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Opinion: Time for Carnahan, Talent to debate

Thursday, September 12, 2002

What a rare opportunity to express your beliefs, ideas, differences and abilities on national network television.

This has been offered to JEAN CARNAHAN and JIM TALENT, Missouri's candidates for U.S. Senate, by "Meet the Press" host TIM RUSSERT.

The debate, talk, question-and-answer format has tentatively been set for Oct. 7.

Talent has accepted. At this writing, Carnahan's staff says that she is "considering" the request. Russert would moderate the debate, which would be broadcast live to a nationwide audience.

This side-by-side format would give Missouri voters an unfiltered opportunity to evaluate the two candidates. Otherwise, too many decisions could be influenced only by media observations, reporting and the millions of advertising dollars already being scheduled by both parties (including the use of distorted negative attack ads).

If Carnahan accepts, Missourians would have the opportunity to see and hear the candidates discuss their differences on jobs, health care, national defense, gun control, abortion, their qualifications, approval of judges, arming of pilots, Iraq, Cuba.

The debate would be on a Sunday when the Senate is not in session. Russert has indicated the date is flexible.

Electing a senator, like choosing a football team's quarterback, should not be a popularity contest ... but one based on performance and issues. The country has many important issues to face, and a face-to-face format on "Meet the Press" would help Missourians be better informed as to how to cast their vote.

Missouri newspapers (including this one) have been calling for debates for months. The Springfield News Leader has editorialized "Let the debates begin." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently said, "Missouri voters who prefer substance over gimmicks will have to wait for Oct. 24" for a debate (written before the "Meet the Press" proposal).

In my memory Carnahan is the first major-party candidate to turn down a debate with the opponent at the annual Missouri Press Association meeting scheduled for later this month. Also, to date, she has not accepted the invitation of C-SPAN to broadcast a debate with Talent from the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.

LET'S ACCEPT and DEBATE.


Incidentally, JEAN CARNAHAN will be the featured speaker at 2 p.m. Sunday for the dedication of the new Central High School.

The general comments about all of the school changes have been favorable (except for the delay of the soon-to-be-completed street).

It's SEMO DISTRICT FAIR time, and this one appears to be shaping up as one of the best.

All in all, if YOU drive the city streets, you will be pleased with city infrastructure improvements in the last five years.

I'm hearing many compliments on MAYOR JAY KNUDTSON'S straightforward involvement in city bureaucracy hang-ups. That's what chief executives do.


I really enjoyed the SEMO-SIU football game Saturday night in Carbondale. The play by both sides was intensive with many excellent offensive and defensive plays.

After SIU scored to tie the game with about two minutes to go, SEMO sucked it up and covered 80 yards to score and win 21 to 14. This was a great team effort. Congratulations to the team, Coach TIM BILLINGS and staff.


SEAN HANNITY'S book, "LET FREEDOM RING," has risen to No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list. It contains an excellent summary of many conservative arguments of the day. A must read (it's also on tape) for liberals and conservatives.


Work in progress: Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. -- Winston Churchill


There is no reason to preserve passenger rail travel. Plane, car and bus are the way people go, and that's that. Passenger rail travel's future is in the history books. Moving people by rail is a necessity and has a future only in the heavily populated metropolitan areas where rail loops above and below the surface can be used as arteries connecting the urban and the suburban. How fruitful from every point of view it would be to take some of these Amtrak down-the-drain billions and put them into rapid transit. -- Malcolm S. Forbes in 1976 (note date)


Volunteering for duty: Some of our friends have been saying that the United States needs a draft to help win the war on terror. They cite polls showing Generation Y unwilling to fight overseas, and they argue that public support for risky operations will be weak unless children of the rich are conscripted to fight.

But every senior military officer we talk with opposes a draft on grounds that a highly trained volunteer force is more effective in today's high-tech warfare. And when it comes to attracting new recruits, the forces that performed so well in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Gulf War are doing fine.

In a Pentagon ceremony recently, the U.S. Army announced it had already reached its goal of 79,500 enlistments for the current fiscal year and has recruited 19,000 people toward next year's goal. The Army also met its goals of 51,000 re-enlistments and recruiting 28,825 new reservists. The Navy, Air Force and Marines say they're meeting or exceeding their targets too.

This wasn't the case on the late 1990s when the civilian economy boomed and the armed forces were suffering from low morale. But the Bush administration's military pay raise, along with a slumping job market and a resurgence of patriotism, have combined to turn things around. "I hope I can go in and make my country proud," said Allen Hawkins, the 79,500th Army recruit.

The continued viability of the volunteer model is good news for defending a free society. The fear that class resentments would undermine public support is a legacy of Vietnam, when deferments were allowed and above all when there seemed no strategy to win. Today's recruits enlist by choice and are aware of both the risks and opportunities. And in what has been a bad year for Wall Street, the Catholic church, the CIA, the FBI and other major American institutions, it's heartening to see that the military remains highly regarded. -- The Wall Street Journal

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.


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