Five Easy Questions for Obama

President Obama, I know you've given lots of speeches, briefings, and statements. And you've schooled us well on subjects ranging from how to create or save jobs to how to change climate and achieve world peace. But there are just a few things I'm still fuzzy on, and no one else seems to be asking you about them.

So if you please, could you answer just a few simple and straightforward questions? I promise that there are no tricks. Here are five questions, four short-answer and one essay.

What is the mission of our military in Afghanistan?

When you entered office a year ago, there were about 37,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By December, there were about 68,000, when you said you would send yet another 30,000. So you have increased U.S. troop presence there by over 160%. And 2009 was the deadliest year ever for U.S. troops there. But what exactly are those troops supposed to be doing?

Last June, the mission statement for the military in Afghanistan was "Defeat the Taliban.  Secure the Population." By October, your Secretary of Defense reportedly thought that "Defeat" was "an open-ended, forever commitment," and perhaps "degrade" might be a better choice of wording.

According to the Washington Post, you are reported to have said at a meeting on the matter,

To be fair, this is what we told the commander to do. Now, the question is, have we directed him to do more than what is realistic? Should there be a sharpening...a refinement?

Well, what did you decide? What does the commander of troops in Afghanistan think his mission is? How does that compare with what you think it is? What is his mission statement? Defeat the Taliban? Degrade the Taliban? Deflate them? Debauch them? How did you finally calibrate the wording of that six-word mission statement?

To be clear, I'm not asking for an essay here. The old mission statement was six words on a PowerPoint slide. What is on the newest version of that slide?

What do your staff members get paid, and how do their salaries compare to that of their predecessors?

This would not seem all that important, but one of the first things you did as president, on your very first day in office, was issue a Presidential Memorandum "to freeze the salaries of senior members of the White House staff, to the extent permitted by law." So you seemed to think it was important then. We did hear that Rahm Emanuel gave you an oral report on that thirty days later, as you ordered, but we never heard the results.

So are the salaries of the senior members of your staff frozen? If so, at what levels? And how do those levels compare to their predecessors' levels?

Again, this is not an essay question. Salaries are numbers. What, for example, is Rahm Emanuel's annual salary?

What exactly did you, or will you, do with the $1.4 million from your Nobel Peace Prize?

According to news reports, your Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on October 9, 2009 that you would give your Nobel Prize money to charity. When asked more recently, on January 19, 2010, "Any update on where the President is going to donate his Nobel Prize money?" Mr. Gibbs answered,

I know they continue to talk about it. I think he has not received any money yet. But as soon as they -- as he makes those donations, we will let you guys know."

It was later reported that you and Michelle contributed $15,000 to the Haiti earthquake victims via the Clinton-Bush Fund. So just what is the status of that $1.4 million, and who got it, or is going to get it? Any reason the Haitian victims didn't get all of it, instead of 1% of it?

Again, no essay needed. Just list the names of the recipients and the amounts to each.

What were your SAT and LSAT scores and your GPA at graduation from Columbia?

You are one of the youngest presidents ever, with one of the leanest track records in elected or executive office. Virtually all your predecessors served in the U.S. Congress for many years, or served as vice president, or in a cabinet, or a high military command position, or as governor of a state, prior to being president. (See Appendix.)

Yet you served in the U.S. Senate for only one year before starting your run for president, had never held any other national office, had never been a governor of any state, had never held any executive position, and had not even been in the military. We really know very little about you. We have not even seen your real birth certificate, meaning the official "long form" version.

We knew President Bush's SAT scores and his grades at Yale. We also knew Al Gore's SAT scores and grades at Harvard. And John Kerry's grades, too. Yet without ever releasing any test scores or transcripts, you have been proclaimed as "probably the smartest guy ever to become president" by a presidential historian of such credibility that PBS puts him aside noted plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin on its News Hour.

So what exactly were your test scores and grades? Did you take any economics courses? Was your SAT score higher than 1206, which was President Bush's score?

You told us your eleven-year-old daughter Malia's score on a third-grade science test. How about telling us your test scores?

Essay Question: What, if anything, is wrong with socialism?

Imagine a world without elections and stubborn legislators to slow down enactment of your agenda. Fast-forward to the U.S. of your dreams.  Describe it for us, in terms of who would control things like education, health care, banking, the media, the car companies, and the means of production in general.

Socialism would include single-payer health care. You already said you support that. Socialism would bring about "major redistributive change." You have talked previously about doing that. The government now owns 61% of General Motors and all of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it backs nearly 90% of new home loans. Why not have more things under the control of government, and specifically the federal government?

What did Stalin and Mao do wrong? What did Fidel Castro do wrong? What is Hugo Chávez doing wrong? Be specific.

Which of the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto do you disagree with? Which parts of the Communist Party USA's 2008 platform do you disagree with? Again, be specific.

On this question, use all the words you'd like.

Appendix: U.S. Presidents since 1900 and their highest levels of executive or national legislative experience.

McKinley - Governor of Ohio

Teddy Roosevelt - Vice President, Governor of New York

Taft - Secretary of War

Wilson - Governor of New Jersey

Harding - U.S. Senator (1915-1921)

Coolidge - Vice President, Governor of Massachusetts

Hoover - Secretary of Commerce

Franklin Roosevelt - Governor of New York

Truman - Vice President, U.S. Senator (1935-1944)

Eisenhower - Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (World War II)

Kennedy - U.S. Senator (1953-1960)

Johnson - Vice President, U.S. Congressman and Senator (1937-1960)

Nixon - Vice President, U.S. Congressman and Senator (1947-1952)

Ford - Vice President, U.S. Congressman (1949-1973)

Carter - Governor of Georgia

Reagan - Governor of California

George H. W. Bush  - Vice President, Director of the CIA, U.S. Congressman (1966-1970)

Clinton - Governor of Arkansas

George W. Bush - Governor of Texas

Obama - U.S. Senator (2005-2008)

Of these twenty presidents, fourteen had been vice president and/or governor of a state. Another two had held cabinet posts, and one had been Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II. The remaining three had never held such an executive position, but had been in U.S. Senate.

For those three of the twenty, the number of years in the Senate before becoming president were as follows:

Harding: 6 years.

Kennedy: 6 years.

Obama: 3 years.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at or  via his web site,
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