THE FULL DEBATE IN ST. LOUIS: TALENT VS. MCCASKILL
Watch it at ksdk.com.
C-SPAN 2 will air the debate at 7:26 a.m. Central Time Thursday morning.
***Transcribed in Real Time, As It Happened***
Now tell us what you think . . . WHO WON ROUND 3?
Note: Answers are being paraphrased for brevity and speed (for publication in real time by Dave Catanese, Brad Belote)
McCaskill - People in Washington are out of touch. Sen. Talent has been there for 14 years. Priorities of Washington are skewed. Instead of big oil, they should work for alternative fuels. Instead of tax cuts for wealthy, work for middle class. Instead of spending and earmarks stuck in bills by lobbyists. We have profits for drug companies instead of lower drug prices. We have big money for Halliburton and war contractors, instead of funding Medicaid. I've listened to people. They are not feeling the prosperity. Productivity is up but real wages aren't increasing. When you are casting a vote in the Senate it is a lonely moment. Many are tough votes. It boils down to this. When you are casting your vote, who do you hear? Do you hear lobbyists in the hall? Do you hear the President whom you've voted with 94% of the time? Do you hear your party? Do you hear your contributors, the wealthy, the influential? Or do you hear those families in Missouri? I would like to be that kind of Senator who hears you and fights for you. Independent. Strong. Straight-forward and on Your Side.
Talent - Elections matter. I went to Washington to make a difference based on Missouri values. The renewable fuels standard in the energy bill. It's lowering energy prices. The predatory lending bill. The prescription drug bill. There isn't a senior in Missouri who has to go to bed worried about whether drug costs are going to drive down their lifestyle. I was the leader in all of those pieces of legislation and we got them on a bipartisan measure. If my opponent were in the Senate, we wouldn't have those pieces of legislation. Elections matter. I want to recapitalize Missouri's transportation infrastructure. It means jobs for roads, bridges, aviation, water ports. We got $15 billion dollars in transportation bonds, $300 million more for Missouri over the next five years. I want to lower health insurance costs for small business people. Big companies get to contract nationally. Why not small businesses? Farm Bureau or restaurant? I pushed that bill in the House, but it got stuck in the Senate because of the filibuster. I want to win the war on every front. Not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to get the intel on terrorists. We have to capture them and interrogate them. CIA agents are afraid of being sued. If there's a terrorist on the phone, I want to know about it. I want to build the Navy so we are ready for the next confrontation, and keep the peace. I want to give our kids a country that's more prosperous than the one our parents gave us.
Question: What do you say to TWA employees who were displaced by American Airlines broken promises and the results of 9-11?
Talent - I thought the merger agreement was ridiculous. We protested and got passed legislation to address that. Flight attendants and pilots have been stapled to the bottom of the seniority list. Now those people have been taken off the recall list. We have already sent a letter to TWA asking them to reopen this. They've been mistreated all the way up and down the line. We will stand up for them.
McCaskill - Our government gave tens of millions to the airline industry after 9-11. How could none of it be used to help these people recover their job? I think you have to do more than write a letter. We need to take a stand. If there are people that lost their jobs because of terrorists, and the government has spent millions, they need to make a priority for people to get back their work.
Now Audience Questions--
Question: What's you solution to provide quality college education to low income students?
McCaskill - I would never vote to cut funding for Pell grants. It's the first time in our country it has ever happened. It happened under GOP control. I also think it is important to do tax cuts for the middle class, instead of focusing on the CEO on Exxon Mobile or Paris Hilton. I would take tax breaks for the wealthy and redirect to middle class to be used as a tax credit for college education. The debt is amazing. It's wrong and hurting our economy. We will not compete globally if we don't prioritize higher ed.
Talent - It's a real problem. Anyone who's got kids knows that. The key is to empower people, teachers and students. I've supported strong funding for Pell grant increases, tuition assistance, making IRAs permanent. I've also supported universities directly. Missouri State University Water Quality Institute, is just one example. They draw money from the outside. As for tax increases, my opponent and I differ. She does support tax increases and I don't. The government's revenue has grown the last two years by 14% and by 11%. She wants to raise taxes on small businesses, middle class, people who get dividends. We don't need to tax those folks. They are driving this economic growth.
Question : According to many experts, ethanol falls short and is much too expensive to produce. What is your specific reaction? What role does federal govt have to bring down energy costs?
McCaskill - It's way to expensive not to turn to ethanol. I have a long record on ethanol. I had a vision when I was in the legislature. We worked on provisions to promote ethanol. There was a bill to reduce taxes on gas that contained on ethanol. I voted for it. Sen. Talent voted against it. He voted against it in 1990. We need to embrace this and the federal government does have a role in getting this started, not only for ethanol and biodiesel, but for wind and solar. We need to quite giving tax subsidies to big oil.
Talent - The idea that ethanol is too expensive is really an old oil company canard. It's out of date. Ethanol is high performance fuel. E85 is selling around Missouri for 40 cents a gallon less than unleaded gas. I was a strong supporter of energy bill, leader of renewable standard. We forced the oil companies to buy ethanol and biodiesel. It brings investment to the heartland. I got an award from the American Coalition for Ethanol. They don't give you that unless you support ethanol, kind of a prerequisite. (Laughs from the crowd) She opposed the energy bill that Sens. Obama and Harkin supported.
McCaskill - I was not opposed to the ethanol mandate in Missouri. I said it was important for an escape route for the consumer so the consumer wouldn't be stuck with a higher price. I'm the only one on this stage that has always supported ethanol. Sen. Talent has done some good things for ethanol now, but I couldn't support an energy bill that had too much for big oil.
Question: Should the U.S. engage in direct talks with Iran and North Korea?
Talent - With North Korea, absolutely not. That's what got us in the mess we are in. We did that in the 1990s. We agreed to give him aid, we gave him aid and he built a nuclear weapon anyway. We can't give them what they want. If we engaged in bilateral negotiations with him, it would undermine our allies in the region, Japan and South Korea. We need to finish missile defense, send a message to Chinese and Russians to help control this. My opponent has a position of weakness. She supports bilateral negotiations. That gives them what they want.
McCaskill - Those countries are a bigger threat now than they were 5 years ago after the Axis of Evil speech. Our tunnelvision in Iraq has cost us, in North Korea and Iran. There were no nukes in North Korea during President Clinton's term. They now estimate there are 10 or 11 under Bush's watch. We should participate in 6 party talks. We should engage the region. We should be building alliances. We should never refuse to talk to anyone. You don't make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.
Talent - She did oppose terrorist surveillance. She told a reporter it was illegal. We do need to empower alliances. Japan is beginning to increase strength in the region. That's a good thing, we need to encourage it. We need to include them in any talks we have with North Korea.
Question: Why are you the best candidate to address the concerns of minorities?
McCaskill - Frankly, I think this is a very important area. I hope people look at our voting records. You can see the audits I've done on minority business participation in state contracts. When I was in the legislature, I was finding hard to get investment funds from South Africa out of the Missouri pension fund. I was working hard to reach out to African Americans, making sure they are participating in state government. My offices have looked like Missouri and I'm proud of that. Medicaid cuts, cutting head start - that is unfortunately Sen. Talent's record. He got an F from the NAACP.
Talent - I support increases in the Medicaid budget, 30% over the last 4 years. I've worked hard to get the federal government to sustain funds - $400 million dollars extra for Missouri. I've tried to represent aggressively all communities. I also listen. Too often, people go to the African American communities, and say this is what I want to do. You oughta support it. I think it's important to listen to community leaders and see what they think is important. As a result, I've passed the first sickle cell disease legislation in the nation. I've passed a technical grant for Historical black colleges. I've also created a cold case section in the Civil Rights Office, an office of unsolved crimes against minorities. It does nothing but investigate murders in the pre-Civil rights era.
McCaskill - Education is top priority. Sen. Talent voted to abolish Dept. of Education. He has worked to cut funding to Head Start. The black political leadership in this community and in Kansas City is unanimous in the support of my candidacy.
Question: Of all decisions you've made, which one or two would you like to undo? What did you learn?
Talent - I'm very discontent with the way the Senate operates, the filibuster rules. I have fought the excessive use of the filibuster that have hurt liability relief, the death tax relief. I might go back and try to change the rules of the Senate, even though I tried. I think we need to work together and empower the center to get things done. Talent said if he was going to "change or reorder a priority," he would want to change the rules of the Senate. This, of course, wasn't the exact question. It was about a decision he would like to undo.
McCaskill - That's a tough question. Anyone who has gotten to my age has made a lot of mistakes. I wish I would have started sooner to emphasize child support collection when I was the Jackson County Prosecutor. I've encountered so many single moms struggling. I wish I would've put more emphasis on it as a prosecutor, even as an auditor. I think I could do more as a Senator on this. (We want to know HOW?)
When I was younger, I was too confrontational. There were times I was so convinced I was right, I didn't listen. I was so convinced I knew best, that I didn't learn. And I am glad now, that I realize in order to accomplish things, I have to be able to listen and learn. (This may be the most original thing we've heard all night. A candid McCaskill. Interesting answer, but not exactly on point.)
Talent - One mistake in the legislature. There are two sides to everything. If you want to be a leader, you have to focus on having a servant's heart. But if you don't have that, you start thinking it is all about you. Once you start thinking that, you're in trouble.
Question: What further action should be taken at the federal level for eminent domain? Would you support an initiative to eliminate eminent domain?
McCaskill - Eminent domain is a local problem, it's better handled that way. I was happy to see the legislature take action. It's not just about having a developer make a bottom line. She would be happy to help take action on a local level. McCaskill said nothing about pursuing action on a federal level.
Talent - I thought the Supreme Court made a mistake. I'm content to see the states hash it out. Talent then blows off the question and goes back to the previous one to talk about change in Washington. He again lists accomplishments, such as the energy bill, combat meth act, predatory lending bill, the prescription drug bill. "My opponent is the only politician opposed to all of these." He then talks about lowering health care costs for small business, improving transportation. Talent then goes back to terrorism.
McCaskill - Since Sen. Talent went back to the previous question, I will do the same. She says she would be proud to vote against an energy bill that provided billions to oil companies.
Question: Why should the G.O.P keep control of Congress?
Talent- (Brief pause and sigh) Talent mentions the energy bill and prescription drug bill, passed on a bipartisan basis. He pivots and talks about his legislative accomplishments. "My opponent opposes prescription drug bill. If she was in the Senate and not me, seniors wouldn't have this important benefit.
McCaskill - "Washington is all about positioning one party against the other for advantage. Terrorist surveillance is an example. In the 90s, Talent opposed it during the Clinton administration. Now he supports it. There is an arrogance of power. Frankly, my party had it in the 90s." McCaskill then mentions the Foley scandal. McCaskill gets a laugh when she takes a dig at the Republicans fiscal responsibility.
Talent - Ethics problem are not of one party. What I opposed in the 1990s, was a vast expansion of domestic wiretapping in a time of peace. That's different than terrorist surveillance, to listen in on a foreign terrorist in a time of war.
STEM CELL RESEARCH?
McCaskill - I come down on side of hope and cures.
Talent - My message to Sam is someone goes into a hospital that they know they are getting the best possible treatment. I'm opposed to human cloning. I don't want to walk down the street on one side and see myself coming in the other direction. I can't support the ballot initiative. I studied it carefully and made a personal decision.
McCaskill - Talent has cosponsored legislation that would put doctors, patients and families in prison for seeking these cures. The proposal is very clear. It strictly prohibits human cloning.
8:11 pm -- Why would you still vote to send American troops to Iraq, based on what we know now?
Talent: We have to complete the mission. Ally in the war on terror.
McCaskill: No I would not have voted to send troops to Iraq. "Tunnelvision in Iraq" "We must change course." "We may not even get an ally in the war on terror if we stay another decade."
8:09pm -- "I have made a difference in my four years in the Senate." Energy bill, meth law, predatory lending law, prescription drug bill. (Talent is feisty tonight.) My opponent opposed all four of them.
8:06pm -- McCaskill evoking Harry Truman out of the gate.. Feb 2003 hearing in front of Talent and Armed Services Committee. "Talent's in a position to ask the tough questions." Questions to Don Rumsfeld.. "Many senators asked questions. Many senators spoke out. Talent asked no questions and said nothing." July 2003.. hearing on lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rumsfeld grilled. Same line about Talent saying nothing. 2004 hearing. Same line. February 2005.. same line. "Strength is the ability to ask questions and get to the bottom of what's happening in Washington. I will be that kind of senator."
8:05pm -- Jim Talent in Blue.. Claire McCaskill with glasses..
8:03pm -- Karen Foss, long time KSDK anchor is the moderator.
Panelists are publisher of the St Louis Publisher.. Mike Bush KSDK..Tom Webber, KWMU..
Joan Birkman, Chamber.. 3:00 min opening statement... 1:30 to respond.. :30 rebuttal
Audience questions (time permitting) 3:00 closing statement
7:55 pm... David and I are watching the debate via KSDK's satellite feed. The station is also live streaming at ksdk.com. Periodic updates to come.