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Wed Feb 6, 2013, 07:37 AM

Talent takes on new roles on defense, U.S.-China policy

WASHINGTON – If Mitt Romney would have been elected president, there’s a good chance that the former Midwestern GOP senator testifying at the Senate Armed Services committee last week would have been Jim Talent rather than Chuck Hagel.

Talent, a former U.S. senator and House member from Chesterfield, was a senior adviser on defense and security issues to Romney and was on nearly every pundit’s short list of potential cabinet nominees, with several pegging him for a future secretary of Defense.

As it turned out, President Barack Obama won reelection and nominated Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, to the Pentagon post. On Thursday, Hagel endured nine hours of questioning – with most of the barbs coming from Republicans on the panel who were upset with his previous quotes or votes about Iran, Israel and other issues.

Talent, who served with Hagel in the Senate, said in an interview that he respects the Defense nominee as “a smart guy and a patriot.” But he shares the concerns of many Republican senators – including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who has announced his opposition – about Hagel’s views related to Iran.

Observing that Hagel “performed poorly at his confirmation hearing,” Talent said senators need to make sure that the nominee is in line with the White House position of preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon capability – rather than containing that capability after Iran acquires it.


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