But I would like to see the conversation change for this election. The real issue - the issue that undermines all the other issues - is the issue of executive power. We currently have an executive in office who feels no obligation to submit to oversight, who values loyalty over competence, ideology over science, and secrecy above all else.
The current batch of presidential candidates needs to take a stand on these issues; the next president cannot continue these ridiculous policies.
Signing statements: During the Roberts hearings, you couldn't get enough description of the make-up of the Supreme Court as "three strict constructionists, three moderates, and three activist judges who continually try to legislate from the bench." Legislate from the bench? For the past six years, Bush has (through the use of signing statements) been legislating from the Oval Office! The constitutional check on the legislature is the president's veto. I want to hear the current batch of candidates pledge to either enforce the law as passed in Congress, or veto it.
Executive privilege: Every use of executive privilege in the past fifty years has been to cover up something shady. I want the candidates to demonstrate they know it's a privilege and not a policy.
Secrecy: The Bush administration has been more secretive than any other administration in recent memory - and it has been to their detriment to do so, if for no other reason than secrecy breeds mistrust. There are legal avenues available for when our government needs to be secretive. I want to hear the candidates talk about this and pledge to be open to communication with their constituents. To recall the popular saying, "if you guard your pencils the way you guard your diamonds, you will protect more pencils and lose more diamonds."
Political maneuvering: Politics is, well... part of Politics. But come on - for the love of God.... The very idea that the Cheney camp should resist oversight on the basis that the Vice President is not part of the executive branch is laughable to anyone with a seventh grade civics education. But the fact that anyone out of the White House EVER took that seriously is a symptom of a major problem in our government. To our next president: please don't insult me like this.
Resistance to oversight in general: I voted for my representative so that she could participate in overseeing the executive branch. That's her job. If a candidate really is for the interests of the American people, he or she needs to promise to submit to oversight as mandated by the Constitution.
Focusing on this point - of the current runaway nature of executive power - will be the most effective way out of the "dark ages" of the Bush presidency. It is the big issue that underscores all the others.
So to the candidates: Please give us the opportunity to trust you.