A Question, Sir, If I May

WASHINGTON — Washington.--On the surely correct assumption that no one will ask me, I hereby decline to be on any panels in the forthcoming debates. In absentia, I offer some questions for each of the likely players.

For Mr. Clinton: Are you a liberal? (The old Michael Dukakis query, which, alas, has fallen off the screen at an important moment.)


Is the Democratic Party liberal? Might a liberal Democratic Congress, and liberal appointees, overwhelm a Clinton administration, as happened to the Carter administration? Governor Clinton, will your appointees be liberals? What will be the role of the non-liberal Democratic Leadership Council in staffing your administration?

Was the "Willie Horton" position of Mr. Dukakis correct? (That is: Should weekend furloughs be issued to murderers sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole?)


Follow-ups: If "no," why was it wrong for Mr. Bush to use the issue? Why do Democrats keep referring to "Willie Horton" and "Willie Horton issues" as if Democrats were right and Republicans were wrong?

Do you believe that the current economic slowdown (or "recession," if you prefer) will end on its own within the next year or so, if not sooner, just as the eight previous recent recessions have ended, on their own? Follow-up: If not, why not?

Do you agree with the recent decision, by a Bush appointee, that the admissions procedures at the law school of the University of California at Berkeley foster "quotas" and discriminate against whites and Asian-Americans? Would a Clinton administration try to eliminate quota-style group preferences in American life?

For Bush: Are you a conservative? Why do so many conservatives despise your views? Follow-up: If yes, and (as you say) Mr. Clinton is a liberal, who represents us moderates?

When you opposed the landmark 1964 civil-rights bill during your Senate race from Texas, did you believe in your own position? If not, and your actions only reflected political expediency, how did it feel to speak out against your beliefs?

Mr. President, do you run your own administration? One example: Mr. Clinton says he favors a "Radio Free Asia." You say you do too. Yet your appointees at the Department of State vigorously oppose it. Who's in charge, you or them?

What were Republicans trying to say about "family values" at the Houston convention? Do you think values in America have eroded due to liberal policies and ideas? Has this erosion hurt America? If yes, why has your campaign "backed off" the issue rather than explain it? Is it because your campaign manager Jim Baker doesn't believe in it? Have you, and your campaign, been scared off the issue by the liberal media? Why should voters believe that Republicans have any real beliefs, or have the guts to govern?

For Gore: Anne and Paul Ehrlich's 1990 book, "The Population Explosion," calls for cutting Social Security and per-capita income, doubling the price of gasoline, increasing foreign aid and limiting "personal freedom" in choosing family size. The Ehrlichs write: "The world can't afford more Americans" and therefore "any more stuff in the world should not go to the likes of us" and "rich nations will now have to pay for their greed."


Senator Gore, you endorsed the book, saying: "The time for xTC action is due and past due. The Ehrlichs have written the prescription." Have you had second thoughts?

For Mr. Quayle: Present company excluded, all things considered, on balance, in the future, in the national interest, wouldn't it be better if the presidential nominee chooses his running mate from a pool of candidates who have already had national exposure? Wouldn't it have been better, for you and for the country, if you had come up through the ranks?

For Mr. Perot: You've said you have never attacked President Bush personally, and only said of him "fine man, fine family." Just who was the little Texan with big ears who said earlier this year, many times, that George Bush started the Gulf War "to prove his manhood." Would you care to apologize?

For Admiral Stockdale: If Ross Perot were not running this year, whom would you vote for?

Ben Wattenberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.