Twenty-Three Questions for Tonight’s Debate

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.]

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Author: MARK DANIELS

  • pacatrue

    I wouldn't mind hearing answers on many of these.

  • mia

    These are all excellent questions, but the truth is, unless Obama makes a HUGE mistake in tonight's debate, this race is over for Clinton! She's all over the place as of late. She's lost all credibility!

    The more she talks (yells) the crazier she sounds. She has absolutely no clue at all what this race is all about!

    She keeps preaching “experience” when people want “change.” She claims to know how to “work the levers” in Washington even though we all know the levers are broken!

    She appears to be irrational, unstable, and desperate (with a split personality thrown in for good measure)…

    “I'm proud to be on the stage with you”…

    “Shame on you”…

    “Let's have a real campaign”…

    “I mean, let's have a smear campaign in which I accuse you of being a radical Muslim and circulate photos of you dressed like the Taliban.”

    Who can keep up? Pundits now call it the “Kitchen Sink” tactic. I call it mud slinging – just keep slinging and slinging – and see what might stick!

    I keep waiting for the total meltdown when her head starts to spin and she keeps repeating, “SHAME ON YOU, AMERICA!” “VOTE FOR ME!” “SHAME ON YOU, AMERICA!” “VOTE FOR ME!” “SHAME ON YOU, AMERICA!” “VOTE FOR ME!” “SHAME ON YOU, AMERICA!” “VOTE FOR ME!”

    She's run a crazy campaign devoid of any rhyme or reason. How can we possibly trust her to run the country???

  • MJDaniels53

    Mia:
    I think that Senator Clinton, who began her campaign with what seemed like prohibitive advantages, has squandered them. But I think that your indictment is harsh. She may be desperate, but she's not irrational or unstable.

    Mark

  • Slamfu

    Thats going a bit overboard. I really hate it when people start refering to political rivals as unhinged when they are nothing of the sort. Its simply a close and hard fought race, she's slipping. I haven't once heard her flip out or appear “unstable” and neither have you. I just don't get why people have to go all drama queen when the real story is plenty interesting enough.

  • cosmoetica

    Good q's, but in an age of Youtube level discourse, forget about it!

    As for Mia: Hillary's eyes were a bit bugged out when she was casting shame, odd considering his flyers were nothing in comparison to her camp's tactics. I think Hill simply cannot believe that people could say no to her 'right' to be Prez.

  • http://www.onepurplenation.com morton_rodney

    These are all excellent questions…That should have been asked THREE MONTHS AGO!!! It is far past the point when we should have been asking tough, campaign defining questions such as these. Most constituents, at this point, either already know the answers to these questions or don't care. This debate should be about polishing their closing arguments, fine tuning their rhetoric, and trying to push the other candidates to define their differences. We are far past the point of broad brush stroke questions.

  • StockBoySF

    Mark, great questions! I hope they can be asked to McCain and Obama when they debate (at least the ones that can apply to McCain). Thanks!

  • archangel

    Tim Russert's job should go to you MJD. The reportage in most directions tonight was either just boring gossip, obvious details, or just vapid. I'm thinking about the whole debate, was there any there, there? You're prescient. I lay it to the questioners' style. The 'questioners' too often appear to confuse being 'hard on people' with having depth. Sad squander of a stage so rich. I sense however, that unreported tensions are about to burst. We'll see. Thanks.

    dr.e

  • truedemocracy

    I want to first of all ,praise AMERICA for her being the father and the founder of TRUE DEMOCRACY world-wide. Suffice me to say that America has been known and reverenced as the number one christian nations where the hope of we christians is anchored and in christ.
    As christians it is believed that heavens rejoices over one sinner that repents more than over 99 persons who needs no further repentance. Obama said that he is a born aagain christian and have been practicing christianity for over 20years; he believe in GOD and his country. Why is he been held against his birth background and names which he did not give himself? Talk about the way he has cheated America or the areas he failed to do what he should have ,and i will agree you have a case against him.
    You people seem to be trying to slaughter a devine CANDIDATE on the alter of setiments; OBAMA is BLACK, yet the BLACKS him accepted unconditionally even though his Mother is white. Why can't all white do the same? mr CUNNIGHAM was talking boldly and derogatively about OBAMA having a midlle name called HUSSEIN. Does it mean that the name is now synonimous with evil simply because there was a bad SADDAM HUSSEIN? Did CUNNINGHAM name himself or played a role in his background to be born WHITE?
    The quest for experience as a major criteria for the presidency has pummelled America into the present abys that we found ourselves today. How many experiences had BILL CLITTON when he ruled and made his mark there?
    The problem we Americans really have is not the problem of selection , but the problem of making some selected house-hold to lead us always. People are shouting Bush this , Bush that when they had a chance to choose a JOHN KERRY and threw him away on the setiment of NAME; because BUSH father was a president so should be his son . DOn't worry fellow AMERICANS if you pick CLINTON today , by the time she finishes her 8years tenure, BUSH wife shall be ready and after bush 's wife will come their children of course CHELSEA already warming up and gradually being introduced. IF ONLY AMERICANS CAN LOOK BEYOND SKIN COLOURS AND CONCENTRATE ON THE DRIVE, THE VISION , THE CHARISMA , THE WISDOM(which doesn't depend on age but gift from GOD), THE STRENGHT AND THE UNIFYING FACTOR . then they will see a gift in OBAMA.
    somebody once gave as a reason why OBAMA should not be voted as the ' fact that if OBAMA is insulted he doesn't retaliate” shouldn't that be the reason why he should even be voted? AS christians JESUS gave us a perfect example of that ;then if OBAMA can do that ,that attests to his Christian faith. I rest my case.