Matt Lauer’s performance as the Commander-in-Chief Forum moderator was widely panned (with one notable exception). His questions hewed to the issues of the day: Hillary Clinton’s emails, Donald Trump’s temperament, how both would deal with ISIS, and more. That, for me, was Lauer’s biggest sin. While questions of short- to medium-term foreign policy should be asked, the missing piece were those on global trends and risks. This, more than anything, was Lauer’s failure.
A Commander-in-Chief needs to have a firm grasp of the global trends and risks that will both bind a presidency’s foreign policy and provide opportunities to leverage for national advantage. Amid the tumult in global affairs, a president who knows what he or she wants, and how to manage complexity to get there, is of vital importance for the security and prosperity of the country and the world. Of course, neither candidate would get into this issue set without prompting. Thus, Lauer’s mistake.
So what questions should Lauer have asked? They are similar to those I thought needed to be asked of GOP presidential hopefuls during the primaries. Here are ample questions that could work for either candidate:
- How do we ensure that a war between great powers — most likely with Russia and China — does not take place during your presidency?
- Should the United States allow non-state actors to take part in global governance?
- How should the United States consider cyberwar as part of our military toolkit? Further, how do you safeguard cyberspace to ensure it remains completely open?
- Should America try to bring Russia back into the community of nations, or continue keep a “Cool War” brewing?
- How should the United States leverage demographic changes for national security purposes?
- Which turbulent regions should the country prioritize: the Middle East, Europe, or Asia?
- As “leader of the free world,” how would you help redefine the West’s narrative regarding global affairs?
To be fair, these questions are at the 30,000-foot level and do not matter to the everyday American. That said, the answers to these questions have a direct effect on the everyday lives of Americans. So, as the presidential debates approach, I hope the next moderators ask questions along these lines, especially Chris Wallace, who will host the foreign policy debate on October 19. Hopefully Wallace reads Global Risks 2035, the Atlantic Council’s landmark work on global trends and risks that affect our world over the next twenty years. Either way, our candidates need to answers questions along these lines. Only then will we know for sure if our candidates can be Commander in Chief.