My CNN column proposes ten questions I'd like to see President Obama answer during the debates.
Mitt Romney has had a bad couple of weeks, really a bad month since the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The media spotlight has relentlessly focused on him. But there is an incumbent in the race, too, and an incumbent with a record that also reveals important disappointments, errors and failures.
Over the next month, President Barack Obama will stand on stage beside Romney and submit to press questioning before millions of TV viewers. Here are 10 questions I'd like to hear him answer:
1) More than 50 U.S. and coalition soldiers have been killed so far this year by supposedly friendly Afghan forces. Two Americans were fatally shot just last week by Afghans we trained and equipped. These so-called "green on blue" attacks now account for 14% of all coalition casualties.
In 2009, you ordered 33,000 additional U.S. forces into Afghanistan. Three years later, Afghanistan looks no more stable than it did in 2009. Can you tell us specifically what the Afghan surge accomplished?
2) Campaigning in 2008, you called for tearing down the walls that separated the Muslim world from the West. You granted your first post-inauguration interview to Al Arabiyya television and told the interviewer: "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy." You traveled to Cairo, Egypt, in 2009 to deliver a speech offering "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with the Islamic world.
With the discovery that our ally Pakistan was home to Osama bin Laden, with a 9/11 denialist now elected president of Egypt, with our embassies under attack, with the news only in this past week that an Egyptian schoolteacher was sentenced to six years in prison for postings judged offensive to Islam on his Facebook page and mobs in Bangladesh burning Buddhist temples -- why have your hopes for change been so brutally disappointed?
3) After the lethal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies collected information that the attacks were premeditated and coordinated by elements of al Qaeda in Libya, and timed to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Yet your administration insisted for more than a week that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was sent to five Sunday morning shows to repeat a claim that she -- and you -- had to have known was untrue. The video maker is now under arrest, ostensibly because of parole violations, but pretty obviously for exercising his free-speech rights. Why didn't you just tell the truth to the American people from the start?
4) Can you today guarantee that Iran will not have acquired a nuclear weapon by the time you finish a second term in office?
5) You inherited the worst economic crash since the 1930s. The economy hit bottom in the summer of 2009 and a recovery then began. Congratulations. Yet this recovery has been the slowest and weakest since World War II. Nobody blames you for the collapse. But why shouldn't Americans blame you for the meager record since recovery began more than three years ago?
6) You propose to allow the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 to expire on income above $250,000. That would raise the top rate of federal income tax back to 39.6%. When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, the top rate will rise past 40%, including the new health care surtax. Almost all states collect income taxes of their own, rising nearly to 10% in California and even beyond in Oregon. Do you believe there a percentage level at which the government is taking just too much? What is it?