In 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBill Clinton on the mend after infection lands him in hospital Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization Appeals court allows Texas abortion law to stand MORE debated President George H.W. Bush in the first town hall-format debate. Remember Bush checking his watch toward the end? Many elites then, and now, have voiced their displeasure with the format as too much fluff or expressed concern that the questions wouldn’t be insightful enough. However, at tonight’s debate you can expect some tough questions that match directly with the nation’s interest. If Tom Brokaw gets the memo, that is.

Outside groups take a lot of heat during the election season for masquerading as independent while promoting a particular candidate.

But every once in a while a group will rear its head that cares passionately about an issue regardless of what its ultimate impact may be in the political realm.

A group called Vets for Freedom, a leading voice on national security, has organized other veterans’ groups, including the American Legion, Military Families United and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy — collectively representing more than 3 million members — to submit tough questions for tonight’s presidential debate regarding the direction of the war on terror, the strategic success of the surge in Iraq and our future pursuit of strategies regarding hostile countries seeking nuclear arms.

Some of the question proposed will be well in the comfort level of Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' .5T spending bill: 'Do a better job' MORE (D-Ill.):

• Under your administration, will you consider winning in Afghanistan a necessity and will you propose more troops and/or a new strategy?

Others will be in the wheelhouse of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Biden-Harris train wreck may have its savior: 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump Kelly raises million in third quarter Legislative limbo — how low can they go? MORE (R-Ariz.) and will make Obama squirm:

• Do you agree that the “surge” achieved its stated goals – militarily and politically — and is the reason for stabilization in Iraq? And, knowing what you know now, would you again support or oppose Gen. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy?

• Do you believe that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism? And do you believe that radical Islam is our generation’s transcendent challenge?

These pointed questions, posed directly from veterans of the war on terror, and the organizations representing those veterans, serve to steer tonight’s town hall-format debate away from comfort issues and attacks and into a real debate about issues that affect Americans now and well into the coming years.

Unfortunately, Obama has shifted rhetoric recently regarding the surge but hasn’t changed his underlying belief that it has ultimately failed. This is his opportunity to help America understand, rather than to obfuscate. His running mate called the surge “irrelevant” and then completely ignored the issue in his one debate.

Its too bad that it takes outside groups to bring us back to a discussion that is so basic to our nation’s future, but I’m glad they are they are willing to lead. Because I’ve worked with some of these groups in the past, I know of their strong commitment to the war on terror. Now is the time to see if the presidential candidates are more interested in informing or confusing.