Alaska's three-way race for the U.S. Senate makes great political theater. But it's also the serious business of representative democracy, and in this season of questions for our candidates, Alaskans would love to hear specific answers.
And if Joe Miller, Lisa Murkowski or Scott McAdams don't have specific answers? Then a thoughtful, honest "I don't know" would be refreshing -- and a lot more convincing than general rambling or an answer that ignores the question.
• Offshore drilling: Alaska's congressional delegation has been unanimous in support for offshore drilling in arctic waters; Shell is pressing hard for a green light for 2011. What would you do from the Senate to open the way to drilling in 2011? What safeguards will you seek from Shell, other companies or the feds?
• Gas line: The long-sought project has finished one open season for bids and is still in another. We talk about "milestones" on the way to a gas line. But what are the real prospects for such a line? Give us a straight, no-nonsense assessment. What will you do to speed the process? Can you do anything more at the federal level while the current AGIA (Alaska Gasline Inducement Act) plays out? Do you favor an all-Alaska line? Why?
• Tax cuts: Congress may wait until after the election to decide on whether and/or how to extend the Bush tax cuts. Where do you stand? Should the tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans? If so, where do you draw the line?
• War in Afghanistan: It struck home again last week when two more Alaska-based soldiers were killed. Do you support the current strategy -- surge of 30,000 more troops and counterinsurgency tactics? Do you believe we're winning? How do you define victory? Should we have a deadline for pulling out? Why or why not?
• Health care: The president's health care insurance reform bill passed last spring has been a campaign issue -- especially now that some of its provisions are taking effect and some health insurance costs have risen. What's your position on health care reform? Repeal? If so, what would you propose as an alternative? Amend? How would you amend it?
• Gridlock: Alaskans and other Americans are increasingly fed up with gridlock in Congress. What would you do to break the stalemate, which is particularly strong in the Senate? Can you reach across the aisle to help solve some of the nation's problems?
Alaskans need specific answers to these questions. If the candidates aren't sure of the answers, they can at least tell us how they're thinking about these problems. Give us substance.
BOTTOM LINE: Our Senate candidates owe us straight, specific and realistic answers on questions important to Alaska and the rest of the country.