Friday, October 15, 2004

Oklahoma Voter Alert!

Coburn vs Carson: Why it matters
Could it get any nastier?

The Oklahoma Senate race between former 2nd District Congressman Tom Coburn (R) and his successor, Brad Carson (D) has featured a couple of acrimonious debates and a slew of TV and radio ads, each new one more acidic than the one before it. It would be easy to say "a pox on both their houses" but it just isn't that simple.

One, Dr. Tom Coburn is a genuinely good guy. His three terms in Congress, starting with the famous Class of '94, were marked by good constituency service and accountability. There was never a hint of scandal, and when his three terms were up he kept his self-imposed term limit promise and stepped down. Tom's pretty plainspoken for a politician, probably because he sees himself as just another citizen.

When Coburn stepped down the Republican Party had no strong candidate to field, and Brad Carson "moved" right in. Yeah, Carson has some sort of ties to Oklahoma, but during his time away from the state he picked up some bad habits and worse friends. After only a term and a half, the ambitious young Carson is chomping at the bit to be a U.S. Senator. Carson reminds me of a younger Tom Daschle, an opportunist who proclaims himself a conservative in the home state but votes a much more liberal line in Washington.

In fact, according to the American Conservative Union, Carson's best year was his first, scoring in the mid 40s. He had only a 40 rating (out of 100) in 2002, and it dropped to 38 in 2003. Compare this to Coburn's "lifetime" (six-year) rating of 97 and you can easily see that we traded down when we voted Carson in. (Coburn scored 100 in 1999!)

In fact, the worst thing Coburn ever did was to keep his earnest promise not to run for more than three terms. Note to future hall-of-fame congressmen: please do not promise to term limit yourself. Unless term limits apply to everyone, they only work for evil.

By objective standards, Tom Coburn should win this race easily. But objective standards are not in play because Carson, using his national party's funds and ethical standards, is trashing Coburn unmercifully with ads that bear only slight resemblance to truth. In the latest he accuses Coburn of admitting to Medicare fraud. It isn't true, but it's a convincingly wicked twist on an incident that dates back 11 or 12 years, and there isn't enough time or money to defend against this kind of scurrilous untruth. Additionally, several votes Coburn took over his tenure as congressman are being singled out to paint him as insensitive to Oklahomans' needs for tornado assistance, roads and head start education. It's an inaccurate picture, but will voters be able to see the light of truth when they're being buried under a pile of manure?

In short, Brad Carson is waging the kind of campaign that would make the DNC's Terry McAuliffe proud. A take-no-prisoners ad blitz full of distortions and half-truths designed to keep the affable doctor on his heels. Instead of the usual disclaimer, Carson's ads should bear the warning: The contents of this ad do not necessarily represent anyone currently living in this universe.

What kind of politician is Carson? In 2003, he voted against a federal medical malpractice reform bill. He voted against class action lawsuit reform. He voted in favor of requiring military hospitals to perform abortions (thank God, the bill was defeated). He voted against the plan advocated by President Bush to allow small businesses to band together for health insurance, a move that would cut costs to businesses and employees. He voted against the deductibility of medical savings accounts. He voted in favor of spending your tax dollars on international groups that promote abortions and "family planning services" overseas.

But wait, there's more: on a bill that would have capped the United States' support of the United Nations budget to no more than any other member of the permanent Security Council -- something that is long overdue -- Carson voted no. True, the bill lost by 50 votes, but it is obvious Carson's heart is not in the right place.

In losing causes, Carson also voted in favor of greater federal control of local elections (would you like to see our problems get worse?), and for lifting the ban on travel to communist Cuba. Somehow I doubt that his constituents in the Second District would agree with him on either one of those.

Can't we say anything nice? Well, Carson's credentials on Second Amendment issues aren't bad, but neither are Coburn's. And you have to wonder, does he really support individual gun rights, or is he simply not wishing to tread on the NRA-rich hunters and home-owners of Oklahoma?

In short, Carson votes like a liberal most of the time.

His campaign ads, in their dishonesty and vitriol, are unworthy of the high office he seeks.

And finally, as the French would say, the Piece of Resistance: If Brad Carson becomes the next U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, he will vote to organize the Senate for the Democrats, which means that perennially "disappointed" Tom Daschle and Uncle Teddy, et al, will have a good chance to be running the show again. That's bad news for America, no matter which way the presidential election slices.

Consider this scenario: George Bush wins re-election but now has to deal with a Democratic Party controlled Senate. More bad news on judicial confirmations or any other issue that would make for a good second term. A nightmare.

A worse nightmare: John Kerry wins the presidency and has the powerful Senate on his side.

Too horrible to contemplate.

For the love of God and country, Oklahoma voters, make sure this doesn't happen!


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