Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

10 questions for Obama to answer

By David Frum, CNN Contributor
October 1, 2012 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
President Barack Obama campaigns Sunday at a high school in Las Vegas.
President Barack Obama campaigns Sunday at a high school in Las Vegas.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Frum: President Obama has a record that should be questioned in the debates
  • He says Obama should be asked about results of Afghan surge and "green-on-blue" attacks
  • Frum: Ask about slow economic recovery and what level of taxation he thinks is too high
  • Ask Obama how he would govern differently in second term, Frum says

Editor's note: David Frum is a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of seven books, including a new novel, "Patriots."

Washington (CNN) -- 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.

What questions would you like to ask the candidates? Share a short video question.

David Frum
David Frum

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?

McCain: White House naive or deceitful
Axelrod defends envoy on Libya
Education urged as priority in U.S.

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?

7) You emphasize more college education as the most important way to raise worker wages. Yet even before the Great Recession began, wages were actually dropping for new college graduates. As technology enables the outsourcing of white-collar jobs, too, it's ceasing to be true that a college degree in itself translates into a rising standard of living. Got any other ideas?

8) You've expressed concern about growing wealth disparities in America. One cause of those disparities is the huge surge of low-wage immigration since 1970: almost 30 million newcomers. These newcomers are three times as likely as the native-born to lack a high-school diploma. Even before the Great Recession, they were 50% more likely to be poor than the native-born. The best data show that even the great-grandchildren of low-skill Latino immigrants continue to struggle in the high-tech economy. Your immigration proposals call for granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, creating incentives for more illegal entry in the future and continuing family reunification policies that will maintain our present low-skill immigration intake for years and decades to come. How do you reconcile your immigration proposals with your promise to strengthen the American middle class?

9) Your administration reacted to the financial crisis with an $800 billion fiscal stimulus. You promised that it would create jobs and rebuild American infrastructure. Yet Amtrak's latest plan for the Northeast rail corridor can promise no shortening of travel times until the 2040s. Can you give examples of any real-life improvements to our infrastructure that were achieved by your stimulus? Please be as specific as possible.

10) If you're re-elected in 2012, what hope is there that the next four years will be less acrimonious and ineffectual than the past two? Can you acknowledge any fault at all on your own side for the paralysis in Washington -- and what will you change to try to make your second term less rancorous than your first?

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT