Next week's presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could determine the outcome of the election. As polls show Trump leading in some swing states and closing the gap in others, it appears the only burden he must overcome is the one Ronald Reagan shared, looking presidential enough that voters trust him with so much power.
The way these debates have usually gone in the past is that the Republican candidate is asked about abortion, gay rights and other social issues and the Democratic candidate is asked about subjects that appeal to a wider range of voters.
Lester Holt, the "NBC Nightly News" anchor, will moderate the first debate. Here are some questions he should ask:
- For Clinton: You once supported traditional marriage, but now favor same-sex marriage. Polygamists now want to be next in line to receive legal and cultural approval. Do you oppose polygamy, and if so on what basis? If elected president, how would we know you wouldn't change your mind on this issue? Follow-up: What is your standard for defining right from wrong?
- For Trump: You were pro-choice, you said, until you heard about a baby that was going to be aborted, but wasn't. You called the child a "total superstar." Do you have a utilitarian view of human life — that a baby is only valuable if it grows up to be a superstar — or is every life valuable?
- For Clinton: You said you would have a "bunch of litmus tests" for Supreme Court nominees, including requiring potential nominees to have a commitment to preserving a woman's right to an abortion. Would you overlook qualified candidates because they oppose abortion?
- For Clinton: You appear to have an interventionist foreign policy record. What is your standard for sending American forces into battle, especially in the Middle East where nothing ever seems to get resolved? Follow-up: In one of your emails you praise Sidney Blumenthal's son, Max, for his virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments, favoring the dismantling of the State of Israel. Since Israel's enemies have also vowed to destroy the only democracy in the Middle East and one of the United States' few allies in the region, as president, would you support the Jewish state or demand that it give up more land to Palestinians when the land it has already relinquished has brought it no closer to peace?
- For Trump: Many voters are worried about your praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who routinely behaves like the KGB agent he once was. Putin has invaded and occupied territories, censored the news and been accused of murdering his opposition. Why do you admire his leadership? Should you become president, what do you think your public praise of Putin will accomplish that will be in America's interests? Follow-up: Under what circumstances would you use military force against Russia or our enemies in the Middle East?
- For both candidates: North Korea is developing nuclear weapons that will fit on top of missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Would you authorize a missile defense system able to shoot down North Korean missiles, despite China's opposition to such a system?
- For Clinton: The federal government took in record amounts of tax money in 2015 — $3.18 trillion — but the debt is approaching $20 trillion, and you want to spend more. Why won't you propose cutting programs that aren't working?
- For Trump: What agencies and programs would you eliminate or reform?
Public interest for the debates will be at Super Bowl level. These and similar questions would produce the information undecided voters need to cast their votes wisely.
The future of this country hangs in the balance.
John Calvin "Cal" Thomas is a syndicated columnist, pundit, author, and radio commentator. He has written extensively about political issues and he supports, among other things, many American positions related to Israel. Thomas has written many books, including "Blinded By Might," which deals with the role of the Moral Majority in American politics of the 1980s. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.