Ask better questions: They’re not running for the Senate

It took me a while to figure out what bothers me about the campaigns and questions asked of presidential candidates, especially during the last two debates between the two democratic front runners. Aside from the idiotic, irrelevant questions (Tim Russert asking Obama, “Do you reject the support of Louis Farrakhan?”), and the horserace coverage (the Post-Dispatch headline about the most recent debate: “Fight Night”), what bothers me is that we’ve all been acting like Clinton and Obama are running for the Senate.
Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama keep emphasizing how their healthcare plans differ. It’s a non-issue, unless Hillary is really campaigning to be Senate majority leader. Program details are legislative matters. Whatever the president hopes to do with health care, any proposal will have to be a product of Congress.
More important is how the president would carry out legislation. How about asking what the candidates would expect from their Secretary of Health and Human Services? Or how the agencies and offices in the administrative branch should be coordinated to improve the health and access to health care of all Americans?
The president will have tremendous influence and control over the policy and operations of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Surgeon General, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the National Labor Relations Board – which all affect the health of Americans and our access to health care.
In the end, it’s not simply what the president would do, it’s how the president would delegate, what priorities s/he would set and why.

Published in Letters, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 2008

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