“Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders,” by Dr. Tom A. Coburn, U.S. senator from Oklahoma, candidly explains the machinations of Washington in a way few books do, exploring how the system co-opts even some of the most reform-minded congressmen with promises of power, influence, and the all-important pork-barrel projects to keep voters in hock for another win at the polls.
Unlike most congressmen, Coburn kept his “term-limit” promise to serve three terms as U.S. congressman and then leave Washington. After going back to his Oklahoma obstetrics practice, he was recently elected to the U.S. Senate in the November 2004 election.
Coburn started his career in Congress as part of the much-vaunted Class of ’94, the new slate of GOP freshman ushered into office as a reaction against President Clinton’s expansionist schemes and led by Speaker Newt Gingrich in a revolution that promised to flip Washington on its head.
But instead of completing the revolution, the Potomac’s Bastille was only stormed, never taken. The revolution fizzled long before the job was done.
Through shocking behind-the-scenes stories, Coburn documents the rise and fall of the Republican Revolution and explains that it failed to live up to its promises mainly because elected representatives put politics and their own reelection bids ahead of principles.
He tells of one meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., in which Coburn urged the two highest-ranking Republicans to hem in federal spending in the upcoming budget debates. Lott wasn’t impressed by the plea to take his job or the law seriously.
Recalls Coburn, “Lott looked at me, rested his chin on his hand, and said in his Mississippi baritone drawl, ‘Well, I’ve got an election coming up in 2000. After that we can have good government.'”
It is this careerism in Washington – this overriding concern with staying in the game of politics rather than serving the people with principle – that is the root of budget deficits and out-of-control government expansion, says Coburn.
This honest and critical insider look at “business as usual” in Congress reveals how and why elected representatives are quickly seduced into becoming career politicians who won’t push for change. Along the way, Coburn offers readers realistic ideas for how they can truly make a difference.