Tom Coburn: A profile in courage


Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was a part of the famous Class of '94---the rambunctious Republican elephants who stampeded to victory in the first election cycle of the Bill and Hillary Clinton years. Then, he was a congressman.

Dr. Coburn, a practicing ob-gyn, continued to commute back to Oklahoma, where he delivered babies when he wasn't midwifing new laws. He brought a refreshing sense of reality to the often-isolated corridors of Congress.

Congressman Coburn, however, didn't make too many friends in the House GOP conference when he denounced reckless spending not only by Democrats but Republicans as well. He apparently had never heard Speaker Sam Rayburn's stern injunction to freshman congressmen: "To get along, you should go along." There were plenty of "go-along" congressmen on both sides of the aisle who weren't all that sad to see the flinty Oklahoman keep his promise to serve only three terms in the House.

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Today, House Republicans are once again an embattled minority. Free spending and scandals toppled the House that Newt built and sent the GOP into political exile in 2006, with the hole made even deeper in 2008.

Many of today's minority Republicans likely wish their elder brothers had listened to Coburn back in the 1990s. They certainly seem to have learned their lesson. Today's GOP House members have been solid against Obamacare.

As the political wheel turns, Dr. Coburn came back to Washington---this time, as the Sooner State's junior U.S. Senator.

Sen. Coburn's finest hour may have occurred yesterday when he held a news conference in which he addressed the majority no votes in the House---the 39 Democrats who voted "nay" on Obamacare last fall.

These House members have been romanced, wined, and dined by the Obama White House this week. Little Dennis Kucinich even got a plane ride on Air Force One. What fun. That must have been almost as exciting for Congressman Kucinich as sighting a UFO with Shirley MacLaine. He swooned and promptly announced he would vote for Obamacare.

But beware, said Sen. Coburn, "If you voted no [then] and you vote yes [now], and you lose your election, and you think any nomination to a federal position isn't going to be held in the Senate, I've got news for you: It's going to be held."

So, if the administration is hoping to persuade skittish congressmen to walk the plank in November with promises of sweet ambassadorships or cushy sub-Cabinet jobs, watch out.

Tom Coburn will come after you.

And that's not all he said. If that comment was a shot across the wilters' bow, his next one put the cannonball squarely into their wheelhouse: "We will look at every appropriations bill at every level, at every instance, and we will outline it by district, and we will associate that with the buying of your vote." So don't think you can bury your sweetheart deal in some 1,000-page bill, Coburn said, "If you think you can cut a deal now, and it won't come out until after the election, I want to tell you that isn't going to happen. Be prepared to defend the selling of your vote in the House."

This fight on Capitol Hill has been ugly. Even President Obama admitted to Bret Baier that the process is ugly.

But there are some beautiful moments in it. To see Tom Coburn stand up and brave the contempt of the left-wing media and face the scorn of liberals everywhere is a beautiful thing. On Thursday, March 18, this tough-talking, resolute man stood up and was counted.

Sen. Coburn's actions merit another chapter in John Kennedy's classic book, Profiles in Courage. And I would add that Coburn made me think of Henry David Thoreau, who cried out:

"O for a man that is a man, that has a bone in his back that you cannot pass your hand through!"

Tom Coburn is that man.

Ken Blackwell
Ken Blackwell

Ken, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. Follow Ken on Twitter @kenblackwell.


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