Questions for the Presidential Candidates

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Former vice president Joe Biden and President Donald Trump ought to answer serious foreign policy questions during the final weeks of the campaign.

If they don’t, voters might contemplate them on the way to the polling station.

For Biden:

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta all say that as vice president you opposed going ahead with the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Why did you oppose it?

As a senator in 1995, you voted for the Jerusalem Embassy Act recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and requiring the establishment of the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem “no later than May 31, 1999.” Now that President Trump has followed the law you voted for, you say you want to keep the embassy there, and wouldn’t remove it. Why didn’t you move the embassy during the eight years you were vice president? And if the answer was that it wasn’t up to you, it was up to President Obama, did you advise him your opinion about it? What was your opinion about it? Are you asking voters to credit you for the successes of the Obama-Biden administration without blaming you for the failures?

A big part of your economic agenda is a “buy American” proposal that would restore American manufacturing jobs that have gone away to China. Why wasn’t this a bigger priority during the Obama-Biden administration? Why did it take Donald Trump to make Democratic politicians other than Richard Gephardt care about American manufacturing?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it has built 371 miles of new border wall during the Trump administration. If you are elected, will you remove it? If not, why?

You’ve said that you’d re-enter the Iran nuclear deal but also try to strengthen it. How would you strengthen it? Why didn’t you insist on strengthening it before President Obama signed it, which is what the Israeli government at the time said it wanted?

At a September 4 fund raiser you said, “Under my watch America is going to stand up for the dissidents and defenders of human rights in China.” How, exactly, would you do that, both with respect to Hong Kong, Tibet, and what you have called “concentration camps being set up now for Muslim Chinese”? What penalties will you impose? Would you use or threaten military force or economic sanctions or tariffs? What makes you think that will work? What is your longer-term strategy for advancing human rights in China? Should the end of Communist Party rule there be an American policy goal? If so, what priority would you place on it, and how would you achieve it?

Many of our NATO partners in Europe and Canada have sharply increased their defense spending in response to President Trump’s call for them to bear more of the costs of defending themselves. Would you like them to keep doing that? Or would you prefer to return to the situation at the end of the Obama-Biden administration, when American taxpayers were bearing a higher share of the cost of defending Europe?

You have faulted President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. But according to Johns Hopkins, the case-fatality ratio is worse in Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. In the United States, a lot of the deaths were in states and cities with Democratic governors and mayors. And some of the deaths may be related to factors, like obesity, that predated the pandemic. Is it really fair to place so much of the blame for the pandemic on Trump?

For Trump: On October 9 you told Rush Limbaugh that if you are re-elected, “we’ll have a great deal with Iran within one month.” What’s going to be in that deal? Will it address non-nuclear issues such as terrorism, missile testing, proliferation of conventional and nonconventional weapons to other enemy countries, undermining of the Middle East peace process, and abuses against democracy, human rights, and the rule of law? Will you submit any such treaty to the Senate for ratification? Will you make the full text of any such agreement, including any side letters, public? Do you have any concern that such an agreement would wind up propping up and enriching a corrupt and hostile Iranian regime on the verge of collapse? Are you serious about this or is it just a way to push Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, to move quickly toward a peace deal with Israel?


Ira Stoll is editor of and author of JFK, Conservative.