During their “Meet the Press” debate, both Democrat U.S. Rep. Brad Carson, a lawyer, and Republican Tom Coburn, a family physician and former congressman, returned to familiar themes with Carson accusing Coburn of ignoring Oklahoma’s needs and Coburn firing back that the Democrats are running a smear campaign.
“Tom has opposed the key bills that help our state. The road bill — Tom is opposed to it. The farm bill — Tom is opposed to it. The prescription drug benefit for seniors — Tom is opposed to it. The Patriot Act — Tom is opposed to it. That’s the kind of bipartisanship that is working in a destructive fashion,” Carson said.
Coburn, who represented Oklahoma’s 2nd District in Congress from 1995 to 2001– the same seat currently held by Carson, rejected the accusation that he did not support anti-terrorism measures.
“I would have voted for the Patriot Act,” Coburn said. “That’s the kind of campaign we’re seeing run. It’s a campaign of half-truths and spin. We’ve seen it throughout. We don’t talk about the real issues that are important to Oklahoma. What we do is we talk about undermining people’s character and making untrue statements.”
“Meet the Press” host Tim Russert asked Coburn to explain his comments earlier this year that those who perform abortions should get the death penalty.
Coburn answered that while abortion is not against the law now, if it were, states could use death penalty laws to punish the taking of innocent life.
“I believe when we take innocent life intentionally, except to save lives, that we are violating moral law,” Coburn said. “Now, I understand what the law is. My hope would be that we would get back to a time when we recognize the value of life, and I think we’re not.”
Russert asked Carson why he has been touting his support of President Bush on such issues as tax cuts and the war, when he actually opposed the president half of the time in 2003.
Carson said constituent needs sometimes trumped the president.
“I support what the people of Oklahoma need and what they want. So when President Bush says he wants to close our military bases, yes, I oppose him. When he says he wants to give amnesty to 13 million illegal immigrants, yes, I oppose him. When he says he wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, yes, I oppose him. When he says he wants to give us tax cuts, I support him. When he says he wants to help with prescription drugs, I support him. When he says he wants to crack down on terrorism, I support him,” Carson said.
Coburn challenged Carson’s assertion that he had supported the president’s tax policy, saying he voted against more tax cuts than he had supported.
During Monday night’s debate, the candidates spent more time on Iraq. Both men stressed that they supported the war in Iraq, while accusing the other of flip-flopping and lying about their voting records.
“I support the actions we’ve taken in Iraq and believe we should stay until we prevail,” Carson said.
The Democrat then criticized Coburn for voting with John Kerry against defense spending that would provide “critical weapons” to troops.
Coburn, who was a medical missionary in Iraq after the first Gulf War, said his votes were made before the world changed on 9/11 and that he supported the president’s position on Iraq.
More than 500 people crowded into Constitution Hall at the University of Central Oklahoma to watch the one-hour debate, which was aired by KOCO-TV 5 and sponsored by the AARP.
The questions came from Channel 5 viewers and covered such topics as roads and highways, Social Security, health care, Medicare and military base closures.
Carson said he would oppose any more base closures, adding he would lead the fight against them.
Coburn responded that another round of base closures was inevitable, and Oklahomans should prepare for it.
Carson criticized Coburn for not supporting bills that would have created jobs in rural Oklahoma.
But Coburn countered that while he cares deeply for Oklahoma, the solution to the state’s problem is not jobs created by the federal government.
Coburn said spending must be reduced to make sure the nation’s children and grandchildren have a future and that there is “a deficit of moral courage” in Congress to address those problems.