Before the second presidential debate, the Washington Post's Erik Wemple wrote a lengthy blog post specifically requesting that moderator Candy Crowley do one thing: ask Barack Obama and Mitt Romney about drones. He noted that the topic, though it has become a major flashpoint for civil libertarians and one of the leading symbols of Obama's foreign policy, had barely come up during the years of campaigning that constituted the 2012 election cycle.
"Ask Obama how he justifies the civilian casualties caused by the attacks," Wemple wrote. "Ask Romney if he’d intensify, maintain or ramp down the Obama administration’s targeted-killing campaign. In either case, the responses would likely break news."
It didn't happen. Now, there is an even more pertinent opportunity for Wemple's wishes to come true: the third and final presidential debate, which focuses entirely on foreign policy. Once again, people are calling on moderator Bob Schieffer to ask about drones, and President Obama's so-called "kill list," in the debate.
ABC's Martha Raddatz, who moderated the vice-presidential debate, told Foreign Policy that drones would be at the top of her list if she was moderating Monday's debate:
I'd have a lot of questions about drones. Who should these decisions be up to? Would anything change on the drone policy if Romney and Ryan were elected? How would they view the question of who to strike or not to strike -- without judicial process? And do drones produce more enemies or do they reduce the threat enough that it balances out?
Writing in Esquire, Tom Junod proposed a question about one of the most controversial drone-related decisions of Obama's presidency:
"President Obama, just over a year ago an American drone killed a 16-year-old American citizen named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Despite your personal involvement in America's targeted killing programs, you have never acknowledged nor addressed the circumstances of his death. How do you justify such secrecy under the United States Constitution and do you, Governor Romney, also believe that such secrecy is justified?"
He predicted the question would not be asked.
There's even a (small) petition asking Schieffer to raise the issues.
It is a topic that the president has rarely been asked about, especially in large mainstream settings. His sharp back-and-forth with a local reporter about the issue in September was notable as much for its happening at all as for what Obama said.
Schieffer has promised to ask about "America's role in the world," "Our longest war — Afghanistan and Pakistan," "Red Lines -- Israel and Iran," "The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism," and "The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World." Critics have noted the heavy emphasis on the Middle East, but there is ample opportunity for drones to be brought up within the parameters of the topics.