1. It’s Tuesday, October 18, 2016. It’s 21 days until the election.
2. President Kennedy’s success spawned the rise of “Kennedys” around the world – politicians who were young, charismatic and seemed to have a brain. For generations, anyone who fit that bill was that country’s Kennedy.
Now it seems as though there’s a new model for such a leader – Barack Obama.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau – whose father was spoken of as Canada’s Kennedy – fits the bill as a young, dynamic leader in the mould of our President.
And today, Obama is hosting another one, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. After a day of talks about various issues, the President will host the Prime Minister and his wife at what is likely to be the final state dinner of the Obama administration.
What I’d like to see from this generation of leaders is Obama’s determined effort to attack problems. Admittedly, he didn’t get very far with many of them – we haven’t solved immigration, for instance.
But he tried. If the new generation of Obamas cropping up around the world take on such thorny problems as refugees, climate change and economic inequality, that will be an incredible contribution to civilization.
3. Way back in the spring, when the nominees of both parties were chosen, it was easy to see that this campaign would not focus on issues.
The personality of the Republican candidate made it clear that this would be a third-degree mud sling, especially with such a long-standing target as Hillary Clinton.
This is reflected in the fact that there are so many issues that have either been mentioned in passing or not even mentioned at all in the first two debates.
Too much of those debates have been devoted to Trump’s crisis of the moment or one more effort to get Clinton to say something about the e-mail thing. If it wasn’t for the instantly famous Ken Bone, we wouldn’t have had any discussion at all about energy policy.
So, with only modest hope of success, here are ten things I’d love to see come up tomorrow night in the final debate:
— SOCIAL SECURITY: I can’t remember if the words “Social Security” have even been uttered in three hours of debates. But for a generation of Americans (my hand is raised), this is a big deal. It was announced today that recipients will get a 0.3% raise next year. That’s almost in the “why bother” category. I’d like to hear what the candidates have to say about sustaining Social Security as people my age begin to take it – for instance, should the ceiling on income that’s taxed to pay for the program be raised?
— IMMIGRATION: To Chris Wallace’s credit, he has said this will be a subject area he’ll raise tomorrow night. And, given its prominence in this campaign, it’s a wonder it hasn’t come up before. Make Trump defend his idiotic wall. Make Clinton explain how we’ll deal with those who are without documentation in a humane manner while placating those who believe “illegal immigration” is eroding their lives.
— CLIMATE CHANGE: One candidate has a plan to combat the ravages of it. One candidate says it’s a hoax. It would be better to hear pro-and-con ideas about solutions. If Trump persists on pooh-poohing it, let him say it in front of millions of millennials, who believe this is a make-or-break issue.
— SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Chris Wallace has said he will bring up the Supreme Court in the debate – again, a good call on his part. On this particular issue, you might think last year’s ruling resolved it. But would Trump appoint justices who think they can undo that ruling? Does Clinton believe this issue is resolved, or are there other things that can be done to secure this right?
— INFRASTRUCTURE: Both Clinton and Trump have talked about the need to rebuild the country. But what are their priorities? Highways or improvements in alternative transportation? How would they secure and strengthen the nation’s power grid?
— ISRAEL: For all the discussion about Syria, Iraq and ISIS, we’ve heard very little from the candidates about the linchpin of all Middle East crises. Relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are, to put it mildly, strained. Would either Clinton or Trump deal with the Israeli leadership better? Will either of them push to get a two-state solution to the conflict that has plagued this region for 70 years?
— EDUCATION: Other than Clinton’s focus on free college and student debt, what leads up to college has been largely ignored in this campaign – and certainly in the debates. Trump has indicated his support for an expansion of charter schools. Clinton, who is backed by teachers’ unions, wants stronger public schools. Common Core is a major issue in communities around this country – what do these two think about it?
— ABORTION: Yikes! Other than Mike Pence’s attempt to inflict his beliefs on everyone in the vice presidential debate, this hasn’t come up. There was that interview, which Trump eventually walked back, in which he said women should face a penalty for having an abortion. This is his chance to say what he really thinks should happen. And it’s a way for Clinton to say what should be the argument of abortion rights advocates: No woman grows up wanting to have an abortion, and the ready availability of contraception has helped reduce abortion’s incidence. But the option should be there for women who feel the need.
— CRIMINAL REFORM: This has come up briefly in the discussions about race. But there has been a bipartisan effort to reduce the level of incarceration in this country. How do the candidates feel about this? How do they feel about the use of privately run, for-profit prisons? Do they support President Obama’s effort to offer clemency to people who have committed non-violent drug offenses?
— CONGRESS: Capitol Hill’s hostility to Barack Obama ends, by law, on Jan. 20. Will the House and Senate have the same acrimony for his successor? How will they deal with it? How does Trump expect to work with Congress when the man who’s Speaker of the House -assuming the Republicans retain control – has been the subject of some of his tweet blasts? How does Clinton expect to work with Congress when John McCain – assuming he’s re-elected to his Senate seat from Arizona – says Republicans will block any nominee she makes to the Supreme Court?
Maybe you have other issues that should come up in an honest presidential debate. Alas, our chances of seeing the campaign we wanted went out the window when Trump went down the Trump Tower escalator into his miserable campaign more than a year ago.