How nasty is it going to get before we finally hit election day in November?  In all honesty, I think it’s going to get as nasty as it can be tolerated from all sides.   

Here’s a thought for everyone, media folks included:  how about we stop playing along with the kabuki and concentrate on something beyond the level of idiocy one would expect from a race for 7th grade class treasurer?  Instead, what if we ask meaningful questions about things that really matter — and demand real answers from the candidates to these questions.  What do you say?

Sure, it’s a fantasy, but for a minute or two, let’s play along.  We’ll call it "what it would be like to live in a well-functioning democracy full of concerned citizens who educate themselves instead of being led around like a bunch of idiotic sheep."

Dan Froomkin has put together some exceptional questions for the next time the GOP contenders get together for a debate — or before if some enterprising reporter wants to step up to the plate and throw something other than the tee ball pitches we’ve been seeing of late.  From Froomkin at Nieman:

…Furthermore, keen political observers have noted that Republicans are very eager not to make 2008 a referendum on Bush, because on those terms, there is little doubt they would lose.

And yet, what the GOP candidates think of the Bush presidency – what they consider its strengths and weaknesses, which elements they would emulate, which they would reject – is crucial information for anyone trying to figure out what they would be like as president themselves. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what could be more important….

Q. What decisions if any would you have made differently if you had been in charge these past seven years?

Q. How would you assess President Bush’s credibility? High? Low?

Q. Do you approve of the job Vice President Cheney is doing?

Q. Historically, the vice president has been in a more subordinate role. Do you think Bush was overly influenced by his vice president? Would you expect your vice president to serve a similar function?…

Q. President Bush rarely ventures out in public, and almost always talks to invitation-only audiences. Historically, presidents have appeared at events that were open to the public, at least in part to make it clear that they had been chosen to represent the whole country, not just those who voted for them. Would you return to this tradition?

Q. Would you continue President Bush’s practice of using signing statements to quietly assert his right to ignore legislation passed by Congress?

Q. President Bush’s lawyers have asserted that there are few Constitutional checks on a wartime president. Do you agree? And would you consider yourself a wartime president?

Q. Do you think President Bush is within his rights to assert executive privilege to block the testimony of White House aides in the investigation of the politically-motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys? Would you do likewise in similar circumstances?

Q. Some critics have accused the Bush White House of being dominated by politics, at the expense of policy. Do you think Bush got the balance between campaigning and governing about right?

There are more questions that Dan poses, but these were some of my favorites. And he asks readers to post more of their proposed questions as well at the Nieman website.  Frankly, I don’t think these questions should be limited to Republican presidential contenders — but should be asked of everyone seeking national office in some form or another.

Where exactly does a candidate stand on the issues of constitutional respect and the rule of law?   How about the issue of torture and ethical questions regarding morality and human rights versus national security concerns and the implications of both on each other?  Digby raises some great questions on that here.   And see Froomkin’s White House Watch from yesterday for even more.  What about waging war based on inaccurate and deliberately misleading information fed to the American public through a WHIG-orchestrated PR ponzi scheme?  Or the continuing saga of the cloud over Dick Cheney?  Or how about some questions about the fundamental lack of accountability for failures within the Beltway culture?  Just for starters…

These are fundamental issues that deserve further public discussion from candidates who want to be elected leaders of this nation in the years that follow this disastrous mess of a presidency that George Bush will ooze away from — and they are questions that need answers now, not years from now.  And there are a lot more.  Which ones would you be asking if you could?  Pour yourself another cuppa, let’s turn on the spotlight and pull up a chair…

(Sometimes, you just need a little Holy Grail to start your day.)