After watching debates, hearing his speeches, and reading Obama's policy visions, many questions remain about how he'd change America. We'd like to see some shot-from-the-hip questions with a few straight answers before we commit to all that hope from a mere mortal, and all that hazy change. Here are just six questions for Obama we hope the MSM will ask him, for a change.
Issue 1: New Brand of Politics
Senator Obama, you promise a new brand of politics to replace the old politics of special interests and lobbyists. One step to fulfill that pledge would be to complete the 2008 Political Courage Test offered by Project Vote Smart, a lengthy questionnaire that asks you to formally state your precise positions on many national issues of the utmost concern to voters. Yet, according to the Project Vote Smart website,
"Senator Barack H. Obama Jr. repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff."
Project Vote Smart and its Political Courage Test exemplify the type of bipartisan effort that you claim to support. According to the organization's history:
"We are scrupulously non-partisan -- our founding board, headed by former presidents Carter and [until his death] Ford, is carefully balanced, and we do not lobby, support or oppose any candidate, issue or cause. To protect the independence and integrity of this Voter's Self-Defense System of information, Project Vote Smart does not accept funding from government or corporate sources, or any special interest group that lobbies. Our sources of support are entirely individual memberships and foundation grants."
- Why would Americans trust someone who promises "change," but who does not trust Americans enough to tell them exactly to what kind of change he is committed?
Issue 2: Education
One goal of your comprehensive education plan for Pre-K to 12 is to "recruit, support, and reward teachers and principals to ensure that every school in America is filled with outstanding educators." You advocate "paying teachers as professionals." According to the National Education Association (NEA) the average teacher's salary in 2005-2006 was $49,026; California has the highest pay at $59,825.
- What will be the role, and cost, of the Federal Government's new direct and indirect involvement in recruiting teachers?
- What do you propose be the new, elevated national average teacher's salary?
- What will be the proportional funding of that increase as sustained by local, country, state, and federal taxing entities?
- What will be the expected increase in federal employment headcount required to establish and maintain the new educational initiatives you propose?
Issue 3: National Defense
Senator Obama, as you know, providing for the common defense of the United States is one of the very few Constitutional requirements placed upon the federal government. Yet, in your Blueprint for Change, out of a list of 15 separate campaign pledges, you list "foreign policy" and "veterans" at the very bottom of the list. At the top of your list, you include "ethics," "healthcare," "seniors," "women," "poverty," and "service," among others. Yet, none of these items can be found in our Constitution.
- Do you intend, if you are elected President, to protect and defend these United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic?
- If your answer is, "yes," will you conscientiously follow your own Blueprint, which implies that you sincerely believe diplomacy to be the best tool for our national defense?
- You have said, "The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough - it makes us look arrogant." Is it your contention, Senator Obama, that the only possible valid reason our current President could have for not sitting down and talking with the Iranians is that we don't like them?
Issue 4: Afghanistan
In the Ohio debate, you stated , "I have been very clear in talking to the American people about what I would do with respect to Afghanistan. I think we have to have more troops there to bolster the NATO effort." You also stated that, "...Secretary Gates, our current Defense secretary, indicated that we are getting resistance from our allies to put more troops into Afghanistan because they continue to believe that we made a blunder in Iraq." Yet, in a January 19, 2007 speech, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, speaking about the NATO mission in Afghanistan, said,
"The Afghan National Army is doing better and better. As we speak four million refugees have gone back to Afghanistan. Health care is up. Child mortality is down. Two-thirds of the villages in Afghanistan have received development projects worth up to $50,000. The average income of the Afghan has doubled since 2001. The currency is stable. Fourteen new banks are competing with each other. Three million Afghans have mobile phones. Forty percent of the Afghan land seeded with mines has been brought back into use. In other words, if you look at 2001 and if you look at the beginning of 2008 a lot has happened and a lot of progress has been made...The problem is that we, the international community, we have no patience."
In addition, Scheffer recently noted that NATO sent an additional 8,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2007. In fact, France and Norway are reported preparing to send troops to participate more aggressively in the NATO mission.
- If you're elected President, how may more U.S. troops will you send to Afghanistan?
- At the tactical level, you were against the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq. Today, though, you favor a surge in Afghanistan for a similar tactical mission. Is this a contradiction?
- In the Ohio debate you acknowledged that, as chairman of Senate subcommittee dealing with Afghanistan since the beginning of 2007, you have not yet called an oversight hearing. If this issue is so important, how do you justify that?
Issue 5: Abortion
Senator Obama, you've told church audiences that you're personally opposed to abortion on religious grounds, but that you feel the necessity, within a pluralistic society, of supporting the legality of a "woman's right to choose." However, on the 35th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision, you issued a statement, which seems to promise more enthusiastic action regarding abortion. In this statement, you boast that you have been a "consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL."
You call a woman's access to abortion-on-demand, including partial-birth abortions, a "fundamental right" that is part and parcel of your plans for "justice." And, you promise that as President, you will "pass the Freedom of Choice Act," which enshrines into law absolute access to all abortions up to the moment of live delivery. You've even opposed Infants Born Alive legislation in Illinois that would protect the life of an infant born breathing, despite the efforts to murder him.
- Do you not consider Planned Parenthood, the number one provider of abortions in the United States, and also a recipient of millions of tax dollars every year, to be a "special-interest lobby" of the very kind which you consistently denounce?
- If you are personally opposed to abortion, why do you feel it necessary to promise to bolster and fight for what you term, "reproductive justice"?
- How does our failure as a society to protect the life of an innocent, even one born "inadvertently," define any sort of justice at all?
Issue 6: Poverty
Part of your Plan to Combat Poverty is to "create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in cities across the nation that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement." You cite the Harlem's Children's Zone (HCZ) as the model. In a 2006 interview aired on CBS News, HCZ's founder, Geoffrey Canada (watch his Oprah interview here) described how the HCZ educates 10,000 children on an annual budget of $36 million, of which a third comes from government and the rest from private donations. In the CBS interview, Canada stated that, "We could not run a school under the current rules and regulations with the unions. It's impossible. It's just impossible. You can't fire teachers. Look, we fired three teachers last year. We fired more teachers than the whole island of Manhattan in all the public schools." Clearly, the HCZ is an example of what one highly-motivated entrepreneur can accomplish with private donations supplemented by government assistance.
- Your plan calls for the federal government to initiate similar "zones" and provide half of the funding, with the rest coming from philanthropies and businesses. Isn't this a fundamentally different model than the HCZ?
- Canada is outspoken about how teacher unions are a hindrance to the type of inner city approach to education that makes the HCZ successful. How would you overcome that hindrance?
- How would your administration convince philanthropies and businesses that investing in a government social program would be as cost effective and offer the same accountability as investing in a NGO?
It's time to ratchet up the intensity level of media questions to Senator Obama. The MSM inquiry has, to date, been more like a Miss America Contest interview than the thorough vetting of a presidential candidate. His puffy responses to debate questions have been accepted at face value. And, among the remaining presidential candidates, he has been the least accessible to the press corps. It's time, now, for reporters to start asking Obama serious questions, as befits serious journalists. I am so outta here...later! Feel free to comment if you so desire.