- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

Sen. Jim Talent's successful campaign over former Sen. Jean Carnahan handed Republicans majority control of the Senate the day after the election, but the new member wants to begin his career working with the opposition party.
"You have to look for coalitions in unlikely places," said Mr. Talent, who served eight years in the House before defeating Mrs. Carnahan last year.
Mr. Talent began his political career at age 28 in the Missouri House of Representatives where he served eight years. At age 32, he was unanimously elected minority leader by his colleagues.
"I've been involved in grass-roots politics for some time but it was never an obsession," said Mr. Talent, whose parents were involved with the local school board, and in whose home national politics was the suppertime topic.
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1981, Mr. Talent clerked for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner for a year and then friends suggested he run for political office.
"I thought it would be interesting to perform some public service to do some good, and one thing just led to another," Mr. Talent said.
Mr. Talent narrowly lost a gubernatorial bid in 2000. He then set his sights on defeating Mrs. Carnahan, who was appointed to the Senate in 2001 to fill a seat won by her late husband.
A soft-spoken policy wonk, Mr. Talent opposes abortion, supports school vouchers, and introduced the Welfare Reform Act of 1994.
During his campaign against Mrs. Carnahan, Mr. Talent was criticized as being too conservative. Missouri Auditor Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, served with Mr. Talent in the state House. "Jim was very skillful at being a pretty rigid ideologue, very right-wing, without showing people that" she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"This is a very likable guy and sometimes you found yourself forgetting what an ideologue he is," she said.
Mr. Talent described his contest against Mrs. Carnahan as a "tough race." The Democrat's husband, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash weeks before Election Day 2000, but was posthumously elected over incumbent Republican John Ashcroft. In the 2002 special election, Mr. Talent said, the Carnahan campaign "just had an unbelievable amount of money."
Mr. Talent yesterday was named to the Armed Services Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He was also named an assistant majority whip.
The Armed Services post is one of Mr. Talent's key interests. "The president has made important steps in the right direction on rebuilding our defenses. You don't sacrifice the present for the future, you don't underfund current readiness to try and achieve the future.
"I think we need a bigger Army and it's time to confront that," Mr. Talent said.
Removing Iraq's Saddam Hussein should also be a top priority for the country, he said.
"I am strongly supportive of the administration and the president is right to identify Iraq as an organic threat to the United States. He is a threat in the sense that he supports terrorism, and that is reason enough to remove him," Mr. Talent said.
"He is aggressive, ruthless, and developing weapons of mass destruction. Unless we do something, this guy is going to have a nuclear weapon. He already has upgraded Scud missiles accurately enough to hit Tel Aviv. It's bad enough right now conventional in nature, imagine if it goes nuclear," Mr. Talent said.
The situation in North Korea is another obvious danger, and one reason why military strength needs to be increased, he said.
"There is a concern that if we are wrapped up in Iraq and Korea does something, there is the question of whether we can fight two major actions at the same time," Mr. Talent said.
The newly elected senator said he has been warned by senior Missouri Sen. Christopher S. Bond about the slowness with which the upper body moves on legislation.
"He told me his first term was just one long adjustment for him and that he would go crazy waiting on the pace and that was when the Senate was functioning well."

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