Commission on Presidential Debates to Obama and Romney, October 2, 2012

We learned our lesson after McCain was stumped by a (fairly obvious) question about bumper cars.

Dear Candidate,

In the interest of fairness, we like to submit a list of possible questions to candidates in advance of the presidential debate. Here is a list of queries that may or may not be asked on Wednesday night. Keep in mind your responses will need to be under two minutes:

If you had to get rid of one state, what would it be and why?

What Green Day song would make the best new national anthem?

If a train arrived in Tulsa at 2 p.m. traveling at 140 mph, would you go to Tulsa?

What’s your favorite thing about summer?

Which president do you think was secretly a ghost?

Would you trust me around an open package of Oreos?

Which Bond actor best portrayed 007?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Highways: a thing of the past?

What do you think is the future of green energy?

We hope that having a little extra time to think about these question will enhance your answers and give American voters a better opportunity to get to know you.

Best of luck,

Janet H. Brown, Executive Director

Commission on Presidential Debates


One of the hallmarks of American Democracy has been the free and open debate between candidates. From the Federalists and Anti-Federalists to Lincoln-Douglas to Strom Thurmond’s “We don’t need no blacks” fillibuster, America has always thrived on substantive debate. This year’s debates will be no different. Both the Romney and Obama camps have been trying to tamp down expectations, but surveys show that the American people are fully expecting a humdinger.

The questions we received from a friendly email virus infecting Ann Romney’s circa 2000 Windows ME computer show that we should not be disappointed. Though skeptics often claim the debates are nothing more than a soundbite competition, this list of hard-hitting topics should put the question to bed. Who can forget when George W. Bush hammered Al Gore for preferring Roger Moore (specifically “Octopussy”) to Sean Connery? Many critics said the election was won right there.

Of course, candidates have to be wary of gaffes as well. Hubert Humphrey gained a lot of ground on Nixon in ’68 when Nixon said he believed Franklin Pierce was the handsomest former president. More recently, John McCain was roundly criticized for saying the US should bomb India. Even though McCain was referring to a recent game of Civilization III he was playing, most neutral observers said he should have tried to build spaceship parts instead.


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