Missouri Senator Jim Talent
HH: Joined now by Senator Jim Talent of the Show Me State of Missouri. Actually, Senator Talent, given the decision of your state Supreme Court to strike down voter identification, I guess we should call it the Don’t Show Me State. Welcome back. Good to have you here.
JT: Good to be with you, Hugh. How are you?
HH: I’m great. Now you’ve got the race of the country going on here, and the last two polls have you up, at the Zogby and Rasmussen, by a handful of points. But I know it’s going to be tight. And what’s the feel right now?
JT: It’s a battle, a struggle. It always is in Missouri. I mean, Missouri’s a battleground state for a reason, Hugh, but we’ve got a great turnout effort, and I’ve got a lot of good issues to push, and I’m running against somebody who’s probably the most liberal Senate candidate since Harriet Woods, if that name rings a bell with you from twenty years ago.
JT: And so, I feel very, very, very cautiously optimistic.
HH: Now Senator Talent, we’ve been waiting all year for someone to question someone’s patriotism. And we finally found it. Claire McCaskill called you a false patriot, so we finally have it.
JT: Yeah, she’s attacked my position on veterans’ benefits, and I said in the last debate last night, said you know, I…because it’s the exact opposite of the reality. I mean, I’ve been maybe the lead advocate for veterans in the Senate on the Republican side, anyway. And I said I’ve been endorsed by the VFW, I’ve got the lifetime achievement award from the Vietnam vets, which they don’t give out to many people. I’ve been endorsed by the disabled veterans. And I said you know, they don’t give those endorsements to people who aren’t for veterans. It’s kind of a prerequisite.
HH: Yeah. She also…this is really an odd candidate, because she also attacked the oil companies for running a conspiracy. In fact, let’s play that. This is Claire McCaskill, not long ago, in one of your debates
CM: Just look at the gas prices. Look at the manipulation of the gas prices. I’m not sure anybody in Missouri believes these gas prices are going down for any other reason than that we’re having an election. And I’m sure most people know they’re going to go right back up after the election’s over. That is because there are five companies that control all of the oil in this country.
HH: Now Senator Talent, does she really believe that? And does all of Missouri believe economic illiteracy that way?
JT: Well, I don’t think Missouri believes that. They asked her last night in the debate, because oil prices have spiked a little in Missouri. They’ve gone up about 20 cents, so they asked her last night if she thought that was part of the conspiracy too, and she sort of didn’t answer that. So I don’t know, but this is…I call this the silly season, Hugh. And so a lot of things like that are said, and it’s very frustrating when they attack you, and it’s the exact opposite. Like I’ve been attacked for not being for ethanol, and I was the sponsor of the renewable fuel standard…
JT: …which is the ethanol and biodiesel provisions of the Energy Bill. But you know, that’s part of what I’m supposed to do, is to communicate effectively enough so that people get what the real facts are. And we’ve been working very hard in Missouri to do that.
HH: Now I have linked at Hughhewitt.com your website, the GOTV effort, if people want to donate online. But it is going to come down to turnout in Missouri, if Republicans stay home. There are a lot of people out there saying oh, woe is us, the Republicans are staying home. I’ve just been back from five states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Colorado. It is not a depressed Republican base. Is that your experience, Senator Talent, in Missouri?
JT: Well, very much so. I’ve had…I get great turnouts. I think people are energized. And I’m very hopeful of a big turnout in Missouri. Now as you know, you have to do the work on the ground. I mean, you have to make the phone calls, and knock on the doors, and do the rest of it. And that’s kind of exciting. I mean, I think beginning…when we really realize what the information revolution had done to politics, grass roots politics came back into its own. I mean, ten years ago, it was all what you could put on the air. But I think people realize now that you win by what you do on the ground.
HH: And how is that in terms of the precincts, and the map books, and the 72 hour effort in Missouri?
JT: It’s going very well. I think it’s going to be longer than 72 hours. They’re calling it 72 hours, but I think it may be more like five days of work before the election to get people out. I’ve done a pretty good job of making the system in Washington responsive on levels that make a difference to people. We just talked about renewable fuels, but I’ve also worked hard on issues like methamphetamine, which is a huge problem in Missouri, also in California. And dare I say it on your program, I even worked with Dianne Feinstein to get the combat meth bill passed. I think people know the significance of the tax cuts. My opponent’s of course for tax increases. I asked her in a debate, I said you know, the revenue’s grown 11% and 14% the last two years. I mean, how much is enough? It’s just…but that comes from a philosophy that believes that government is what’s important in the country. And if you believe the government’s important, then you want government to have the money.
HH: Now Senator Talent, I also think anyone who loves the Navy has got to be working on your side, because you’re on Armed Services. You do know and you do protect the Navy, and you’re getting it ready for the 21st Century. I don’t think your opponent really gets the war. Is there any evidence that she understands this conflict?
JT: Well, I would say no. In fairness to her, she’s had, or spent her whole career in state government. I wouldn’t expect her to have a lot of experience in defense matters, or veterans matters. But I mean, I think she’s basically for like pulling out in Iraq, which is pretty much where her wing of the Democratic Party is. It’s a little more surprising that she doesn’t support the vigorous activities that are really intelligence, or even more of a police base. You know, it’s frustrating to me, Hugh, that a lot of the more liberal Democrats who kind of view the war on terror as a police action, don’t support aggressive actions in that area, either. You know, they don’t support terrorist surveillance, they want habeus corpus rights for captured prisoners. My opponent supported the New York Times when it released the classified information. She said well, it’s okay, because the terrorists probably knew about it anyway.
JT: I mean, so you’re…as a Senator, you have access to classified information, and you can’t just say well, it’s okay to release it, because they probably know about it anyway.
HH: Now Senator Talent, you also got…I mean, this will come down to microcommunity. You’ve got a pretty significance Jewish population in Missouri, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on TV today, saying that Israel is a counterfeit and illegitimate regime that cannot survive. It’s a Zionist regime that has been allowed to commit all kind of crimes. Their usual stuff, but this was on national television. Do Missourians, both Jewish and non-Jewish who support Israel, understand your strength on their behalf on Israel’s behalf?
JT: I think so. I mean, I’m committed to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. I think that’s very important from a lot of different perspectives. I don’t view it as a partisan or an electoral issue so much, but I think there’s a lot of folks in the Jewish community, and outside of it, who understand the importance of that, and I hope they’ll look at my record, because I’ve had that position year in and year out in the Congress, including when I was in the House.
HH: Now Senator Talent, I want to turn to a little inside baseball, which is Missouri’s history of fraud. And I can still remember 2000, John Ashcroft, the polls were being left open by court order in some heavily Democratic district. The state Supreme Court just struck down the voter ID law. How are you defensing…you’ve got Acorn out there doing illegal voter recruitment again, as they do registration. How do you defense that?
JT: Well, first of all, I’m campaigning very aggressively in the urban areas, and I want voters to vote. Now what you want is to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat the system.
HH: To cheat.
JT: And what we do to try…or what is being done to protect against the latter is you just…you need to take advantage of the avenues the law permits, to have observers, to have people there to try and make certain that fraud doesn’t occur, to try and make certain the boards of election commissioners are setting it up properly, and to move quickly if you see a problem. And we’ll do all of that. I think in 2002 and 2004, we did a pretty good job of making sure that people voted, but people who weren’t supposed to vote didn’t vote.
HH: Now Senator Talent, in Minnesota and Ohio and Pennsylvania, I got TV ad fatigue. They’re on every moment in every state. Is that the case in Missouri as well?
JT: Yeah, and it’s going to ger more and more of that, but I’m used to that. I mean, by the end of the election of 2002, Hugh, there was a negative ad up on me every quarter hour, every day part, every station in the state of Missouri. I mean, it’s just…I think probably, because I’ve run three times statewide in the last six years, I bet I’ve had the distinction of having more negative ads run against me than any other person in the history of the state of Missouri. I ought to get some kind of recognition for that, maybe Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
HH: I think she actually came out and said you were a good man last night, that you work hard. So that’s kind of a turnaround for her, after questioning your patriotism.
JT: Maybe I ought to quote her on that. Well, what I’ve been doing is pointing out, because my opponent’s been running as a person who will change the system in Washington and lift the tone, and I pointed out last night that there’s real question whether her family’s paid all their taxes. They own an off-shore tax shelter in Bermuda. The Kansas City Star wrote about this extensively yesterday. And it’s just a shell. And it’s the kind of…all these non-partisan groups are saying it’s the kind of thing you set up to avoid taxes. They own 150 limited liability corporations that show no income…
JT: …and of course, you do that…So I’ve said just disclose your taxes, and then we can all be certain you’re paying taxes, which is appropriate, because she’s called for tax increases on people.
HH: Has she disclosed them yet?
HH: Oh, Bob Casey did in Pennsylvania. I don’t think she can get away with that, actually.
JT: Yeah. Well, I just…it’s an issue. When somebody’s running on the basis of their record as an auditor and a prosecutor, and because they’re going to be the next Harry Truman and raise the tone in Washington, well I think they ought to disclose their taxes.
HH: Senator Talent, good luck. We’ll check in with you again. All the websites are linked at Hughhewitt.com. Go online. Help him out. Volunteer. Get involved.
End of interview.