Everyone is putting out diaries giving advice to Obama.
I'm taking a different tack here, listing ten questions that Mitt Romney needs to be made to answer (if that's possible--I would expect him to try and duck every one of them) tonight. Whether these questions come from the audience, the moderator, or the President, I don't care.
Foreign policy questions are off the table. Many of these questions have a liberal frame, and thus might be characterized as "unfair"; but tough shit. Most of the questions Lehrer asked were the reverse--when he bothered to ask pointed questions at all.
For many voters, the debates are all they know--or care--about the campaigns. Many voters don't watch cable news or read political websites, or read the newspaper. Romney's record needs to be highlighted front and center. Tonight. On live TV.
And one more bit of advice for Obama:, in case the President or his handlers are listening:
Don't talk about green jobs. At all. Green jobs are being outsourced to China just as swiftly as the other kind. If you talk about green jobs I may throw a shoe at the TV. This is an esoteric issue that only excites (or inflames) partisans, and makes you look out of touch in from of an audience that wants any job, and doesn't care if it is green or blue or brown or red. Rant off.
On to the questions, after the orange whatever-it-is.
1. Have you ever been investigated or penalized by the IRS, or any other taxing authority, for tax evasion or tax fraud? If so, what was the outcome of that investigation? Have you ever participated in any taxpayer amnesty programs?
Self-explanatory. Romney's willing to cop to paying a 13% rate, but he's not willing to show us the actual returns; which suggests what is in the returns is far worse than simply getting the carried interest rate.
2. If you were elected President, and the Ryan budget plan passed last year by the US House were to come to your desk, would you sign it?
Romney endorsed the plan last year, and its author is of course his running mate. But recently has backpedaled on the plan and its components--unsurprising, as the plan is politically toxic.
3. You have criticized the President for not being tougher on China; but Bain Capital, which you used to manage and still are a major investor in, continues to close productive US factories and send the jobs off to China and elsewhere, and engaged in much outsourcing while you were still in charge of the firm. What concrete steps would you take as President to discourage outsourcing, especially given that Wall Street continues to believe that it is a lucrative practice?
A good, liberal frame to this question, and a dare to Romney to defend outsourcing. This is one area where he's been rather hypocritical, obviously--Romney's a longstanding free-trader, as are most 1%ers, so his criticism of the President is posturing.
4. You have called for the repeal of Obamacare, and replacement of it with a similar proposal of your own design, that contains many of the same benefits. What are the differences between your plan and ObamaCare? And if the plans are similar, why not simply draft a bill tweaking the current law?
The big problem with "repeal and replace" is that if done separately, "repeal" might get done and "replace" left out to pasture. Health care is one question where Romney has tried to have it both ways.
5. In a recent interview, you defended paying an effective federal income tax rate of about 13%. Much of the middle class pays a higher effective rate than that, and all wage-earners pay payroll taxes, which by themselves amount to 11% of income, if one includes the employer contribution. Do you believe that it is appropriate for high-income individuals to pay a lower effective income tax rate than the working class?
To ferret out "job creator" nonsense.
6. Since the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, there has been quite a bit of public discussion of the so-called 1%, and a defense of the wealthy on the grounds that they are "job creators". Do you believe that entrepreneurs, investors, and financiers are more important to society, and more worthy of public subsidy, then are the working class? Do you believe the wealthy are being mistreated by current government policy, and need to be enticed further to invest in America?
7. Many independent analysts question the arithmetic in your tax plan, claiming that there's no way we can simultaneously cut taxes, maintain programs such as Social Security and Medicare, maintain military spending, and balance the budget; the six studies you frequently cite either lack detail or come from partisan sources. You have not, as of yet, produced any plans sufficiently detailed for analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. How can we evaluate your claims in the absence of detail?
Get arithmetic squarely on the table.
8. Turning to social issues, one of the recent topics this fall is same-sex marriage. The Democratic platform endorses it; you have stated you oppose it, and you have signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to support a Constitutional amendment which would bar same-sex marriage. The Obama Administration has also declined to defend the Defense of America Act in court, claiming it to be unconstitutional. Given that more and more states have legalized it, and recent polls suggest a growing majority of Americans supports same-sex marriage, what is your current position on this topic? Do you continue to support a Federal Marriage Amendment, and would a Romney Justice Department seek to defend DOMA in court?
Probably an easier question for Romney to evade--Romney will probably say something about personal conscience, and disavow support for a FMA (noting that the President does not participate in the amendment pricess). Romney will probably do a "lets talk about the economy". But a wishy-washy response would annoy conservatives, and remind voters of Romney's recent retrograde social positions.
9. Recently, you referred emergency rooms as a suitable way of delivering health care to the uninsured. Yet one effect of RomneyCare was to reduce dependency on the emergency room by poor patients seeking basic care. Do you really think that treatment in the ER is a suitable replacement for preventative care in a doctor's office, given that ER treatment is expensive, often comes to late, and is subsidized by hospitals--who have to raise prices for everyone else to make up for the free care given in the ER?
Highlighting one of Romney's recent gaffes--one he hasn't walked back yet, but hasn't gotten nearly enough play in the press.
10. While governor of Massachusetts, you governed as a liberal, including taking a pro-choice position on the subject of abortion. During the Republican primary campaign, you labelled yourself a "severe conservative", and took hard-right positions on many issues, including the Ryan budget and many social issues. During this past month, however, you have abandoned many of those positions and portrayed yourself as a moderate politician. How would President Mitt Romney govern, and why should we believe what you say today versus what you said in February, or June, or September?