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Debate Questions For Gilmore And Warner

When former governors Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner square off in the Virginia U.S. Senate debate at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning, the questions will undoubtedly focus on some obvious topics--the troubled economy, the war, the housing crunch, maybe even immigration.

And the candidates are likely to be asked about the presidential race in Virginia and its impact on their own efforts to succeed Sen. John Warner.

The debate, which will air live on News Channel 8, is the only face-to-face meeting of the campaign that we know will be televised in the Washington area. After much back-and-forth, Warner has now agreed to another debate, Oct. 3 in Roanoke, but it is not yet clear whether any Washington-area station will pick up that broadcast.

I had a list of questions I was going to ask Warner and Gilmore, but last week, three months after the Chamber asked me to be one of the panelists at the debate, I was disinvited, at the request of one of the candidates, according to a Chamber executive. The Chamber would not confirm which candidate objected to my presence, but other sources confirmed it was the Gilmore campaign. (Funny, when the Chamber executive asked me to guess which side had bounced me, I figured it would be Warner, who tends to be unusually cautious about contact with reporters.)

I'd like to see the candidates asked if they would kindly explain the current Wall Street crisis and its roots--not as a gotcha question, but as a way to see how they think about the economy and whether they can do what few journalists have accomplished this week: Lay out in clear, simple terms the relationships among all these moving and struggling parts of our economy. After all, if they can't explain the problem to their constituents, how can they begin to sell any solutions they might support?

Questions that seek to push the candidates away from the easy sloganeering of the campaign trail are usually the most fruitful. Warner delivers a detailed proposal for a new energy policy on his web site, but he offers just three sentences there on the Iraq war, saying only that he favors "a responsible plan - without artificial timelines."

Shockingly, Gilmore's issues page does not mention the war--not a word. The top five issues on Gilmore's site are "Protecting the Second Amendment" (guns), "Illegal Immigration," "Energy Independence," "Protecting the Taxpayers," and "Preserving Traditional Values" (abortion and marriage.)

By contrast, Warner's top five are "Energy Policy," "Health Care," "The War," "Being Competitive," and "Improving Our Nation's Infrastructure."

I'd like to hear the candidates on the topic of Virginia's demographic shift toward more Democratic voting and what it means for the state's politics and for basic attitudes toward state and federal spending and taxing.

Both of these guys, hard as it may be to believe at this point, were at one point candidates for president this year. At the Republican convention last month, when Gilmore was asked why he was there and not campaigning back home, said this: ""I have a national following. I'm a national leader. People expect me to be here." He really said that.

Warner, who delivered an underwhelming keynote address at the Democratic convention, is an Obama supporter, but he made some comments at the convention about the fact that he has to remain cognizant of the fact that lots of Virginians will be voting McCain-Warner in November. Is the Senate candidate moderating his positions in this campaign to appeal to those Republicans and independents? How?

And what does Gilmore really think of McCain, who during the 2000 Virginia Republican primary called McCain "angry and divisive," boasting that the candidate's Straight Talk Express "ran out of gas in Virginia"?

What questions would you pose to Gilmore and Warner if you were on Thursday's debate panel?

By Marc Fisher |  September 17, 2008; 4:07 PM ET
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"Saturday, March 12, 2005 In a vote of 74-25 last Thursday, the US Senate passed a measure that would change bankruptcy laws, making it harder for individuals seeking relief from their debt burden to avoid repayment. Almost twenty Democrats joined Republicans, who currently hold a majority of the seats in the US Senate, in passing the bill.

Lobbyists for credit card companies and financial services firms have worked for the bill during the last two administrations."

When I asked Jim Moran about this bill he told me "This is only keeping rich people from protecting their vactaion home". I told him he was wrong.

My question would be - "Now that it is clear that this bill is hurting every American, causing many to lose thieir one and only home due to UN-SECURED Credit Card LOANS, would you recind this law and draft a new law that protects a citizens right seek the same bankruptcy protections as the Governmnet applies to Wall Street?

I am of the opinion that every politician that voted for this bill should be run through a wood chipper. Twice.

Posted by: mds | September 17, 2008 11:01 PM

Maybe I've just been reading the wrong news, but this is the first coverage I've seen in this race for a while. Anyway, you wanted questions, here you go:

1) Do you think free trade is a good thing for the economy?

2) At this point, what would success in Iraq look like, and how likely is that result?

3) If a hypothetical bill came up for a vote, and the best interest of the country as a whole would be a Yea vote, and the best interest of Virginia would be Nay, which way would you vote?

4) What would the appropriate level of oversight be of the president's national security programs? Would you involve the courts if you weren't given the access you request? How would you characterize the oversight of national security programs during the past 7 years?

5) What should the government's role in our health care system be?

Posted by: Ugh | September 17, 2008 11:44 PM

Excuse me Marc why were was your leftist socialist chosen as a panelist in the first place? You dont live in VA. My suggestion stop whining like your favorite drag queen who just put a run in his $50 panthose!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 6:44 AM

How do you feel about Mnadatory Spray Neuter legislation moving through various
state legislatures and pushed by the terrorists at PETA and HSUS?

My property and govt needs to stay out of my life.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 6:45 AM

As neither of you has been a legislator, what qualities would you bring to being one of a hundred in a mainly deliberative body?

Posted by: Book Guy | September 18, 2008 6:55 AM

The one sided liberal media will no doubt be unfair again!

Posted by: Honest | September 18, 2008 7:22 AM

Amrk Warner would make a better presidential candidate then Obama, Biden, Mccain and Palin. He has more experience then all of them combined. And I dont want hear about Biden's years in the Seante. What has he accomplished besides running his mouth for long periods of time?
And chasing young males on the hill!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 7:29 AM

Why Gilmore thinks the Nation knows or wants him is beyond me. VA doesn't want him either. Also, his traditional values tell me that I am not a person, a citizen, a child of his god. BULL

Posted by: ksgolfer | September 18, 2008 8:18 AM

You can see the debates, at the debate data base.,

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 10:18 AM

What is your position on the Alternative Minimum Tax?

What is yur position on stem-cell research?

Some good questions were previously that I hope are asked.

Posted by: BDWESQTM | September 18, 2008 11:02 AM

I second the comments of mds, and think that the candidates should be asked about the personal bankruptcy legislation as a follow-up to the request to explain the subprime-credit-liquidity meltdown. the slant should be this: if the government is willing to bail out corporations, should it not also be willing to rescind the additional bankruptcy burdens it imposed on individuals in the referenced legislation.

As for the comments of Anonymous, it's obvious that society would have been spared a lot of grief if his mother had been spayed.

Posted by: Sasquatch | September 18, 2008 11:11 AM



Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 2:03 PM

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