Missouri Democratic Challenger McCaskill Hits a Home Run on Meet the Press Debate with Sen. Jim Talent
With less than a month to go before the critical midterm elections, the battle for control of the U.S. Senate is heating up intensely, as poll after poll shows Democrats gaining momentum in their bid to capture the six seats needed to gain a majority. One of the hottest contested races is between Missouri Sen. Jim Talent and his challenger, State Auditor and former prosecutor Claire McCaskill. They met Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press as part of the program's ongoing debate series. McCaskill hit it out of the park.
Talent came across as evasive and in denial, and made false claims about McCaskill's record. Like most Republicans who supported the Iraq war, he said he'd vote for it again even after knowing that WMD did not exist. Despite headlines Sunday in the Washington Post and other papers that the violence is spiraling out of control, Talent stood by his earlier claim this year that things "were going well" in the civil war-torn country. On the war, McCaskill said "You know, Iraq is a mess. We can either stay the course or we can change course. And obviously, even the leader of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, probably the most respected Republican on the Iraq war in Washington, has now come back from Iraq and said, 'You know what? This is a mess and we need to re-examine what we’re doing here.'" She supports setting a timetable of approximately two years at which time our troops would be deployed to other key locations such as Afghanistan, Kuwait and Qatar.
Talent accused McCaskill of opposing a ban on partial-birth abortions, yet was shot down as the Democratic hopeful directly answered host Tim Russert with a firm "yes" when asked if she opposed the controversial procedure. Talent also accused McCaskill of not supporting the administration's surveillance efforts in the war on terror, a claim which yet again was refuted. "You know, playing politics with this issue is not making us safer," McCaskill said. "I absolutely support surveillance. As somebody who has handled very tough criminal cases, I understand the importance of aggressive surveillance within the framework of laws. And frankly, if they were more concerned about tough surveillance and not about election year politics, they would have gotten a bill through that would have allowed us to have the tools we need to go after terrorists around the globe."
Russert also put Talent on the spot over his flip-flopping on stem-cell research, an issue for which he's changed his position several times in the face of changing political climates, while McCaskill voiced her complete support. "My faith directs me to heal the sick," she said. "God gave us the miracle of human intelligence to find cures. Our country has never turned its back on medical research and we shouldn’t in Missouri... I come down on the side of hope, hope for cures and supporting science. And I think it’s very important that someone be principled, strong and not muddled, but very clear and straightforward about their position on this issue."
When asked by Russert whether he thought Bush was a "great president," Talent, who voted with the president 94% of the time, waffled and could not say yes. His best answer was that "history judges presidents." Yet when asked whether she thought Bill Clinton was a great president, McCaskill emphatically replied "yes."
All in all, Talent appeared the product of a scared, desperate, scrambling party whose back is to the wall with very few, if any, options. The mounting problems from the war; the recent NIE which reported that Iraq is fueling terrorism; the explosive, damaging revelations in the new Bob Woodward book; the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan; the sagging economy; high gas prices; and corruption and scandal will likely make for a very, very difficult November for Republicans.