of course not. I see that most of the candidates tried to dance around this, trying to reassure people that they aren’t against the 2nd Amendment. Pete Buttigieg seems to be about the only one who actually heard the question. The operative word is “ideal,” as in “perfect.” Which I take to mean, like the Garden of Eden. Handguns have one purpose — killing people, whether in acts of aggression or self-defense. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t be killing people, so no need for handguns. Now if you’d wanted a real-world answer, you should have asked the question differently.
  2. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer? I prefer single-payer, the one truly sensible way to go, but improving the ACA is probably more politically feasible. And even that is only likely to happen if Democrats keep the House and win the Senate. As we’ve seen, Republicans just talk about repealing it, but don’t repeal it, preferring to cripple it and watch it die a slow death.
  3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change? No. What is possible is for the next president to take significant, positive steps in that direction. For a change. And that is what should happen.
  4. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights? Generally speaking, yes. But what are international standards, in a world that contains Russia, China, Syria, the Philippines and Venezuela? Let’s use the higher, Western, liberal-democracy standard. I think that on the whole, Israel strives to meet that higher standard while dealing with a host of people around them and in the country itself who wish Israel to cease to exist. And that means it’s not going to be perfect all the time.
  5. Who is your hero, and why? I’ve never known how to answer questions like this one. I could say “Jesus,” and leave it at that, or maybe throw in St. Peter, Thomas More, Pope John Paul II, and then move to the secular realm and add Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, FDR and Martin Luther King. John McCain was a hero to me. If it has to be living people, I might name Tony Blair, and both Rileys in South Carolina — Joe and Dick. You’ll notice none of them currently hold office….
  6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term? Probably, just because I haven’t heard anyone explain how we prevent the Taliban from taking over once we leave, and once again making the country a safe haven for Al Qaeda or ISIL. I’d love to have a plan for doing that, I just don’t know where to find it.
  7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Depends. If we’re pretending I’m a candidate, I’d be saying “not as many as I like,” but then campaigns change your metabolism. You adapt. I functioned on less sleep last year, and James and Mandy on much less than I did. All that said, may I say how much I hate wasting time on a personal lifestyle question?
  8. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States? I think it’s a major political problem, especially if you’re a Republican. As for a real problem… I think it’s a disorderly process right now, and most of that is caused by the political problem. The anti-immigration folks have killed every effort at comprehensive reform since the start of this century. If you ask me what I want us to have, I’ll say we need more immigration, not less, for the sake of our economy, but even more because of what America is to people everywhere seeking freedom and opportunity. And that additional immigration needs to be administered in a far more rational and orderly process than we have now.
  9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president? Wherever I could meet with our key allies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and others — to repair damage done to our relationships, and reassure them as to our ongoing commitment to multilateral arrangements for everything from collective security to trade to climate change. Then, I’d try to revive T.P.P., if that’s possible — which is to say, if it’s not too late to undo the huge diplomatic and economic advantage we handed China when Trump abandoned it.
  10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why? Just a second ago, when I read this question. But yeah, I get why you ask it, given the embarrassment that currently occupies the White House — a man who either doesn’t get embarrassed or won’t ever admit it. Anyway, I’m embarrassed so frequently, so routinely, that I can’t tell you the most recent incident. If I remember, I’ll come back to this.
  11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office? Oh, I don’t know. And given the obstacles to prosecuting a sitting president, I’m not sure it’s a relevant question. What IS relevant is that he is grossly, pathologically unfit for the office — for pretty much any office involving the public trust, but especially this one — and we need to get him out of office as soon as possible. Unfortunately, given GOP control of the Senate, the first practical opportunity is the election next year. Americans who care about our country should focus on coming up with the very best candidate to defeat him.
  12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty? I oppose it. And I oppose this being a federal issue. That the federal government has muscled its way into something that was once almost completely a state issue is a problem.
  13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up? I don’t know. There probably needs to be more regulation, but I’m not smart enough to tell you what form that should take. We find ourselves in a situation like what we faced in the Progressive Era, when railroads and oil companies and such exerted an unexpectedly excessive influence on our society. Major tech companies have had an even more dramatic effect, for good and ill, even to the point of rewiring human cognition. As a country, we need to come to terms with this somehow. I can’t tell you I know what the specific remedies might be.
  14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court? Absolutely not. Hear me: What Mitch McConnell did to prevent even the consideration of Merrick Garland was unconscionable. A Democratic effort to do the same thing — tilt the court for partisan purposes — would be equally unconscionable.
  15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how? You’d think I’d know the answer to this, given my genealogy obsession, but I don’t. In fact, it’s because of my genealogy obsession that I know that I don’t know. The short answer is that I don’t have any recent immigrants on my tree. If I did — say, if all four of my grandparents were immigrants, I could answer the question. But I can’t. On every branch of my tree that I’ve been able to trace back that far, everyone was here by the mid-1700s. That’s about nine generations back. When you go back that far, each of us has more than 500 direct ancestors, with about 500 different surnames. (I’d be precise and say “512,” but even that recently, I have some people from whom I’m descended more than one way, and you probably do, too. That lowers the number slightly.) When you’re talking about being descended from 500 families just a couple of centuries back, it raises the question of which one is “your family.” Obviously, all of them are.
  16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail? Oh, come on. Really? From my own limited experiences on the campaign trail — as a campaign staffer last year, and covering campaigns long ago — food is food, and lacks emotional meaning, beyond the fact that eating is more comfortable than not eating. I ate anything I could get my hands on, when I had the time, that wouldn’t kill me, given my allergies. Oh, and before you ask, on a related question of equal value: I used to wear briefs, but have worn boxers for about 30 years now. OK? Can we move on?
  17. What do you do to relax? Give me a break. If I’m a presidential candidate, I don’t. Since I’m not, I spend time with my family, I read, I watch TV, I exercise, I work on my family tree. I make time for this by not answering questionnaires such as this. Maybe that’s how Joe Biden maintains his equanimity. Sorry, but this particular question is a peeve for me. I once had a publisher who invariably asked this very question of candidates during editorial board meetings, because he wanted to say something and he didn’t know anything about politics or policy. Each time, I would have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. (Actually, it’s just now occurring to me, I should have thanked him for staying neutral and not delving into topics that would have a bearing on our editorial decisions.)
  18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars? I’ll quote Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” on this point: Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. If you’re asking whether, when a person has amassed such a fortune without doing anything illegal or morally reprehensible, the government should take it away from him, I’ll say no. And unlike maybe Bernie or Sen. Warren, I think it’s a rather dumb question.

What’s missing: any serious questions about the chief part of the job of being president, which is dealing with the rest of the world. The one question about Israel is just a gut-check thing to test how you stand with the pro-Palestinian wing of the Democratic Party — and with a lot of this paper’s readers. And the “first international trip” question is somewhat vague, in terms of direct bearing on policy.

Nothing about China, or Russia, or Iran, or Venezuela? Or climate change? Or international organizations such as NATO or the U.N., or the defunct TPP? Or general philosophy on national or collective security? Really? Are you kidding me? What office do you think these people are running for?

That such questions are left out while time is spent on how the candidates “relax,” or their fave “comfort food,” just floors me. This is The New York Times, not Tiger Beat….

12 thoughts on “How would YOU answer these 18 questions from the NYT?

  1. Mark Stewart

    It is guaranteed that I’m not going to loose a minute of my time on earth watching any of those clips. Good grief… Even a quick skim through the questions was painful.

    Reply
  2. Doug Ross

    1. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns?

    Yes. Owning a gun does not harm anyone any more than owning a toaster.

    2. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer?

    Single. payer. Obamacare was poorly designed, poorly implemented, and hasn’t really achieved a whole lot – certainly not on making health care. I don’t hold out any fantasy that single payer would be nirvana… it might be better but I don’t trust the government to do it right.

    3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change?

    Absolutely not. Stop? Never. Diminish a tiny bit? Maybe. We don’t control China and India. And everyone who talks about climate “science” acts like its physics – accurately measurable and predictable. It’s not. It’s speculation built on models that cannot control for all the variables. People who talk about climate change who do not make serious attempts at modifying their own lifestyle to prove their beliefs are hypocrites. “Let’s let the government solve it”… Right…

    4. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?

    I suppose. They commit as many acts of violence against innocent people as America does so if we’re the low bar, they meet that.

    5. Who is your hero, and why?

    It used to be Larry Bird. I don’t have any actual heroes these days. I admire some people who are successful and ethical (Bill Gates comes to mind).

    6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term?

    No. Not at the end of the first month either.

    7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

    4-5.

    8. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States?

    Not major but one that should be addressed properly by securing the border and removing all incentives for anyone who is here illegally to stay. No sanctuary cities. No drivers licenses. Much more severe penalties for hiring people here illegally. Then expand the quotas for legal immigration and allow a much easier path to citizenship for those here legally.

    9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president?

    China. We need to figure out how to work with them more than anyone else.

    10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why?

    It may not be the last time but I do recall writing a comment on this blog where I actually believed Mark Sanford had resigned after his affair was made known. I have no idea why I thought that. Other than that, I have to go back a long way to high school basketball when after an away game, I went to the showers and was soaping up before I realized the showers had a door that opened up to the high school pool where several people were swimming.

    11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office?

    No.

    12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty?

    Support. It’s punishment. Should be used in cases like Dylan Roof and the father who killed his 5 kids. They are beyond redemption and only serve to use resources that could be used on people who deserve it.

    13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up?

    No. Don’t like Facebook? Delete your account. Don’t like Google? Use Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or any other options. Amazon is an American success story unlike any other. Amazon provides a marketplace for literally thousands of small and large companies around the world. They are just a logistics company combined with a movie studio combined with a IT company.

    14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court?

    Not necessary. I would be for term limits or age limits.

    15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how?

    Mother’s side: Grandparent’s parents arrived from Finland in late 1800’s.
    Father’s side: Grandparents arrived in U.S. from England and Canada in early 1900’s.

    16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?

    Beer, specifically IPA and sours. Junk food: beef jerky, sour patch kids, Twizzlers, Whoppers

    17. What do you do to relax?

    Travel, hike, walk the dogs, listen to sports podcasts, gamble, watch baseball

    18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?

    Of course. Everyone deserves to have as much money as they can earn legally and do with it whatever they want to do with it. Their money is not mine to spend. And every billionaire is responsible for all sorts of other people having jobs and for paying the taxes that run this country.

    Reply
  3. bud

    1. No
    2. Medicare for All
    3. Not really a yes/no question. But POTUS can make a huge difference.
    4. Absolutely not
    5. Harriet Tubman. Multiple contributions to improving lives for African Americans and women.
    6. No
    7. 6-7
    8. No
    9. Mexico
    10. Looking for my glasses that were on top of my head
    11. Of course he has. Yes
    12. Oppose
    13. Yes
    14. No
    15. 1750s to 1850s
    16. Beer
    17. Walk greenway trails in urban areas
    18. No

    Reply
  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    On the genealogy question. As I said, I can’t answer such a question simply, because each of us have more than 500 direct ancestors or more, going that far back.

    But I know that people who DON’T obsess about genealogy might just mean, “When did the first person with your last name come to America?”

    THAT I can answer, I think. To the best of my knowledge, the first Warthen (although they spelled it “Wathen” back then) came from England to Maryland in 1670. Of course, at that time, I had a couple of thousand people from whom I am descended just as directly and fully as I am from him…

    Reply
    1. Scout

      I think who is your most recent ancestor to come to America would be a much easier question. For me, it was the Shocks from Germany in the 1830s, the Montagnes from France in early 1800s, and the Fairs from Northern Ireland in the 1770s. As far as I have found so far, all my other lines were already here before then.

      Reply
  5. Harry Harris

    1. handguns?
    Yes, for the, but registered.

    2. Affordable Care Act or single payer?
    Improve and gradually go to single-payer.

    3. President stopping climate change?
    No, but it’s a must to accelerate our efforts.

    4. Israel meeting international standards of human rights?
    No, especially under Netanyahu, but they are far from the worst transgressors

    5. Who is your hero, and why?
    Desmond Tutu. Integrity, courage, and grace.

    6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term?
    Impossible to say.

    7. Sleep each night?
    8-9 hours

    8.Illegal immigration a major problem?
    Yes. It should be addressed thoroughly and with consideration to many stakeholders.

    9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president?
    China

    10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why?
    The last several times involve a family member. Other than that, insensitively leaving someone out.

    11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office?
    Yes. Violation of the emoluments clause, Likely numerous others behind closed doors and with staff removed from the room.

    12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty?
    Oppose

    13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up?

    Yes. They should not be able to acquire competitors and vertically integrate into so much control.

    14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court?
    No.

    15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how?
    My mother’s grandmother’s folks in the late ice age. Her paternal side likely early 1800’s.
    Father’s side, late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

    16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?
    Pistachios, cashew nuts

    17. What do you do to relax?
    Golf, Lazy Boy with closed eyes, read, Polytopia

    18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?
    No problem with that. I want their unearned income (cap gains, rents, royalties, etc) to lose their favorable tax treatment (which would affect me also). I want the estate tax left in place. I want their ability to influence government by using their money diminished (lobbying, political contributions, phony foundations and sham 501c’s).

    Reply
  6. Bryan Caskey

    I’ll play:

    1. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns?

    By “ideal world” you mean world without sin? No crime, hate, or anger? Seems like handguns would be simply recreational at that point, so sure they would exist. Why not, right? In heaven, I don’t think there’s a ton of “ownership” of things, but I could be wrong. But I am going to be President of the real world, not Heaven, where crime and sin exist. Accordingly, since sin and crime do exist, I want good people to be able to defend themselves from the tyranny of evil men.

    2. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer?

    I would improve it by encouraging Congress (the legislative body of our country) to pass a better law, even if it means starting over from a white sheet of paper. If Congress sent something better to my desk, I would sign it, and would only exercise a veto in an instance where I felt compelled to, giving due deference to Congress as the will of The People.

    3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change?

    It wouldn’t be on my agenda.

    4. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?

    I think Israel is doing the best that it can under difficult circumstances.

    5. Who is your hero, and why?

    My dad. He’s been my hero since I was little. He’s shown me how to be a man which is: raise a family, provide for them, protect them, be generous to all, have fun, be helpful to all, have respect for others (and myself), be loyal, and to not take myself too seriously.

    6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term?

    Maybe. It depends on if we need them there. I’m not a fortune teller.

    7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

    Not as many as I would like, but being a grown-up means getting up in the morning. It also means working late when need be.

    8. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States?

    Yes. We need to control who comes in and out of the country. Before we even get to the question of who are we going to decide to let in, we need to be able to control that number ourselves. America is a generous nation, and we can continue to be generous to immigrants who want to come to America. However, we have to be able to allow immigration as we see fit, rather than simply acquiesce to immigrants who don’t care about process.

    9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president?

    I don’t know. Wouldn’t I have to be invited somewhere first? My mother always told me it wasn’t polite to invite yourself over to other people’s houses.

    10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed.

    I can’t recall exactly, but I’m sure it had something to do with something dumb I said…and my wife telling me how dumb it was. (And she’s almost always right in such instances.)

    11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office?

    Fortunately, here in America it’s not a crime to be a crass, insensitive, vulgar, tacky, Yankee.

    12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty?

    I support the death penalty for certain crimes in certain situations. No doubt of guilt is a prerequisite. You don’t get a do-over with the death penalty, so you don’t want to execute someone if it’s possible they are not guilty. After that prerequisite is satisfied, it’s on a case-by-case method. Some crimes are worthy of execution.

    13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up?

    I’m not a big fan of telling people what to do. I also don’t experience much intrusiveness from these companies. Amazon makes my life super-easy with being able to buy things, Google helps me learn things and find my way, and Facebook helps me stay in touch with old friends far away. If these companies are too powerful in your life, you’re using them differently than me. The market always has creative destruction if things get out of balance.

    14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court?

    No. It was a bad idea when FDR tried it, and it’s bad idea now. We ought to let the Supreme Court get back to doing essentially lawyers’ work up there–reading text and discerning our society’s traditional understanding of that text. If we did that, The People would probably pretty much leave the Court alone. Texts and traditions are facts to study, not convictions to demonstrate about. However, over time, and especially with Roe, the Court has started to make value judgments. Obviously, The People can make value judgments, which is why Senators now go through their constituent’s favored value judgments in confirmation hearings. After all, value judgments are to be voted on – not dictated by a court.

    15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how?

    A while back. I honestly don’t know. I would have to refer you to my mother on this question. She’s into the genealogy thing.

    16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?

    Quick comfort food that is portable? I do love a good cheeseburger and fries.

    17. What do you do to relax?

    Spend time with my family. I love to watch my son play baseball, my daughter dance, and my wife break clays. Alone, it’s hard to beat a good book and a glass of Madeira by the fire.

    18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars?

    What a strange question. Isn’t the hope of wealth part of the American dream? For anyone who works, thinks, or otherwise acquires their money in an honest way, they have the right to the fruits of their labor, thought, or design, whether it’s an inventor like Thomas Edison or Bill Gates, or an author like J.K. Rowling, or an athlete like Michael Jordan. I know I’ll never have to worry about being a billionaire, but I’m glad that I live in a country where it’s possible for people to aspire to it no matter their beginnings.

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Bryan – I would suggest that the last time you were embarrassed was right now when I tell you our views appear to be very similar. The sad thing is that there are people who would actually find our views offensive. “Gun loving, immigrant hating, capitalist!!!!”

      Reply
  7. Mr. Smith

    Just on the question of heroes:
    I’ll go with someone like Dr. Mohamad al-Mohamad, who treated the wounded and dying in Homs, Syria, while under constant shelling by government forces? Or Dr. Mohammad Wassim Maaz, a pediatrician working under the same conditions in Aleppo, where he was killed in an airstrike. THAT’s heroism.

    Reply
  8. bud

    Just for fun I thought I’d rank these questions in order of importance. I’ll do this Letterman style from least important to most:

    18. What is your comfort food? Really? I guess if someone answered dog or cat it would be an issue.
    17. Describe the last time you were embarrassed.
    16. How much sleep to you get?
    15. What do you do to relax?
    14. When did your family first arrive in the United States?
    13. Where would you go on your first international trip as president?
    12. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States? I don’t think this is at all a problem but a strong yes might be a deal breaker.
    11. Who is your hero, and why?
    10. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court?
    9. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns? Important issue but not a particularly useful question.
    8. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer? First real question that makes sense to ask.
    7. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights? Time to re-think our whole relationship with Israel.
    6.Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term? Time to bring ALL troops home from the ME.
    5. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars? Another clumsy question but the topic is relevant. We’re on the verge of a new gilded age. Time for action.
    4. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up? Again, we’re in a new gilded age so we need to act.
    3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change? Most important issue of our time but a pretty clumsy question. Of course POTUS can’t single handedly stop climate change but he can certainly make a difference.
    2. Do you support or oppose the death penalty? This is the way to ask a question without a bunch of nonsense to cloud the issue.
    1. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office? Democrats need to step up and acknowledge this man is not merely “unorthodox” in some endearing way but call him out for what he really is, a con-man and a crook, perhaps even a rapist.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/advice-columnist-e-jean-carroll-alleged-rape-trump_n_5d0d09eae4b0aa375f4c0e2b

    Reply

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