While tonight’s debate between senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may be an academic exercise, one that, besides, promises only a recitation of their by-now canned set-pieces in response to equally predictable questions, it would be helpful if it offered voters more than this. Here are twenty-three questions I’d like to be asked and answered tonight:
1. Senator Obama, you were opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning. What basic principles should inform Presidents and Congresses as to when and if the nation should go to war?
2. Senator Clinton, in your most recent debate with Senator Obama, you spoke of having been honored to negotiate with foreign governments on behalf of the United States for a period of seven years. When did you do that? And what agreements resulted?
3. Senator Obama, you have touted your ability to work with those with whom you don’t agree. Can you name three pieces of legislation you sponsored and shepherded through the Illinois legislature that required working with members from across the aisle?
4. Senator Clinton, you say that you have been an agent of change who has gotten things done for the American people for thirty-five years. Can you name three substantive pieces of legislation or executive policy which you sponsored and shepherded through the Congress or the executive branch?
5. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama: What sorts of qualities are you looking for in a Vice President?
6. Both senators: Is terrorism is our nation’s number one national security challenge? If so, why? If not, why not?
7. Both senators: China is on the rise. Given the size of China, it will probably gain superpower status, both economically and militarily, within the next two decades. Is this a threat to the security of the United States? How should the United States respond, in any case?
8. Senator Clinton: Forty-eight percent of the general electorate indicate that they will never vote for you for president. Why should your fellow Democrats take a chance on nominating you when this would be the highest disapproval rating ever suffered by a non-incumbent nominee for the office?
9. Senator Obama: You have been in the US Senate since January, 2005, three years less than Senator Clinton. Why should your fellow Democrats take a chance on nominating you when you have so little experience?
10. Both: What will you be looking for in a Secretary of State? Secretary of Defense? Attorney General?
11. Both: The line item veto has been advocated by most US presidents since Chester Alan Arthur. That includes Bill Clinton. They, and others, have argued that the President may be the only person who can save Congress from itself by vetoing individual earmarks which members of the House and Senate feel they must secure for the sake of their political futures. Since the Supreme Court has ruled at least one line item veto law unconstitutional, will you support the passage of a constitutional amendment allowing such a veto? Why or why not?
12. Both: Will you appoint at least one major figure from the Republican Party to your cabinet? (And should Senator McCain make a similar pledge regarding a Democrat in his cabinet?)
13. Senator Clinton: Was President Clinton wrong to have pushed for the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? Are there any ways in which the agreement should be changed? If so, in what ways?
14. Senator Obama: You are seen as being a major departure from recent Democratic candidates for president. What are the major differences between you and the 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry, or the 2000 Democratic nominee, Al Gore?
15. Senator Clinton: Should female voters be automatically predisposed to voting for you? Why or why not?
16. Senator Obama: Should African-American voters be automatically predisposed to voting for you? Why or why not?
17. Both: What should the US do about the genocide in Darfur and other regions of the world?
18. Both: What economic and fiscal assumptions undergird your health care proposals?
19. Both: What fiscal assumptions undergird your proposals regarding education, particularly tuition help for college students?
20. Both: What would you do to arrest the expansion of urban sprawl and the concomitant loss of farm land and monopolization of agriculture? Also: Should the US take steps to ensure that it has an economy composed of workers and companies engaged in all three waves of economic activity: agriculture, industry, information?
21. Both: Which suggested sources of alternative energy are viable? Which are simply hooey?
22. Both: What should we do in Afghanistan?
23. Both: What will you do to restore US relationships with our closest allies?
Why twenty-three questions? Why not?
[This is being cross-posted on my personal blog.]