A senate race the GOP is willing to lose

By Jane Chastain

He’s got the charisma and moral clarity of Ronald Reagan, the honesty of Abe Lincoln and the mental toughness of Jesse Helms. In Oklahoma, the polls show he is the only man who can beat Democrat Brad Carson for the Senate seat being vacated by Don Nickles, but the party establishment wants him to lose.

Tom Coburn is not a household word, despite the fact that this family physician from Muskogee was one of the most effective and feared men to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in recent years. That’s because Dr. Coburn’s leadership was behind the scenes.

Modern-day Washington is set up to reward career politicians with leadership posts and committee chairmanships and Coburn was no modern-day legislator. He was a throwback to an earlier time when men went to Washington to serve, not to be served.

A leadership post was not the goal or an option for this citizen legislator who lived out of his suitcase and went home every weekend to deliver babies and take care of his patients. Tom Coburn promised the voters, who sent him to the House of Representatives, that he would stay only six years, and he kept his word.

However, during his brief time in the nation’s capital, Dr. Coburn gave Republican leaders more than a few headaches when they attempted to bamboozle the electorate and stray from the party platform and the promises made in the Contract with America.

Think about it. Coburn’s timing was perfect! In 1994, he was one of 74 freshmen elected in the Republican revolution that handed control of the House of Representatives to the GOP for the first time in 40 years and – in the process – helped Republicans regain control of the Senate. His retirement at the end of 2000 came when George W. Bush was elected president of the United States.

With Republicans finally in control of both Houses of Congress and the White House, they could deliver on their promise to the America people to cut spending and roll back big government … or so it seemed.

Somewhere along the way, the GOP lost its way. Leadership abandoned the revolution when Republicans began outspending their Democrat colleagues. That’s when Coburn helped lead the revolt that eventually toppled House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Oklahoma – to its credit – has given us two of the best senators in Washington. Nickles presence will be sorely missed. Although, Jim Inhofe is man of great faith and moral conviction, he has lost his way on spending issues, becoming one of the chief proponents of the pork-laden agriculture and transportation bills.

While federal money in those bills may temporarily benefit Oklahomans, in the long run, unnecessary government spending hurts everyone. Government programs are no substitute for the real jobs that are created when the federal budget is trimmed down to size.

Had Republicans – who now control everything – done their jobs, Coburn would have been content to stay in Muskogee and practice medicine. However, he now knows too much about the problems that exist in our government to allow them to go unattended.

When the campaigns of former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys and Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony stalled, Coburn threw his hat into the ring and, almost immediately, pulled even in the polls with Brad Carson, the leading Democrat in the race.

Did the Republican establishment rush to embrace Coburn in the July 27 primary? It did not!

Everyone talks about wanting another Ronald Reagan. The truth is everyone wants a candidate who is as popular as Reagan, but they don’t want to have to deal with him.

Ronald Reagan told us, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is our problem.” That sums up Dr. Coburn’s philosophy who says, “My desire is not to be a U.S. senator. My desire is to change the Senate.”

If Coburn was effective in the 435-member House of Representatives, just think how much more effective he can be in a body of only 100.

Just as Dr. Coburn promised the people in his district he would not stay in the House of Representatives, he has promised the people of Oklahoma he will not stay in the Senate. If elected, he will serve only two terms and then leave. Also, he will go back to living out of his suitcase in order to come home and practice medicine two days every week so that he does not lose touch with the real world, as so many senators who have gone before him have.

Yes, this is the most important Senate race in the country! Unfortunately, it is the only one the Republican establishment seems willing to lose.

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