The Democratic presidential debate that will be held tonight in Las Vegas promises several things: Attacks on Hillary Clinton by challengers who recognize that she remains the clear front-runner in a race that could be decided in two months, meandering ruminations by CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer that will take up more time than candidate answers and another great one-liner from Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the one candidate who has come to recognize the value of adding genuine comic relief to an otherwise stilted discourse.
But what about the questions? Will there be a further parsing of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles regulations? More inquiries about Halloween costumes and UFOs? Another round of hedge-fund roulette?
Here are some questions that ought to be asked of each of the candidates:
FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Fortune magazine did a cover story with the headline: “Business Loves Hillary!” Your campaign contribution list reads like a Wall Street Rolodex. Your health care plan actually pumps tens of billions of federal dollars into the coffers of existing insurance and for-profit health care firms. If Democrats nominate you, won’t voters next November be left with a choice between two corporate candidates?
FOR BARACK OBAMA: You said when you ran for the Senate in 2004 that you planned to model yourself after U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin. Yet, when Feingold responded to the revelation that George Bush had authorized illegal warrantless wiretapping with a proposal that the Senate censure the president, you chose to stand with Bush rather than with Feingold. Why have you refused to join the man you identified as the conscience of the Senate in moving to rebuke the president for breaking the law?
FOR JOHN EDWARDS: You have sought to position yourself as the candidate of working people and a questioner of corporate excess. Yet, when you served in the Senate, you voted to remove barriers to free trade with China. That was a critical test and there was no mystery about what was at stake. Thousands of workers marched on the Capitol to urge a “no” vote. Labor unions from your own state of North Carolina pleaded with you to vote “no.” And consumer groups warned of the health and safety problems that are now so much in the news. Still, you sided with the corporate lobbyists and the Clinton administration against the interests of workers and consumers. Why, when the lines were so clearly drawn, did you break with the majority of Democrats in Congress to vote with Wall Street?