John King Reveals What He'll Ask at Tonight's GOP Debate


The moderator tipped his hand on Hugh Hewitt's radio program. One definite subject of discussion: Iran.john king.jpg

When the Republican candidates take the stage for the last debate before the South Carolina primary, CNN's John King will be asking most of the questions. What topics does he regard as the most important? In another news-making interview, talk-radio host and law professor Hugh Hewitt got him to tip his hand. He'll definitely be asking about jobs, an inquiry about the Keystone XL pipeline is a possibility, and a question about Iran and its nuclear program is a certainty.

It is King's avowed position that China and Iran are "the two greatest long-term national security challenges facing the next president, whether he be named Barack Obama, or whether he be one of these Republican candidates." That's a plausible conjecture, but hardly a certainty.

In any case, here's the relevant portion of the interview:

HUGH HEWITT: How about Iran and their threats to the American military, and the threat to close the Straits of Hormuz? I'm trying to influence the influencers, John King, because this, I have been disappointed by...Wolf did a good job at the CNN debate in Constitution Hall. Some of the Fox debates have gotten to the foreign-affairs stuff. But generally, these life and death war and peace issues have not gotten much time. Do you think they'll get time tomorrow night?

JOHN KING: Well, they will get some time tomorrow night, and the one you just mentioned just happens to be, in my view, the two greatest long-term national security challenges facing the next president, whether he be named Barack Obama, or whether he be one of these Republican candidates. I think if you look globally at the next generational challenge for the next 25 years or so, it's the China challenge. The most immediate challenge the next president might face is right there in the Persian Gulf with Tehran as the center of attention. And there's no doubt about it that that controversy at the moment, the saber rattling at the moment, the potential of a military conflict, a potential of a diplomatic standoff, the potential of $5 dollar a gallon or higher oil, it's a big deal. These guys want to be commander-in-chief, absolutely it's about to get attention.
In a subsequent exchange about hypothetical questions, King said a bit more about his attitude toward Iran:

Some hypotheticals, unfortunately, aren't as hypothetical as we once thought... The last presidential cycle, a hypothetical question would be if Iran has a nuclear weapon that is so small it can attach to a small missile, and its missiles now have a longer range, and they could strike not only Israel but, and extend that range out, that used to be a hypothetical question. Is it today? And will it a year from now? So I think there are some hypotheticals that are fair game, as long as they're based on reality, and based on what we know what we see just around the corner.
Hewitt gamely tried to get King to reveal whether he'll ask about a television interview one of Newt Gingrich's ex-wives gave to ABC News, but on that subject the moderator gave no clear answer.

Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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