As a preliminary question, they asked whether the candidates should address Obama's past association with Bill Ayers, an ex-Weatherman bomber, and Obama's riposte, a reprise of the issue of the associations of McCain with Charles Keating, an S&L big (and anti-porn crusader) who was jailed after the last financial crisis.
Here's my answer;
I can't say that these questions are totally irrelevant. To me, they are surrogates for the question of where the candidate comes from--does he hang out with policy wonks, good-old-boy lobbyists, fishermen, or trendy radicals? Whose attitudes does he share? The Ayers and Keating questions are snot enough, by themselves, to tell us where the candidates come from, but they can't be wholly dismissed.
Now that the question has been raised, however, we ought to hear answers. Obama seems to have soft-pedaled the Ayers connection as he did the influence of Rev. Wright.
That said, I would much rather, but doubt I'll get answers in two areas: the economy and war.
The economy. Why did both candidates allow themselves to be stampeded into this ridiculous bailout giveaway? What other steps should government take to avert economic disaster? If you believe that inadequate regulation contributed to the meltdown, what new regulatory steps would you adopt, and why? And the question neither man answered the last time, in spite of Jim Lehrer's persistence--what goodies in your endless wish list will you forego or postpone because of the ballooning deficit and the added costs of the financial crisis?
War and Foreign Policy. Looking forward, under what conditions would you go to war? When, if ever, would you launch a preemptive war? We have troops and alliances around the world, created to resist communism and an expansive Soviet Union; these are gone, so why do we need foreign entanglements around the globe? Which ones would you reduce? There are thousands of nuclear weapons in the world, mostly in Russia and the US; will you do anything to eliminate or reduce them? Would you favor a regional conference to sort out the future of Iraq? If not, what, beyond a temporary deal with Iran and bribing the Sunni tribes, do you propose by way of a political solution? How big a military do we really need, and what changes in its armament and deployment would you make? Don't you think it's crazy to provoke Pakistan, a huge nuclear-armed Muslim country? Will you end the disgrace of officially countenanced torture by Americans?
If I had time, I'd ask why we have a higher rate of imprisonment than any industrial country, at enormous cost, and what the feds can do about it, if anything? Do we need a "war on drugs"?
I doubt I'll get much substance out of this debate, but hope springs eternal.