August 24, 2012
Debate Questions Obama Won't Be AskedBy Daren Jonescu
If you could submit just one question to be asked of President Obama during a televised presidential debate, what would it be? Once you have formulated your best idea, ask yourself this: do you think any of this year's line-up of debate hosts and moderators would ever actually ask your question, as you framed it? Your answer, I am sure, is almost as self-evident as is the importance of your imaginary debate question. The questions that matter most are precisely the ones that will not be asked, and for that very reason.
For all the analysis that has been, and will be, devoted to explaining why so many Americans -- and not only knee-jerk liberals, but also a lot of self-described moderates and conservatives -- fail to see the primal menace in Barack Obama's presidency, one simple fact probably explains it all: most people pay no attention to such "analysis" and instead get all their political information from mainstream sources (from 60 Minutes to The Daily Show to the morning coffee klatch programs) that will never broach the issues that seem most vital to those who actually think.
To clarify, when I say "think," I mean it in the strict sense of using one's rational faculty to seek understanding -- i.e., to dig through the rough rock pile of transient "facts" and words in search of the firm ground of principle and purpose that lies beneath. That difficult work is what leads people to a knowledge of ultimate causes, or at least to formulating trenchant questions that might take us to a more fundamental layer of the rock pile.
A simple example will suffice. Obama is excessively fond of the word "fairness." Anyone reading this article is likely to have thought carefully and often through the seemingly obvious question of what Obama means by "fairness," and what he is, by implication, damning as "unfair." Most of Obama's listeners, however, simply follow him along on his dreamy trip to socialism through the sweet smoke of moral abstraction. After all, who doesn't want to do what is "fair"?
By never asking Obama pointed questions about his notion of fairness, but instead always allowing him to frame and lead the conversation as he wishes, his friends and enablers in the mainstream media and Washington establishment effectively hide the underlying issues from their audience.
It is easy to be pessimistic and denounce that audience as simply too stupid to reason through these issues on their own. And it is true that they are too passive. However, a passive audience can sometimes be roused from passivity by having matters presented to them in a manner that awakens curiosity, which is to say in a manner that promotes the search for deeper understanding.
This rousing manner is precisely what the mainstreamers carefully avoid in the way they present Obama, his policies, his principles, and his past. Curiosity -- about fairness, about the meaning of community organizing, about William Ayers, about so many things -- is the enemy of Barack Obama, and therefore, it is the avowed enemy of the mainstream media in its presentation of presidential politics. Everything they do, and every pseudo-question they ask, is designed to tamp down the intellectual mud that will keep that obfuscating rock pile firmly in place, and avoid reminding people of the infertile ground beneath.
This is why the debates are bound to be frustrating, as usual, for conservatives -- along with the likelihood that Mitt Romney will be cowed by the media into conceding the usual "Of course my opponent loves America" nonsense that causes apoplexy among those of us concerned for the survival of Western civilization. This frustration, however, is no cause for despondency, but rather a reminder of the need to make this season a continual shadow production, within the sphere of one's personal influence, of the debate that ought to take place, with the questions that ought to be asked.
The fact that we can't ask Obama himself makes little difference. The figurative empty chair to which our questions must be posed has an eloquence of its own. Its silence helps to highlight that scurrying sound of the mainstream media mice among the rocks. If they who hold the microphones were men, they would be asking the hard questions, rather than crawling up Obama's well-creased pant leg in search of an honored position as Big Brother's top-rated propagandist.
So, in the spirit of a respectful but honest debate moderator -- one hoping to promote, rather than stifle, curiosity -- I offer three questions that I would ask Barack Obama, were I permitted to do so.
(1) Mr. President, you speak frequently of "fairness," of doing one's "fair share," and so on. Of course, "fairness" is an abstract concept. Furthermore, it is not a political system. Rather, it expresses the intended result of one political system or other, depending on how one defines "fairness." For example, one might say that the free market promotes fairness, if by fairness we mean that everyone has what he is able to earn by his own effort, with his own talent, and through uncoerced interaction with others. On the other hand, a socialist would define fairness as everyone getting an equal share of the available material wealth, by means of continuously regulated and maintained government redistribution.
So I would like you to explain as clearly as possible what you mean by fairness, and which politico-economic system -- the free market, socialism, or some other system -- is most conducive to your understanding of fairness. In short, is freedom or socialism fairer, in your view, and why?
(2) The American founders, following John Locke and others, were strong defenders of property rights. Specifically, they believed, as Locke explained, that all human beings inviolably own themselves as individual material beings, and hence that the product of their effort and voluntary exchange with others belongs to them, by extension from their initial and natural ownership of their own bodies and minds.
Various federal government programs and regulations you support, such as ObamaCare and many EPA initiatives, fly in the face of this notion of a natural right to property. Do you believe in private property as a right? And if so, on what grounds do you believe that this right can be violated?
(3) We know that your father, whose dreams you famously claim to have inherited, was a prominent Kenyan socialist, and that your mentor in your youth, Frank Marshall Davis, was an avowed communist. We also know that your longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has deeply anti-American convictions; that Bill Ayers, who enthusiastically supported your election in 2008, and with whom you have had some kind of personal relationship for many years, has been openly dedicated to the demise of the American political system for his entire adult life; that you have appointed several avowed socialists, communists, admirers of Mao, and celebrators of May Day to significant positions within your administration; and that prior to running for president you frequently described yourself and your interests as "progressive," which is a well-known alternative name for "socialist."
Furthermore, you have spoken frequently of government as an agent of "sharing the prosperity" (see here) and of "fundamentally transforming" America; your wife said your nomination was the first time she was ever proud of America; and you famously boasted in your 2008 victory speech that "change has come to America."
We know, in short, that you were involved in socialist or progressive thinking and causes prior to running for president, and that you have had extensive and seemingly formative associations with socialists and communists who were fundamentally critical of America, from your childhood through to your adult life prior to 2008. The question, Mr. President, is: have you disavowed this thinking and these causes, and if so, when and why did you do so?
These offerings are merely the tip of the iceberg, of course. With the most concealed and protected president of modern times, one could literally go on all day with these questions, each one as vital as the last: about drugs, about Fast and Furious, about whispering promises of post-election accommodation to a Russian president, about his hidden university career and transcripts, and on and on.
There is a significant segment of the population that can no longer be reached. There is, however, probably at least as large a segment that merely falls into the category of the passively ignorant. These people must be reached, because the civilizational renewal that is needed is impossible without them. They will not be reached by anything that happens on their televisions. They must have the hard questions, the digging questions, thrust in their way over and over, forcefully but respectfully, until at last, slowly, their long-suppressed curiosity is aroused.
Thinking is, to a large extent, a matter of asking questions and of pursuing answers with enthusiasm, and without fear of the truth one might discover. A thinking population is an anti-leftist population. The job of those who are already thinking is not to bludgeon the late arrivals into submission, but to pique their interest in that which has hitherto been concealed from them -- to teach them, in other words, the joys of thinking for themselves.
Keep asking the empty chair those hard questions. The answers you get will be no less informative than the ones the real Obama -- if there is such a thing -- will give during the actual debates. And your shadow debate just might attract a thoughtful audience of its own. Lord knows Bob Schieffer isn't going to attract one.
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