Real questions

After the Democratic slugfest also known as the Pennsylvania primary, many voters can no longer bear to listen to the candidates. Even some who became political junkies during this historic race have now tuned out the sniping over guns, bitterness, race, religion, geriatric radicals and other trivia. We pray the next president will not waste a millisecond thinking about many of the headline topics of the last month. All three candidates should challenge reporters who dwell on gossipy or tangential subjects to ask instead about issues voters care about -- or should. Herewith are 10 questions the American people deserve to hear answered.

To Sen. John McCain:

1. Why did you skip the Senate vote on extending unemployment benefits for the jobless? Do you oppose extending unemployment and food stamp benefits?

2. You voted with Senate Republicans to block legislation that would have allowed workers belatedly discovering discrimination to file lawsuits, and said women living in poverty need more education and training to close the wage gap. Please explain how more education for the victims of discrimination would end the practice, and how you would pay for the training while keeping your promise not to raise taxes.


To Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton:

3. Now that the equal-pay legislation has failed, what would you do to ensure that women are not still averaging 77% of men’s wages four years from now?

4. How would you stimulate this country out of its economic doldrums at the same time as you allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, thereby sharply raising taxes for some?

5. Some warn that pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2009 may trigger a regional war, drawing Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Turkey into a weakened state. Are there any circumstances under which you would halt U.S. troop withdrawals -- or order more troops into Iraq?


6. You have criticized President Bush’s expansion of executive power. Detail for us how you intend to legally forbid yourself -- and your successors -- from using signing statements to alter legislation. Don’t tell us that your judgment will be better than Bush’s, so not to worry. Give us specifics.

To all three candidates:

7. U.S. military commanders are warning that Iran poses a greater threat than Al Qaeda to the stability of Iraq. How should the U.S. respond? Are there any circumstances under which you would deem it necessary for the U.S. to attack Iran? And don’t brush this off by saying you don’t answer hypothetical questions -- it’s no longer hypothetical.

8. Now that it’s clear that ethanol production is contributing to the run-up in world food prices, do you still support ethanol mandates and subsidies? If so, how would you ameliorate the global food crisis?


9. How exactly would you ensure that no American citizen can be declared an “enemy combatant”? Explain what you believe a president ought and ought not to be able to do with a foreigner captured abroad and suspected of having plans to kill Americans.

10. Describe a situation in which you would defend the president’s asserted power to monitor telephone conversations and e-mails of U.S. citizens without a warrant.