Tuesday night's face-off between Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore may well decide the outcome of the presidential election. The race is the closest such contest in 20 years, and each candidate is banking on his performance before moderator Jim Lehrer to help pull away from his opponent. But there are a handful of questions that probably won't make the cut during Tuesday's 90-minute showdown. Below are some of the questions we would like to see Bush and Gore answer before the American people.
No. 1: Polls show that Americans support the death penalty, even though they believe innocent people have been executed. If you believed innocent people had been executed, would you still support the death penalty?
No. 2: You both support the war on drugs, which has swelled the American prison population with hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders. Both of you have faced questions about illegal drug use, and the vice president has admitted using illegal drugs. Yet neither of you has faced prison time or arrest. First, how can you be a credible force in the drug war considering your history, and second what will you do to make sure that the force of the law doesn't disproportionately fall on the underprivileged?
No. 3: Name your top five priorities for the continent of Africa, specifying which countries, and what, in precise detail, your plans entail.
No. 4: Both of you have spoken with regret about the perception that candidates have been bought by special interests. But haven't you been part of the problem? Vice President Gore, in retrospect, was it ethical for you to attend a fundraiser at a Buddhist temple? And Gov. Bush, do you regret the Wyly brothers' ads that attacked John McCain in the New York primaries?
No. 5: Gov. Bush, why shouldn't gays and lesbians, like, say, Mary Cheney and her partner, be afforded the same marriage rights as, say, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the same civil rights protections as anyone else? And why do you think gay civil unions would threaten the institution of marriage? Mr. Gore, do you still believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, and are you still planning to apply a litmus test to any prospective chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
No. 6: Both of you, as professed born-again Christians, believe as a matter of faith that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ cannot be saved. Therefore, do you believe that Joseph Lieberman and all other Jews are going to hell?
No. 7: You both offer extensions to entitlement programs that benefit seniors, who already, by a ratio of 10-to-1, receive more government-sponsored aid than children do. How do you justify the difference between the money the federal government spends on seniors and the money it spends on children?
No. 8: Did President Clinton perjure himself in the Monica Lewinsky case? If a jury finds him guilty of doing so, are you willing to pardon him?
No. 9: Gov. Bush, how much carnage would you tolerate in a foreign arena that was not of strategic interest to the United States before you intervened? Would you never intervene? Vice President Gore, under your administration, would American troops be committed to foreign deployments for strictly humanitarian efforts, no matter how disconnected the events in a country were from American interests?
No. 10: Gov. Bush, if you truly believe that every abortion takes an innocent human life, how do you justify avoiding a pledge to do everything possible to overturn Roe vs. Wade immediately after entering office, including putting Supreme Court justices through a litmus test? Mr. Gore, with the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, the House of Representatives voted to outlaw a method of "abortion" that involves delivering a baby pre-term and withholding care until the child dies. Given that the child is no longer physically dependent on the mother, and that other children born at similar points in pregnancy are given extensive medical care, what is the difference between this abortion method and euthanasia or infanticide?
What are the questions you'd like to see asked at Tuesday night's debate? E-mail your questions here.