We wouldn't presume to tell NBC's Tom Brokaw what he should ask of Barack Obama when the president-elect appears on Meet the Press for (almost) the full hour on Sunday.
But there are 10 questions that we'd like to pose to President-elect Obama, which we humbly submit to you, dear readers (the ranks of which we hope include Mr. Brokaw and Betsy Fischer, "Meet's" longtime executive producer).
1) “Are you going to get off the sidelines before you're sworn in and, if not, what do you say to those in your own party who are waiting for you to show some leadership?”
Employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, home foreclosure rates in the third quarter were up 76% from a year ago, retail sales are the worst in 35 years and the nation's Big Three automakers are pleading for a bailout, or will likely go into bankruptcy. In short, the country is facing its greatest economic challenge in decades and perhaps since the Great Depression.
Yet Obama, still over a month from being sworn in as president, finds himself in an interregnum where his public pronouncements (or even leaks - see Geithner, Timothy F., appointment of) can move markets, but he has no actual governing power. Fearing the obvious dangers inherent to being assigned responsibility without authority, Obama has shied away from inserting himself in the economic policy debates.
But, while he may be Constitutionally limited right now, Obama does have considerable political capital, and even some in his party are getting antsy for him to start taking some of it out the bank.
"At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time," House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank said on Thursday. "I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He's got to remedy that situation."
2) “You've said you support assisting the automakers, but what specific requirements for business and labor would you include in an aid package to ensure the same Big Three CEOs in Washington last week don't come back later asking for further assistance?”
A CNN poll this week showed that 61% of Americans oppose bailing out the car industry. Many congressional Republicans are similarly opposed and the President George W. Bush is reluctant to support any package without a firmer plan.
Obama has said he supports providing aid to the automakers, but, as he said on "60 Minutes" last month, believes "it can't be a blank check."
He has not, however, detailed what concessions he'd like to see from the Big Three before that check is mailed to Detroit.
Would he, for example, favor an oversight board with independent authority to oversee labor contracts and business plans for the companies, as was suggested at their Senate hearing Thursday?
3) “In recent weeks, there have been published reports suggesting that you're backing off your campaign proposals to raise taxes on the rich and enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies. How, then, will you pay for a stimulus package, middle-class tax cuts and the other expensive proposals you laid out during the campaign?”
Obama repeatedly said he would finance, among other things, a health care program and energy initiatives in part through repealing the Bush tax cuts on those making over $250,000 a year and also by levying a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
But with the economy worsening and the price of oil plummeting, Obama aides have suggested he won't immediately seek to raise taxes on the rich and that he has no intention of further taxing Exxon and company.
Without this additional revenue and in light of Obama's spending desires, however, the already heavy deficit will only worsen. When does the flow of red ink stop?
4) “You said recently that you'd give Defense Secretary Robert Gates ‘a new mission,’ and also that we're on a ‘glide path&rquo; out of Iraq. Which is it? Are you going to accelerate the pace set by the Status of Forces Agreement calling for U.S. troops to leave by 2011, or are you just going to coast on what President Bush is leaving you?"
Obama first rose in the Democratic primary thanks in considerable part to his early opposition to a war that his rivals initially supported. Obama consistently said that if president he would immediately start to withdraw combat troops from Iraq at a pace of one to two brigades per month with a goal of having them all out of the country in 16 months.
But since the election, Obama has sounded more like Bush -- pledging to rely on advice from the military "commanders" -- than the anti-war candidate he once was.
"I will be meeting with not only Secretary Gates but the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanders on the ground to make a determination as to how we move that pace - how we proceed in that withdrawal process," Obama said last week. "I believe that 16 months is the right time frame, but, as I've said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders."
5) “What will you do with the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay?”
Much like on the war, Obama pledged throughout the campaign that, if elected, he would close down the prison that holds suspected terrorists and has become a focal point of international angst.
But still left unsettled is what exactly to do with the 250 detainees at the American Naval base in Cuba, especially those who cannot be brought to stand trial in the United States.
6) “One of your donors told Politico's Ben Smith that you promised at a fundraiser last year that your first overseas trip as president would be to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country and a place you lived for a time as a child. Is this your intent, and, as a gesture to the Muslim world, will you be sworn in on January 20th as ‘Barack Hussein Obama?’ ”
Obama told donors at a small fundraiser in California last year that his first overseas trip would be to Muslim Indonesia.
That's according to Ted Leary, a Los Angeles real estate executive, who was at the February 20, 2007, breakfast fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Leary also recalled Obama telling the donors to "imagine if on January 20, 2009 a guy named Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in on the U.S. Capitol steps as the president of the United States, what that would say to the world, especially the Muslim world, about our nation."
7) “Is the Bush administration doing enough to pressure Pakistan to find those behind the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month and, if not, what more can be done?”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned from her trip to the region late last week saying that the country's president, Asif Ali Zardari, assured her that the country will track down those responsible for the attacks last month in India, but it's uncertain whether he intends to or even has the power to bring the terrorists to justice.
Obama has repeatedly said in regard to the tensions in South Asia that there is only one president at a time. But he also said during the campaign that the U.S. should be open to attacking terrorist targets in Pakistan, even without the assent of the Pakistani government.
8) “How do you reconcile your call for a change in the way business is done in Washington, especially with regard to ethics, with your appointment of Eric Holder to be attorney general? Tell me what you know about the Marc Rich pardon -- what did you think about it at the time?”
Holder, a top legal adviser and veep vetter during Obama's campaign, is now in line to be the nation's chief law enforcement official.
But critics and some Republicans have expressed unease about the elevation of Holder because of his involvement as deputy attorney general in the pardoning of the fugitive financier in the fina days of the Clinton administration.
Holder was in communication with Jack Quinn, the former Clinton White House counsel who served as Rich's attorney, and ultimately told Clinton aides that he was "neutral, leaning favorable" on pardoning Rich.
He later said he wished he "had done some things differently" in the Rich case.
9 and 10) “Closer to home, as somebody who railed against lobbyists and special interests in your campaign, do you favor the effort of your colleague, Sen. Richard Durbin, to commute the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan? And is it time for the current governor, Rod Blagojevich, to step down or at least pledge to not seek another term in 2010?”
Obama's home-state colleague and close friend Durbin sent a letter to Bush this week requesting the release of Ryan, a Republican who is doing a 6 1/2-year federal sentence on corruption-related charges. Ryan, 74, and his wife are not in good health and the former governor has only served a little over a year of his sentence. But he has also refused to apologize for his crimes, which spanned his years in Springfield as both secretary of state and governor.
Obama has avoided the topic, saying through a spokesman that he doesn't feel it "appropriate" to weigh in on pardon and commutation requests that are before the sitting president.
Blagojevich, Ryan's successor and a Democrat, is also now under federal investigation for corruption. The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that federal authorities have taped Blagojevich and that a former top aide assisted investigators with the surveillance. Blagojevich was also "Public Official A" in the trial and conviction of Chicago influence-peddler Antoin Rezko.
Though he has not been charged with any crimes and denies any wrongdoing, Blagojevich's approval ratings fell to 13% in the last Tribune poll. He has not yet decided on whether to run for reelection in 2010.