John Kerry and George Bush have been well-coached for their three debates, the first one being Thursday. But who's coaching the journalists who will ask the questions? Here are important questions that may not be asked, but should be:
Q: How would you curb the Islamic extremism that motivates many Muslims to become terrorists?
Why it matters: Focusing mainly on the military fight against terrorism doesn't deal with root causes. And democratizing the Middle East by setting Iraq as an example could take years, if that works at all. More can be done to rally Muslims to assert Islam's peaceful principles.
Q: If the military advised you that the US needs a draft, would you resist it or accept it?
Why it matters: The war on terrorism could require even more troops. Voters, especially parents, need to know your stand on the draft.
Q: Could you not find one woman or one minority who could qualify to be your vice-presidential nominee?
Why it matters: Many other democracies have already crossed this threshold. Bold leadership in the White House begins with bold leadership in picking a running mate.
Q: Reducing carbon dioxide emissions requires technological solutions as well as economic sacrifice to pay for those solutions. How much sacrifice would you allow to achieve a CO2 reduction in the US?
Why it matters: Global warming may be caused in part by human activity. The US can't risk being wrong on climate change that could hit its economy and disrupt lives.
Q: Do you think the US must help create a Palestinian state as part of a strategy to reduce anti-US feelings in the Middle East?
Why it matters: Al Qaeda and its ilk might still exist even with peace between Israel and a Palestinian state. But they'd likely find fewer recruits.
Q: Ever more clever political tactics have snarled governance. Talk about bipartisanship is easy. What would you do about it?
Why it matters: Big debts hang over taxpayers, from Social Security to Medicare. A president requires congressional cooperation to solve these problems.
Q: Your healthcare proposals would cover more of the uninsured but may not stop spiraling healthcare costs. What would you do about that?
Why it matters: The US can't afford medical care at the pace of price rises. Expanding coverage is only a partial step.
Q: Would you nominate US Supreme Court justices who only see eye to eye with you on abortion and Roe v. Wade?
Why it matters:This issue so divides the nation that's it worth trying to pick justices who can fairly and wisely apply the Constitution without passing a single political litmus test.
Q: Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, was recently refused entry to the US. He says he was a victim of "profiling." In general, do you support some infringement of civil liberties in order to protect the public?
Why it matters: The questioning and detaining of people based on criteria like religion and race can easily be taken too far during a time of war.
Q: This presidential campaign is close to being the most negative on record. Would you tell your staff, or groups running ads in your favor, to avoid attack ads?
Why it matters: Presidential contenders have a special role to provide moral leadership against the corrosive use of distorting, pea-shooting ads that only hurt democracy.
Q: Much of the soft money that went into political campaign coffers now is going into various independent groups known as 527s. How would you curb this problem?
Why it matters: Government shouldn't be oriented toward the interests of big donors. Limiting political groups to small donations would help prevent the hijacking of US policy by wealthy interests.
Q: Should Ralph Nader have been in these debates?
Why it matters: If he can qualify for many state ballots, then his views should be heard in this forum.