If I Could Only Moderate a Presidential Debate

For the most part, we know where the candidates stand on day-to-day issues, but we haven't heard much on homeland security issues, or public safety for that matter.


In 1992, I served at the U.S. Department of Labor as a special assistant to the Secretary of Labor. My job was to accompany the Secretary around the county to events, both official and political in nature, providing whatever assistance was needed to help her prepare for the events. As the presidential election drew near, we were attending a number of political events. The one I remember most was the Vice Presidential Debate between Vice President Dan Quayle, Senator Al Gore and Admiral James Stockdale.

The moderator of the debate was a journalist named Hal Bruno. As a political junkie at the time, I knew of Mr. Bruno but only in his role as a journalist, not as a firefighter. He was a straight shooter who never revealed his political affiliation by the types of questions he would ask. (Today, you can easily determine the political bias of a moderator usually after the first question asked). Hal's questions were direct and substantive. I recall thinking at the time what it would be like to be a moderator of a major political debate, posing questions to the candidates that would force them to go beyond the political rhetoric and offer substantive answers on policy issues.

Here we are, it's 2008 and it looks like I won't be able to fulfill my Walter Mitty fantasy. Instead, Chris Mathews, George Stephanopoulos, Charlie Gibson and a select group of political commentators are denying me my dream. But if the call were to come from any of the major networks, I would have my list of questions ready.

For the most part, we know where the candidates stand on the broad issues of the economy, health care, the environment and foreign policy. But we haven't heard much on homeland security issues, or public safety for that matter. I have yet to hear any of the candidates talk specifically about addressing the ongoing challenges of our nation's fire service. That would change if I were given that one golden opportunity to moderate a debate. After starting the debate with questions about funding for the FIRE Act and SAFER, I would roll up my sleeves and begin a line of questioning that would reveal the candidates philosophies with respect to the relationship between the federal government and the fire service. Here's my list.

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