This evening, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in Hempstead, New York for a town hall-style debate, in which they will answer questions from members of the audience. Here are some questions I hope will be asked (but fear will not).
Mr. Obama: You have cited Republican inertia as the primary reason for various legislative failures in the last four years. As the incoming class of Republicans promises to contain even fewer “moderates” than the current one, why should we expect congressional negotiations in your second term to yield better results than in your first?
Mr. Romney: You have stressed the importance of strong sanctions on Iran to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power. As it stands, the Islamic Republic is subject to sanctions from the United Nations, the European Union, as well as the United States and allies, which have effected a collapse in Iran’s economy and left the country as isolated as it has been in decades. What manner of pressure would you apply beyond what is already in place?
Mr. Obama: You have always underlined the necessity in government for compromise, and are fond of saying, “No party has a monopoly on wisdom.” Name one issue on which the Republican Party’s position is wiser than the Democratic Party’s position.
Mr. Romney: In his keynote address at the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie intoned, “Real leaders don’t follow polls. Real leaders change polls.” On which issues do you think the majority of the public is wrong?
Mr. Obama: This past May, you announced, for the first time as president, that you think same-sex couples ought to be able to get married in the United States. In 2008, you said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” You asserted the same in 2004. In a 1996 questionnaire, you wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” Does each of these quotations reflect what you really thought at the time? What led you to oppose gay marriage in 2004 after having supported it in 1996?
Mr. Romney: In 1994, you said, “I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it.” In 2007, you said, “I would like […] to see Roe v. Wade overturned” because it “would effectively be returning to the people and the states the ability to create their own legislation as it relates to abortion.” This month, you assured, “I’ll be a pro-life president. I will take pro-life measures.” As of today, do you believe abortion should be a federal issue or a state issue? Were the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Congress pass a bill to outlaw abortion in some form, would you sign it?
Mr. Obama: You have stressed the importance of transparency in government. When did you know that last month’s violence in Libya was a planned attack by organized groups, and not a spontaneous reaction to a film? How long did you intend to keep this information to yourself?
Mr. Romney: At a fundraiser in May, you remarked, “There are 47 percent [of the people] who are with [the president], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” You have since called these comments “completely wrong.” If so, why did you make them?
Mr. Obama: Next month, voters in Colorado and Washington will decide whether to legalize possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana. Should these ballot initiatives pass, cannabis would effectively be treated the same as alcohol—including an age minimum of 21—necessarily creating a conflict with the federal government, which is tasked to enforce marijuana’s continued prohibition nationwide, as your administration has forcefully done. Please explain why marijuana should be illegal but alcohol should not.
Mr. Romney: You have said there should be “no daylight” between the United States and Israel. Should Israel launch a surprise unilateral attack against Iran, will your administration claim co-responsibility for it?
Mr. Obama: As a candidate, you promised, “As president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” To date, you have not done so, and your administration squashed a House resolution that did. Care to comment?
Mr. Romney: You write, “Marriage is more than a personally rewarding social custom. It is also critical for the well-being of a civilization.” This being the case, why should marriage then be denied to same-sex couples? What prevents homosexuals from contributing to the maintenance of civilization’s well-being?
Mr. Obama: Have you ever regretted your decision to run for president?
Mr. Romney: Same question.