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Gotcha questions

RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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8/14/2011 8:06:10 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
A "gotcha question" is a question asked of a presidential candidate designed to embarrass the candidate rather than to inform voters. So, all you debaters out there, which of these do you think are good questions, and which are gotchas?

1. (Asked of candidate Bush) Who is the leader of Uzbekistan?
2. (Asked of Palin) Do you subscribe to the Bush Doctrine?
3. (Asked of candidate Obama) What language is spoke in Afghanistan?
4. (Asked of Gingrich) Why did some of your campaign staff quit?

I think:

If you insist on detailed knowledge of names, capital cities, and geography without looking at notes, then probably only Gingrich will qualify as your president. It's too much detail to reasonably expect of a candidate.

The Bush Doctrine has something to do with imposing or supporting democracy in another country, but Karl Rove detailed four different meanings as ascribed by the press at various times. It's a defective question.

Obama said they spoke Arabic, which is wrong. A candidate should probably know it's not Arabic, but knowing about the roles of Dari Persian and Pashto, and the 30 minority languages is asking a bit much.

Chris Wallace defended asking Gingrich about his campaign staff on the grounds that "if you can't manage a campaign, you can't manage the country." That seems marginal. Staff people leave White House positions all the time, often without convincing explanations. The press will always ask, however.

Gotcha questions have a more general use in debate. The idea is to memorize some bits of trivia, then embarrass your opponent by asking obscure questions that you just happen to know. It doesn't work so well in on line forums, where answers can be googled.
darkkermit
Posts: 11,204
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8/14/2011 8:19:14 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The Bush Doctrine is quite mainstream, so i don't see it as a gotcha question. #1 and #3 are quite difficult trivial questions imo.
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jat93
Posts: 1,440
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8/14/2011 10:56:31 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The Gingrich question was totally unfair. It doesn't say anything about his policies and views; in that regard it differs from the other 3 questions you listed because it doesn't necessarily - and necessarily is the key word - say something about the candidate's knowledge. I'm not saying that means the others were necessarily fair either, but it's certainly not impossible that Gingrich's campaign left for unfair reasons, personal reasons, or other bad motives that don't really say anything about Gingrich himself. It was, I think, the epitome of a "gotcha" question. And even as someone who doesn't particularly care for Gingrich I found it quite pointless and rude.
ApostateAbe
Posts: 233
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8/14/2011 12:47:41 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 8/14/2011 8:06:10 AM, RoyLatham wrote:
A "gotcha question" is a question asked of a presidential candidate designed to embarrass the candidate rather than to inform voters. So, all you debaters out there, which of these do you think are good questions, and which are gotchas?

1. (Asked of candidate Bush) Who is the leader of Uzbekistan?
2. (Asked of Palin) Do you subscribe to the Bush Doctrine?
3. (Asked of candidate Obama) What language is spoke in Afghanistan?
4. (Asked of Gingrich) Why did some of your campaign staff quit?

I prefer "gotcha" questions to "softball" questions. The more a candidate resists gotcha questions, the more suspicious I become. When any applicant for a high-ranking job sits in a job interview, it will be nothing but a series of gotcha questions, designed to test one's knowledge of how to best do the job. They have the strong potential to embarrass a candidate, yes, but they inform the public and they are essential to a democracy.

1. (Asked of candidate Bush) Who is the leader of Uzbekistan?

I wouldn't hold it against any candidate for not knowing this. It is not required that he memorize the names of all of the executives. It is a poor question.

2. (Asked of Palin) Do you subscribe to the Bush Doctrine?

This is a high-quality question. Yes, candidates like to avoid questions that pose risk of alienation from two large political forces, but a candidate is required to make such choices while in office, and the public needs the answers.

3. (Asked of candidate Obama) What language is spoke in Afghanistan?

This is a fundamental and central topic of foreign policy. When you are the man in charge of fighting a war, then you had best be well-informed of what language is spoken by your enemy. It is good question.

4. (Asked of Gingrich) Why did some of your campaign staff quit?

The leadership talent of a candidate can be judged according to his or her own campaign. Gingrich should have answered this question, but he didn't, and now I am suspicious of whether or not he still has the stuff.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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8/14/2011 1:17:27 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Uzbekistan's exec? Who cares.

Bush doctrine? The two people supporting that question in this thread haven't defined a "Bush doctrine," and Roy was apparently only able to come up with "Something to do with imposing or supporting democracy in a country." Those are two different things. Now, "Where you disagree with Bush's foreign policy" would have been more legit.

Language in Afghanistan? Who cares about the minority languages, formal difference between Dari and Farsi, etc, but the differences between Arabs and Persians are as important for someone setting war strategy in that region as the differences between Sunni and Shia. Farsi, Dari, Persian, these would all be acceptable answers in my book, as would something more detailed.

"Why did some of your campaign staff quit?" Which of them? You're clearly talking about more than one person, if you're not an idiot collectivist it should occur to you there might be different answers for each of them. Furthermore, that seems pretty confidential even if the question were phrased so as to guarantee it could be coherently and succinctly answered.
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RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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8/14/2011 1:22:55 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 8/14/2011 8:19:14 AM, darkkermit wrote:
The Bush Doctrine is quite mainstream, so i don't see it as a gotcha question. #1 and #3 are quite difficult trivial questions imo.

Karl Rove cited four different meanings to "the Bush Doctrine" giving the occasions during which they were invented and used by the press. The Bush doctrine was never codified by Bush, it was a name variously applied to various things by the press.

What do you think it means?

a. The US is obligated to impose democracy on autocratic regimes.
b. The US is morally justified in supporting democracy when it is in the US interest to do so.
c. The US is obligated to always support democracy over tyranny.
d. What?

To me it has no clear meaning beyond some right to support democracy.
innomen
Posts: 10,052
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8/14/2011 1:25:47 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Gotcha questions are useless, and i would respect a candidate that would confront the interviewer more on his or her idiotic tactics - i.e. hopes to embarrass a candidate, than fall prey to them. It's far more helpful if the interviewer is exploring the positions and intentions of a candidate than it is to play Jeapordy with them.

If we're looking to embarrass them, they will have ample opportunity to do so, they always do.
freedomsquared
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8/15/2011 6:22:29 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
1. (Asked of candidate Bush) Who is the leader of Uzbekistan?

Definitely a gotcha question.

2. (Asked of Palin) Do you subscribe to the Bush Doctrine?

Fair question.

3. (Asked of candidate Obama) What language is spoke in Afghanistan?

Gotcha question.

4. (Asked of Gingrich) Why did some of your campaign staff quit?

Legitimate question (although Gingrich asserted otherwise)
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Ore_Ele
Posts: 25,980
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8/15/2011 6:28:35 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 8/14/2011 8:06:10 AM, RoyLatham wrote:
A "gotcha question" is a question asked of a presidential candidate designed to embarrass the candidate rather than to inform voters. So, all you debaters out there, which of these do you think are good questions, and which are gotchas?

1. (Asked of candidate Bush) Who is the leader of Uzbekistan?
2. (Asked of Palin) Do you subscribe to the Bush Doctrine?
3. (Asked of candidate Obama) What language is spoke in Afghanistan?
4. (Asked of Gingrich) Why did some of your campaign staff quit?

I figured the only way to ensure honesty in answering is to read the questions and answer them without reading the rest of the post (I will though).

1) Totally, that doesn't have anything to do with what really matters as president (knowing that off the top of your head). Memorization of facts is not real knowledge, nor presidential skill.

2) Kinda, but not really. It's like asking candidates if they like Reagen's policies, though the particular verbage used implies that it was meant to tie her to an unpopular president for the sake of sound clips (usually the case with the words "suscribe" and "docterine").

3) Same as #1

4) Not at all. This actually has relavence and was asked in a rather respectful manner (it was also asked of Wu from Oregon), and pending their reasons, it could be very important to voters (we find out that Wu had some... mental and sexual issues going on).

Now I'll post and read the rest.


I think:

If you insist on detailed knowledge of names, capital cities, and geography without looking at notes, then probably only Gingrich will qualify as your president. It's too much detail to reasonably expect of a candidate.

The Bush Doctrine has something to do with imposing or supporting democracy in another country, but Karl Rove detailed four different meanings as ascribed by the press at various times. It's a defective question.

Obama said they spoke Arabic, which is wrong. A candidate should probably know it's not Arabic, but knowing about the roles of Dari Persian and Pashto, and the 30 minority languages is asking a bit much.

Chris Wallace defended asking Gingrich about his campaign staff on the grounds that "if you can't manage a campaign, you can't manage the country." That seems marginal. Staff people leave White House positions all the time, often without convincing explanations. The press will always ask, however.

Gotcha questions have a more general use in debate. The idea is to memorize some bits of trivia, then embarrass your opponent by asking obscure questions that you just happen to know. It doesn't work so well in on line forums, where answers can be googled.
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Kinesis
Posts: 3,667
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8/15/2011 6:40:29 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
The Gingrich thing wasn't exactly a gotcha question, but it was a "talking point" as opposed to an important question about policy or such. At the beginning of the debate the questioners said the candidates should put aside talking points so asking about his campaign was pretty hypocritical.