The Curious Case of Tom Coburn
Politics, they say, makes strange bedfellows. And perhaps none is stranger than Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn. As the Washington Post reported today, the tenant of the mysterious "C Street" brownstone was a key player in both the Ensign and Sanford affairs. As it turns out, the arch-conservative Coburn also happens to be a friend and confidante of President Barack Obama.
During his nationally-televised implosion on Wednesday, disgraced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford made passing reference to "the Fellowship," a secretive Christian group whose $1.8 million DC building is home to several members of Congress of both parties. Asked if his wife and family knew of his affair prior to his latest Argentinian adventure, Sanford responded:
"We've been working through this thing for about the last five months. I've been to a lot of different--as part of what we called "C Street" when I was in Washington. It was, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study--some folks that asked members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important. And I've been working with them."
As fate would have it, the C Street house has also been home to Nevada's John Ensign and his Republican colleague turned spiritual and marriage counselor, Tom Coburn. As the Washington Post detailed:
The house pulsed with backstage intrigue, in the days and months before the Sanford and Ensign scandals -- dubbed "two lightning strikes" by a high-ranking congressional source. First, at least one resident learned of both the Sanford and Ensign affairs and tried to talk each politician into ending his philandering, a source close to the congressman said. Then the house drama escalated. It was then that Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign's mistress, endured an emotional meeting with Sen. Tom Coburn, who lives there, according to the source. The topic was forgiveness.
"He was trying to be a peacemaker," the source said of Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.
That the Oklahoman, a stalwart of the religious right, would emerge from central casting to remind his fallen Republican brethren of the word of God is no surprise. That Coburn, who among other extreme views called for the death penalty for abortion providers, is a friend of President Obama is another matter altogether.
As The Hill reported in May, "Here's something you don't see every day: Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) stopping by the White House to catch up with his longtime friend, President Obama." Even though Coburn ultimately backed his rival John McCain, "Obama asked him for advice before entering the race, and the two talked periodically during the campaign, with Coburn offering encouraging words during those conversations."
Apparently, the Illinois Senator had Coburn at hello:
"He's just got a great smile," said Coburn, recalling his first interactions with Obama. "He charmed me."
They have worked together in the past, teaming up on lobbying reform and later on a database to keep track of federal spending.
And aside from a devotion to improving government efficiency and transparency, they share a strong faith in God, Coburn said.
"Sometimes there are people you genuinely like and hit it off with personality-wise and you have certain things in common and you accentuate those and you don't pay much attention to what you don't [have in common], and that's the basis of our relationship," said Coburn.
To be sure, what Barack Obama and Tom Coburn have in common isn't much. And with the battle lines drawn over upcoming health care, energy and Sotomayor votes in the Senate, that camaraderie may be tested. Besides, Tom Coburn already has his hands full; he's got two marriages to save.