Friday, February 12, 2016

I got to ask the Democratic candidates a question (No, they didn't answer it...)

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on February 12th, 2016...)

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a private group discussion of undecided voters sponsored by the PBS Newshour on Facebook. A few dozen of us were encouraged to discuss campaign related issues and submit follow-up questions for the Democratic debate in Milwaukee, WI last night.

Early on I submitted a follow-up question for Bernie Sanders that reads as follows:

(From the transcript)

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the Democratic presidential debate. Before we return to our questions, we have a follow-up question from our Facebook group. And it is to Senator Sanders.
Senator, it comes from Bill Corfield. He is a 55-year-old musician from Troy, Ohio. And he asks: "Are there any areas of government you would like to reduce?"
SANDERS: Hey, I'm in the United States Senate, and anyone who doesn't think that there is an enormous amount of waste and inefficiency and bureaucracy throughout government would be very, very mistaken.
I believe in government, but I believe in efficient government, not wasteful government.
IFILL: How about you, Senator Clinton -- Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Absolutely. And, you know, there are a number of programs that I think are duplicative and redundant and not producing the results that people deserve. There are a lot of training programs and education programs that I think can be streamlined and put into a much better format so that if we do continue them they can be more useful, in public schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities.
I would like to take a hard look at every part of the federal government and really do the kind of analysis that would rebuild some confidence in people that we're taking a hard look about what we have, you know, and what we don't need anymore. And that's what I intend to do.
SANDERS: If I could just answer that, we have also got to take a look at the waste and inefficiencies in the Department of Defense, which is the one major agency of government that has not been able to be audited. And I have the feeling you're going to find a lot of cost overruns there and a lot of waste and duplicative activities.
 My thoughts:
Overall, I'm disappointed. The answers were boilerplate and not very informative. Certainly not inspiring. Sanders responded first and frankly didn't answer the question. Clinton in turn went straight to "...streamlining wasteful programs involving training and education areas", which sounds good on the surface, but had no real specifics. She then wandered into word-salad land when she said, "...programs can be streamlined and put into a much better format so that if we do continue them they can be more useful, in public schools, community colleges and colleges and universities." What on earth does that mean? 

Sanders, realizing that Clinton had rambled longer than he had, then said something rather amazing. "If I could just answer that..." Wait a second. "If I could just answer that?"  Full stop, Bernie. They asked you first. Remember? Whew...

Sanders then brought up waste and inefficiencies in the Defense Department, which is what he should've said in the first place. He didn't stop there as he (not to be outdone by Hillary) proved he too could say the word "duplicative" in regard to his desire to seeing an audit performed on the Department of Defense.

Duplicative is an odd word. It's not the kind of word regular people use very often, but here are the two leading Democratic candidates for President, and they both say it within 15 seconds of each other.

Somewhere, Marco Rubio was laughing...

This was, in my opinion, a softball question, asked in front of a friendly audience and mostly sympathetic viewers. No harm done. If this question gets the same sort of silly non-answers during one of the Presidential Debates, that will be a different story. They will pay a price for not having something more polished to offer up.

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