Record makes Talent best choice

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Missourians face a historic opportunity. If you believe that these are seriously important times and that we need our best in government, which I do, you have an opportunity to make a major difference by voting for Jim Talent in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri. Rarely does a public servant like Talent come along. Not only is he a truly good person and a principled thinker with a sharp intellect, but he has an overwhelming track record that is particularly meaningful for these times.

As a congressman, he served eight years on the U.S. Armed Services Committee, where he fought the decline in military readiness. His understanding of the military - his wife was an officer in the United States Army - is critical as our country faces war with Iraq.

He was the youngest chairman in Congress as head of the Small Business Committee, where he became the first male recipient of the National Public Policy Award given by the National Association of Women Business Owners. He was named a Taxpayer Hero by the Americans for Tax Reform for his leadership on tax policy. He spearheaded legislation to make insurance more affordable for small businesses.

Talent also served on the Education Committee, where, among many other things, he passed legislation to allow public school authorities to remove troublemakers who used drugs or beat up on other students.

All of these issues where he is expert -- national defense, economic progress, educational performance -- are critical to the future of our country.

The main criticism of Talent -- and his opponent is running endless TV commercials in St. Louis and Kansas City in the attempt to scare seniors about him -- is that he has taken leadership positions on important issues like Social Security. His opponent's campaign would have Missourians believe that he is reckless. But the truth is that Talent has sought to face the facts regarding Social Security honestly and bolster the future for all Americans, sometimes in innovative ways. Indeed, that is what often makes a leader, stepping away from the crowd to lead it to a better place.

Those who understand the complexity of the issues -- and who seek to do more than demagogue and attack for political purposes -- recognize Talent for his courage and wisdom. Among those are the Seniors Coalition, The United Seniors Association and the Coalition to Save Medicare. Indeed, the 60-Plus Association designated him with the honorary title Guardian of Senior's Rights, and the Department of Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars has named him Legislator of the Year. While his opponent seeks to frighten those who are uninformed about him, the truth is that his credentials in supporting senior citizens are above reproach. To protect Social Security and other programs for seniors, now and in the future, we need more people like Talent in government.

Here is the crux of the matter:

If the American political system is to achieve great things in the future -- and there are great challenges facing America -- it must have men and women who serve all the people, rather than simply following the bidding of party leaders. It must have public servants who think about issues deeply and are not afraid to challenge the government bureaucracy. It must have legislators whose actions are greater than sending out press releases taking credit for government spending.

That's why this election is so important. Jim Talent has never been content to be just like the rest of them, playing the partisan games. At every stage of life, he has been a leader. For example, as a congressman, he spearheaded welfare reform by joining with Democrats to design the most comprehensive anti-poverty initiative ever considered by Congress. He didn't begrudge working with a president or members of the opposite party. Instead, he worked to make government better, regardless of who would get the credit.

Contrast that behavior with Jean Carnahan's, who, since being appointed to office, has consistently chosen partisanship on the most difficult issues. Most recently she stood against the president's Homeland Security Act because the unions that support the Democratic party with millions of dollars disapprove a clause that would give the president the right to fire those who worked in the executive branch for not doing their job. As one of her first votes as senator, she stood against John Ashcroft, the president's nominee for attorney general -- a Missourian who was elected state-wide twice as governor, once as U.S. Senator, twice as state attorney general -- because she felt he was too extreme. In both of these votes, she took the action that her largest financial donors wanted her to take, and she chose partisan attack over constructive action.

Such disappointments by Carnahan in no way disqualify her from being a senator. In fact, hewing the party line is quite typical of many politicians, because it is usually the safest route for political self-preservation. But that kind of political gamesmanship is not leadership -- it's merely being like the rest of them.

There have been few elections as important as this year's U.S. Senate race in Missouri, and much of the country is focusing on what is happening here because control of the Senate may hang in the balance. I believe it is imperative that President Bush has a Congress that will work with and not against him. But this race is ultimately about two individuals and their respective skills and values. Jim Talent is the stronger candidate.

He will represent Missouri better.

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