Conservatives, above all else, do not want to elect as president in 2012 some politician who tells them what they want to hear to win office and then morphs into a big-government moderate after he takes the oath of office. The list of Republicans who could fill that requirement seems not too long: Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Michelle Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, and John Thune...did I leave anyone out?
There are Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney who tilt conservative but whose presidency could easily move toward "moderation." Newt Gingrich pops up as a savvy policy wonk with a conservative pedigree but a commitment to making government "work" (whatever that means). Doubtless more of these less-than-perfect conservatives will be touted by the establishment leftist print as the 2012 nomination season nears.
One name seems not to be on anyone's list, though he could be a conservative candidate of unquestioned commitment to our values: Tom Coburn. Consider those virtues which are vitally important to a Republican revolution. Our next president must be able to ignore completely the blandishments and bribes of Washington insiders; he must recognize that our federal capital bewitches and hypnotizes most politicians. Our next president must be a man of his own, who is not owned by any party leaders or by any cliques.
Our next president must be very difficult for the establishment leftist media to portray as an ogre (yes, the left will always try, but sometimes -- as with Reagan -- the character and the personality of the man are so palpably decent that no thrown slime sticks and no sickening slanders gain power). Our next president must be a good person, in every sense of the word. He or she must also be intelligent. He or she must grasp the nuances of public policy debate and must be able to press home rhetorical attacks on issues like health care.
Out of all the Republicans on any list of future candidates who meet these criteria, Tom Coburn should be at the top. Like many possible nominees, Coburn has an almost perfect rating from the American Conservative Union: His lifetime voting record in the Senate is the third-most conservative and his voting record in the current Congress is perfect. Still, Coburn is widely viewed as a maverick (in the best sense of the word) and someone who makes up his own mind. Coburn's concern about the corrupting influence of Washington -- a concern that is truly the heart of the Tea Party movement and the highly energized conservative base today -- was expressed in a book that Coburn wrote seven years ago, while Republicans still controlled the White House and both Houses of Congress. The title of the book says it all: Breach of Trust -- How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders. Isn't that, really, our principal concern? Well, Coburn took up our banner for that cause while Republicans still held all the power in Washington. Coburn, when he was elected in 1994 to the House, took the three-term pledge and honored it, even though his Third Congressional District was called "Little Dixie" and had been gerrymandered to elect Democrats. Coburn was willing to risk his party losing a House seat to keep his word.
Tom Coburn is a doctor whose life before Congress was devoted to healing people and, particularly, towards bringing healthy babies into the world. No one in Congress (and few people in America) is as well-equipped by training and experience to explain the pro-Life position to America. No one in Congress is better-equipped by training and experience to explain the health care system in America.
Coburn also refuses to personally attack leftist Democrats. Obama has publicly described Coburn as a friend. Coburn has called Nancy Pelosi "a nice lady." Most of us do not feel that way about the two principal political bosses of Washington leftism. But it is a big mistake to think that Coburn's comments somehow compromise his politics. Reagan, as I remember him, attacked the politics of leftists fiercely but never attacked individuals personally. I do not share Coburn's sentiments...at all. But I do see how Coburn has made himself almost impossible for leftist politicians to attack on a personal level. Which means...what? It means that in the 2012 election, if Coburn is our nominee, the great policy issues which the Obama presidency has pushed will be the centerpiece of the campaign. Those policies are wildly unpopular with Americans, and polls show that despite rapidly decreasing support for his policies, Barack Obama himself remains liked by most Americans. It is a waste of time for us to try to attack the strength of our political enemy, Obama's perversely persistent popularity, and it is a wise strategy to exploit our enemies' weaknesses, the wide perception that Obaman policies are a grand failure and the disgust that Americans feel about the corruption of all politicians in Washington (70% of Americans believe that members of Congress are for sale, much more than a year ago).
Tom Coburn is not a career politician, and he can prove it by his actions. He is not the puppet of party leaders. He is well-equipped to engage our enemies on policy issues, and he can effectively compel them to fight on only the issues. So why would he not be a candidate who would unify the conservative base and win a landslide?