The Presidential Debate Commission announced on Monday the topics for Thursday’s debate: fighting covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership. Covid-19 was one of the six topics in the first debate, and while moderator Chris Wallace in the first debate set aside a category for “race and violence,” there has yet to be a broader discussion of race. The other topic headings are new.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien released a letter to the commission falsely asserting the debate was supposed to be only about foreign policy and complaining about the topics (although issues like covid-19 and leadership potentially include foreign policy). It is not clear if this is an effort to worm out of the debate or merely to continue the nonstop claims of victimization deployed by Team Trump so it can later claim unfairness.

While the vast majority of voters have already made up their minds, Americans could benefit from an orderly debate. (Each candidate will be muted when the other is delivering his two-minute answer on a topic, an effort to prevent a repeat of President Trump’s disruptions that made the first debate practically unwatchable.) Here is a sampling of what Trump should be asked on each of the new topics (I’ll do questions for former vice president Joe Biden on Wednesday):

Families:

  • Why do you oppose a raise in the minimum wage?
  • Why are you supporting a lawsuit to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act?
  • What plan, if any, do you have for child care?
  • Why did your administration propose a rule on overtime pay that would leave out 8.2 million Americans and cost workers $1.2 billion in lost wages this year alone, compared to the Obama-era rule?
  • Why do you oppose free college tuition for lower income Americans?
  • The economic recession has disproportionately hit lower income workers. What are you doing for them? Why did you oppose continuing the weekly $600 federal supplement to unemployment benefits?

Race in America:

  • You often frame policies that promote integration as efforts to destroy the suburbs. Why?
  • Why did you never appoint any Black judge to a federal appellate court?
  • Why do you deny that there is systemic racism in policing, housing, wealth accumulation, education and other facets of American life? What accounts for the Black/White divide?
  • Why do you have no senior Black advisers in the White House?
  • Why did you offer a defense for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen charged with murdering two protesters in Kenosha, Wis.?
  • How many Black friends do you have with whom, for example, you regularly share a meal, celebrate family milestones or get together at the holidays?
  • Why have hate crimes risen under your administration?

Climate change:

  • What did the Paris accord actually obligate America to do?
  • Do you deny that climate change increases the occurrence of extreme weather?
  • The coal industry has continued to shed jobs under your administration. Why did you fail in your promise to sustain coal miners?
  • Why did you roll back car emission standards over the objections of the auto industry?
  • Your own Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that “the two occupations that BLS projects to have the fastest employment growth from 2016 to 2026 — solar photovoltaic installers (105-percent increase) and wind turbine service technicians (96-percent increase) — involve ‘green’ work.” Why, then, do you claim that green energy development is a job loser?
  • Why did you advance the false claim that wind turbines cause cancer?

National security:

  • Is Russia an authoritarian state? Has its government poisoned political opponents?
  • Why won’t you confront Russian President Vladimir Putin on human rights, on interfering in our election, on bounties placed on U.S. troops, on war crimes in Syria or on its support for Venezuela dictator Nicolás Maduro?
  • Did the Saudi crown prince participate in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi?
  • Did you signal approval for China’s detention camps for Uighurs?
  • How is NATO funded?
  • You conferred on North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un legitimacy by multiple summits and defending his human rights record. In exchange, we got nothing from the regime on denuclearization. Were you conned?
  • You promised that by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, you would isolate the regime and obtain new concessions. Instead, we are isolated from allies and Iran has continued beyond enrichment levels specified in the Iran deal. What went wrong?
  • Why do polls show the United States is less respected under your presidency than under President Barack Obama’s?

Leadership:

  • Did you set a good example for America’s children by paying off women with whom you allegedly had extramarital affairs?
  • When you personally insult and attack political opponents on Twitter, do you diminish respect for the office you hold?
  • Why do you so often dismiss “blue states” and “blue cities”? Don’t you have a responsibility to look after all Americans regardless of how they voted?
  • Why do you incite hatred against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), including by supporting chants at one of your recent rallies to “lock her up”? After law enforcement foiled an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer, isn’t this dangerous?
  • Why do you think so many military leaders and former national security officials have spoken out against your reelection?
  • Do you want your voters who cannot get to the polls or fear getting sick to vote by mail? Will their votes be legitimate? There is no evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections, so why do you continue to claim otherwise?
  • Do you bear responsibility for the White House event that appears to have been a covid-19 superspreader event? Why have you prevented your doctors from giving a full accounting of your health?

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