Tonight in Denver, former "PBS NewsHour" anchor Jim Lehrer will host the first of three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The campaigns agreed that tonight's debate will focus mainly on domestic policy issues, but there will likely be a question on Libya as well. With those limitations in mind, here are some questions we would like to see Lehrer pose to each candidate.
To Obama, on jobs: Mr. President, your campaign is currently running a television ad in which you promise to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs in your second term. Four years ago, you promised to create 5 million new green energy jobs, but fewer than 5,000 have actually come into being, and there are now 261,000 fewer jobs overall than when you were inaugurated. What makes your new job-creation promise any more credible than the old one?
To Romney, on spending: You have said you will not cut defense spending, nor Medicare, nor Social Security benefits for those within 10 years of enrolling. These promises, combined with interest payments on the national debt, would place about 70 percent of the federal budget off limits for cuts by the end of the decade. How can you then promise to balance the budget by 2020, given that you have also promised not to raise taxes?
To Obama, on health care: When Congress passed your health care law, you promised that it would make insurance premiums for families go down by $2,500 per year. Yet since the bill passed, premiums have actually risen, on average, by nearly that same amount. If your health care law is failing to make insurance more affordable for families, why should Americans think it more likely to accomplish its other stated goals?
To Romney, on dependency: Your opponent is currently running a television ad featuring you telling campaign donors: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims ... And so my job is not to worry about those people." What exactly were you trying to say there? Do you regret the statement?
To Obama, on transparency: You promised your administration would create "an unprecedented level of openness in government." Recently, U.S. law enforcement officials were found to have helped Mexican drug cartels get their hands on thousands of weapons through an operation called Fast and Furious. It resulted in civilian deaths both here and in Mexico. When Congress tried to investigate a possible cover-up of this operation, you asserted executive privilege, concealing information from Congress and the public. Will you pledge tonight to withdraw your executive privilege claim and make public all information about Fast and Furious?
To Romney, on health care: You have said that the health care plan you passed in Massachusetts is fundamentally different from the plan Congress enacted in 2010, and you have pledged to repeal the latter. But you have also said you would keep some parts of your opponent's health care law. Name two specific parts you would keep, and explain why.
To Obama, on Libya: To this day, you and senior members of your administration keep referring to the assassination of our ambassador in Libya as being related to a YouTube video. Since the attack, numerous mainstream news outlets have unearthed substantial, credible evidence that this attack was a premeditated al Qaeda strike that had nothing to do with any video. Please confirm or deny for us that this was a planned terrorist strike and not a protest over a movie.