In a discussion between fellow presidential debate moderators aired today on CBS Sunday Morning, Jim Lehrer told Bob Schieffer he would consider a successful debate one in which the things “that matter most to the voters, to hell with the candidates, to hell with the moderators and to hell with the handlers, to hell with the pundits, but the things that the voters care most about have been discussed and have been discussed in a way that they can now understand what the differences are. That's what these debates are really all about.”
With that in mind, here are some questions I would like Lehrer to ask, this first debate Wednesday night being restricted to domestic issues. (I’d also like to see Lehrer challenge Barack Obama or Mitt Romney if either skirts around a question and simply delivers standard campaign pablum. Let’s get some real answers.) I figure the 90-minute debate will include 15 questions at most. Here are 16, just in case the debate runs a little long:
1. Are Americans better off today than we were when President Obama took office in January 2009?
2. What are your specific ideas for job creation?
3. To balance the budget and reduce the deficit, program cuts would have to be enacted and tax loopholes would have to be closed. Please provide specific areas that would be affected under your next budget?
4. Would you accept a “grand bargain” of spending cuts tied to a slight tax increase?
5. Do you believe in global warming? Scientists have charted the rise in sea levels? What steps should we take, if any, to protect our shorelines?
6. What is your view of evolution? Do you believe Creationism should be an alternative taught in our schools? Do you believe dinosaurs and man lived at the same time?
7. Explain your evolved positions on same-sex marriage (Obama) and the right to an abortion (Romney)?
8. Do you support the Dream Act? How would you deal with our illegal immigrant population?
9. What are your views on government regulatory agencies? Would you do away with any and why specifically those agencies?
10. Do we need to raise the age eligibility for Social Security and Medicare? Should we means-test for Social Security and Medicare benefits?
11. Is it government’s obligation to provide all Americans affordable health care as a right? What specific changes still need to be enacted to health care?
12. What level of safety net protection is appropriate for government to provide the unemployed, school children, the impoverished?
13. Do you see any danger in the disparity between the earnings of the average worker and that of corporate management?
14. Neither of you is a hunter. Explain your position on the right to possess assault rifles and super-sized bullet magazines, both of which are not necessary or used for hunting?
15. What is the proper balance, if indeed there is any need for balance, between a comprehensive energy policy and protection of our environment?
16. Are we better off with federal-administered programs or with programs pushed down to the individual states to administer?
Gee, that’s 16 questions and I didn’t ask about their plans to end the housing crisis, or how they feel about the effect super-PAC money has on the political process, or the need, if any, to provide more regulation on the financial industry, or what is the proper role of the federal government in education.
Let’s hope we get some real answers to whatever questions Lehrer poses. Let’s hope the candidates aren’t merely posturing or engaging in a sound-bite-off. We have too much at stake.