In a video interview with The Daily Caller, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said former President George W. Bush’s time in office was “a missed opportunity of tremendous proportions,” particularly due to the creation of a new unfunded entitlement program.
“During the Bush administration, they had four years where the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the executive branch. We had a great opportunity to do great reform to fix what was wrong with this country. We didn’t do it — that’s where careerism comes in,” Coburn told TheDC.
“Careerism isn’t just a problem for Democrats. It’s a problem for Republicans too. When the number one goal is to make yourself look good at home, rather than fulfill your oath and fix what the country needs to have fixed, you’re actually adding to our downward spiral, and so I think it was a missed opportunity of tremendous proportions that the Republicans didn’t embrace what they said they believed in during those times.”
Coburn specifically criticized the Republican-controlled Congress and President George W. Bush for enacting Medicare Part D in 2003.
“We created no tax base to pay for it, right? No tax base to pay for it so we created a brand new entitlement program that has $12 trillion worth of unfunded liability. Did we really do that to help people with their drugs or did we do that to make that no longer a campaign issue for the 2004 presidential election?” Coburn said.
“Which was it, because Republican principles would not embrace creating an unfunded entitlement? They might embrace creating an entitlement, but those same principles would say you ought to have a revenue source for it rather than borrow it from your children.”
Coburn continued, “If you’re going to do something you ought to pay for it and you ought to have the guts to say, ‘here’s what I want to cut in the federal government now to do this good thing now,’ but we didn’t see that.”
In his new book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America,” Coburn writes about a phone conservation he had with President Bush.
“The night of my victory in 2004, I received a call from President Bush. After he congratulated me, I said, ‘Mr. President, I’m looking forward to helping you cut spending.’ There was nothing but silence on the other end,” Coburn writes.
“By the end of 2004, Republicans were becoming increasingly agitated about President Bush’s excessive spending. I was determined to follow through on my campaign promise to go after earmarks and wasteful spending even if it meant clashing with my own party.”
The national debt totaled $5.7 trillion when Bush entered office and stood at $10.6 trillion at the end of his presidency.
Watch TheDC’s full interview with Sen. Coburn: