Dr. Coburn's Rx for what ails America: Social Conservatism

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I just finished reading a book written by Sen. Tom Coburn in 2003 that is titled ‘Breach of Trust - How Washington turns Outsiders into insiders.’ My pre-conceived opinions and notion were that I was going to read a book written by a fiscal conservative with a lot of information about the politics of pork, career politicians, and the train wreck coming if Medicare and Social Security entitlements are not reformed. I did get those issues in spades in this book including graphs, a list of 10 things Congress does not want you to know about how it does business, and 3 myths that dissuadethe public from electing politicians who will truly represent their interests and govern within the confines of the Constitution. But I got so much more - hence the title of this blog.(gamecock helped me get this title.)
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Tom Coburn is an Okie from Muskogee who after working in his famly’s optical business became a doctor at age 35, and was elected to the House at 46 in his first attempt at public office from a district that had not been represented by a Republican since 1922 and was thought to be unwinnable. He did not win by campaigning on pork and dirty politics and corruption. He used a social conservative campaign theme and ran on the belief that the goal for the congressman was to represent the values and attitudes of his district, not the values of Washington’s privileged political elite. This is a very smart and savvy strategy in a congressional district where the Ds greatly outnumber the Rs. I wrote in an earlier blog about how small-town Reagan Ds think about politics.

In general, while the other schools welcome the representative character of our democracy, Jacksonians tend to see representative rather than direct institutions as necessary evils, and to believe that governments breed corruption and inefficiency the way picnics breed ants. Every administration will be corrupt; every Congress and legislature will be, to some extent, the plaything of lobbyists. Career politicians are inherently untrustworthy; if it spends its life buzzing around the outhouse, it's probably a fly. Jacksonians see corruption as human nature and, within certain ill-defined boundaries of reason and moderation, an inevitable by-product of government.
It is perversion rather than corruption that most troubles Jacksonians: the possibility that the powers of government will be turned from the natural and proper object of supporting the well-being of the majority toward oppressing the majority in the service of an economic or cultural elite.

Another major point in this book that exemplifies his social conservativeness is when he wrote about how his religious faith gave him the strength to fight for principle over the temptations of ego and prestige. He also confessed in the book that he was not perfect in this fight, and he wrote

I believe the Scriptures teach that the motives of man are always mixed and that we are made pure, not by our own works, but by grace.

Tom Coburn gave a speech in 2000 at a dinner benefiting Patrick Henry College. He began by quoting Rev Martin Luther King, Jr

Cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?

Now I know that some people might say all well and good that you like this book written back in 2003, but what does any of this have to do with the present and the future. I think some of what he wrote about that happened in the past still holds true today. In other words I’m not talkling about political spin that truth varies from person to person, but that truth is absolute and we do not define truth for ourselves; truth defines us.

He writes what he considered the best example of political spin calculations backfiring - the 1998 midterm election. Most top Republican consultants and elected congresscritters™ assumed the Rs would capitalize on Clinton’s foibles and pick up several seats. When a few restless congresscritters™ suggested during a meeting of the Republican conference prior to the 1998 elections that our agenda might not be bold enough to motivate our base, Newt Gingrich responded dismissively,

Clinton has already taken care of that.

In November, these two storms-a conservative base disgusted by Congress’s spending orgies and a public confused and turned off by the GOP’s handling of the impeachment process-converged, forming a perfect storm that nearly obliterated the GOP majority. Rather than gain seats the GOP majority was reduced to a mere 5 seats.

In those early cheerful days of 1995 the House GOP with their 73 new freshman GOP colleagues adopted a budget that called for the elimination of more than 200 wasteful and unconstitutional government programs, including 3 entire cabinet agencies: the departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce. With battle between Congress and the White House over this budget resulting in a government shutdown, the GOP leadership, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole surrendered to Pres. Bill Clinton. The GOP has never recovered from this loss.

Tom Coburn summed up his thoughts as he prepared to leave Congress in October of 2000 for his constituents in northeast Oklahoma.

The real hope for the long-term viability of the American experiment therefore, does not rest with the Republican party-or any political party for that matter. instead, it rests with the American people who decided to turn the political world upside down in 1994. If the American people can reacquaint themselves with our founders’ vision and elect representatives with true political courage-which exclude almost all career politicians-our course can be righted.

AMEN to We the People reacquainting ourselves with our founders’ vision. I worry there has been a steady introductory diet of a Karl Marx vision going on for awhile in the USA. I also hope we remember the lesson of the 1998 election of thinking victory is possible when you have no bold positive agenda, and only a negative attack against the other party.

Cross posted at The Minority Report

Dr. Steve Sauerberg of Illinois reads this book and infuses his campaign with this wisdom.

Tom Coburn seems to provide a model. Wish we had more like him.

Coburn knew how to headline his first ever campaign for elected office. He did not change his principles, but he chose the best way to communicate them & win votes. Same thing applies in today's GOP. Instead of changing principles our guys need to choose wisely the best way to communicate & win.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

for our policies and against theirs, and also make ourselves the champion of the under dawg!

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
http://thehinzsightreport.com
www.theminorityreportblog.com
www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

was a bust, except for you and a few political friends. I went with the well worn mad libs version of Kubricks anti-nuclear war farce as a title, I realize that needs to be put to bed. :)

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Molon Labe!

ounce of prevention values are not heeded.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
http://thehinzsightreport.com
www.theminorityreportblog.com
www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

Great review. It confirms my gut feeling about Newt, too.

Democrats: Abandoning Allies, One Country at a Time.

From reading the book I got the impression he was not the only House member from OK who soured on Newt. JC Watts and Steve Largent also soured on Newt big time.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

However I expected more examples on how "social conservatism" is the fix for our party. Maybe I am just misreading the diary or we mean different things by "social conservatism".

I understand the issue of following what you think is right, but even most libs agree with that. I agree with the power of faith, we swear on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. So if one has true faith, then they better be focused on the Constitution. I also see the problem of elites, but the left rails against this every day.

To me what ails our party is greed for power. Many of our Republican "conservatives" have no desire to give up their power of the purse, and they will use that power to stay in power.

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Molon Labe!

I did not know much about Sen. Coburn before I read his book. The point you wrote about Republican "conservatives" is made all throughout the book. Only he called them Republican careerists instead of conservatives in quotes. I highlighted his social conservativism in my blog because I was unaware of it. His social conservatism not only helped him on how he decided his positions, but it also was important to him on how he lived his life. The limelight is tempting for any politician to go with prestige and ego over principle. I had never read a politician who had the humility to admit to as much.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

I will read the book on your recco. I have heard nothing other than that Coburn is a staunch conservative and respected man. btw, I do tend go off with the "quotes" from time to time, but at least I realize it :)

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Molon Labe!

I may be a kind of broken record on this, but the democrats have found success in conservative districts by running por-life & pro-gun talking democrats against listless incumbents. Knowing that no 2 congressional districts are the same, it is still "funny" to me that some in Republican circles believe that "moderating" social conservatism is the way to win. I believe this points to the need for a Republican congressperson, senator, or candidate for the office to be truly in touch with their state or district. In 2006, the only Republican to win an open senate seat (heavily contested) was Bob Corker in TN. He won by running on a solidly conservative platform & not straying from it. He'll keep his senate seat if he continues to vote in a conservative manner, & can be a lesson for others.

Here in indiana I have noticed that the 3 recently elected Ds are careful to vote with the Rs on anything that has to do with weapons bans and abortion funding. On the stuff like ethics reforms and foreign aid they can vote with the Ds with no fear.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

"Conservative" Dems are winning by supporting gun rights, supporting abortion restrictions AND opposing homosexual marriage. It is unconscionable, for example, that Sen. McCain would go on the lesbian Ellen DeGeneris's show and talk about how articulate and wise her position is in support of homosexual marriage!

We can win on this issue. We need to educate the voters that the state of California had LAWS outlawing homosexual marriage, but that 4 votes on the Supreme Court (of the state) overturned the will of the people. That is why the Constitutional amendments were so vitally important in the various states that have held referendums the past few years. The homosexual supporting media, knowing the referendums, were bound to win support tried to argue that LAWS were enough, knowing good and well a majority of a state supreme court will decide what the LAW is. We should make the point that the US Supreme Court is primed to overturn the will of the people in all 50 states and may already have the votes to do so depending on Justice Kennedy.

Frankly, if McCain and our party doesn't educate the voters on this issue, we deserve to lose.

I think it is arguable that such extensive reduction of government was the bridge too far--too far not only for the majority of the American people, but also for our system of divided government designed to slow down the victors of a single election (like 1994 or, as the Democrats learned, 2006).

Clinton knew where to triangulate--welfare reform, DOMA, tougher immigration laws, but he also knew that where not to--abortion, medicare, social security. Republican demands that he do so were demanding his political suicide.

Intransigeance has its place. Certainly on things wrong in themselves. But precisely where the level of governmental taxation and spending should be does not admit of such absolutes. Line-drawing has its place--Bush, Sr., for instance should have kept his pledge.

At the same time, in politics, it's like what I learned from my gamblin' days (in the House of the Risin' Sun and elsewhere): you gotta know not only when to hold 'em, but also when to fold 'em (and for that matter, when to walk away and when to run).

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." -Edmund Burke

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." -Edmund Burke

There is a lot written in the book about the government shut down. Clinton did no triangulation in this episode at all. The leadership of the GOP (Dole & Gingrich) panicked BIG TIME about losing seats and power. They did not compromise with Clinton. They performed unconditional surrender.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

A little opposition research and a plan would have handled the shutdown easily. All they did was the public employee union strike playbook. No wall-to-wall public employee union can sustain a strike more than a couple of days; they know it, the employers know it. So, the union's planning is all about how to make the first day of the strike look like the end of the World. If the union goes on strike at midnight, by the six pm news that day they have mommies holding babies dying of cancer who've lost their health insurance, houses being forclosed, businesses folding, welfare babies starving, the whole gamut, none of which, of course, is true. Good organizing and a willing, often complicit, media help them state what is essentially a virtual strike. In the face of all the death and destruction, most politicians, especially most Republican politicians just fold. All they'd have to do is ride it out, stay on message, and act like they're in charge for a couple or three days and the employees would come trudging back to work with their tails between their legs.

In Vino Veritas

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
http://thehinzsightreport.com
www.theminorityreportblog.com
www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

read "The Killer Angels," there's a scene early on when US Cavalry first collides with Heth's Infantry on the outskirts of the town. Bg. Gen. John Buford is admonishing one of his colonels as to the importance of holding the high ground and goes into a soliloquy about how he can see into the future and knows what will happen if the PACS Infantry is allowed to secure the high ground and avers that if they do, the Union command will be forced to try to throw them off with mass infantry attacks in a much larger and much more terrible reprise of Fredericksburg. I often feel like John Buford.

I know the opponent well enough to know pretty much exactly what he is going to do. My political principals were almost never willing to face the losses and controversies necessary to take the small early steps to either prevent the battle or dictate the ground on which the battle was fought. Since they were almost never willing to choose and control the ground, they always fought the battle on ground of the opponent's choosing and the result was almost inevitable.

And Buford was right; had Lee been able to control the high ground on the first day, the battle would have been fought in reverse and Yankee troops dead tired from a 100 mile forced march, low on ammunition, and almost without food would have been thrown against PACS troops entrenched on the high ground of Cemetery Ridge. It would have made Fredericksburg look like a minor skirmish.

In Vino Veritas

They deliver the book to my local branch and if I keep the book a day or two over, they only charge a dime, like a pathetic friend. (They have no Seinfeldian Library Det. Bookman!)

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
http://thehinzsightreport.com
www.theminorityreportblog.com
www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

Most countries don't have "free" interlibrary loans.

Through a combination of private grants, and yes, governmental money, American libraries can provide this fantastic network of free resources.

The interesting thing is that it actually works partly on trust--sense of duty, and people seem to have an increased sense of obligation with respect to books borrowed from other libraries.

http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2007/03/2007031401c/careers.html

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." -Edmund Burke

the postal service. Really, its a bargain at 42cents.

Loved Johnny Carson, but really didn't guffaw at the usps jokes.

btw, no member of my family ever worked for the usps. I'm from railroad stock.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
http://thehinzsightreport.com
www.theminorityreportblog.com
www.race42008.com
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

or possibly prophetic. Check out this op-ed for Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121184690228421415.html?mod=opinion_main...

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Molon Labe!

An excellent article by Coburn. Good link.

Democrats: Abandoning Allies, One Country at a Time.

Excellent. The article and Coburn.

is a big reason I started blogging. I did so in 2004 to support Coburn's primary race against a decent man, Mayor Humphries. And Coburn has been everything I had hoped he would be.

today he blasted the GOP for its embrace of Big Government and the earmarking, K Street Project mentality that came with it.

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I read the book after you mentioned it in a post a while back. I learned a lot about what happened in the late '90's in the closed meetings of the Republican House Conference, and I also learned a lot about Sen. Coburn that I had not known.


Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise.Ronald Reagan

Tangentially, I'll also note that when Coburn endorsed McCain it made me much more confident that I had backed the right guy. I hope a President McCain / Senator Coburn combo can start to repair the broken party. Hopefully, Coburn's WSJ column is the type of things he's whispering to McCain as well.

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