Star Parker

With the first debate of the Republican presidential candidates, the second debate of the primary season, now behind us, there's one clear loser. That's the American people.

The responsibility lies with the press corps to identify the pressing issues of the day and to make sure that those who want to be president of the United States address these issues.

The press is not doing its job here and, as a result, critical opportunities for the public at large to hear candidates weigh in on major issues are being lost.

Chris Matthews, in laying out the ground rules for this first Republican debate, said, as Brian Williams did with the Democrats, that candidates shouldn't waste time thanking the hosts. Correctly, he set a tone that time is limited and that it is important that it be used well.

Then, despite this, Matthews wasted this valuable time by asking each of the 10 GOP candidates if they would support amending the Constitution so that naturalized citizens like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, prominently seated in the audience at the debate, could run for president. Why?

Matthews later asked several candidates if they would employ Karl Rove on their White House staffs. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, correctly and professionally, made clear that this was an irrelevant, and quite stupid, question.

Aside from the war in Iraq, nothing looms more among the legitimate concerns of the American electorate than health care. But not a single question was asked to draw out the candidates' thoughts on this major issue.

We know that the two leading Democratic candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, want to effectively bring socialized medicine to our country. How do Republican candidates feel about this? How would they deal with runaway health-care costs? Are they concerned that there are many who have no health insurance?

President Bush made a provocative and creative proposal in his State of the Union message this year that would level the field between the costs of health insurance between those receiving insurance through their employer and those purchasing it on their own. Would it not have made sense to probe what these Republican candidates think about this and other possible approaches?

How about education? The hallmark legislation of the Bush administration, currently up for reauthorization, is No Child Left Behind.

Yet, not a single question on No Child Left Behind in particular or education in general was asked.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.