Tom Cole seeks reelection, predicts ‘great year to be a Republican’

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 01-Jun-2010

Tom Cole of Moore, first elected to Congress in 2002, launched his reelection campaign with an enthusiastic and specific rejection of the policies and preferences of President Barack Obama and his allies.

In his encounter today with reporters at the Oklahoma state Capitol press room, Rep. Cole maintained, “This administration has provoked a big debate, and taken exactly the opposite view of what the majority of Americans want and need.” Cole pointed to searing and divisive debates over health care, cap-and-trade, the federal stimulus and other issues, noting, “The president’s proposals have gained little or no Republican support.”

Cole said he remains “as passionate as I was when I first ran for Congress.” He characterized himself as an advocate of “American exceptionalism” in contrast to the European-style “social democracy” views of the incumbent president.

Specifically and methodically assailing the Obama administration’s priorities and spending proposals, Cole predicted dramatic Republican successes in the November elections.

Rep. Cole contended that after the stunning upset victory of Scott Brown in the race to replace the late Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate, “this president had a chance to sit down and negotiate things the Democrats and Republicans could agree on.” Obama rejected the opportunity, Cole said, because “he’s very ideological.”

Cole sustained his strong fiscal conservative themes in response to questions from CapitolBeatOK concerning efforts to authorize a federal bailout for union pension benefits.

Cole’s pointed criticisms of the president continued as he contrasted Obama’s executive policies with those of former President Bill Clinton, who fashioned “centrist” policies and sought to balance the budget. Cole said President Obama leading the country toward “a permanent shift toward unsustainable deficits.” He said the former Illinois Senator was “the most liberal president we’ve ever elected.”

While optimistic about reelection, Cole noted he already has three primary opponents, adding, “I’ve been in politics long enough to be concerned about opponents, whether left, right, or center – in front of me or in back of me.”

Concerning his early support for the president’s financial system bailout, Cole said he believed that early moves had “helped stabilize the financial situation, and we’re getting paid back.” However, he said subsequent maneuvers by the president completely lost his confidence.

“It’s a great year to a Republican. I think we’re going to have unbelievable gains in the Congress,” Cole said. He recalled post-2008 election “obituaries” for the Grand Old Party, which have now been replaced with widespread expectations of significant gains, perhaps enough for Republicans to retake control of the House of Representatives.

Cole brought his enthusiasm for Republican prospects down to the state level, saying, “the Republican party is going to have attractive candidates in all or most of the statewide races.”

The longtime political consultant attributed the state Republican surge to at least three factors, including “thousands of Republican activists” who supported past GOP leaders like “Henry Bellmon, Don Nickles and Frank Keating”, as well as “the natural conservative instincts of Oklahomans” and “the continued liberalization of the national Democratic Party.”

Concerning attempts at a second round of federal stimulus spending, Rep. Cole was dismissive. He lamented that “for the first time since 1974, the U.S. House didn’t even pass a budget.” Despite failing to pass their own budget measure, Cole noted majority Democrats had prevented consideration of alternatives and of Republican stimulus proposals, “which would be focused on incentivizing the economy and growing the private sector,” rather than growing the federal government. 

Asked about the Obama administration’s decision to appoint a non-Oklahoman to the U.S. appeals court position being vacated by Judge Robert Henry, Cole said he has no quarrel or criticism of the Washington, D.C. lawyer the administration intends to elevate to the bench.

However, he said, the administration’s unwillingness to discuss potential nominees with local Democrats, including his congressional colleague Dan Boren, was bad politics and bad policy.