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This should go without saying — which means, of course, that it has to be said — but any presidential candidate whose position is flat-out opposition to raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances should be immediately asked:

So which 40% of the federal government do you plan to permanently cut starting on August 2nd?

Demagogues like Michele Bachmann are allowed to earn swooning cheers from tea party crowds with cross-of-gold-like proclamations that “I. Will. Not. Vote. To. Increase. The. Debt. Ceiling.” — but are then allowed to avoid answering the obvious followup question. Keep in mind: Bachmann’s position isn’t that she wants a balanced budget in 2020, or 2015, or even next year. She wants one starting in two weeks. That means big cuts in at least one of three areas: Social Security, Medicare, and the Pentagon. If she plans to keep any of the rest of the government around, it means even bigger cuts in those three areas.

For some reason, the press has long been willing to give a pass to conservative crazies because, hey, that’s just how they are. (In Bachmann’s case, it also helps to have a flying wedge of bouncers to keep pesky reporters at bay.) Still, she has to answer questions eventually. And the first and only question she should be asked, over and over and over again, is: Which 40% of the federal government do you plan to permanently cut starting on August 2nd?

She’ll never reply, of course, since her adoring crowds might be slightly less adoring if she was willing to tell them the truth about what her priorities are. But it would still be nice to see professional reporters act like profesisonal reporters and refuse to stop asking until she gives a real answer.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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