On Thursday evening, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews–a noted Barack Obama fan–will be interviewing the 44th president at one of the lowest points in his presidency. Mockery of Matthews has already ensued, especially after he promised to include some “easy” questions. Yet the interview represents a rare opportunity to hold the president accountable–something he resists, and which the media have been reluctant to do in the past.
There are questions that would be obvious to a conservative that Matthews will not ask, such as why he still refuses to consider a delay or amendments to Obamacare when it has turned out to be such a logistical nightmare. Yet there are questions other than the how-great-are-you variety that even a leftist like Matthews should want answered. The following are the top ten questions he should, from a left-wing view, ask:
1. Obamacare was supposed to be your signature domestic policy achievement. How could you let it go so badly? This is a question Matthews has been hinting at asking with his recent comments on the lack of “executive accountability” in the Obamacare rollout, one of the few criticisms he has been prepared to offer. He will not question the policy’s intentions, but could hit hard on its poor execution. (Or not, of course.)
2. Why did you tell people they would be able to keep their insurance if you knew it was untrue? Matthews is unlikely to ask this question, since it implies bad faith and dishonesty on the part of the president, which Matthews will never admit. But he may ask a similar question: if this policy was designed so badly, why not just go for a “public option” in the first place? Why not tell the American people your goals?
3. Why are you expanding the powers of the presidency when that was something you once opposed? As liberal law professor Jonathan Turley testified before Congress earlier this week, President Obama is “becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid.” He ran in 2008 on a promise not to“do an end-run around Congress.” Why has he become even worse than Bush in that regard?
4. If you want the Iran deal to work, why haven’t you ironed out the details yet, including the starting date? President Obama’s philosophy, as he describes it, is to avoid military conflict if at all possible. From that perspective, the Iran nuclear deal offers hope of a diplomatic solution. Yet the deal has not been finalized. If there is no start date, there is no deadline–and the Israelis and Saudis may pre-empt diplomacy.
5. What really happened that night during the Benghazi attacks? Matthews is guaranteed not to ask this question. But he should, because from a liberal perspective, the more responsibility that can be assigned to President Obama, the less that will be assigned to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the party’s great hope for 2016. If Obama is a team player–as she was–he should finally “man up” on Benghazi.
6. Earlier this year you asked for a minimum wage hike to $9 per hour, but now you want $10–what has changed? There really is no good answer to this question, because not only is the minimum wage bad for the poor (it reduces job opportunities), but the fact that the president is doubling down on a failed initiative exposes how bankrupt his economic agenda really is. Expect him to blame Congress in response.
7. You are taking on economic inequality–but why has inequality increased so much on your watch, particularly for minorities? This policy should be at the core of left-wing criticism of the Obama administration. He will blame Congress, or Wall Street, but at bottom, if inequality is something worth obsessing about, there is no good reason for him to have done so little about it, 60% through it presidency.
8. We have budget negotiations coming up–why don’t you demand higher taxes to solve the long-term deficit and debt? This is a logical question, given Obama’s rhetoric over the years, and the left’s odd economic beliefs. The fact is that Obama knows that massive tax increases are not only politically unfeasible but economically undesirable. So his answer will reveal more about his own duplicity than about his policy.
9. Why are you building an external activist organization, Organizing for Action, if you’re against big money in politics? Not only would this question expose the hypocrisy of Obama’s crusade to destroy conservative non-profit groups, but it would also give voice to the silent frustration of Democrats who see millions being siphoned away to Obama’s pet project rather than being devoted to the party infrastructure.
10. Why are so many issues–gun control, card check, immigration reform–left undone and what are you going to do about them? Expect Obama to blame the opposition–and expect Matthews to join Democrats in urging more rule-by-fiat executive actions. But the question is important because it reveals the degree to which political agitation is an end in itself for Obama, rather than actual policy achievement.