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The Debate We Won't Have

Barack Obama's campaign has put the kibosh on more debates, including one that CBS was hoping for in North Carolina. It's too bad; the debates have mostly been terrific during this campaign, and we've learned a lot about both the candidates themselves and their policy positions. Here are just a few questions for both candidates we'd like to have seen posed if another such contest was held.


1. Your campaign and many of your supporters were highly critical of the questions at the last debate. Which questions do you think were inappropriate, and why.

2. You have reportedly described Tony Rezko, who is now on trial in Illinois in a massive political corruption trial, as your 'political godfather.' What did you mean by this, and have you been honest about the nature of your relationship with Rezko?

3. Please tell us what you mean when you say that your religious beliefs inform your view that gay marriage should not be legal.

4. Is it true or just one of those Internet rumors that you refused to appear in a photo with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome?

5. When it comes to health care, aren't you giving away a bargaining chip when you start from a position of being against mandated insurance?

6. Is your position on getting us out of Iraq appreciably different than Hillary Clinton's? If not, do you really think her vote on the war authorization bill really has any impact on what she would do now as president?

7. You once said of John McCain that the Straight Talk Express had run into a ditch. Democrats are already painting McCain not as a courageous maverick but as a flip-flopping pol who has sold his soul in the Bush years. Do you agree?

8. How would you characterize your relationship with the Democratic Machine in Chicago and Illinois as you moved forward in your political career there?

9. Why have you never spoken out - like, say, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. - against the corruption of Richard M. Daley's City Hall?

10. Isn't Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones, your self-described political mentor, just the kind of practitioner of the old-time politics that you decry?

11. You are selling yourself as a change agent, but every profile I read of you describes you as a cautious, pragmatic legislator. How do you square the two?

12. You won an earmark for University of Chicago Hospitals, where your wife works; you spoke out on the Senate floor in favor of legislation that would have benefitted a company you had stock in; you've admitted an ethical error in involving yourself in a real estate deal with Tony Rezko, yet you boast of your involvement in ethics legislation both in Illinois and the U.S. Senate. Is something missing in your own ethical compass?


1. Recently, Bill Clinton said it was the Obama campaign that played the race card on him, not the other way around. Do you agree?

2. Is your position on getting us out of Iraq appreciably different than that of Barack Obama?

3. If you really, truly had your druthers, would you support a government-run national health care program? If not, why not?

4. Would it bother you if John McCain ran an ad portraying himself - a bona fide military hero - as the best person to answer the phone in the White House at 3 a.m.? And why wouldn't his experience lead us to believe he would be the best person?

5. Is there any appreciable difference between your approach to handling the economy and the approach of Barack Obama?

6. If it were really, truly up to you, would you support gay marriage? If not, why not, and if so, why don't you stand up and fight for it?

7. If you were to win the nomination, wouldn't naming Barack Obama your running mate be the absolute best way to unite the party?

8. Democrats never really talk about helping the poor first anymore, it's always about helping the middle class. Shouldn't we put the poor first? Who is their fighter?

9. When you discussed Bill Ayers at the last debate, Barack Obama pointed out that your husband pardoned two members of the Weather Underground. Was that the right thing for your husband to do?

10. Don't your husband's post-presidential business deals pose a conflict of interest for you?

11. Do you believe superdelegates should be eliminated in the future?

12. Was Bill Clinton ready on day one to be president? Jimmy Carter? Richard Nixon? Would John McCain be ready on day one?


Posted on April 25, 2008

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