September 16, 2008

What should Jim Lehrer ask McCain and Obama at the first presidential debate next Friday?

The debate is September 26 and the topic is domestic and economic policy. There will be 9 segments, each 9 minutes long. (I hope the candidates will be dressed to the nines.)

I'd like to see one the 9 segments delve into Obama's record on teaching kindergartners all about sex and McCain's purportedly sleazy lying about it. (See previous post.) Within that boiling controversy is a serious subject about whether government should use the education system to inculcate traditional or progressive values. I'd try to pin the candidates down. Doesn't Obama want children to learn that gay people are every bit the equal of heterosexuals whether their parents agree with that or not? Doesn't McCain want heterosexuality consistently presented as the norm? Would he recommend removing books like "Daddy's Roommate" from school libraries? And don't just let them off the hook with magic words about decisions to be made by local government.

UPDATE: They've changed the topic for the first debate to foreign policy. The domestic and economic policy topic has been moved to the third debate, on October 15. It will have 9 segments, each 9 minutes long again, but we'll get Bob Schieffer instead of Jim Lehrer and the candidates will sit at a table instead of standing at lecterns. I guess a table seems more domestic.


1jpb said...

Boxers or Depends?

American Liberal Elite said...

purportedly sleazy?

ricpic said...

Is your favorite flavor chocolate or vanilla?

miller said...

ALE, you really should read other posts before you sneer "purportedly."

Bambi apparently didn't read the bill he voted for.

McCain apparently read the bill and pointed out some inconvenient truths.

Bambi is scrambling now to hide the fact that he doesn't read the bills he votes on.

Henry said...

I'd like both candidates to explain how they're going to close down the budget deficit.

Hit them where they're indefensible.

I would like to here them talk about education, but not in the context of an attack ad that highlights some screwed-up legislation that was never passed.

miller said...

I'd like them to talk about the new Cold War with Russia and how they're going to handle rogue states such as Iran and Venezuela.

And I'd like it if the moderator doesn't let them weasel out of it with references to "work hard."

I'd like some actual policy positions. Should America remain the only hyperpower, or should we willingly reduce our world power?

Jon said...

Wikipedia says the first debate is about foreign policy, citing this AP article:

WASHINGTON (AP) — John McCain and Barack Obama say they are agreeing to hold three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate this fall.

The campaigns issued a joint statement Thursday.

The first will be at the University of Mississippi on September 26th. It will focus on foreign policy and national security.

Another will be a town-hall style debate on October 7th at Belmont University. The last will be on domestic and economic policy on October 15th at Hofstra University.

Vice presidential contenders will meet October 2nd at Washington University in St. Louis.

MadisonMan said...

You know as well as I do that the moderator will allow them to escape with weasely non-answers. Tough questions would mean President Obama or McCain would remove access to Mr. Lehrer. That's the lamentable state of affairs now. The press is sacrificing its tough questions just so they can look like they mean something by being present.


miller said...

That's too bad, even if it's predictable.

What IS predictable, sadly, is that both sides will be waiting for the "gotcha" that can be used in their campaigns against the Other.

MC said...

I got nothing for the presidential debates.

I'd love to see Palin bring up some of Biden's stupid foreign policy suggestions in the VP debate, though.

Like that plan to give Iran $200M no strings attatched after 9/11. WTF was that supposed to do?

And his plan for partioning Iraq into 3 countries, right at the moment when it was on the brink of civil war. Can anyone think of a more effective way to push it over the edge? They'd be warring over the division of oil rich regions for decades. It would be a disaster.

And one of Obama's reasons for picking this guy was his supposed foreign policy experience to compensate of Obama's inexperience.

Epic fail!

Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

Why do Republicans agree to these debates moderated by liberals?

The Dems should pick a moderator, then the GOP. Dems have all the MSM to choose from, few of them are more moderate than, and the GOP could choose someone from Townhall or the Federalist Society.

Back to the world of realism, I want to know why Brit Hume isn't up there. Lehrer is a known bosom buddy of Al Gore. He is not impartial at all.

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

Okay, I got that off my chest :)

If it's foreign policy, I would like to hear how they will finance America's expeditions abroad, given that helping Iraq is not in any way being paid for by Iraqi oil money.

How will they help China clean up its environment so pollutants stop moving downstream -- and how will they keep pushing for Human Rights improvements in China (and continued Chinese investment in the US) at the same time?

MikeR said...

"And don't just let them off the hook with magic words about decisions to be made by local government." I wouldn't mind that answer at all. I'd would much rather that students in the local hick town be taught that the earth is flat than that the federal government should decide what they can teach.

KLDAVIS said...

Senator Obama: You voiced limited approval for the Supreme Court's Heller decision, overturning the handgun ban in the District of Columbia. And stated, "As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. "

Given the fact that the streets of Chicago have been deadlier this summer than the streets of Baghdad, is the handgun ban 'working' in Chicago? And, is it Constitutional?

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jon. I updated. Originally, the first debate was supposed to be econ/domestic. It was switched to the third debate.

chickenlittle said...

What should Jim Lehrer ask McCain and Obama at the first presidential debate next Friday?

I hope he sticks to economics and domestic policy. It's already clear that one candidate is for traditional values and the other is not.
Distinguishing the candidates on economic issues is harder.

L. E. Lee said...

Ann, we are in the midst of an economic crisis and you think a main topic for a presidential debate should be "Obama's record on teaching kindergartners all about sex..." It is interesting what you find important. Ivory tower indeed...

LarsPorsena said...

I'd like them to be asked why should the public bail out Fannie Mae?

Why is Fannie Mae allowed to make
contributions to local 'community organizations' that are essentially pork payoffs for political supporters.

How did Senator O. become second on Fannie Mae's contribution list after less than two year in the Senate? (After Chris Dodd)?

miller said...

Lying about your vote, then lying about your opponent's objection to the vote is a great way to show character.

Bambi has no character. He is an empty, liberal suit.

Pointing out that he lies early, frequently, and continually is a way to make sure that this man doesn't get to the presidency.

That's all.

Bambi might make some great foreign policy pronouncements, but as he has actually never done anything important or useful, his speeches are completely vaporous.

It's all sound and fury.

L. E. Lee said...

Sorry Miller,

This election is not going to be about flag burning or Willy Horton or swift boats or sex education. The challenges facing this country are too great this time around.

o said...

Why on earth would the moderator waste time on asking Obama that insipid question when all he would have to do is point to the law's VERY FIRST SENTENCE? "No pupil shall be required to take or participate in any class or course in comprehensive sex education if the pupil's his parent or guardian submits written objection thereto, and refusal to take or participate in such course or program shall not be reason for suspension or expulsion of such pupil."

George said...

The 1969 farce "Viva Max" is about Mexicans reconquering the Alamo 130 years later and stars an all-Hispanic cast featuring Peter Ustinov, Jonathan Winters, and Alice Ghostley.

For a six-piece kitchen dinette set, a RCA hi-fi, an Amana Radarange, who wrote the novel upon which the screenplay was based?

Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer, or Edwin Newman?

Your answer please.

Trooper York said...

Elmore Leonard.

miller said...


Try though you might, yes, it will be about Bambi's character and lack of accomplishments.

And highlighting what he actually has done (that would be - zero) is a great way to keep the campaign focused on what kind of executive he'd make.

He's full of promises. But what has he actually done? I mean, he was senator for 143 days, said himself that a 1-term senator was not ready for the presidency.

Then one day, he saw a mirror, and he was undone, I guess.

The challenges facing America today? A candidate who is nothing, nada, zip, who is embraced by the nutroots, who despises women in power (Hillary, Palin), who doesn't know how NATO or the UN Security Council works, who goes to Europe to campaign for votes (hint: number of EC votes in Europe is zero), who starts his campaign with a lie ("McCain wants a 100-year war in Iraq") - that's what it's about. Empty suit vs. lifetime service to country.

Trooper York said...

Wait, trick question.

Elmore Leonard wrote Get Shorty and Valdez is Coming.

My mistake, sorry.

Trooper York said...

"Valdez is Coming" the western, not the porno with Juan Valdez the coffee beans and the donkey.


Peter V. Bella said...

Obama could be asked about his ties to the Chicago Democratic Machine and how that would affect his governence?

He could be asked his position on retaining Charlie Rangel as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee even though he is embroiled in income tax and corruption scandals.

Obama could be asked how he will handle corruption when he is the product of a corrupt political system.

He could be asked what role will Emil Jones, his political sponsor and mentor, play in his administration.

Of course those are fantasy questions that no serious journalist has the courage to ask.

Peter V. Bella said...

miller said...
Bambi apparently didn't read the bill he voted for.

Oh yes he did. He even pencilled in the changes from grades 6-12 to kindergarten- 12. Copies of the drafts have already been produced.

Triangle Man said...

whether government should use the education system to inculcate traditional or progressive values.

For when the debate about domestic policy comes up...

Inculcate? No.

Teach? Yes.

Traditional or progressive? Both.

Jon said...

I wonder why the topic switch- for that to happen both campaigns would have had to agree to it.

The switch would seem to benefit McCain: Foreign policy is his strength, and it will give him the chance to hammer Obama for being wrong on the surge.

OTOH, maybe Obama is confident that he'll do well no matter what the topic is, and he'll get a bigger boost if he holds his own or beats McCain on McCain's turf.

L. E. Lee said...


Try though you might, yes, it will be about failed economic and foreign policy of the past eight years and John McCain's embrace of the Bush legacy.

Over the next eight weeks the McCain campaign and the media will try to make this election about everything except the real issues facing this country. It will be Obama's task to bring the debate back to these issues. If he does so, he will win.

i understand why you don't want this election to be about the past eight years of policy failures that McCain has so readily embraced. You will lose. Hence, you desire to see the election hinge on getting the American people to focus on the trivial.

Finally, character does matter. McCain has turned against his former self and has open himself to all kinds of scrutiny about his political character.

But in the end this election will turn on the question "is this country better off than it was eight years ago?" Obama wins.

Zokar said...

If they're sitting at a table, McCain wins. No joke here. Other aspects of the format do not matter.

If I had more time, I'd link to analysis (is the plural and singular of that word the same) of past debates to prove it, but I guess you benighted folks will have to look it up yourselves.

reader_iam said...

Obama's Foreign Affairs piece.
McCain's Foreign Affairs piece.
(The series.)

Off-topic with reference to the presidential debate, but tangentially related for obvious reasons:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think it far more likely that Palin will end up as president at some point (under whatever circumstances) than that Joe Biden will. Therefore, I'm far more concerned in assessing her knowledge, vision, experience and capabilities than Biden's. And, whether one likes Biden's views etc., it is far easier to gain information about his background in this area (if, indeed, one doesn't already have that knowledge). Palin is an entirely different case. Mere assertions (and that's all they are--mere assertions) that governors, because they're governors, have more experience in that area than senators is just so much "yadda yadda yadda" to me, and entirely, utterly insufficient. This is a hugely important area, and Palin needs to be thoroughly questioned, examined and vetted in this area in public. Details, please!

bearbee said...

Let them articulate clearly their philosphy and views on capitalism, pricing and markets and on the need for regulation.

Let them describe in detail the function of the Federal Reseve System and their views on the efficacy of institution in general and specifically as to the handling of the current financial/banking crisis.

Let them address this Inconvenient Truth and how each intends to remedy. How does their remedy fit with the trillions of dollars of new programs they are proposing?

Let each give SPECIFICS by category of fuel source on how US energy needs will be met and give a timeline.

miller said...

Bambi = empty suit, reads great from a teleprompter (even at outdoor folksy speeches). Written two memoirs. 143 days of service in the US Senate. Votes 110% with the Democrat Party. Bluster.

McCain = for good or bad, has DONE SOMETHING with his life. Regularly pokes his finger into the eyes of the Republicans because he's not beholden to them. Maverick.

miller said...

I would like the speech to be about: Your VP, Biden, proposed breaking up Iraq into three parts, paying Iran a ransom after 9/11. Do you agree with that?

You apparently don't know that Russia has a veto in the UN Security Council, so how would your proposal to use the Security Council to stop Russia from invading Georgia actually, you know, accomplish anything? Would it just scare them?

You apparently don't understand how NATO works as a treaty. Should member states come to the aid of other member states when attacked? If not, do you propose to leave NATO?

al said...

Do you think that Senator Obama telling the Iraqi Government "that they should not rush through a “Strategic Framework Agreement” governing the future of US forces until after President George W. Bush leaves office," in July 2008 was interfering in the negotiations between the US and Iraq?

reader_iam said...

I'll say it straight: I'm very unimpressed with Palin in this area so far. I'm perfectly willing to chalk this up to not having sufficient information yet, and my mind is open. So let's have it, and no nonsense or squirming or partisan platitudes. For those who fit my particular profile, this is absolutely critical to the decision process.


Roger J. said...

LELee--There are certainly issues out there, but I would submit those arent the things most voters really care about. It comes down to personalities, impressions, atomspherics for the majority of voters.

reader_iam said...

I really want to hear from Palin, but I think it would be perfectly legitimate to question McCain about Palin in this area and to specifically address her experience and knowledge AND specifically address what about them makes him completely confident that she's capable of handling this area in the event of his inability to do so. Again, specifics please ... . His own experience and background is not automatically transferrable to Palin, and so information about those is non-responsive in terms of my question. (Plus, I know all of that already.)

Roger J. said...

Re foreign policy. I would like to see both candidates address how they would deal with a resurgent Russia. Part of this debate should appropriately touch on the role of NATO and should the old soviet republics, no sovereign entities, be admitted to NATO. And perhaps most important: do we even need NATO any more.

Fen said...

I'd like to hear Obama explain further what he was doing in Iraq - asking them to delay the US troop drawdown until after the election [so he could claim credit].

We already know the pattern. The mythmakers would be asserting that Obama won Iraq. What a Fraud he is.

Anonymous said...

To both Senators:

What is the biggest foreign policy challenge facing our country for the forseeable future? Is it defeating Islamic terrorism? Is it China's expansionist hegemonic ambitions? Is it Russia's expansionist hegemonic ambitions? Is it Iran and other despotic regimes acquiring the skill to make nuclear weapons? Is it the meddlesome Chavez meddling in our own hemisphere? Is it something else?

What should our country do about the most important foreign policy challenge facing us?

Fen said...

reader_iam: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think it far more likely that Palin will end up as president at some point (under whatever circumstances) than that Joe Biden will. Therefore, I'm far more concerned in assessing her knowledge, vision, experience and capabilities than Biden's.

God forbid something should happen to Biden, but if it does, who will hold Obama's hand re foreign policy?

I'd be much more concerned about assessing Obama's knowledge, vision, experience and capabilities than Palin's.

former law student said...

Senator McCain, you along with your former economics advisor Phil Gramm, supported legislation to deregulate banks and other financial institutions, repealing measures enacted after the Depression designed to prevent another one.

Now, the day after the 150 year old firm Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the synonymous-with-Wall-Street firm Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America in a fire sale, insurance giant AIG is expected to go down in the hurricane currently hitting the unregulated,60 trillion dollar credit default swap market.

So the question is, Senator McCain, what the hell are you going to do to save our asses now, especially because up to now you've favored letting financial institutions doing whatever the hell they wanted?

former law student said...

God forbid something should happen to Biden, but if it does, who will hold Obama's hand re foreign policy?

I'd be much more concerned about assessing Obama's knowledge, vision, experience and capabilities than Palin's.

At least fen is consistent. I remember him typing something identical in 2000:

"God forbid something should happen to quadruple heart-attack-survivor Cheney, but if it does, who will hold Shrub's hand re foreign policy?

"I'd be much more concerned about assessing GW Bush's knowledge, vision, experience and capabilities than Lieberman's."

Fen said...

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview...

/via Blackfive

Fen said...

fls: At least fen is consistent. I remember him typing something identical in 2000

Thanks. And a hat tip to your memory. Clearly a "harvard-trained mind". Did you go to law school?

PatCA said...

For the economic/domestic policy debate: "Should a person one heartbeat away from the presidency own a tanning bed? And by the way your heartbeat is really, really old and weak."

For the foreign policy debate: "Have you ever seen Russia from Sarah Palin's house? If so, what were you doing there, having an affair?"

Cedarford said...

I think Althouse bum doped by saying that the Sept 26th debate was about the economy and domestic policies.

That is what the Oct 15th debate covers. The 1st debate is about foreign policy.

I also disagree with Althouse about letting the debates get dominated by the chickenshit "scandals du jour" like who said what about some Illinois sex eduaction law and who is most offended and shocked and outraged about it.

9 Segments exist on Lehrers 1st debate at UMiss. What are some good topics?

1. What leaders now hostile are you both willing to talk with, and why? And what success do you anticipate in such talks..outside "feeling good" about talking.

2. How should America handle the situation in Columbia, Bolivia, and Venezuela. They, as you both know, are interconnected.

3. What do you anticipate doing as President with relations with a post-Fidel Castro Cuba? Is it time to end the - what experts call the ineffective trade&visit embargo that only hurts both countries economies, hurts average Cuban citizens, and blocks interchanges between the two peoples?

4. Much of Mexico is now locked in a war between Federal authorities and drug cartels. The violence has spilled into the US. What will you do as President to ensure the safety of American citizens and help Mexico?

5. Do you favor invading Pakistan to defeat radical Islamists in that country and "get" the remaining few people involved in the 9/11 attack still at large, including bin Laden?
If so, given Pakistan's large, modern military and 180 million people who mostly demand full resistance to US troops attacking Pakistani areas - and the prospects of loss of supply to Afghanistan - what would be "acceptable casualties" for war with Pakistan? More than Iraq? Less than Iraq?

6. Define your initial foreign policy towards China, Japan, and the Koreas. And why your policy is better than your opponents.

7. Do you favor a 2nd Cold war with Russia? Have we provoked them? What makes you believe you will be more successful than your opponent.

8. What will be your foreign policy on American unilateralism. Specifically, will your Administration bind the US to compliance with Kyoto, the ICC, other International Law, and not take military action unless authorized by the UN - except following an attack on America?

9. It has been discussed to death, but we would be remiss since so many voters consider it the single most important issue to not let you both have another chance, after 100s of other chances, to explain where you stand on Iraq....

SteveR said...

There will be 9 segments, each 9 minutes long. (I hope the candidates will be dressed to the nines.)

And maybe we'll get the whole nine yards.

Anonymous said...

First question for Senator Obama: Barry, how's the family?

First question for Senator McCain: What the f**ck were you thinking by placing the security of modern civilization in peril with your inept selection of that inexperienced woman as your running mate?

Trooper York said...

I really want to hear from Obama, but I think it would be perfectly legitimate to question Biden about Obama in this area and to specifically address his experience and knowledge AND specifically address what about them makes him completely confident that Obama is capable of handling this area in the event of his inability to do so. Again, specifics please ... . Biden's own experience and background is not automatically transferrable to Obama, and so information about those is non-responsive in terms of my question. (Plus, I know all of that already.)

George said...


Oooh, Trooper, I am so sorry, but time's up!

Elmore Leonard was not the correct answer.

The correct answer was 'Jim Lehrer.'

You get a free copy of the home version of the game!

Trooper York said...

I know, I just guessed and then when I looked it up and found out it was a trick question. Plus I was supposed to put it in the form of a question.

Who the fuck is Jim Lehrer?

I bet a lot people will ask that after his performance. Jus sayn'

Trevor Jackson said...

reader_iam: Your voice has been missed in these threads.

reader_iam said...

Folks, I'm singling out Palin because I know so much less about her, and especially with regard to foreign policy. That is the only reason. I am already familiar with both Biden and McCain in this area, and while I find Obama's background to be shallow (I have said numerous times, now, that I believe both Obama and Palin to be on the national stage and in running for the executive branch well before their times), I still know more about his than hers. And there's that article "of his" in Foreign Affairs magazine to which I linked way up in this thread, which at least is something to go on.

If anyone wishes to make my comments into partisan statements in your own minds, feel free--Lord knows I can't stop you. But in MY mind--the one which generated my comments, ahem--the motivation is different, and perfectly legitimate.

And that, as they say, is that.

Trooper York said...

Now, now don't get testy. We were just busting your chops.

Plus it seems you have a fan club.

Have you been posting naked pictures of your feet again?

blake said...

Is Jim Lehrer the one that looks like a muppet?

reader: I never think of you as partisan. I would point out that your demographic (which probably includes me) probably isn't really big enough for anyone to worry about.

I'd be interested in a general discussion of foreign policy from a non-political standpoint. Some people seem to think it's very complicated, yet I don't know if that's true, historically.

dick said...


I hate to disagree with you but an article in Foreign Affairs over his imprimatur means nothing. I am a lot more interested in hearing what he really thinks in detail and talking on his feet about foreign policy. I don't think we know anything about what his policies would be like at all and his campaign is doing all it can to keep it that way. If he is elected, God forbid, then we will be stuck with his policies. With Palin we would at least have a period of time to know her policies from the actions. We already know that she can show leadership. We know nothing of that about Obama at all. He has never shown any yet.

Granted we should learn something about Palin but it is far more important we learns something about that blank slate that the Democrats nominated for president.

Hector Owen said...

I'd like to see a few more questions raised about Obama's pet legislation, the Global Poverty Bill. He actually sponsored this one, not just co-sponsored. If you look quickly at the text of it, it seems to be just some feel-good stuff about helping poor countries, but if you look closer, it seems that it would obligate the US to sign on to the UN's "Millennium Project." That official statement is more feel-good bafflegab; if you dig further, you find that the UN administrators seek a commitment of 0.7% of GDP, which based on GDP for the US in 2007 of $13.84 trillion would have been $96,880,000,000 for that year alone. We already have a foreign aid program administered by Congress and the State Dept, I believe. Taking an additional ~ hundred billion per year out of the economy to be handed to the UN to administer seems like a big deal.

This would fit in either the foreign policy debate or, because of its impact on the domestic economy, the domestic one. More at AIM: "A nice-sounding bill called the 'Global Poverty Act,' sponsored by Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Barack Obama, … could result in the imposition of a global tax on the United States. The bill, which has the support of many liberal religious groups, makes levels of U.S. foreign aid spending subservient to the dictates of the United Nations."

Anonymous said...

I guess a table seems more domestic.

The table is because McCain's a midget. McCain's staff obviously doesn't want viewers to see a short old dude standing next to a taller, younger and more vigorous opponent. Insisting on a table is a good move on their part.