Tom Coburn appears to have achieved the proper balance between being faithful to one’s governing philosophy, and being practical and open-minded at the same time:
Last week, Mr. Coburn presented his own plan to cut $9 trillion from the federal government over the next decade — far more than others have proposed — in a manner that would radically reduce government services but also produce $1 trillion in new tax revenues.
President Obama invoked Mr. Coburn in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, saying: “Earlier this week, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, Tom Coburn, announced his support for a balanced, bipartisan plan that shows promise. And then a funny thing happened. He received a round of applause — from a group of Republican and Democratic senators.”
Mr. Coburn is known for objections that delay votes on bills for days, infuriating even his fellow Republicans. Yet he almost always strikes a deal eventually, as was the case recently with his plan to end ethanol subsidies.
“I’m contrarian,” he said. “I’m not much of a partisan. I go after Republicans as much as Democrats.”
Mr. Coburn said that the 87 freshmen Republican House members are “the most wonderful thing to happen to our country in a long time,” and that they “are a fantastic addition to the debate in this country.” But he also talked about balancing the passion for ideas with the need to get on board with things you dislike in part, even sometimes in large part.
“The No. 1 thing people should do in Congress is stay true to their heart,” Mr. Coburn said. “But you have to recognize that we’re in a situation that’s dire for our country. If you put your name on something that will move the ball forward, you’re going to get hit.”
[. . .]
“I think I would characterize him as conservative who is solutions-oriented,” said Representative James Lankford, a freshman from Oklahoma who sought Mr. Coburn’s advice before he ran, and seeks his counsel now and then. “That has made him an independent voice but conservative voice who actually solves the problem.”
If we had more such people on both sides of the aisle, the contretemps concerning the debt ceiling would likely have been resolved by now. Unfortunately, the political class is filled with too many people who either ditch their governing philosophies whenever it is expedient to do so, or devote their entire attention to the dictates of ideology, at the expense of taking into account various inconvenient facts.