I think that there needs to be some distinction between someone's personal financial misfortunes and the decisions that they make as public officials. Of course, an exception should be made for business dealings that might have been crooked or willfully unethical, as the public should be able to inquire about these things. I’m sure even my friend Curt can agree that people should be able to ask questions about Trump’s bankruptcies or about donations solicited for the Clinton Foundation, as these sorts of questions address a candidate's character… but to ask someone about a foreclosure on their second personal home is a bit much. One might expect something like this to come from other candidates or Super PAC smear ads – but this one came from the moderators! It’s not much different in my view than if a moderator were to have asked Barack Obama whether he was born in the United States – this sort of talk has no place coming from a professional moderator in a debate setting.
I realize that given the results of my admittedly unscientific Twitter poll, some people may not be convinced, so let’s look at this from a historical lens. There were some great presidents who never would have been able to serve if impeccable personal finances were a prerequisite for serving as president.
BOTTOM LINE: Not everyone is great at managing their personal finances and not everyone is lucky in their business dealings (let's face it, a great deal of success in business has to do with luck). Some people have expensive tastes and live beyond their means - I think this would include most Americans if we're honest with ourselves. As long as it does not involve crooked business dealings or misuse of public funds, it should not be a major issue in the selection of a president.
For Further Reading: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/politics/us-presidents-who-were-deep-in-debt-7.aspx
I teach history and government