Muckraker: Grist on Politics

With just 20 days to go before the election, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama will meet at Hofstra University for their third and final debate tonight at 9 p.m. EDT. Their ultimate encounter, moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, will focus on domestic and economic policy. Might we hear some questions (or, at least, a question) on climate change and energy policy?

At their first debate, the subjects were never brought up directly, but the candidates both noted the importance of the issues and sparred over the details achieving greater energy security.

In the second debate, the candidates mentioned energy concerns repeatedly — though they didn’t stray very far from their talking points. The highlight of that debate was, of course, Ingrid Jackson’s pointed question about what they candidates would do about climate change in their first two years in office. And though the two candidates both acknowledged the importance of the concern, neither really addressed the urgency factor, and again, both stuck mostly to the spiel we’ve heard from them before. And thanks to the “townhall” format of last weeks debate, there was no time allotted for follow ups, leaving little room to explore the issue at any depth.

Thus, most of the questions enviros have for the candidates remain unanswered. Folks would still like to know how McCain’s claim from the first debate that “no one from Arizona is against solar” fits with his own record of voting 23 times against measures to support renewable energy. They’d like to know what the candidates would do to curb automobile emissions, whether they plan to attend the world climate treaty talks in Poland this December, and how they’d address the pollution from coal-fired power plants (other than plugging as-yet-nonexistent “clean coal”).

The candidates and the moderator will be seated together at one table tonight, a format that politicos are hoping will inspire more interaction between the candidates, and more pressing from the moderator. Previous moderators have been criticized for letting the candidates walk all over the rules, and for doing little to push them beyond their prepared sound bites. Might Schieffer finally be the one to finally get them talking?

For a sense of what Grist would like to hear about at tonight’s debate, be sure to check out our climate questions series, episodes one, two, and three. And tune in for some post-debate coverage on Gristmill.