- - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The top 10 candidates vying for the Republican nomination for president gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first debate of the 2016 election cycle. (The other seven candidates debated earlier in the evening.) The Fox News moderators had a challenging job, given the number of contenders competing for camera time and the unpredictable presence of the current front-runner, Donald Trump.

We got incisive questions about the most pressing issues, from Obamacare to illegal immigration to tax and entitlement reform.

But these debates are also a chance to go beyond the obvious issues to probe deeper, to ask the less-obvious questions that do not lend themselves to easy soundbites. They are the questions that have the power to offer voters clarity into the candidates’ thinking on the more profound issues of our time.

Here are some of the big-picture questions to which I’d like to hear answers—-at any point during the campaign:

• In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to deliver the “fundamental transformation of the nation.” Has he (and the left) succeeded in changing the very nature of America, away from a self-reliant society built on individual freedom and toward a government-dependency society built on class warfare and radical wealth redistribution?

• The left controls all levers of power in American culture: movies, television, music, academia, literature, news and the media. Currently, it also controls much of the federal government. How do we even begin to counter its overwhelming influence?

• Many Americans think that the most significant split in the country is not between Republicans and Democrats, right and left, but between the elite ruling class and the rest of us. How would you restore the power back to the American people?

• Do you believe that the majority of the leadership class — of both parties — is more interested in gaining and preserving power than actually solving the nation’s problems? If elected, how can we trust that you will resist that temptation?

• How is the breakdown of respect for authority endangering the country?

• This has been the worst economic recovery since World War II. During the Reagan recovery, growth rates were between 6 percent and 9 percent, with hundreds of thousands of jobs created each month. In fact, there was one month during which 1 million jobs were created. Is that kind of recovery still possible? If so, how?

• Given the gravitational pull of the federal Leviathan, how can we bring government spending under control?

• U.S. policy used to require periods of time to elapse between immigrant waves to allow for assimilation, ie., Americanization. Over the past 50 years, that policy has ceased. Would you resurrect it, and if so, how?

• Do you believe it’s better for a great power to be feared than loved?

• Upon becoming president, you will inherit an Iran that will either possess nuclear weapons or be close to it. How would you manage that threat?

• Iran has allies and proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Hamas and Hezbollah. It is working with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It is making mischief in Bahrain in an attempt to topple the government and remove the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. How would you halt Iranian expansionism?

• The threats to our electrical grid — from an electromagnetic pulse attack launched by Iran or other capable enemy to a natural occurrence from sun flares — are particularly dangerous, and yet Congress will not commit to spending the relatively modest amount (and estimated $3 billion) to safeguard our electrical grid. Will you?

• Our Islamic jihadi enemies — from the regime in Tehran to the Islamic State to al Qaeda to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood — say they are engaged in a holy war against the West in general and the United States and Israel in particular. Do you believe we are in a holy war? If so, how would you fight it, both militarily and ideologically?

• Jihad comes in several different forms: the violent jihad, an immediate threat, and the stealth jihad, the longer-term threat of Western infiltration by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that operate largely through front groups. How would you counter the growing stealth jihad here at home?

• Our Constitution is not built to deal with this kind of threat: a religiously-driven enemy which uses our rights and freedoms against us. How would you reconcile defending the Constitution while fighting an enemy using it to destroy us?

• Given Vladimir Putin’s successes in rebuilding Mother Russia, do you believe we are in a new Cold War, and if so, how would you wage it?

• Intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence are both critical to great leadership. Which one is more important in your view and why?

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point for the candidates and the rest of us. After all, we won’t be able to deal with concrete problems unless and until we illuminate the profound issues lurking just below them.

Monica Crowley is online opinion editor at The Washington Times.

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