Sunday, October 29, 2006

McCaskill will bring needed change


Both Claire McCaskill and Jim Talent bring hefty credentials to the U.S. Senate race in Missouri. Both can point to significant accomplishments in their political careers, and each speaks with authority on a wide range of issues.

But a critical difference between the two candidates has become increasingly clear this fall: Claire McCaskill, currently the Missouri auditor, seems far more interested than her opponent in bringing fundamental change to Washington.
Such change is essential. From the costly mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan to runaway deficit spending, from the ethics scandals and even criminal behavior in Congress to the administration’s scorn for key constitutional protections, the federal government is simply way off course.

That’s why public approval ratings for Congress are at rock bottom. Across the political spectrum, Americans want to see substantial change in Washington.
McCaskill gets it. That’s why the Democratic candidate is the best choice for the Senate seat.

On issue after issue, she identifies the fundamental problems and expresses enthusiasm — great enthusiasm, in fact — for tackling them.

On Iraq, she rightly criticizes the poor planning, corruption, human-rights abuses and diplomatic ineptitude that have undermined the U.S. military effort.

But she understands that immediate withdrawal would be a mistake. She suggests stronger international diplomacy, a two-year transition period to a multinational security force and a tougher approach to Iraqi leaders who should be doing more to build a stable democracy.

Among McCaskill’s other goals and positions: Better border and port security, greater fiscal responsibility, more equitable tax policies, serious health-care reform, strong support for lifesaving stem-cell research, a more level playing field for international trade, greater federal respect for civil liberties and a renewed U.S. commitment to human rights.

It’s an ambitious agenda. It is also a badly needed one.

Talent, the Republican incumbent, offers some good ideas, such as pushing for a larger military force.

Yet he often sounds complacent, overlooking Washington’s mistakes or even bragging about a fiasco like the costly, confusing prescription drug program in Medicare. He sometimes seems to focus on fairly narrow issues.

In Iraq, an upbeat Talent argues, U.S. troops would already be withdrawing if not for the recent upsurge in sectarian violence. But that’s hardly persuasive; it’s like saying that it would be a nice day outside if only it weren’t raining.
Talent’s shrill, deceptive campaign ads — over-the-top even by lax political standards — have been disconcerting. Pressed about them last week, Talent oddly sought credit for not using them earlier. He added with apparent pride that other candidates had run even worse material elsewhere.

That’s setting the bar pretty low, particularly for a U.S. senator who talks about the need for greater civility in American political life. It is something for voters to take into account.

Also on the ballot are Libertarian Frank Gilmour and Lydia Lewis of the Progressive Party.

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