Should women be drafted or serve in combat? Should English be the nation’s official language? Should judges interpret laws according to the Constitution or contemporary values? Should there be any restrictions on abortion? Does the Second Amendment guarantee the right of individual citizens to own guns? Should marriage law be defined by the courts or by legislatures?
These are some of the questions that have not yet been raised in the presidential debates and which could prove helpful in revealing the candidates’ character and worldviews.
Presidents often have greater influence on social policy and cultural values than they have on economic policy, so Obama’s and McCain’s positions on moral issues matter.
Their character matters as well. How do they respond under pressure? Will they stick by their principles at the risk of alienating some voters, or will they fudge their answers? As CMI determined in our recent special report, “Character” the Most Important Issue in the Presidential Primary Debates, the questions that reveal the most about character are those that put candidates on the spot. The most useful questions, the “hardballs,” bring up sensitive policy issues or force candidates to address unflattering background information.
The responsibility for teasing out the candidates’ values and character in Wednesday’s concluding presidential debate falls on debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS. Given the Face the Nation host’s biased performance during the campaign thus far, the prospect of Schieffer asking the questions is hardly reassuring.
Reporting on the “Palin bounce” in the polls following the GOP convention in September, Schieffer said GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is McCain’s “Geritol.” Schieffer was only warming up.
During Face the Nation on Sunday, Oct. 6, Schieffer described the McCain campaign as “down and dirty.” He called Palin an “attack dog” for saying Obama “palled around with terrorists.” Schieffer even hurled the nastiest insult in the liberal media lexicon, comparing McCain/Palin to Nixon/Agnew. He’s made no comparable criticism of the Obama campaign.
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