Wednesday night’s kickoff seemed to confirm those concerns. An aging Jim Lehrer let the candidates interrupt him and trample time limits, while neglecting to ask probing questions or follow ups. The result was a debate where the domestic policy issues left untouched proved just as important as the small patch of ground the candidates covered.
Here’s a list of five minority journalists who might have raised issues important to Americans left out of Wednesday night’s debate.
Immigration is one of the country’s most explosive domestic issues. Lehrer didn’t raise the topic and neither candidate volunteered an opinion. The omission comes not more than 24 hours after GOP nominee <a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/romney-dials-back-acceptance-of-obama-immigration-program/" target="_hplink">Mitt Romney confirmed he would discontinue</a> President Obama’s order to exempt most people who came here illegally as children from deportation. Romney’s not the only one who needs to face questioning about immigration. Why has Obama, a vocal advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, set a new record for deporting the most people for each year he’s served in office? Would either candidate reform the trend toward prison privatization that has made <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-02/immigration-prison/56689394/1?bctid=1766833420001" target="_hplink">immigrant detention a multi-billion dollar industry</a>? The <a href="http://www.futuromediagroup.org/lusa/">host of Latino USA</a> and director of PBS' <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/lost-in-detention/" target="_hplink">“Lost in Detention”</a> wouldn’t have let immigration get swept under the rug. (Neither would Jorge Ramos or Maria Elena Salinas, who hosted <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/opinion/the-candidates-face-hispanic-voters.html">individual forums with the candidates</a> for Univision earlier this month.)
Remember when U.S. Rep. Todd Aikin (R-Mo.) rocked the political world with his comments about “legitimate rape?” At least 24 states legislatures have <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-04-25/states-anti-abortion-legislation/54538866/1" target="_hplink">passed laws restricting abortion</a> over the last two years, while a controversy rages over whether the government should fund organizations that provide reproductive health coverage. (Romney said in March he would <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/mitt-romney-planned-parenthood_n_1343450.html" target="_hplink">“get rid” of Planned Parenthood</a>.) Yet the subject didn’t merit a mention Wednesday night by Lehrer’s reckoning. Gwen Iffel, who <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/articles/its-free-country/2012/sep/27/first-woman-moderator-men-given-favored-debates/" target="_hplink">moderated the vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008</a>, surely would have brought the issue up.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United changed the U.S. electoral landscape. The proliferation of super PACS and 501(c)4 organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors will help push the cost of this election cycle near a <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/08/2012-election-will-be-costliest-yet.html" target="_hplink">record-setting $6 billion</a>, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But campaign finance reform didn’t become a subject for debate. And while the candidates debated Wall Street regulation and the value of the Dodd-Frank reform, no one touched the issue of predatory lending that played a major role in the foreclosure disaster forced 4 million families from their homes, according the <em>New York Times</em>. Would <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec12/bailouts_09-14.html" target="_hplink">PBS News Hour senior correspondent Ray Suarez</a> have broached those topics?
Obama plugged his education plan “Race to the Top” during Wednesday night’s debate, but no one pressed him to explain the program’s role in sparking a <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/b-cs-chicago-teacher-strike-evaluation-system-looms-201903517.html" target="_hplink">massive teacher’s strike on the president’s political home turf of Chicago</a> this month. Romney said he favored a voucher system and wanted to grade schools so parents could shop around for alternatives. But who would end up in the best and worst schools in a system that is <a href="http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/reviving-the-goal-of-an-integrated-society-a-21st-century-challenge/orfield-reviving-the-goal-mlk-2009.pdf " target="_hplink">more segregated today than in the 1960s</a>? <br>The host of CNN’s morning program Starting Point wouldn’t have let the candidate’s off the hook without engaging them in a <a href="http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/05/soledad-o%E2%80%99brien-reports-on-students%E2%80%99-fight-to-get-the-education-needed-to-compete-in-the-global-marketplace/" target="_hplink">pointed discussion about inequality in the public education system</a>.
This year’s <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-08-14/unproductive-congress-not-passing-bills/57060096/1?csp=usattumblr" target="_hplink">Congress was the least productive since 1947</a>, according to <em>USA today</em>. Yet congressional gridlock didn’t become a topic of conversation at Wednesday’s debate. Instead, the candidates lobbed accusations at one another without parsing from the moderator. Obama faulted Romney of playing to his strident conservative base, while Romney lashed out at Obama for ramming his health care law through congress without Republican support. Who’s more correct? And who has a better chance of overcoming D.C. gridlock? <a href="http://www.cnn.com/CNN/anchors_reporters/johns.joe.html " target="_hplink">CNN’s congressional correspondent Joe Johns</a> likely would have prodded the candidates further. --- Photo: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum speaks after a campaign stop at Mary Ann's Diner as Joe Johns of CNN (R) asks a question January 9, 2012 in Derry, New Hampshire. Republican candidates have one final day of campaigning before New Hampshire holds its first in the nation primary tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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