Coburn: Republicans and Democrats responsible for economic problems
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
8/08/12 at 7:50 AM
CLAREMORE - Sen. Tom Coburn made three appearances in northeastern Oklahoma over a span of five hours Tuesday. In Claremore, the final stop, he wound up spending a lot of time talking about bipartisanship - of a sort.
Coburn's bipartisanship is not exactly Brother Love's traveling show. It is all-embracing mostly in its criticism of most things political, from Voice of America to the president of the United States.
Pressed on President Barack Obama's responsibility for the nation's economic problems, Coburn replied, "Yes, he is responsible - but so are tons of Republicans and Democrats alike."
His response drew some of the loudest applause of the afternoon.
Coburn, a Republican, went out of his way to address his $250 contribution to Democratic Senate colleague Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a subject mentioned in passing but not directly broached by one member of the audience.
"I look for people that I think have backbone," he said.
Coburn said Manchin demonstrated it by going against West Virginia's senior senator, Jay Rockefeller, and eliminating "a ton of money that was going into West Virginia."
"Look," he said, "I didn't just now come from behind the barn. I knew it would create an uproar with conservatives, giving $250 to someone out of my personal pocket. I did it for a point.
"How crazy are we to say everyone on the other side can't help us fix America? We need everybody to fix America. And so here's a guy I think has demonstrated character traits that I think are necessary to fix the country," Coburn said. "If he had someone who could maybe beat him who was better in the fall, ... I knew what I was doing.
"I'm not conservative enough because I don't toe the line all the time? That's what's wrong with us," he said. "Toeing the line and thinking about partisan politics instead of what's in the best interests of the country is one of the reasons we're in trouble."
But Coburn's willingness to donate $250 to a Democrat's campaign should not be mistaken for a change in overall viewpoint.
Earlier, a member of the audience had asked whom he would support for majority leader if Republicans win control of the Senate this year, saying, "If we have the same leadership in the Senate as we have right now in the (GOP-controlled) House, we're sunk."
Coburn did not defend the House Republicans and did not give much cover to current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is almost certain to become the majority leader if the GOP were to win the fall elections.
"I've had the same concerns about Republicans as you," he said. "If we're given the confidence to fix the country and we don't do it, there won't be a Republican Party, and there shouldn't be.
"We don't have the votes in the Senate Republican caucus to have a strong, tough conservative leader," Coburn said. "But if we do, ... Mitch McConnell is a pretty smart operator. If he knows he's got that, he's going to do what we want to do rather than the more moderate."
Coburn did not endorse either candidate in the Aug. 28 2nd Congressional District Republican runoff. Coburn, who held the seat for three terms in the 1990s and still lives in the district, said both Republican candidates, Markwayne Mullin and George Faught, are acceptable.
Besides, he said, "my endorsements usually hurt people rather than help them," pointing out that Andy Ewing, the only candidate Coburn ever endorsed for the job, lost.
Original Print Headline: Coburn says both parties responsible for problems
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Sen. Tom Coburn holds a microphone for Claremore resident Bob Russell as he asks a question during a town hall meeting at Rogers State University on Tuesday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World