One of the interesting things to pay attention to, as we get through the debates, is what topics don’t get raised. Sometimes amazingly, in retrospect: the 2000 debates completely ignored the topic of terrorism: “in the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, terrorism was never discussed – the only times ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorism’ appear in the transcripts are in brief laundry lists by Gore and Lieberman (once each) of Gore’s and the Clinton Administration’s accomplishments.” (The media also paid little attention to Bush and Gore mostly agreeing that the U.S. should try to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and disagreeing only around the margins of that goal).
In 2012, I went through the list of topics that never got raised:
1-The Federal Reserve/monetary policy/QE3/the next Fed chairman
2-The EU and the Eurozone crisis, other than the use of Greece as a cautionary tale. Indeed, Europe in general was largely ignored, in marked contrast to the Bush-Kerry debates in 2004.
3-The descent of Mexico into chaos, other than Romney’s brief discussion – cut off by Candy Crowley – of Operation Fast & Furious.
4-Same-sex marriage. The only reference to any gay-rights issue was a brief mention by Obama of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
5-Climate change/global warming/cap and trade
6-Racial preferences; Romney discussed affirmative action for women, but the subject didn’t otherwise come up.
7-Welfare reform and Obama’s waivers on the issue
8-The death penalty
9-Campaign finance reform
10-Guantanamo and detainee policy
13-The TSA/airport security
14-The War on Drugs
15-Sanctions on Cuba
16-U.S. relations with India
17-No Child Left Behind, although there was quite a lot of discussion of education.
18-Stem cell research
19-The growth of executive power, including Obama’s use of executive orders and “czars”
20-H-1B visas, guest worker programs and the border fence with Mexico.
21-Right-to-work and public employee collective bargaining.
22-The BP oil spill
23-Evolution (yes, I know, this is only asked during GOP debates)
Some of those omissions also seem notable, given the controversies of the past four years. I suspect there will be a longer list this year, given Trump’s presence and how he will draw the discussion towards his pet topics and away from areas where he has no interest or inclination to do battle with the Democrats.