Let's Brainstorm Better Questions for the Presidential Debates

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Here are my five suggestions. Send yours by email and I'll aggregate the best in an open letter to the moderators.

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All of the following are questions I'd like to see asked at one of the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama:

  1. If you were convinced that sending special forces on a mission inside a foreign country would improve national security, but Congress disagreed after deliberating on the matter, and voted to prohibit you from dispatching troops before you had the opportunity to do so, would you disobey the legislature and issue the "go" order anyway? Or would you conclude that you'd been lawfully overruled, even though, in your opinion, canceling the mission would harm national security?
  2. The Constitution states that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Would you each describe in detail what you think "due process" requires specifically? Does it apply to "persons" who are accused of terrorism? 
  3. If an aide to a previous president came to you with clear evidence that his or her boss had broken the law while in office, would you pledge to order an investigation? Would you permit that president to serve time in jail if convicted, or would you pardon him? 
  4. Would you each sketch out your notion of when it is permissible for the federal government to spy on American citizens without a warrant?
  5. The CIA has participated in some horrific abuses in the past that only came to light years after the fact. If you're president in 2013, how would you prevent new abuses from happening on your watch?

The subjects covered reflect my interests. What about yours? Email your suggested questions using the address at the top of this page. I'll assemble the best and present them in an open memo to the moderators. Can we get one on the air? Please put "Debate Questions" in the subject line.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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