48° Good Afternoon
48° Good Afternoon

My questions for the candidates

The stage set prior to the second presidential

The stage set prior to the second presidential debate held at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University on Oct. 16, 2012. Credit: Getty Images

The first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump is expected to attract a record audience on September 26. NBC’s Lester Holt may have little control over the evasive answers the candidates try to wedge in as relevant responses but the questions, but the questions can be precise. I hope these will be included in the 90-minute showdown.

For each of you: How are you feeling tonight? Is telling the truth a virtue or a burden in exercising a public trust? Why should our audience believe anything you say tonight?

Does the nation need to balance its budget?

Mrs. Clinton, in your summer interview with the FBI over the private email server you maintained at your home to conduct private business, you responded to scores of questions that you had no recollection. Did you forget that “c” stands for classified or did you never know that? Why did you fail to turn over thousands of relevant emails to the State Department?

Mr. Trump, your plan to deport people in the Unites States has been a moving target  since you became a candidate for president last year. How many people do you want to deport in your first 100 days in office? Would you separate families? If immigrants are so bad for the economy, why have you hired so many in your businesses?

You supported NAFTA when your husband was president, Mrs. Clinton. Has it been a failure? You called the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “the gold standard” of trade agreements. Why do you oppose it now? Mr. Trump, what would be the consequences to the American economy of trade barriers around the world?

Mr. Trump, why have you done business with so many mob-affiliated operations in your career? Some of your businesses have been bankrupt. Did you ever pay the debts the bankruptcy courts cancelled when your finances had recovered? Mrs. Clinton, please explain your definition of “dead broke.”

Mrs. Clinton, has the Obama administration’s policy toward Russia been its biggest foreign policy failure? What are long term consequences of it? What redlines would you draw on the use of chemical weapons and how would enforce them?

You have repeatedly expressed your admiration for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump. Does your definition of effective leadership include murdering journalists and jailing critics? How would you put those policies into practice as president?

You both loathe the press and want to constrain free speech. What steps would you take to limit the public’s right to criticize you? Should the United Nations police the internet?

Mrs. Clinton, what lessons did you learn from failing the bar exam the first time you took it after graduating from Yale?

Mr. Trump, tell us what authority you believe a president possesses to target for death the families of our nation’s enemies. Why do you believe international law allows the United States to take Iraq’s natural resources? Mrs. Clinton, why do you support offshore oil drilling in Brazil but not in the United States?

Should Britain, our loyal ally, go to the back of the line in negotiating a trade agreement?

Mr. Trump, your Republican platform is hostile to gay Americans. As a man who took pride in his philandering, what’s more of a threat to marriage, adultery or same-sex marriage? Mrs. Clinton, is every American who did not make your recent conversion to supporting same-sex marriage a homophobe with a place in your “basket of deplorables”?

Mrs. Clinton, you have promised to make public higher education free. Who is going to pay for it? What sacrifices were imposed on students to fund the millions in speaking fees you received from colleges and universities? Mr. Trump, what are the causes of the skyrocketing cost of higher education?

Who is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Trump? The president of France?

Would you each agree to allow the Libertarian and Green party candidates to participate in the next debate?

Mr. Trump, if you were disturbed by Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct, why did you invite him to your third wedding? Mrs. Clinton, who were your targets when you talked about punishing “super predators” in the 1990s?

Mrs. Clinton, as a Senate candidate in 2000, you promised to create 200,000 jobs in Upstate New York. Why did you fail?

For both of you, how do you create a job?

Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and former state legislator in Connecticut. He has been a columnist with the Hartford Courant for more than a decade. He can be reached at He wrote this for


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