As the poet Robert Burns once reminded us, the best laid plans are simply those: plans. In politics, plans are always changing to accommodate a political reality that in the information age can shift directions faster than a wildfire. This was certainly true on Sept. 26 during the first presidential debate of the 2008 general election. The forum was supposed to have been focused on foreign policy, but the first third or more of the meeting necessarily focused on the worsening news from America’s financial sector and what Washington should or could do to fix its problems.
The red-hot news cycle means that there is even more reason to make sure that in the remaining debates voters have some opportunity to see not only the candidates’ responses to the press of events, but also their personal philosophies, the underlying political principles that will guide their decisions as president. To that end, America’s editors recently presented ten sets of questions on foreign policy for the consideration of the moderators and candidates. Below are ten similar sets of questions focused on domestic concerns. The next meeting between the candidates on October 7 will be conducted in a “town hall” format, the topics chosen at random by the citizen-questioners. The final debate on October 15 will be a moderated forum with questions from journalists on domestic policy. At least, that is the current plan.
1. Both of you have spoken of greed as one cause of the current financial crisis. In your judgment what is the difference between greed and a morally legitimate pursuit of profits in a capitalist system?