Questions For The Presidential Candidates

Conor Friedersdorf lists eleven questions that should be asked of the candidates for President:

1) Does the president possess the power to order American citizens killed so long as he or she first declares them enemy combatants? Is it legal for the Obama Administration to kill Anwar al-Awlaki?

2) Is the war in Libya legal? What is your understanding of the president’s war powers? Absent an attack on America or the imminent threat of one, will you pledge to clear all wars with Congress?

3) If a suspected terrorist is captured by the United States, is it morally and legally permissible to interrogate him by strapping him down, covering his nose and mouth, and pouring water over those cavities to simulate the sensation of drowning?

4) Should the FBI be required to get permission from a judge before it puts a tracking device on the car of an American citizen? Should a warrant be required to listen to an American citizen’s phone calls or to request information from their bank, phone company or Internet service provider?

5) If a CIA or FBI agent tortures a detainee in American custody should he or she be prosecuted for it?

6) Does an American accused of plotting a terrorist attack enjoy the same due process rights as citizens accused of other crimes?

7) In fighting terrorism, what are the limits of executive power? How do the judiciary and the legislature check the war powers of the president?

8) Is the Obama Administration abusing the state secrets privilege?

9) Has the Obama Administration claimed any executive power that you think is unconstitutional? Be specific.

10) Since being signed into law has the PATRIOT Act ever been abused? If so, how? When was it last abused? And what will you do to prevent future abuses?

11) Should the American people assume that its government won’t abuse power in the name of fighting terrorism? If so, why? If not, how should elected and appointed officials be monitored to prevent abuses?

All of these questions revolve, obviously, around the questions of Executive Branch power that we’ve been dealing with since the Bush Administration, and I agree with Conor that everyone running for President should answer these questions. Of course, so should President Obama considering that he has acted in direct contradiction to the ideas he expressed on the campaign trial during his 2 1/2 years as President when it comes to issues like Presidential signing statements and the use of military force.

Conor says he’ll republish any responses he gets from the candidates, and personally I would hope that we see these questions directed to the candidates who show up to the next Presidential debate on June 13th in New Hampshire. Given how craven and vapid the media has become, though, I anticipate it’s more likely that the candidates will be asked the “boxers or briefs” question than that they will be asked a question that requires them to give a substantive answer.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ken says:

    Those seem unfairly specific, substantive, and meaningful to me.

  2. legion says:

    And not the slightest bit rigged to encourage criticism of the current President for doing things they applauded in the last one…

  3. ej says:

    well i won’t be betting on him getting any response

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What really would be interesting is how Rambobama’s teleprompter would respond to those questions. For the obvious reason that based upon his own actions on virtually every stated topic Rambobama is in total lock-step with George W. Bush. Ironic, huh?

  5. Kevin Delaney says:

    Just getting a coherent answer to #6 would be a miracle.

  6. MM says:

    This doesn’t lend itself to sound bites or platitudes about freedom. I would love to see them all used, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

  7. Jay Tea says:

    legion, it ain’t the author’s fault that Obama’s actions lend themselves quite well to actual real-world examples, and don’t force him to come up with interesting hypotheticals.


  8. Ben says:

    The presidential candidates would tell you what kind of panties and sex toys they like before answering any of these questions on the record.