"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gotcha Questions

A recent interview of Marco Rubio in GQ magazine got some attention for this "gotcha" question:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

The interviewer was clearly just trying to get Rubio either to say something weird that could be used against him to tar him as a troglodyte creationist; or else to say something anodyne that would hurt him with religious conservatives in Iowa caucuses.   The interviewer didn't care which, because whatever Rubio answered could be used against him.  

Conservatives correctly noted that liberal politicians are never asked this kind of "gotcha" question, and if they do make misstatements, those misstatements tend to vanish down the media's collective "memory hole."   But what would "gotcha" questions to liberals look like?   I can imagine some that might fit the bill:
  • Is there a point during human gestation after which you would be willing to limit access to abortion?   Six months?   Seven months?   Eight months?   Nine months?
  • Why are we spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year subsidizing the purchase of food in America when we have what the First Lady has called an obesity epidemic?
  • Is there a connection between increasing the minimum wage and black youth unemployment?
  • Is it fair to working Americans that federal government employees have salaries and benefits significantly greater than the average American family?
  • What percentage of federal income taxes is paid by the top 5% of earners?   Is that too low and, if so, what percentage would be appropriate?
The real extremists in America are liberals who want abortion under any circumstances and at any time paid for by taxpayers; who think 47 million on food stamps is not enough; who think we could increase minimum wages indefinitely with no impact on the demand for unskilled labor; that average Americans should fund wealthy Americans simply because those wealthy Americans are employed by the federal government; and that the so-called wealthy in the private sector ought to have the fruits of their labor taxed at confiscatory levels.   But no one ever calls them on it.

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