What Americans Want to Know

A sampling of what a variety of citizens would ask the candidates

With the final presidential debate scheduled Monday, Monitor writers asked a number of people the following question: If you were on a panel during a presidential debate, what is the one question you'd ask President Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot? The most common was: "How will you handle the federal deficit?" Below, other queries.

* Theodore Hoffman, photographer and college instructor, Middletown, Md:

Bush: Several former Reagan officials have challenged your explanation of your role in the Iran-contra affair. Is fudging the truth a family value?

Clinton: What do you think historians will say about how this generation balanced the needs of the environment and the economic needs of people?

Perot: Bush and Clinton have obviously been reluctant to confront the issue of deficit reduction through cutting entitlement programs and raising taxes. Why do you think you can talk about these things when they can't?

* Thomas Crocker, chairman of the economics department, University of Wyoming:

Bush: Given your distrust of command-and-control economies, why is it that you appear to be so susceptible to the pleas of American industries like oil and autos?

Clinton: In spite of all your rhetoric about giving more weight to the private sector, some of your closest advisers - such as economist Robert Reich - indicate they're going to push an industrial policy. What makes you think government can pick winners better than the private sector?

* Daniel Kemmis, mayor of Missoula, Mont.:

All three candidates: What are you prepared to do to return power to those levels of government which actually show some chance of being able to govern? What are you prepared to do to put the federal government out of business?

* Bob Simeone, president of a mortgage company and father of 3-year-old, from Seattle:

Bush: What has compelled you, an opponent of big government, to expand the White House staff by 24 percent in the last four years?

Perot: Do you think companies supplying or providing goods and services to the federal government are realizing excess profits? If so, how do we prevent these problems in the future?

* Edith Smith, retired elementary school principal, Washington, D.C.:

All three candidates: What happened in your experience, other than money, that you feel is missing in today's educational opportunities for children? What programs would you introduce to excite today's children about education?

* Nick Dierman, 14-year-old, Potomac, Md.:

Bush: Why are you so hard on Clinton about the draft when some of your own kids haven't served [in the military] and Dan Quayle didn't go to Vietnam?

Perot: Why did you come back in the middle of the season after you stranded your supporters by withdrawing in July?

* W. Scott Simmons, banker, New York:

Bush: Other than agreeing to raise taxes in 1990, what other decision(s) from the last four years would you like to undo?

Clinton: When we all agree that economic growth and creating private sector jobs are the most important issues facing the country, why should we elect a president with no business experience?

* Marybel Villanueva, administrative assistant, New York:

Bush: What do you have to offer voters who believed in you and are now indecisive about giving you another chance?

Clinton: Isn't your total lack of foreign policy experience a handicap in a world where, despite the end of the cold war, there are still 50 wars raging?

Perot: What can you say to your supporters who ask if you will drop out of the race again?

* Robert Millican, real estate broker in Bloomington, Ind.:

Clinton: Given your decisions on tax and spending increases, will the US go back to the days of higher interest rates and higher inflation?

Perot: How can you assure us that you are able to be patient with the democratic process and allow it to make decisions?

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