10/22/2012 01:56 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

Foreign Policy Debate: Give Us Gravitas, Not Gotchas

Tonight's debate should feature gravitas, not gotchas if we are going to truly assess our current and aspiring commander in chief. Foreign policy debates aren't about standing or grandstanding on a world stage but keeping Americans safe and advancing U.S. interests.

President Obama has already proven himself with the disruption of terror plots, prosecution of the wars and the killing of Osama bin Laden, so beyond criticizing the commander in chief, Governor Romney must say what and how he would do better.

When it comes to the Libya attacks of 9/11/12, we need to take this debate to higher ground. Don't regurgitate the gotchas from last week -- place the vision and values personified in Ambassador Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, plus so many in our military intelligence and diplomatic service, front and center. In 15 days one of these candidates will be elected responsible for the most somber decisions anyone is called to make, so addressing them with gravitas is vital this evening.

I attended the San Francisco community memorial service for Ambassador Chris Stevens, where we witnessed moving tributes by friends and family and recollections of a modern day Renaissance man. Mr. Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the United States, stood up and gave a heartfelt apology: "We're very sorry. You sent us one of your best diplomats, but unfortunately, we were unable to protect him," he said, calling Stevens a friend and hero.

For many who share Stevens' Bay Area roots, the loss of this fine diplomat was tempered by great pride in his work to inspire peacemakers to public service and to help revolutionaries fight for freedom and democracy.

In that spirit, as we await the Pickering report on the facts surrounding the 9/11/12 attacks in Libya, tonight's foreign policy debate should feature the following:

1. Under what circumstances do we risk blood and treasure in Libya, Syria and Iran?

2. What budget priorities keep our consular officials safe at our embassies? Will we give state what it requests or cut that amount as the Republican Congress did?

3. If we have actionable intelligence on the perpetrators of these attacks, can we go into Libya and pursue them with or without the Tripoli government as Obama got Osama in Pakistan? Or are facts different here and, if so, why?

4. When will our combat troops be home from Afghanistan and why?

Those are the questions that our military, intelligence and diplomatic corps and their loved ones are asking themselves every day -- questions for which we expect answers tonight.