Eight Must-Ask Debate Questions

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Thus far the two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate have revealed a stark set of choices facing the electorate. Voters must choose between a Republican candidate with a generally lousy “plan” for the next four years and an incumbent Democratic candidate with no plan whatsoever. While the debates have been exciting and interesting at times, they have failed to address many legitimate national problems.

During the endless cavalcade of Republican primary debates I composed a list of debate questions that I thought would have been beneficial to most primary election voters. Similarly, the candidates should tell the public where they stand on the following eight questions before November 6:

  1. President Obama, in 2008 you pledged to renegotiate NAFTA, which has led to the loss of 700,000 American industrial and manufacturing jobs as of 2011. Four years later NAFTA remains untouched and unquestioned by your administration. Governor Romney, you have stated repeatedly on the campaign trail that you favor unfettered free trade. Why should the American people trust either of you when it comes to protecting and promoting American jobs for American workers?
  2. Governor Romney, in your recent foreign policy address in Virginia you pledged to increase the size of the military while preventing budget cuts prompted by your party on Capitol Hill and supported in Congress by your running-mate. Given your plan to reduce federal revenues and cut taxes across the board, please tell us which taxes will be increased to finance this? Please be specific.
  3. President Obama, respected Georgetown University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley recently noted that “Bush and Obama are very much alike when it comes to principles.” He says that you have “violated core constitutional rights and civil liberties” by allowing the Patriot Act to be renewed and by signing the National Defense Authorization Act. If reelected, will the second Obama administration be friendlier to civil liberties, or will it continue to resemble the Third Bush Term?
  4. During the Tuesday, Oct. 16 debate, each of you reaffirmed your support for free market capitalism. If you are truly committed to free markets, shouldn’t you both insist that the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein both be included in the debates?  Why is the “free market” applicable for business, trade, and commerce, yet does not apply to politics?
  5. President Obama, CNN reported in early October that between “June 2004 to September 2012, drone strikes have killed 2,570 to 3,337 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 to 884 were civilians — including 176 children.” CNN’s Peter Bergen notes that you have “authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office.” As a former constitutional law professor, don’t you think that your administration is obligated to ask Congress for a formal declaration of war before continuing on this path? Additionally, should you return your Nobel Peace Prize based on these numbers?
  6. Governor Romney, you are on the record as opposing the so-called contraception mandate requiring health insurance plans to provide free contraceptive coverage for women. As an opponent of this mandate, do you find it contradictory or hypocritical that these same insurance plans have long covered erectile dysfunction medications for men, yet have not covered birth control for women? As a pro-life candidate, does it not make sense to reduce the potential number of abortions by ensuring that more women have access to contraceptives?
  7. There is a very good chance that the winner of this election will face a divided legislature with the Democrats controlling the Senate and the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. Given this political reality, how will your administration work to build consensus among parties and personalities to prevent the next four years from resembling the dysfunction and malaise of the past two? Is the outlook for governing in the next term as bleak as it seems?
  8. Only 11 cents out of every dollar states send to Washington are returned to them by the U.S. Department of Education. Justice Brandeis famously noted that the states are the “laboratories of democracy” that allow for innovation and policymaking that help improve the lives of the citizens. How can state and local governments afford to craft innovative, effective policies to improve education if the federal Department of Education is not giving them a fair return on what they send to Washington while subsequently micromanaging education policy through unfunded mandates and one-size-fits-all policies?

Remember candidates, please be specific.

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