Talent moves in right direction on cloning, but …
May 16, 2006
It was encouraging to see U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., announce his opposition to the proposed November ballot initiative in which the state’s clone-to-kill lobby wants Missourians to amend their constitution to protect cloning, disguised as embryonic stem cell research.
Talent had avoided taking a position on the matter and was roundly criticized by Christian and conservative groups for not lending support to defeat the cloning movement in Missouri. Talent, like too many so-called conservative Republicans in the state, has been reluctant to oppose the measure due to pressure from business interests, particularly from the bio-tech industry which thinks it can make billions of dollars cloning humans while making Missouri taxpayers foot the evil endeavor.
Give him credit for finally doing the right thing. He is under tremendous pressure from the bio-tech industry which has millions of dollars at its deposal that can be donated for political campaigns. Talent needs to continue to trust his conservative instincts. Missouri voters are perceptive and they appreciate sincerity.
While I am thankful for Talent’s position on embryonic stem cell research, or cloning, I wish he had gone farther and called on all Missourians to defeat the cloning ballot initiative. He did not, saying that it was a personal decision for each person to make. That is not a conservative position on the issue, nor is it leadership. It is yet another recent misstep by the senator.
Talent was invited to meet with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board at its quarterly meeting last month. The invitation was accepted, but only after the board agreed to have the meeting behind closed doors in what can only be described as a bizarre – and certainly one of the most abusive – uses of executive session in recent memory. Talent’s staff insisted on closed doors to keep the news media out. It was pretty obvious what news media to which they referred, especially since the meeting came only a few weeks after this editor wrote a column criticizing Talent for withdrawing his support of a pro-life, anti-cloning Senate bill, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. He hung a conservative brother out to dry and created a political nightmare that he did not need on the eve of a re-election bid in the fall. The decision by Talent staffers for the senator to go behind closed doors with the MBC Executive Board was petty. Though I disagreed with the board’s decision to acquiesce and allow Talent to speak to them privately, I commend the board members who confronted Talent about his position on cloning, a move that quite likely influenced his most recent decision to oppose the ballot initiative.
Talent successfully ran for the Senate in 2000 as a conservative alternative to the flaming liberalism of the Carnahan dynasty. His Senate voting record largely reflects conservative positions. He has consistently garnered high marks from conservative groups like Concerned Women For America and Eagle Forum. But his ratings by the American Conservative Union (ACU), which has rated every member of Congress since 1971, have fluctuated (to his credit he received a 96 percent rating in 2004). The ACU rates every member of the House and Senate on a scale of 0 to 100, based on votes cast on a wide range of issues. The ratings are designed to show how members voted on all the major issues in order to gauge their adherence to conservative principles.
I am particularly troubled by his 2005 voting record in which 40 GOP colleagues in the Senate, including fellow Missouri Republican Kit Bond, received higher ratings from the ACU than did Talent (he received a rating of 84 percent). Of note were his votes on immigration and a cap on federal spending. The Senate rejected an amendment that would have increased funding for immigration and customs enforcement by about $200 million, added 5,760 detention beds, and permitted the hiring of more immigration enforcement personnel. Talent was one of 56 senators who voted against the measure. Later the Senate defeated a procedural motion that would have allowed an amendment to cap most future spending at 2006 levels. Again, Talent was among 67 senators who rejected the amendment and motion. Those votes, along with a vote to increase taxes on oil and gas development gave him the appearance of anything other than a conservative, causing his conservative rating to dip. Add his vacillating position on cloning and it was enough to make any conservative wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
All of this is just another reason Talent’s announced opposition to the cloning initiative in Missouri is so important. It signals a reversal of non-conservative, if not liberal, views. I have always considered him a brother in Christ and his view on cloning reflects his true conservative – and more importantly – biblical instincts that all life must be protected. He, in the overwhelming majority of cases, has served Missouri Christians faithfully. He is a highly respected member of the Senate, known for his integrity and kindness. Talent is known for his love of the Bible and devotion to his professed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His decision to seek re-election in November – against pro-cloning, pro-abortion Democrat Claire McCaskill – gives Missourians a clear choice for the U.S. Senate.