In the Senate, Tom Coburn earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his penchant for blocking anything that didn’t fit his small-government conservative ideology. But now retired, the Oklahoma Republican has kind words for his former colleague, Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is set to launch a second presidential campaign very soon.
“I think Hillary’s experience would make her a very effective president, I think, if she were to win,” Coburn said Wednesday during a meeting with msnbc reporters and editors in New York. “First of all, she’s been on the inside of politics for a long time, so she knows the inside game inside and out. She also knows the relationship game. Her husband was great at it."
Coburn was asked if he thought Clinton would be better or worse than President Obama, who has sometimes been criticized for failing to build better relationships with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Despite their ideological differences, Coburn was friendly with Obama in the Senate and said he was “proud” the country elected its first black president in 2008.
Coburn also praised Clinton’s work in the upper chamber, where she represented New York from 2001 to early 2009 before stepping down to become Obama's first secretary of state.
“She was a good senator," he said. "She worked across the aisle. She kept her word. She became knowledgeable about a lot of issues while she was a senator. So she did that job well,” Coburn continued.
And while Republicans have focused on trying to discredit Clinton’s four years as the nation's top diplomat, Coburn had almost nothing but praise and compared her favorably to her successor, John Kerry.
“I think history overall will probably show that she did a more than adequate job, with a couple of blips, as secretary of state. Better than the secretary of state we have now, for sure. So there’s nothing wrong with her qualifications,” he said.
Some Republicans who were once positive about Clinton’s tenure at State have since soured as she’s stepped back into the political arena and prepared for a White House bid.
But Coburn did sow one note of doubt about Clinton and Jeb Bush, one of the leading potential presidential candidates on the GOP side.
“Here’s the question in my mind -- is the country ready for another Bush or another Clinton?" Coburn asked. "I think we’re Clinton-Bush weary. And I think that’s a big wall that is out there. And I think freshness, some type of freshness, is going to have a clean shot, or at least a clean opening, to come in and have an impact on this race.”
Coburn, who retired from the Senate last year with two years left in his term, stopped by msnbc with Tea Party Patriots co-Founder Mark Meckler to promote their effort to hold a convention of the states to amend the Constitution in various ways to promote long term fiscal health and reduce the size of government.
The effort is a response to what they see as the failure of Washington to balance the budget and reduce the debt, but they note an Article Five convention, named after a provision in the Constitution, could be used to make a host of potential changes to the document.