Above is the trailer for President Obama's 17-minute long campaign commercial. When an elected official starts using Tom Hanks' comfortingly familiar voice in his sales pitch, seducing us as if we're so many Meg Ryans, it's as opportune a time as any for some tough questions to jar us back to reality.
So, President Obama:
- If waterboarding is immoral, illegal, and counterproductive, as you assert, why are you allowing the CIA to withhold information about the interrogation tactic's use under your predecessor by claiming that it relates to "intelligence methods"? How do you respond to the ACLU's argument that a practice the president prohibits is by definition not an intelligence method? If the practice is indeed in our past, why is there a compelling reason to keep what we did secret?
- Your administration claims the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of some American citizens abroad. And while you say that authority applies only to terrorists who represent an imminent threat of attack, it is also true that the executive branch alone is empowered in your view to decide -- without any checks or balances from other branches -- who in fact qualifies as a terrorist. Given the fact that President Bush accused dozens of people of terrorism who turned out to be innocent, why do you think an unchecked executive branch determination does enough to protect the innocent? Among Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Marco Rubio, how many of the 10 would you trust to order Americans killed without any judicial oversight?
- Why shouldn't rich people pay out of pocket for their own contraception?
- In your first term your administration participated in bailouts of Wall Street banks and parts of the American auto industry. Are there any other industries you'd consider bailing out if they were hit hard during a second term? How would you differentiate between industries you'd bail out and industries where you'd let the market outcome stand?
- Should voters blame you for failing to keep your promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay?
- Do you think there are any circumstances in which someone should be incarcerated for the mere possession of narcotics? Should you have been arrested and jailed when you used drugs as a youth? Had that happened to you, President Bush, or President Clinton, do you think you'd still have made it to the White House?
- If the constitution confers a right to privacy that includes the right to pay a doctor to perform an abortion, why doesn't the same right to privacy protect the ability of consenting individuals to buy or sell a kidney?
- According to Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden so alarmed Pakistanis that they responded by moving their nuclear weapons around on public highways in lightly guarded vehicles to prevent America from knowing their location. Are you sure the raid was worth it? Were one of those nukes stolen in transit next week would you change your mind?
- If you fail to address America's unsustainable deficit by the end of your first term, whether due to competing priorities or Republican intransigence or some other reason, why should we trust that you'd prioritize and solve our fiscal problems in a second term? In closing the deficit, what do you regard as the ideal ratio of tax hikes to spending cuts?