Setting the record straight

Friday, September 1, 2006

By Claire McCaskill

You can tell when it's an election year. Candidates start popping up. Yard signs are everywhere. You're bound to receive a few irritating phone calls just as you sit down to supper. And the politicians you thought you knew start sounding like products for sale.

In his re-election campaign, U.S. Sen. Jim Talent is going to work hard to make me sound like Satan's sister. Gary Rust's Aug. 17 column, "Differing views," did just that. That's part of the reason I've been to more than 50 Missouri counties since March. If I'm not out here telling folks where I stand, you might just believe what he says.

I'd like to set the record straight:

Veterans benefits: There is no more sacred commitment than the promises we make to our veterans. Senator Talent has voted to cut veterans benefits 23 times. I would oppose breaking our word to veterans and fight to restore the cuts made by Talent.

War profiteering: You have watched me, as state auditor, go after government waste. There are billions of dollars being wasted on no-bid cost-plus contracts in Iraq. I support a new Truman Committee to go after war profiteers. Talent opposes that idea.

Minimum wage: The minimum wage in this country hasn't been increased in nine years, but Congress has received a pay raise every year. Talent has voted 11 times against giving Missourians a raise, but now he won't say where he is on this issue. I support the minimum-wage ballot initiative in Missouri.

Fighting meth: I support Talent's meth bill since, as a prosecutor in the early 1990s, I helped set those standards. However, Talent has voted to eliminate the funding for the drug task forces to implement this bill. I have been endorsed by the police because they know I would vote to fund the programs we need to keep us safe.

Border security: I have been all across the state talking about strengthening our borders and cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants, which Talent opposes. I oppose amnesty. I was a prosecutor, so I believe we need to enforce our laws.

Energy: At a time when we're paying close to $3 a gallon for gasoline and the oil companies are making record profits, Talent voted to give them $9 billion in tax breaks and subsidies. That is the reason I would've voted no on the energy bill. No way I would give your hard-earned tax dollars to Big Oil. He has also voted against ethanol at least seven times. I would repeal the tax breaks to Big Oil so that we can make a real investment in renewable fuels.

War on terror: The mistakes made in Iraq by the Bush administration have stretched our military resources to a dangerous level and left us with no easy options in Iraq. While I am committed to success there, we cannot remain indefinitely. The Iraqi government must begin to shoulder more of the responsibility for fighting the insurgents and ending the sectarian conflict.

As I predicted in my national security speech in May, North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, the Taliban is back in Afghanistan and a terrorist group has invaded our No. 1 ally in the Middle East. We must initiate diplomatic discussions with our allies to resolve these conflicts.

Military solutions alone will not achieve our goals in the Middle East. I support all forms of surveillance and we should update all of our laws to make sure law enforcement has all of tools it needs to track and capture terrorists all over the world.

As a former prosecutor, I understand that we will ultimately win the global war on terror through sophisticated criminal investigation and a renewed commitment to intelligence.

Senator Talent has been in Washington for 14 years and watched it get worse there, not better. I'll go to Washington and be an independent voice for you.

Claire McCaskill, Missouri's state auditor, is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

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