WASHINGTON, October 9, 2012 — Wednesday night’s presidential debate was an exasperating show of minutia, insignificance, and distraction. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald suggests, “In part this is because presidential elections are now conducted almost entirely like a tawdry TV reality show. Personality quirks and trivialities about the candidates dominate coverage, and voter choices, leaving little room for substantive debates.”
As there is really very little difference between the two current contenders, Wednesday’s debate questions were both inconsequential in nature and contrary to the true purpose of political debate - a passionate and revealing exchange of ideas. If the American people were to insist upon a debate of substance, what type of questions would need to be asked? Perhaps some of the following could be considered:
* Goldman Sachs has donated considerable sums of money to both of your campaigns. How will you be able to convince the American people that Goldman Sachs will not influence your administrations?
* Mr. President, in 2008, you promised the American people that lobbyists would not become a part of your administration; however, you currently have several lobbyists operating at key levels within your administration. Do you consider this a broken campaign pledge?
* Do either of you currently have a member of your family serving in the armed forces? If you decide to take the nation to war, would you be willing to send a member of your family to fight?
* Do both of you pledge tonight that you will not use torture? This includes the practice of outsourcing and water boarding.
* Will both of you pledge tonight to not bomb Iran?
* Are either of you disturbed by the millions of dollars that have been raised during this presidential cycle?
* With millions of dollars left over from both of your presidential campaigns, would each of you be willing to donate some of that money to a charity rather than your respective parties?
* Why doesn’t either of your campaigns encourage/allow third party candidates into the presidential debates?
* Mr. President, in 2008 you pledged that your administration would not prosecute whistleblowers in the way that your predecessor had done. Today, your administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other administration in American history. Do you not see this as having reneged on this campaign pledge?
* The United States has declared a war against drugs, and has been fighting it for decades. After billions of dollars spent, do you believe that it might be more effective if the nation began treating drug addiction as a health concern rather than a criminal act?
* Governor Romney, at a Republican debate in South Carolina, stated that he would have signed the National Defense Authorization Act that President Obama signed. The bill grants the executive branch the power to imprison an “enemy combatant” indefinitely. This includes American citizens. Will either of you pledge to never use this provision against an American citizen?
* Do either of you have any intention of repealing some of the measures that have hindered American civil liberties, such as the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act?
* Governor Romney, you have repeatedly stated that you do not wish to cut America’s national defense spending, and actually look to increase it. America currently spends more money on defense than every other nation in the world combined. Why do you wish to increase the amount?
* Governor Romney, in 2006 on Fox News, you stated your belief that the individual mandate contained in the Massachusetts model could be used as a national model for healthcare. Currently, you claim dissatisfaction with the individual mandate contained in Obamacare. What do you find objectionable in Obamacare compared to the Massachusetts model that you supported? How do you respond to critics who say that your current individual mandate objections are simply an example of your caving to the Republican Party line?
Presidential debates have historically offered a unique opportunity to become acquainted with candidates and their ideologies, but have eroded into no more than fashion shows littered with pointless and insignificant conversation. Through the introduction of independently minded third party candidates and the posing of relevant questions demanding “going on the record” candidate responses, America might once again have the opportunity to know and elect a President who is truly representative of a majority ideology.
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