By Jay Chilton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, spoke Tuesday to Norman Kiwanis Club members about the state of affairs in Washington, D.C., agreements through compromise and how politics is like University of Oklahoma football.
Cole told the crowd of nearly 50 Kiwanis members that life on the Hill is much different today than it was when he first took office in 2003. He talked about a large group of politicians who used to make up the middle of the political spectrum with many Democrats more conservative than the most liberal Republican and several Republicans more liberal than the most conservative Democrat.
One point of contention Cole raised is the planned drawdown of military-force strength over the coming year. Cole told the group that six of the 37 active Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS planes (31 of which are stationed at Tinker Air Force Base), are monitoring developments in the Crimea area of Ukraine over Poland and Romania. If drawdown numbers remain as expected, Cole said the AWACS planes covering the crisis would not have the service members to perform the mission.
Another topic Cole addressed were entitlement programs.
“I expect a quiet year politically,” Cole said. “The real problem is with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the entitlement programs.”
He said no one wants to address the politically explosive issues of entitlements, so he expects fewer fireworks in Congress this year, which he said will be a good thing for the country.
The most effective option for change in Cole’s view is changing what taxpayer funds are spent on, rather than eliminating spending altogether.
“Instead of spending money on this, let’s spend it over here,” Cole said when describing how he would like to find common ground with Democrats. “We’ll get things done with small agreements like not funding (political) conventions.”
Cole was referring to a bill he proposed to divert public money used to fund Republican Party and Democratic Party conventions. He also noted that no other party conventions, such as Libertarian or Green Party, were funded to pay for cancer treatment and research.
Finally, Cole likened politics to OU football.
According to Cole, if a person is to be a success in politics, like OU football, they have to give the people what they want. Pretty good is not good enough.
“At OU, if you go 8-4 and go to a bowl game, you get fired,” Cole said. “Take Gary Gibbs — never had a losing season, went to several bowls, had some great players, fired. Being in politics is a lot like that, and the voting public has been in a firing mood for quite a while now.”
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