More On Coburn

Greg Sargent gets the full transcript of Senator Tom Coburn's remarks on Obama and surmises that:

I think what Coburn means here is that African Americans are more likely to need such programs than whites are, and by his own lights, Coburn actually thinks he’s being charitable to Obama here. He’s essentially saying that Obama’s life experience quite naturally dictated that he would view the safety net as a good thing, because it helped poor African Americans.

I think that's probably true--one of the reasons liberals support the social safety net is that it helps reduce the impact of centuries of legalized discrimination. But acknowledging that these programs do a great deal of good before calling them "goofy" and "wrong" is more than a little weird, as is the implicit suggestion that somehow, it's only people of color who benefit or find these programs valuable.

What’s funny to me about this whole episode is that it reveals how challenging it is for the saner variety of Republicans to reason with some of their constituents about the President. Coburn is struggling to talk a constituent out of his anxiety that Obama actively wants to destroy the country. He needs to find a way of defending Obama’s motives that a constituent inclined to believe the worst about Obama might be able to listen to and even tolerate. So Coburn hit on this way of defending Obama while still keeping his argument confined within a world view that this constituent might find acceptable. It’s not easy being a Republican official these days.

I think there's something to this. I don't doubt that Coburn was trying to be charitable, but his remarks were still incredibly reductive. Ironically, this is an example of the point Coburn was trying to make--people can be completely wrong even in the absence of active malice. It's just that in this case, it really applies more to him than Obama.

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