Tom Coburn is a Crazy Person

At this point, I am convinced that our entire congressional delegation is essentially an elaborate prank. This is clearly some sort of crazy internet based VR game that I’m playing against my will. The Lost Ogle guys are about to pop out from behind a Chevy Tahoe and have a big laugh about all of this, and Andrew Rice and Fred Harris will be our US senators starting tomorrow.

I learned today that Tom Coburn wishes he could carry a gun onto the floor of the US senate. This fact didn’t surprise me at all, and I still like him more than I like Jim Inhofe. It’s refreshing to have a senator who only intends to endanger the US Congress, as opposed to, say, innocent airport workers.

Coburn’s tendency to say and do crazy things makes him look, to some extent, like a lovable crank- the reigning Uncle Fester of the Senate. He isn’t a crank. He’s a very smart person who does and says crazy things because he legitimately believes them. This is much, much worse.

Let’s parse more carefully what Coburn had to say at his town hall meeting:

From the Tulsa World:

LANGLEY — President Obama is basically a well-intentioned man whose “philosophy is goofy and wrong,” U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday during a town hall meeting here.

Coburn’s remarks were in response to a man who asked if Obama “wants to destroy America.”

“His intent is not to destroy, his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him,” Coburn said

Coburn said that as “an African American male,” Obama received “tremendous advantage from a lot of these programs.”

Coburn went on to say that most of the country’s problems were created by Congress and that “I don’t think presidents matter that much.”

 

OK, let us assume for the moment that we have all been liberal arts majors and we all understand the ins and outs of Coburn’s seemingly oblivious white privilege here. I have a feeling that the president had a pretty priviliged upbringing, but exactly zero of that had to do with his being black. I think there are bigger problems with this answer.

 

First of all, the question itself is patently insane. If the president of the United States actually wanted to destroy the United States, he has plenty of methods at his disposal; for instance, he could force the nation to the brink of default to save the ultra wealthy a few bucks on their income tax every year, or he could cut taxes way back and then start two hyper expensive and endless wars…my point is, the conspiracy prone are convinced that Barack Obama is this brilliant super villain, carefully plotting the UN invasion from the oval office, when if he really wanted to do something like that, he would have done it already. The cunning and calculating tyrant in disguise is a fictional creation. Most dictators and would be dictators are simple thugs, usually ex military officers too stupid to get what they want in an election. (At this point, the tea party set say “But Hitler was elected too!”. He wasn’t. He was appointed. Read a book.)

It makes me sad that someone asked this question sincerely.

OK, let’s move on to Coburn’s answer: Barack Obama is a well-intentioned goof who just wants us all to rely on the government. This is the sort of condescending reaction liberals often get from people who are both conservatives and smarmy assholes; oh, these poor, befuddled do-gooders with their public schools and their hand-outs.

I’m frankly sick of this. It’s cynicism of the highest order. The same people who crow endlessly about how there’s nothing America can’t accomplish are also quite sure that there is no possible way we could maintain social security and medicare into the future or assure a decent education and standard of living for everyone. We can hit a target the size of a postage stamp with a smart bomb from 60,000 feet, but when it comes to pensions for firefighters or maintaining infrastructure, “sorry, wish I could help, but there’s nothing I can do.”

 

We are in the middle of a debate in this country about what the government can or should do. Laser guided coyote slayer and Texas governor Rick Perry got raucous applause for promising people in Iowa that the federal government will be totally irrelevant if he’s elected to head it. I think part of the divide comes from the differences in urban and rural experiences. Small communities tend to feel quite able to take care of their own in hard times, view outside interference as an affront, and regard looking outside of the community for help as disloyalty. In a way, it is a more collectivist experience than urban life; every member of the community is accountable to the rest of the group, for good and ill.

 

In the city, you don’t have that accountability; anonymity can be a good thing- how many of us want everyone in our social circle to remember us in junior high?- but it also leaves social space for high octane varieties of exploitation, corruption, and abuse. The endless paperwork that police all over the country now fill out for something as simple as a traffic stop has a lot to do with big city cops using their beat as an extremely efficient shake down operation in years past. The sort of libertarian magic dust that will “self correct” an abusive or fraudulent business in a small town doesn’t work in a large urban environment, and local church charities can keep one or two families afloat in a bad economy, but would be overwhelmed in the face of thousands of homeless.

 

The problems are the same. Poverty is just as real in rural america as it is in the cities, but it is less visible and less concentrated. We are facing these issues together, but we need to be more sensitive to each other’s experiences. Small communities want less government intervention and more local control, while large cities need a large scale mobilization of resources to manage an ongoing poverty crisis. Both approaches can work, and they both need to be utilized.

 

Tom Coburn needs to know that small town solutions don’t work for the entire country. Our goofy philosophy isn’t about dependence, it’s about preventing mass starvation and urban dystopia. I have no interest in seeing the shop owners of Muskogee shaken down by bureaucrats, but I also don’t want to see people living in squalor and indentured servitude, as they always have and still do in the cities of our very rich country. Any solution that ignores these realities isn’t a solution at all, it’s a surrender.

One Comment
  1. You’re right about the Oklahoma congressional delegation: they’re nuttier than a shithouse rat — all of them, conservative Christian white boys who are radical enough to thinking that they can remold this world in their boring, uncharitable, racist image.

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