Did you get all the answers you were looking for during the presidential and vice presidential debates? Very few Americans did.
Imagine a country where citizens collectively own around 300 million guns. It is a place where more than 14,700 people were murdered in 2010. And in this country, over 85,000 people were forcibly raped during that same year. More than six million people are in prison or on criminal supervision. In addition, people who live in this nation endure hundreds of thousands of burglaries, robberies, aggravated assaults and thefts of their vehicles every year. Sounds like a pretty uncivilized country doesn't it?
Well, this is America, folks. These chilling statistics are our statistics. Yet, after four presidential and vice presidential debates, there was barely a word said about crime and justice. Oh, there was one gun question from a woman at the Hempstead, New York Town Hall debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, but neither man really answered undecided voter Nina Gonzalez.
"President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals," Gonzalez asked. "What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?" There was blah-blah from both candidates but no substantive answers.
There have been no debate questions about topics parents worry about every day their children walk out the door: drugs, gang violence, teen suicides or pregnancy, or schools and recreational activities haunted by pedophiles. Nothing was said about the scourge of mortgage or credit card fraud, identity theft, elder abuse or cyber-stalking.
Now, to be fair the candidates can't answer what they aren't asked. While no moderator bothered to ask about crime and justice issues, let's be honest -- the topics haven't been the focus of any of the candidate's stump speeches either. They just haven't been a priority, yet both campaigns say they want to attract women voters. How can they fail to see that these issues go to every mother's heart and soul -- how to keep their loved ones from harm?
To be sure the economy, jobs, health care and international relations are important but those subjects have already been discussed ad nauseam. If you don't know what the candidates think about them you simply aren't paying attention. And, yes, crime rates in America are down from previous years, but does anyone believe we live in a safe and secure country? If you do, please re-read the statistics at the top of this column.
Sometimes I wonder about the tunnel vision of journalists who cover national politics. Did they all grow up in pristine neighborhoods where there was no crime? Has their status covering presidential candidates blinded them from seeing what regular folks have to grapple with? Why do they mostly lob policy-wonk questions? Can't just one of them ask a presidential candidate, for example, to analyze the wisdom of spending tens of billions of dollars a year on overcrowded prisons? Might our tax dollars be better spent? We don't know what the candidates think because no one asks.
There were no follow up questions about guns after Ms. Gonzalez asked about AK-47's. No one bothered to ask Mr. Obama about the current astronomical jump in the murder rate in his adopted home town of Chicago where there have been more than 400 murders so far this year. There were no questions to the candidates about what might be done to help this bloody American battleground or whether either man has a relief plan for cities gripped by such violence.
None of the debates delivered any satisfying answers about our country's lousy immigration policy either. During the second debate they briefly tossed mud on each other's past statements about the topic but neither Obama nor Romney outlined a concrete plan for what we should do with the estimated 12 million people who are in this country illegally, draining our resources and adding to our crime rate.
No moderator asked about relief for border states like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas which have seen illegal immigrants overcrowd their schools and hospital emergency rooms, put a strain on social welfare programs and the judicial system. We already have enough crime in this country, so offenses committed by any one group of people add to the total.
A recent congressional report concluded that of the 47,000 illegal immigrants picked up and then released (between 2008 and 2011) a number went on to commit, "murder, sex crimes, kidnapping, domestic abuse, lynching, stalking and torture," as well as thousands of DUIs and drug violations.
Oh, yeah. One more point. No candidate has talked about what he might do to quell the raging civil war in Mexico where drug-fueled violence has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocents and spills over onto U.S. soil. How about a serious plan to curb America's appetite for the drugs that spark all this death and account for so many of our current prisoners?
This column is not an endorsement of either presidential candidate. Rather, I hope it's a wakeup call for journalists, politicians and political parties. Today's candidates remind me of the old fable about the emperor with no clothes. We see clearly see through them as they spend too much time running for office and not enough time formulating strategies to address the nation's problems.
Still, I'm going to vote on November 6 and I hope everyone reading this does too.
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