On last night’s broadcast of 60 Minutes, in place of the hard-hitting interview that viewers might have expected for a presidential candidate (something more along the lines of, say, Steve Kroft’s righteous pummeling of President Obama, which aired later in the broadcast), audiences were instead treated to a nothing-to-see-here talking-point-a-thon in which Scott Pelley not only allowed Mitt Romney to weasel out of every one of the (very few) hard questions he actually asked but also missed numerous opportunities to try to get the candidate to talk about some of the most serious (and legitimate) voter concerns regarding this campaign.
Here, then, is my list of
10 Questions Scott Pelley Didn’t Ask Mitt Romney But Should Have:
1. Gov. Romney, you say that
the President’s decision not to meet with Bibi Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, when the prime minister is here for the United Nations session, I think, is a mistake and it sends a message throughout the — the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what’s necessary.
Let’s talk about the Mideast policy you unveiled at that Florida fundraiser last May, which became public thanks to Mother Jones and the “47%” video. That policy, as you articulated it in the video, seems to be based on your belief that the Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.” Here is what you proposed:
So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.
What kind of message do you think your characterization of the Palestinians might send, especially in the context of the comments you made in Jerusalem last July, suggesting that their culture is inferior, comments that many Palestinians and others found offensive, and what message do you think your plan — essentially to do nothing to try to work for peace in the region — might send throughout the Middle East?
2. Gov. Romney, many Americans are concerned about your response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the anniversary of 9/11, which took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with members of his staff and security detail. Even some prominent members of your own party have suggested that your reaction was an ill-advised rush to judgment about a volatile international situation about which you did not have all the facts. How would you reassure voters who think your response raises questions about your ability to serve as commander-in-chief?
3. What would you say to voters who perceive your response to the attack on Ambassador Stevens and his staff in Benghazi, namely that you expressed no apparent grief or regret about the tragic loss of life of individuals in service to our country even when you had the opportunity to clarify your remarks the next day, once you did have all the information, as exploiting a national tragedy as a way to try to earn political points?
4. Are you aware that most of the 47% of Americans you identified in the Mother Jones video as paying no taxes, the ones you said you could never get to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” are working people who are not exempt from payroll taxes, and that therefore many of them are actually taxed at a higher rate than you are?
5. Since the very small minority of Americans who pay “no income tax” are families living in poverty, low-income seniors who have paid all their lives into the system that now supports them, and active duty soldiers deployed to combat zones, would you like to take an opportunity now to reconsider your description of these Americans as people
who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.
6-9. Suggested follow-ups to this exchange:
PELLEY: The tax rate for everyone in your plan would go down.
ROMNEY: That’s right.
PELLEY: But because you’re going to limit exemptions and deductions, everybody’s going to essentially be paying the same taxes.
ROMNEY: That’s right. Middle-income people will probably see a little break, because there’ll be no tax on their savings.
6. Are you saying that you’re going to cut capital gains taxes on middle-income people? Do you understand that most middle-income people do not have any capital gains?
7. Are you aware that most middle-income families are not able to amass enough in savings for the interest on it to amount to anything and that therefore a tax cut on that interest would mean nothing to most middle-income people?
8. When you say that “middle-income people” are likely “to see a little break,” are you still talking about those earning $200,000-250,000, as you defined “middle income” last week?
9. You seem to be saying that the effect of your tax reform would be net neutral. If that is true, what exactly is the point of it?