Skip to comments.Carnahan, Talent show contrasts in televised debate
Posted on 10/22/2002 9:54:52 AM PDT by William McKinley
In their long-awaited first debate Monday in the battle for Missouri's U.S. Senate seat, Republican Jim Talent showed why he was eager to confront Democrat Jean Carnahan anywhere and often.
With his 16 years' experience in Jefferson City and Washington, Talent came off as comfortable and conversational in the televised debate from St. Louis. Carnahan, who has never run for public office before, was somber throughout and, at times, halting.
But she became more assertive in the forum's final 30 minutes.
That was when the debate, broadcast statewide on public television, turned to issues that Carnahan and Democrats nationwide have emphasized in this campaign: Social Security and prescription drugs.
Carnahan, the incumbent, pointed out that Talent supports a prescription-drug plan that private insurance companies administer.
"I don't know how many of you out there trust the insurance companies," she said. "But I don't."
Talent said the plan he supports would take effect immediately, unlike the proposal Carnahan backs. And, he said, his plan is affordable.
"It would help everybody," Talent said.
The two will follow up Monday's face-to-face meeting with a second, and final, debate on Thursday in Columbia. That forum, sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors group, will be shown live at 2:30 p.m. on C-SPAN and will be rebroadcast that night.
Talent and Carnahan are vying for the right to complete the next four years of the Senate term that Carnahan's late husband, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, won in 2000. Jean Carnahan was appointed to fill the term's first two years by then-Gov. Roger Wilson.
The race is thought to be close. Recent independent polls have shown the lead see-sawing between the two, although Talent led in the most recent poll commissioned by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Talent spent months urging Carnahan to participate in at least two debates a month. Carnahan refused to discuss the issue until the August primary election had passed.
She also declined to take part in a nationally televised debate on NBC's "Meet the Press." Talent, though, turned down an opportunity to appear in a Kansas City debate late in the campaign.
Throughout Monday night's one-hour forum, the two predictably disagreed on a host of issues, including stem-cell research and national defense.
Talent said he agreed with President Bush's compromise plan on stem-cell research, which limits research to existing lines of cells. Advocates of the research say that the work holds promise for curing Parkinson's and other diseases.
Talent said he wants to focus Washington's efforts on areas where most Americans agree. Of stem-cell research, he said, "Let's do it in a way that preserves consensus."
Carnahan, though, said she wants to go further than the president. She favors expanding the research in the same way that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah does, she said.
"There's promising genetic research out there to be made, and to have, for these people who are suffering, and I want them to have that chance," she said.
On national defense, Talent criticized Carnahan for refusing to back the president's homeland-security initiative, which the Senate defeated. The dispute was over Bush's demand that he have the ability to bypass civil-service rules that cover federal workers to respond to threats.
Talent also complained that Carnahan had "gutted" the nation's missile defense system prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but reversed her position following the attacks.
Carnahan labeled the allegations erroneous and said she was disappointed that Talent would "doubt my patriotism on this issue."
The two also sparred over tax cuts. Talent said he favored making the president's tax cut permanent. "I believe in tax cuts as a way of causing prosperity," Talent said.
Carnahan said she favored refocusing the cuts to help middle-class and poor Americans.
"The difference between us is who gets the tax cut," she said.
On Social Security, Carnahan said Talent's call for private accounts threatened the solvency of the program because it would take money from the existing trust fund.
"His plans are scaring seniors," she said.
Talent shot back that Carnahan's allies were "spreading falsehoods." He pledged never to cut benefits for current recipients and said private accounts would help guarantee the system's survival for future generations.
The two agreed on one subject. Both said the United States should try diplomacy with North Korea before threatening military action. North Korean officials admitted recently that they were pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.
"We have some reason to hope we can use diplomacy there...," Carnahan said.
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