Coburn vs. Cruz

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is not a big fan of the drive to defund ObamaCare, or the all-night filibuster held by his colleague, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).  Actually, Coburn said he liked the filibuster, but he doesn’t think the defunding effort is “intellectually honest,” and he says he’s been taking heat for failing to climb aboard the Cruz bandwagon.  Mediaite quotes from Coburn’s remarks:

???I???m finishing up nine years in the Senate,??? Coburn said. ???Nobody has a higher conservative rating than I do. I???m now no longer a conservative according to the standards that have been set by the expectation of this process.???

???I???m getting all sorts of e-mails from people that supported me, because they have been misled about what???s possible.??? Coburn said. ???Do people not think if I could change ObamaCare, I???d do it in a minute? It???s a disappointment that we have put a short term goal with lousy tactics ahead of being honest with the American people.???

The Senator noted that Cruz had nowhere near the sixty-seven votes in the Senate necessary to override President Barack Obama???s inevitable veto of a continuing resolution that defunded his principle legislative accomplishment.

???The problem with politics is if you create expectations you can???t fulfill, that leads to disappointment,??? Coburn said. ???You know, I???m all for changing the Affordable Care Act, eliminating it and doing something that???s more transparent, more market-oriented. To create the impression that we can defund ObamaCare when the only thing we control???and barely???is the U.S. House of Representatives, is not intellectually honest.???

I’m a fan of Senator Coburn’s work, and have no urge to photoshop a rhinoceros horn onto his photo.  But I respectfully disagree with some of what he’s saying here, beginning with the wisdom of going on MSNBC to call a prominent Republican and his supporters “intellectually dishonest.”  I didn’t see Democrats doing that to the folks who spearheaded their equally doomed gun-control crusades.  I don’t recall a lot of such talk during periods when Republicans controlled the Senate, or even Congress at large, and Democrats were plumping for doomed bills.  On the contrary, their versions of Ted Cruz are invariably hailed as heroes, people of conscience, brave souls trying to raise awareness and shift the national conversation.

The Republicans seem bound and determined to make themselves pay an exaggerated political price for every stand on principle.  Coburn is doubtless aware of how many “Republican Crack-Up” stories he’ll be featured in.

It might be useful to consider the difference between talking about the realities of a defunding vote before the effort gets under way, versus after Senator Cruz has seized national attention for the effort.  There is still the possibility of changing voters’ minds with a case like the one Coburn makes before any dice are cast, but after the filibuster has been delivered, talk of “putting a short-term goal with lousy tactics ahead of being honest with the American people” is only going to sour the overall political situation.  Again, I don’t recall any prominent Democrats rushing to Fox News to accuse each other of lousy tactics and dishonesty.

That’s not only unhelpful, it’s unfair.  Cruz hasn’t been blowing any smoke about the difficulties faced by his effort.  (If anything, he’s lately been toiling to explain the rules of the Senate to voters who have never been educated on its arcane procedures by our glorious impartial media.)  If Senator Coburn would like to see an example of dishonesty, I refer him to Barack Obama claiming ObamaCare doesn’t have anything to do with the budget today.  Not only is this ludicrous on its face – just for starters, the welfare subsidies middle-class America will need to buy their overpriced health insurance are delivered in the form of tax credits, which would seem to have a pretty strong connection to the admittedly alien concept of “budgeting” – but the ObamaCare con artists spent years touting it as a deficit reduction program.  That seems insane in retrospect, but they were very serious about it.  I know Coburn disapproves of such tactics, but he’s not doing anyone in America any favors by putting Ted Cruz on the same plane of “dishonesty” as Obama.

Coburn had some kind words for Cruz’ performance during the filibuster… but that wouldn’t have occurred without the defunding drive.  That’s one of the salient points of this debate.  The defunding effort is a rallying cry.  It can only build enthusiasm among Republican voters, independents, and persuadable Democrats leery of ObamaCare… unless other prominent Republicans run around convincing everyone that they were wasting their time by supporting Cruz.  I don’t sense any groundswell of Tea Party sentiment that it’s all or nothing on the defunding resolution.  They’re not going to pack up their tricorner hats and trudge home in abject defeat when it doesn’t pass.  There is no widespread sense that this is the end of a struggle.

The GOP should be able to channel the energy Cruz has summoned into other efforts, if this one doesn’t work out.  If they play their cards right, they should be able to ride the wave to electoral success in 2014 and 2016.  But people have to see them do something now, not just talk about how they’ll do something later.  Pity our hands are tied by those ugly Senate vote counts, but check back with us in a couple of years and we’ll see how things are looking.  The Republican base needs inspiration.  They’ve heard a lot of “we’ll fight when the next budget battle or debt ceiling deathmatch rolls around” promises that never came true.

One of the difficulties encountered by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was the sense of skepticism that he would effectively combat ObamaCare.  He said he would.  He flat-out promised to begin clubbing it with executive orders on Day One of the Romney Administration.  He had some quite logical explanations for why the Massachusetts market that led to the creation of RomneyCare was different than the national insurance market, and in any event, states can do things the federal government cannot.  But that all came across as tinny rhetoric in a lot of ears.  At this point, no one doubts that Ted Cruz will do whatever it takes to defeat ObamaCare and implement real health care reforms.

No one seems to have any problems with Democrats using initiatives to inspire movements that build party strength.  They’ve got to be pretty excited to see Republicans straitjacketing themselves by ruling such tactics out of bounds.

Are Republican leaders still worried that the media will say bad things about them, or pin blame for ObamaCare’s failures on them, if they resist it with too much vigor?  News flash, fellas: they were going to do that anyway.  President Obama is bellowing into microphones that he refuses to compromise or negotiate on the debt ceiling… but the media is going to call Republicans the “intransigent” party.  The GOP is not going to win that game by playing along with it.

Supporting the kind of action Cruz put on the table means Republicans won’t be indicted as co-conspirators in the crash to come.  It really does matter if you cast votes against this garbage, and take dramatic high-profile holy-cow-that-dude-is-still-talking-21-hours-later stands against it.  The Democrats will otherwise be only too happy to question the sincerity of your opposition later.  Isn’t the GOP still paying enough of an institutional price for going along with George Bush’s big spending?

One other thing about the defunding drive for Senator Coburn to consider is that it’s the right thing to do, even if the votes aren’t there.  Coburn is an outstanding critic of government waste.  ObamaCare is absolutely riddled with wasteful spending.  Huge amounts of money are already being wasted on nonsense, such as a campaign to treat Americans like infants and entice them to sign up for ObamaCare using pictures of baby animals.   ObamaCare millions are being laundered into the coffers of Democrat special-interest groups.  It’s all going to get worse as it goes along.  Shouldn’t a Senator concerned with government accountability, transparency, and efficiency vote against pouring billions down this rat hole on principle, even if the vote doesn’t have much chance of getting through a Democrat Senate?  Shouldn’t he be making the case that any Democrat senator who really cares about good government should be voting against ObamaCare, too?