Politics & Policy

Let a Hundred Coburns Bloom

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
The retiring Oklahoma senator knew how to fix what’s wrong with America.

Here in Oklahoma, the news that Senator Tom Coburn will be retiring early from his second term has still not entirely settled in with most folks. For ten years we awoke each day knowing that our state’s voice in Washington would be one of principled reason and absolute integrity.

It’s not that our other senator, Jim Inhofe, or our House members, like Tom Cole and Frank Lucas, are lacking. They are all solid conservatives, as is former congressman James Lankford, whom we elected in November to replace Coburn in the Senate. But as conservatives across the nation have recognized for years, there’s only one Tom Coburn.

Which raises the question: What would America look like if the United States Senate had contained 100 Tom Coburns for the past decade?

Well, none of them would be running for president. One of the most endearing things about Senator Coburn was and is his total lack of personal ambition. From his first election to the House in the GOP sweep of 1994 until the day he announced his retirement, he’s been about one thing: service.

A hundred Coburns, or even 51, would have long since passed a balanced-budget amendment and enforced it. The pork flowing out of Washington would have dried up years ago. The deficit, which mushroomed to some $16 trillion under the first Obama administration, would be closer to $10 trillion and falling.

Canadian oil would already be flowing south through the Keystone pipeline. That, coupled with more sensible federal regulatory policies, would probably have dropped gasoline prices to around a dollar a gallon. We could have told the OPEC thugs to go pound sand.

A Coburn Senate would have sustained and even expanded needed defense spending. And any report on the CIA’s work in the War on Terror would have said “Thank you!”

Taxes? They’d almost certainly be lower and much simpler. We might even have achieved that eternal dream of most Americans, a tax return on a postcard.

Russia would be less belligerent. Vladimir Putin would know not to mess with a strong and confident America, and so would the other bad actors, from North Korea to Iran. Yes, presidents set foreign policy, but a Coburn Senate would have added some spine to even a weak-kneed Obama administration.

The federal judiciary would be much more inclined to make rulings based on law and constitutional principle. It is unlikely that we’d have a “wise Latina” grinding liberal ideological axes.

A Senate of Coburn clones would waste a lot less time on resolutions designating Thursday as Earle T. Woonsocket Day and spend more time debating the issues that matter. The dead air on C-SPAN would be filled with substantive debates, with minimal grandstanding. Imagine what it was like for some senators to follow Tom Coburn on the floor for the past decade!

In short, a Coburn Senate for the past ten years would have made us a stronger, safer, more prosperous people.

I have been privileged to know Tom Coburn casually and to respect him entirely since he first blossomed as a new congressman two decades ago. When he was still undecided about seeking a second Senate term in 2010, I stood in line at a political function to tell him what everyone else there was clamoring to say: “We need you in Washington!”

Alas, we won’t have him there in 2015. Oklahoma, the Senate, and the nation will be poorer for his absence, as we were and are richer for his ennobling service.

Mike Brake is a longtime journalist, writer, and editor in Oklahoma. He was a speechwriter for Governor Frank Keating.

Mike Brake spent the 1970s covering the police beat in Oklahoma City and was later a speechwriter for Oklahoma governor Frank Keating. He edited the best-selling oral history of the Oklahoma City bombing.


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