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
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT