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A Few Debate Questions

By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

With the final presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday and the previous two having revealed absolutely nothing about the candidates, I have taken it upon myself to suggest some questions for CBS's Bob Schieffer, who will do the moderating chores. I assure you that the candidates have not seen the questions in advance; nor, when the time comes, will they want to answer them. I flipped a coin and Barack Obama goes first.

Senator Obama, you are sooooooooo cool. Can you tell us, please, the last time you lost your temper and what about? You have two minutes.

Senator McCain, I'd like to ask you why you've attacked Senator Obama for associating with the former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, even though you have befriended G. Gordon Liddy, who was jailed for what amounts to subversion of the Constitution. Liddy also once told his radio listeners to deal with agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms by shooting them -- "a head shot," he recommended. What's the difference between Liddy and Ayers? Take as much time as you want.

Senator Obama, did you ever tell Bill Ayers to his face that what he did was wrong?

Senator McCain, I have a question regarding Sarah Palin: How could you?

Senator Obama, in 2007, your former church and its then-minister honored the Reverend Louis Farrakhan, an anti-Semite. Why didn't you say something in protest? Have you ever heard the Latin dictum "Qui tacet consentire videtur," silence is consent?

Senator McCain, what lessons should we have learned from the Iraq war? Should it have been fought? Should we have stuck to Afghanistan? What are our limits as a great power?

Senator Obama, if your plan for troop withdrawal in Iraq had been adopted, the U.S. troops would now be almost out of the country. That being the case, what do you think we'd have there now? Civil war? A peaceful country? An Islamic republic next door in Jordan?

Senator McCain, do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if history will forgive you for Sarah Palin?

Senator Obama, do you ever wake up in the middle of night for anything?

Senator McCain, with the situation in Afghanistan worsening, why don't we switch our troops right away from Iraq, which didn't attack us, to the country from where Osama bin Laden and his Taliban supporters did?

Senator Obama, given the problems facing our country -- a worldwide financial crisis; a looming recession; the prospect of nukes in Iran and North Korea; and Pakistan, which already has nukes, coming apart -- isn't it reckless of you to think that, at your young age, with your limited experience, you can manage it all?

Senator McCain, virtually the same question to you. But in your case, given your age, isn't this all too much?

Senator Obama, have you ever been in therapy? If so, how did it make you feel?

Senator McCain, in May you allowed a restricted number of reporters to review your medical records for a limited amount of time. Some people think you're hiding something. Are you? If not, why not make all the records public?

Senator Obama, we all know that lobbyists are not the problem in Washington; it's the incessant need of politicians to raise campaign funds. Yet you broke your pledge to accept public financing for your campaign. By doing that, didn't you contribute to this problem? And a follow-up: If you broke your word on this, how can we be sure you won't break your word again?

Senator McCain, reportedly you have been told to avoid looking at Senator Obama during debates because he infuriates you and you could lose your temper. Is this because of Obama's age or his manner or something else entirely?

Senator Obama, what's a credit-default swap?

Senator McCain, can you explain short-selling?

Senator Obama, is Senator McCain right?

Senator McCain, you are 72 and have had skin cancer several times. Given that -- not to mention the usual exigencies of life -- how could you pick a running mate who is so dismally qualified for the presidency? And please, for the sake of your own reputation, not to mention your mortal soul, don't say anything about the Alaska National Guard.

Senator Obama and Senator McCain, you both favor NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. Please tell us how you would explain to an American soldier why he or she would have to fight for either country. Please explain why defending Georgia is in our national interest.

Gentlemen, that's it for now. Over to you, Bob.

cohenr@washpost.com

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