Or read the transcript below:
Transcribed by J. C. Hendershot
Interview with Senator Tom Coburn by Roger Aronoff
The “Take AIM” show on BlogTalkRadio, June 21 and 26, 2012.
ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s talk show on BlogTalkRadio. AIM is America’s original media watchdog, and every week we point out biased coverage and bring you the stories the mainstream media ignore. I’m Roger Aronoff, the Editor of Accuracy in Media and of The AIM Report, which you can subscribe to at aim.org. We also encourage you, when you’re at that site, to sign up to receive our daily E-mail so you can keep track of what the media are up to. We’ve got a great show today with Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. He’s actually on the floor of the Senate right now—they’re voting on one of his amendments soon. Are you with us, Senator Coburn? . . . He will be here shortly. He has a great book out called The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington From Bankrupting America. We’re going to get into this, have a good, long 30-minute conversation with the Senator—hopefully, if he’s able to make it here, I know he’s involved on the floor right now. Let me just tell you a little about him. He’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Finance. As a Senator, he has offered more amendments than any of his colleagues, including amendments to eliminate funding for the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the Woodstock Museum in New York. He also pledged to his constituents to not serve more than two terms in the Senate, because he believes that members of Congress should serve as citizen-legislators, as opposed to being lifelong, career politicians. Are you there, Senator? . . .
SENATOR TOM COBURN: Hello!
ARONOFF: Okay. Hi, Senator Coburn! How are you doing, sir?
SENATOR COBURN: I’m doing fine.
ARONOFF: Roger Aronoff, with Accuracy in Media. I’ve just started introducing you already—we’re live—on BlogTalkRadio now. Just a little bit more about you—he also had another book, besides The Debt Bomb, called Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders, back in 2003. Let’s see . . . two weeks ago, he released an Oversight Report about wasteful spending, aptly named “Money for Nothing,” which exposes more than $70 billion in federal funds that are left unspent, years after being appropriated by Congress, due to poorly drafted laws. I would also like to mention, for those who don’t already know, that Senator Coburn is a physician who specializes in family medicine, obstetrics, and the treatment of allergies, and he has personally delivered more than 4,000 babies—and he is a three-time cancer survivor! We’re so glad to have you with us today. You’ve got something going on on the floor of the Senate right now, huh?
SENATOR COBURN: We do. I’ll have a vote in about ten, twelve minutes that I’ll have to go for.
ARONOFF: That changes my list of questions here! Why don’t we—
SENATOR COBURN: Let’s do what we can, and maybe I can run and vote, and come back?
ARONOFF: Okay, that would be great. So your book, The Debt Bomb—you imagine, in the book, a scenario in which the U.S. more or less becomes Greece in a few years, where we have austerity terms dictated to us by the G20, civil unrest, China stepping up to take over Taiwan. How realistic is your scenario? What are your concerns here?
SENATOR COBURN: We can use Greece as a great example. Greece has a debt-to-GDP ratio slightly higher than us. They’re highly leveraged. They can’t borrow money unless the rest of Europe backs it up now. What has happened to them is, they have over 60% unemployment for people under 30, they have a declining economy that’s going to decline about 7% this year—why is that? Because they waited until the problems were upon them to deal with them. The point I’d make to your listeners is, we don’t have a problem in front of us that we can’t solve, but when we solve them is very important. If we wait until we’re in crisis to solve them, the pain will be immense, much like the Greek people are experiencing now. Fifteen years ago—actually, sixteen now—the total size of our federal government was what we borrowed in the markets last year. So we had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year, and if you go back to 1995 and look at the total size of our government, it was about the same size as what we borrowed. The federal government’s now twice the size it was eleven years ago—the point being, that is markedly hurting our economic capability. If you think about what could possibly happen to us—and I can’t remember the gentleman who said this, it’s not my words—“Everything continues until it doesn’t.” Everything’s about confidence—right now, America looks pretty good to the rest of the world, even though we have this tremendous debt and deficit, but it’s because we have a history of safety. So you’re seeing all this money coming to America, it’s keeping our interest rates very, very low, and you’re seeing the value of the dollar rise—and, consequently, we’ve seen oil come down, because the value of the dollar has gone up. But I think the quote was, “We’re the best-looking horse in the glue factory.” When that confidence in the world goes away, that money will run out of here, and that’s when the bond vigilantes and people—much like in the story I put forward in the book—will say, “I’m going to sell my bonds. I don’t trust that they can pay them.” When that happens, it all unwinds. We go from recent historical interest rates on our debt of under 2% to 6%—and what happens there is, that’s an additional $650 billion a year, just in interest costs. So you think about everything that’s going on: What will it do to our economy? What will it do to the opportunities for our kids? Fixing those problems before the Debt Bomb explodes is mandatory. The greatest risk to us, as a nation, is our debt, our unsustainable debt. Those aren’t my words—those are [Admiral] Mike Mullen’s, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said that the biggest risk to us is not al-Qaeda, not terrorism, not China, not Russia—it’s our debt. For a military man to put it in those terms tells you that everybody in positions of power actually sees what the problem is. The question is, where’s the leadership and the courage to address the problem?
ARONOFF: We are awaiting an opinion from the Supreme Court—it’s going to come down some time between now and next Thursday—on the constitutionality of President [Barack] Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, “Affordable” being the key word there. That’s something that you’ve looked at quite extensively. First of all, what are you expecting the Court to say? What do you think they should say? Then I’d like to know—I’ve got a couple of quotes from you about this, so why don’t we start there. What do you—
SENATOR COBURN: I don’t think anybody knows what they’re going to say. What I would hope they would say is that the whole thing gets thrown out. The Affordable Care Act was their attempt at government running health care. As a practicing physician, I can tell you that one of the reasons that health care is in trouble is because the government’s running 50% of it now. There are ways for us to fix health care. Some interesting statistics: What we know, by five separate, independent studies, is that $850 billion a year in health care dollars are wasted. That’s $1 out of every $3. That means $1 out of every $3 isn’t helping somebody get well, and isn’t keeping somebody from getting sick. So why would we continue anything towards a semblance that would continue to waste 33% of everything we spend on health care? I would put forward to you that there are two areas that aren’t functioning well at all, and they’re the two areas where no market forces work at all. Those are education, and health care. Where you see market forces applied to health care—even with a safety net—what you see is markedly lower costs for health care. We’ve got little pockets of that around the country, but we don’t have that as a national policy. The proper allocation of resources can best be done when you have a stake in the cost of what you’re buying, and we have to—
ARONOFF: You referred—
SENATOR COBURN: —back to that.
ARONOFF: You referred to the biggest danger of the Obamacare as coming through this “IPAB,” the Independent Payment Advisory Board. As you argue, it will take the ability of patients and doctors to make choices, and give that choice to a government bureaucrat. You referred to that as the “Sovietization” of health care.
SENATOR COBURN: That’s right.
ARONOFF: Explain that a little bit further. How—
SENATOR COBURN: If, in fact, we have a mandate that we have only so much money to spend, you have two ways of doing it: You can let a market force allocate that, or you can have bureaucrats allocate it. So you can have this complex government organization known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board that starts deciding what they’re going to pay for things—well, when they start paying less for things than what they cost, people quit doing them. The other thing is, if they decide that you’re 70, and they’re not going to invest this money in you—so Medicare isn’t going to pay for your stents in your heart even though you’re 70 years old, because they don’t have the money to do it. That’s what’s coming under a government-controlled health care plan. We can do better than that. Every other area in our economy does better than that. The free enterprise system, with the appropriate checks and balances, can cause us to wring a lot of money out of health care, improve the quality, and decrease the overall costs of health care in this country.
ARONOFF: You and Representative [Paul] Ryan pushed the Patients’ Choice Act a while back. It was defeated, as you described in your book, by Republicans who falsely believed it involved tax increases, and Democrats who called it a “backdoor attempt” to end Medicare and Medicaid. You’ve been at the forefront of trying to make some of these changes, and you’ve found that you meet these brick walls wherever you turn on this, huh?
SENATOR COBURN: We’re going to make those changes. The question is, when are we going to make them? Are we going to make them on our own? Or are we going to make them when China says they’re not going to loan us the money to continue to run Medicare the way it is? I mean, that’s our choice. Medicare’s going to change, and only an untruthful politician would deny that. The question is, how do we change it to still deliver good quality? The reason it’s going to change is, in five years we won’t be able to borrow enough money to keep Medicare running the way it is. Just a little fact: The average couple who works in America and retires puts $110,000 of payments into the Medicare Part A trust fund. They take out, on average, $330,000 to $350,000. How long do you think that will last?
ARONOFF: Yeah, that can’t last too long. It seems like even working around the edges to, say, means-test it—I guess those are the solutions that you advocate, means-testing—
SENATOR COBURN: Let me interrupt and go vote.
ARONOFF: Thank you. We’ll just tell you, while we’re waiting for Senator Coburn to return, that he gave a speech last summer on the floor of the Senate, and he went through a list of items that—I’ll just give you a couple of examples of what’s wrong with our federal government. For instance, he says, “We have 100 different programs with 100 sets of bureaucracies for surface transportation alone.” He asks, “Why do we do that? Why have we not fixed it? . . . We have 82 programs to improve the quality of our teachers, run by the federal government across seven different agencies. Only one of them—”
SENATOR COBURN: Okay, made it back!
ARONOFF: Great. I was just reading, while you were gone, a list from this speech that you gave, which I cited in an article last summer. You talked about all the duplicative bureaucracies—for instance, the surface transportation, 100 different programs with 100 sets of bureaucracies; 82 programs to improve the quality of teachers, run by the federal government across seven agencies, only one of which is the Department of Education; 88 economic development programs in four agencies; 56 programs to teach financial literacy, and you brought up the absurd irony of the federal government teaching financial literacy. Each one carries its own bureaucracy, and they just grow and grow. It just seems so outrageous, so absurd that this goes on. Who is the constituency for this?
SENATOR COBURN: Right . . .
ARONOFF: You know, so many of us appreciate you out there, sounding the alarm on this, but we see so little movement in the direction of fixing these obvious, insane problems. I mean, what—
SENATOR COBURN: Here’s the problem, and I make this point in the book: When people vote against these amendments that I offer, it’s because they have a constituency that is either employed or benefitted by one of those programs. They never think long-term for the country, they never think common sense, they never think about efficiency and effectiveness. They think about getting re-elected. So most people who have any common sense would say, “Why would you have 47 different job training programs, all of which but three overlap, you’re spending $19 billion a year, and you don’t know if they’re effective at all—why would you continue to do that, especially in light of running in excess of a trillion dollar deficit every year?” People can’t answer that question, but politicians say, “Well, somebody might be mad at me if they lost one of these grants or one of these programs in the state—I best not vote against it, I best not vote to eliminate them.” So the motivation becomes How do I stay an elected politician? rather than How do I do what’s best for the country?
ARONOFF: What is the answer? I mean, without term limits, who—
SENATOR COBURN: The answer is changing who comes to Washington. Quit sending elected career politicians to Washington. Send people with real-world experience. The people that I work with are good people—they have good hearts—but they have absolutely no real world experience.
ARONOFF: Well, that just seems too long-term of a solution to solve a problem that is just, you know, breathing down our necks today.
SENATOR COBURN: Maybe it’ll change. My hope is that I work every day to try to build a consensus and make sure people understand what’s coming for our country. I also make the point in the book that, if you’re elected to the Senate or to the House, and you’re worried about a vote—you can’t go out and defend a vote to cut programs today, given what we’re faced with as a nation—you have no business being here. None. What we need is real leadership. This country is used to doing hard things. We’ve done big, hard things in the past, but the thing that is required to get us to do that is real leadership, talking to Americans as adults, saying, “Here’s the real problem. I’m not going to talk about the symptoms of the problem, I’m going to talk about the real problem, the disease, and here are the options to treat it.” The options may come from the Left or the Right, but we have to figure out, somewhere between those two sets of solutions, a compromise that fixes the problem, because not treating the cancer before it metastasises is a death wish, and that’s what’s happening right now—you have people worried about the next election, so they’re not taking the hard votes. They’re not doing it.
ARONOFF: So, what role do you see for the media in all this? We are, of course, Accuracy in Media, watching the media coverage of this, and it seems like if they would give these issues that you’re talking about more coverage, and put it out there—I mean, there’s nobody that could sit there, look at it, and say, “Oh, yeah, we need 56 of these duplicative agencies, each with its own bureaucracy. That’s fine.” I think if this was brought to the public’s attention in a better way, there would be such outrage and demand to change this—that’s maybe the only way it could happen. The media seems to be complicit because, in general, they’re pulling for the Democrats, and the Democrats are, you know—both parties share some responsibility.
SENATOR COBURN: Both parties share responsibility, and there’s just as much recalcitrance, in terms of doing hard things, by career Republican politicians as there are career Democrat politicians. They’re both trying to advantage themselves. What I would say—that’s why I wrote the book: If I can get hundreds of thousands of people to read this book, buy it, read it, pass it on, then they’ll have a knowledge of what’s actually going on up here, and they’ll demand change. The problem isn’t with the American public, the problem is with the elite political class that responds by furthering their own careers rather than fixing the country. Remember the other thing: Media likes to focus on a fight, rather than on the problem, and so we have coverage that’s extraordinary and flamboyant because it’s interesting when two people are fighting, or two ideas are fighting, but they never focus on what the problem is and why we need to solve it now rather than wait.
ARONOFF: You have laid out a four-point plan to get the country back on track. Why don’t you basically run that down, because I think there are some very good points in there. Let me take the first one: Reform the tax code. This is interesting—I know through your Simpson-Bowles work you’ve talked about it, lowering the tax rates across the board, getting rid of a lot of loopholes. Everyone seems to agree with that, yet at the same time, Obama and the Democrats seem determined to see the tax rates go up at the end of the year. That seems in direct conflict with the notion of tax reform, lowering the rates and so on. How do those two concepts ever mesh?
SENATOR COBURN: Let me make a couple of points. Number one is, when we’ve had major tax reform in the past, which was under Reagan, we had four years of greater than 4.5% economic growth. That’s number one. Number two, Americans as a whole spend $300 billion a year paying their taxes. That’s money that doesn’t actually grow the economy. If you spent that $300 billion investing in new plant equipment, ideas, research, you would actually get an economic multiplier off of it. We have a problem with confidence in our country. We have $2.6 trillion in cash sitting in business bank accounts right now. That’s about $1.6 trillion more than we normally have, and the reason it’s there is, there’s no confidence and no certainty about the economy, or what the tax rates are going to be. I also put out a report showing $30 billion worth of benefits to millionaires a year in the tax code—that’s $30 billion a year. It was called “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous.”
SENATOR COBURN: So if you were to lower all the rates for everybody, and limit the deductions to charitable contributions, limited, and mortgage deductions, limited, you could have rates of 8%, 12%, and 24%. That would give a jump start to our economy like you’ve never seen. You’d see that $1.6 trillion run off those books and be invested in our economy. It’d also require using a territorial tax system, because right now companies in America that do business foreign never bring their money back, because they pay taxes where they made the money, and then we tax them again. So having them bring that money back would have that money invested, and that’s about $2 trillion sitting in foreign accounts. So if you wanted a stimulus to this country, figure out a way to have the money that’s there and available invested—that would do it. The other point associated with the tax code was, everybody ought to pay some taxes. If you’re getting welfare, if you’re on TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families], if you’re getting food stamps, you ought to have to pay something so can you participate in this Republic.
The second point to get us growing is to totally reform in a way that saves Medicare and Medicaid. They’re totally unsustainable. We will not be able, as we talked earlier, be able to borrow the money to continue to run them. So we have to change them if we’re going to save them. That will create a lot of savings, but it will also create greater efficiency and better value of care for the money that we spend. That would include Social Security, too, because Social Security is not hard to reform and save. The third thing we need is real leadership. The fourth thing we need is a marked decrease in regulations—but also the recognition that the countries that are doing the best in the world today are the ones that are taking advantage of their natural resources. We have more coal, oil, and natural gas in this country than Canada, China, and Saudi Arabia combined. We’re going to spend the next 25 years on carbon-based fuels, regardless of what we do. We’re still going to—75% of what we spend is on carbon-based fuels. We send $300 billion a year out of this country, oftentimes to people who hate us, for oil and natural gas. If we were to produce our own—which we can, we have the capability—we’ll employ, immediately, another million people a year in this country. We’ll have $300 billion that we don’t send out that would be invested here. That’s an economic stimulus that we would get every year. So we can easily fix our country, but we need the political will to do it.
ARONOFF: A couple things. One, I want to know—you have said that you are only going to do two terms, and you were elected to your second term in—let’s see—
SENATOR COBURN: 2010.
ARONOFF: 2010. Right. So is that still on? Are you still planning—
SENATOR COBURN: Oh, yes, sir. No, I actually believe in it. You know, I’ve had the freedom, ever since I’ve been up here, to do what I thought was in the best interests of the country, not the best interests of any political campaign I want. I won almost 72% of the vote in Oklahoma, and it wasn’t because people always agree with me. It was because they trust me, because I’m thinking long-term. I’m not thinking about an election—
SENATOR COBURN: —for me, or any party, I’m thinking about what’s best for me.
ARONOFF: Well, I think people know you, and it would be a huge loss to have you gone from there, because you seem to be the dynamic force pushing these things to try to reform—
SENATOR COBURN: Let me just say, we got some great Senators in the last election. Senator Ron Johnson is a breath of fresh air. We’ve got Mike Lee, we’ve got Rand Paul, we’ve got Rob Portman—we’ve got lots of new fresh blood. We need more fresh blood, people who are care about the country, running for the right reasons—they’re not running for them, they’re running because they want to fix the country. I have another vote and I have to go. I apologize for cutting you short.
ARONOFF: Oh. Maybe we could do it another time. I’ve got lots more, but thank you so much for spending this time with us—
SENATOR COBURN: I’d be happy to reschedule and do it again.
ARONOFF: Okay, Senator, thank you.
SENATOR COBURN: Thank you, bye-bye.
Take AIM: Senator Coburn, Part II
Transcribed by J. C. Hendershot
ROGER ARONOFF: Hi, Senator Coburn! Hey, I appreciate your coming back. As you recall, we were having our interview last Thursday—
SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OKLA): Okay.
ARONOFF: I’ll dispense with the introductions and all that. We covered the health care issue, and your book, The Debt Bomb, the scenario in that. I just had one or two more questions on that, and I’d like to talk to you more about some of the issues that you’re facing on the Judiciary Committee.
SENATOR COBURN: Okay.
ARONOFF: First, what about these deficits? The reality is that the economy did well under President [George W.] Bush through 2007, when things started falling apart and we had $400 billion-something deficits the following year—and, I guess, if you add TARP in, arguably he left a trillion dollar deficit—
SENATOR COBURN: Well, you can’t add TARP in, because all but $60 billion’s come back.
ARONOFF: Right. Yet President [Barack] Obama continually claims that he was left with a “trillion dollar deficit.” That’s how he justifies his four in a row of those now. What do you see of how he’s handled the economy in his nearly four years in office now?
SENATOR COBURN: I don’t think anybody would have disagreed, given the recession that we had, and the housing and debt bubbles that we had, that some type of stimulus program was needed. But the stimulus program that was passed and put out by this President had less than $46 billion worth of infrastructure in it. The rest of it was used to spend on things that would not create wealth, and would not create additional jobs. So what you blew was $800 billion. You put it into the economy, but you got no growth from the economy from it. That accounts for the first $800 billion of his deficit. Most of it was to create in the states the same problem we have in the federal government: If we don’t have enough money, we just borrow it. What we did was delay the time at which the states were going to have to make difficult situations. They had expanded as well. So that was money that was borrowed but actually accomplished very little in terms of long-term economic growth. The additional deficits have been because, in the first year of President Obama’s term, not counting the stimulus, the discretionary spending was increased close to 11%, 12%, and the next year, about 7% or 8%—compounded, that’s about a 20% increase in discretionary programs, not Medicare, Medicaid, or anything else, but that spending continued to increase. Plus, we had more spending that members of Congress would not cut spending somewhere else to pay for. That isn’t Obama’s legacy, that’s Bush’s legacy, but that’s $100 billion a year. You can easily see that if you’ve grown the government that way, along with entitlements growing and revenues coming down, that you’d have this wide deficit. What should have happened is, we should have had, actually, a very much smaller stimulus program that was all directed to infrastructure—that would have actually created jobs—then, as we talked last week, reforming the tax code so that you could get the confidence and the certainty back in terms of investment of the trillions of dollars that are sitting on the sidelines.
ARONOFF: You’re also on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last week, President Obama invoked Executive Privilege over Operation Fast and Furious. This week, they’re expected to have a vote on the floor of the House, unless they can reach some kind of agreement. What is your view of this Executive Privilege? Do you think this is justifiable?
SENATOR COBURN: What it looks to be is completely political. First of all, the statements that have been made thus far is that White House had nothing to do with this, and, probably, that’s true—they didn’t have any knowledge of it. But the fact that Executive Privilege was invoked means that they’re trying to delay the onset of the transparency that’s required to resolve this until after the election. So I think it’s a purely political move, I think there’s significant smoke there, and there’s probably some wrongdoing that they didn’t want to see exposed before the election. Now it’ll go to court, and will not be resolved until after the election, so what they did was put up a wall—
ARONOFF: Kind of threw a blanket over it, right.
SENATOR COBURN: Yeah, so nobody in America can actually know what’s going on. I mean, you can’t have the Justice Department say one thing, then ten months later say, “No, that’s absolutely false. We were in error when we told you we had no knowledge of it.” They did have knowledge of it, and, probably, the problem wasn’t in that it was a wrongheaded idea and somebody made a mistake—the problems usually occur in this when people start trying to make excuses or cover up what they’ve done. That’s the problem. The wiretap information that has been available to members of Congress and the various committees actually proves that the Justice Department did know what was going on, that they issued the wiretaps and were involved in it.
ARONOFF: Right. They’ve been trying to claim that this was a program that was started under Bush, and they’re the ones who had ended it—
SENATOR COBURN: That’s not accurate, either. The Bush administration pulled it back way before they left, and then it was reinitiated.
ARONOFF: And it was, really, a totally different thing, in the sense that the Bush administration had basically worked with the Mexican government, as I understand it, and they actually did interdict these weapons at the border.
SENATOR COBURN: That had happened previously.
SENATOR COBURN: But, again, to put out their confusion, so people—in other words, it’s the same old thing: “Nothing that’s gone wrong today is my fault! It’s somebody else’s fault! It’s Europe’s fault! It’s the Bush administration’s fault! It’s the price of oil’s fault! It’s the oil and gas industry’s fault! We’re not responsible!” The fact is, America recognizes good leaders when they stand up and say, “This is my responsibility. This was a mess-up, we need to come clean on it, and the American people need to see it.” That’s a character trait that this administration does not represent, and it’s one of the reasons that we’re seeing them fail not just in this area, but in many others.
ARONOFF: When we see this position by the White House on the DREAM [Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors] Act, where they decided that they’re going to allow these people from 16-30 to stay in the country and, in essence, give them at least a two-year pass, a work pass—this is after President Obama had said, on numerous occasions, that he didn’t have the power to do that—and then we saw something again yesterday, when part of the Supreme Court decision didn’t go his way, and he immediately put in a plan where the federal government was not going to cooperate with the state of Arizona. We’ve also seen this with DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]—he seems to just make decisions that are, really, part of the legislative process. What do you see with this overreach of executive power?
SENATOR COBURN: I think the glue that holds our country together is the rule of law. If you undermine the rule of law, you do two things. One is, people lose confidence in you, because it’s obvious, especially—he has no power to issue the executive order that he did. It can’t carry the force of law, and when it comes to court, he’ll lose that, and he knows it. So he’s undermining the rule of law, and saying, “What the Congress says doesn’t matter, I’m chief executive, I don’t care what the law is, I’m going to do this.” But, more importantly, when you’ve undermined the rule of law, what you do is, you cause other people to not have confidence in the rule of law, and then they say, “Well, if the rule of law isn’t important to the head law enforcement individual in this country”—i.e., the Attorney General—“and it’s not important to the President, because he just changes it whenever he wants, I feel free, then, to not follow the rule of law myself!” That breeds anarchy. So the number one thing any President has to do is to abide by the rule of law, and create confidence in the rule of law, so the rest of us will follow it. That’s the one thing I think has given America its exceptionalism—here, more than anywhere else, maybe with the exception of England: You can count on the fact that you may not win in court, but you can have a day in court, and that laws have meaning and are enforced. We’re as close to getting perfect justice as we can—it’s not perfect, but we’re as close as any society’s ever come to doing that—and when you have the leader of our country, and his chief law enforcement officer, undermine that core principle, which was outlined by John Locke, what happens is, you undermine the foundations of our country.
ARONOFF: Now, is all the action taking place in the House? You are in the minority in the Senate, and therefore you couldn’t, for instance, pass a contempt citation to the House?
SENATOR COBURN: Right now, we have not issued subpoenas. The House has. So it’s the result of him not following a request for a subpoena that has him in contempt of the House. Ultimately, this will play out, but it’ll be long after the election, and will probably become a moot point. But what I can tell you is, when Attorney General [Eric] Holder is not there, and a clear, fact-finding, independent counsel—not somebody who reports to Eric Holder—looks at this, they’re going to find things that are not in our country’s best interests, and probably not in the interests of honesty, truth, and transparency.
ARONOFF: That is the case on the so-called national security leaks issue, where the two people going—
SENATOR COBURN: There’s no question about it. There’s no question about it: Those leaks came from the White House. They’re quoted in press reports of high level White House people, so there’s no question about it. What you don’t know is what the motivation is. You can make an assumption that it’s all politically motivated, based on the President, but you can’t know that. But the fact is, doing that has done grave danger to our country, grave danger in terms of our ability to work with other people, put multiple lives at risk because people have violated the very principle under which you can have significant capabilities to defend our country.
ARONOFF: That being said, do you see anything this President has done that could be grounds to consider impeachment?
SENATOR COBURN: I don’t think you have anything now—plus the fact is, that all comes through the House anyway. It doesn’t come through—Impeachment is tried in the Senate, but the actual impeachment occurs in the House.
ARONOFF: As an observer, how do you see the media? Do you see them covering for Obama on these things, spinning it his way, or do you see the media acting as a fair arbiter of the news and the facts of what’s going on here?
SENATOR COBURN: I think it just depends on what your definition of “media” is. I think journalism, as a profession, has been markedly degraded as bias has been put forward in both conservative and liberal forums, where you don’t present the facts and let viewers take their position—there’s lots of shows on TV, quote, “media” shows, that are totally biased, both on the Right and the Left. I think that our problem is that the profession of journalism has been impeached, and has been undermined, and I think there are very few true journalists out there today who can actually present a story and you don’t know which way they’re thinking. They have the capability to do that, but they’ve lost the professionalism to do it, and editors have totally failed, in terms of how they edit stories to take out bias in the presentation. Talk radio is very similar to that, as well, and so are the talking heads on the cable news channels—all of them. I think we’ve lost a lot. I think Americans are a whole lot smarter than that. They don’t need to be told how to form opinions. They have the capability of doing that. If you present them with the facts, they’ll come to a conclusion.
ARONOFF: Was that your sign? You’ve got to go vote?
SENATOR COBURN: That’s a sign that I’ve got a call.
ARONOFF: Okay. Listen: I thank you so much for coming back on to finish this—
SENATOR COBURN: Hey, it’s good to be visiting with you, and I’ll do it again, if I may.
ARONOFF: Great! Again, the book is The Debt Bomb, our guest has been Senator Tom Coburn. Thank you so much, Senator.
SENATOR COBURN: You’re welcome. God bless you. Bye-bye.