So I'd start by sitting the two candidates down at a bar. Yeah, a bar. Sitting at the barstools -- and you know about my thing with barstools. And ordering each of them a drink. On my tab.
I'm not sure what Obama drinks or what McCain drinks -- I see the former either as some sort of designer martini or straight bourbon, the latter probably as a beer kind of guy. But that would actually be the first question of my debate -- "Senator, what would you like to drink?"
The next question? "Why?"
"Senator, what is your favorite book?" and "why?"
"What is leadership?"
"Explain, in as much detail as you can, string theory." Not technically a question, I know, but an interrogative statement, and not my first.
"A NASA experiment reveals microbial life exists on Mars. How do you respond?"
"You and your wife are going out for a date. What's your ideal?"
"What is the golf course you've most wanted to play but never have?" "Why?"
"Who was the best boss (including military commanders) you ever had and why?" "The worst?"
Somewhere a few questions ago, we'd have ordered the second round.
There's a certain James Lipton quality to this -- and that is intentional. I don't care about issues. I care about people. I care about the little things, the second and third derivatives of a personality that can really tell you about the personality, where it is going, and where it has been.
"Who cuts your hair?" "How often?"
"How do you like your steaks cooked?"
I'm not trivializing the process. We don't ask our future spouses to answer expected stock phrase questions. We ask them if they think that is a beautiful sunset.
"If you had to throw it all away and start over, what would you do for a living? And no cheating!"
I ask that one of my students -- and they are not allowed to say "fighter pilot" or "1st baseman" -- it should be "bartender" or "gardener" or "cabinet maker" (all answers I've heard -- I let one guy say 1st baseman, but he was already a Navy flier so I figured it was cool.).
"Swim, bike, or run?"
"Favorite vacation destination?"
"Why do you love your wife?"
"What is the greatest thing your children have taught you?"
"What is the most significant event in the history of the 20th century?"
"TOS, TNG, DS9, or Voyager?"
"Is that a beautiful sunset?"
"Would you like another drink?"