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10 tough questions for Thursday's debate


The first batch of winners in NiemanWatchdog.org's debate-question contest.

By Barry Sussman and Dan Froomkin



If Internet users could moderate the Sept. 30 presidential debate about foreign policy, George W. Bush and John F. Kerry would face some basic but tough questions about the Iraq war and the doctrine of preemption.


Almost three weeks ago, NiemanWatchdog.org put out a call on the Internet: Send us the questions you'd like to see asked at the presidential debates. And point us to proposed questions posted elsewhere on the Web.


More than 150 questions were posted here; and we found many hundreds more in the blogosphere and in online publications. The number and quality show a keen interest in the debate, and a good bit of anger, as well.


The editors of NiemanWatchdog.org have gone through them all, and selected what we consider are the ten best ones related to foreign policy. To read the entire list (and submit your questions) click here


We will be picking 10 more on any topic before the Oct. 8 debate, and then another 10 on domestic policy before the Oct. 13 debate.


Here are the winners (some slightly edited):


Who Else Gets to Start Pre-Emptive Wars?


For Bush: "We justify the War in Iraq as a preemptive war. Would we support other countries (like Indonesia, Russia or Israel) that feel the need for preemptive strikes to protect their homeland?" (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Harry A. Thomas of Seattle)


Safer Without Who Else?


For Bush: "You have stated the world is safer without Saddam Hussein and that there is no difference between weapons of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction programs. Would the world be safer without Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, and the other brutal dictators in the world who have intentions of possessing WMD and moving forward with WMD-related programs? If so, will you adopt a policy of regime change through military intervention for these countries? If not, what additional criteria must be met for your administration to intervene militarily, as you did with Iraq?" (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org anonymously.)


The $87 Billion Question


For Kerry: "Please explain, once and for all, 'I voted for [the $87 billion], before I voted against it.' " (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Terri Kordella of Vienna, Va.)



Why Saddam Over Osama?


For Bush: "Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, there’s no doubt about that. However, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda killed 3,000 people on our own soil. There are almost fifteen times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan. Please explain to us why you felt it necessary to concentrate resources and funding on removing Saddam Hussein, who had not made any moves against the U.S., when Osama bin Laden had actually attacked. In other words, please explain why eliminating a potential threat took precedence over eliminating a proven one." (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Terri Kordella of Vienna, Va.)


Military Draft?


For both candidates: "Given that this war on terrorism has gone on for several years, and will continue into the future, do either of you expect to bring back the draft?" (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Mike Juntunen)


Limit to Iraqi Self-Determination?


For both candidates: What would you do if an elected Iraqi government requests that all U.S. troops leave Iraq? (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Jonah Thomas)

Learning From Mistakes?


For both candidates: "If you knew in March 2002, before troops landed in Iraq, everything you know now, in what ways would you have conducted the war differently?" (Posted on NiemanWatchdog.org by Allen Knutson, New York City)


Bring It On?

For Bush: "Mr. President, in July of 2003 you said if anyone wanted to attack our troops in Iraq, they should bring it on. In March of this year you appeared at a reporters' dinner and showed a video in which you jokingly stumbled around your office looking for weapons of mass destruction. Can you explain this behavior to the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq?" (Posted on dailykos.com by "Republicansforkerry")



For Bush: "Mr. President, by your count, John Kerry has flip-flopped at least 6 times on Iraq. By my count, you gave us 9 different reasons to go to Iraq and you have given us 5 different answers on what will happen next. So, which answer is it now?" (Posted on dailykos.com by "usmeagle69")


So Much to Fear?


For Bush: "Mr. President after September 11th you could have repeated FDR's famous statement. 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' You choose not to calm the fear we were feeling as a society. As the leader of the nation don't you think we would have been better served by you making such a statement?" (Posted on dailykos.com by user "Davinci")



Posted by glen riffe
10/13/2008, 08:02 PM

There have been many allegations, insinuations, and downright assaults on Barack Obama's patriotism, or lack of it, such as his refusal to salute the U.S. Flag. Why not begin the last debate with both candidates (and the entire audience as well)placing their hands over their hearts, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance - this would either confirm or put to rest all the rumors out there.

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