March 28, 2020

"When I ponder our country and its greatness, its weaknesses, its potential, my heart aches for less divisiveness."

So said Senator Tom Coburn on September 12, 2005, the first day of the hearings on the confirmation of John Roberts. I live-blogged:
"When I ponder our country and its greatness, its weaknesses, its potential, my heart aches for less divisiveness," he says and pauses a long time, choking back tears. "He's crying?!" I exclaim. We rewind the TiVo and play it again and, I'm sorry to say, laugh a lot. After the long pause, he goes on: "...less polarization, less fingerpointing, less bitterness, less mindless partisanship." You know, I agree! I feel very strongly about all of those things. But crying in a Senate hearing speech, moving yourself to tears? I'm sorry. I laughed a lot.
On Day 3 of the hearings, I was calling him "Cryin' Tom Coburn":
Cryin' Tom Coburn bores me to tears except when he amuses me with: "Would you agree that the opposite of being dead is being alive?" And with his "medical" opinion — he's a doctor — that Roberts is a credible witness: "I will tell you that I am very pleased, both in my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you're under." I'm under some stress over here, listening to this nonsense.
"Would you agree that the opposite of being dead is being alive?" made my list of "Quotes of the year 2005."

But this morning — as the news comes that the former Senator has died — I choose to highlight that quote with which he moved himself to tears — "When I ponder our country and its greatness, its weaknesses, its potential, my heart aches for less divisiveness." I found that very funny at the time, because I think every Senator is posturing and dramatizing at Supreme Court confirmation hearings and to do that to the point of making yourself cry struck me as the ultimate in Senate theatrics.

But it was a good sentiment and my heart aches for less divisiveness. And it's not even funny right now to state the obvious fact that the opposite of being dead is being alive.

77 comments:

TML said...

He was an actual, rare good guy.

dreams said...

He was a good guy who started having health problems at a fairly early age but still managed to make it to age 72.

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

But it was a good sentiment and my heart aches for less divisiveness.

But you'll still try to rationalize voting for the party that has depended on divisiveness to win elections since 1964. It's not an accident that the terms "deplorables" and "bitter clingers" is coming from the Left.

Wince said...

On Day 3 of the hearings, I was calling him "Cryin' Tom Coburn".

Yeeesh, Althouse sounds like Trump on steroids, (and that was in 2005!).

Skookum John said...

I’m a man’s man in most respects, a real Neanderthal in the eyes of every liberal I know. But I’m leaky at times of strong emotion. A cute kitten video on YouTube can make me shed a tear. George Bush (the younger) was that way to some extent. Some folks are just wired that way.

LYNNDH said...

Agree Gahrie. I have always felt the AA "cruel neutrality" was just a cover story. She was, is and remains a Dem deep down.

Tom T. said...

I'm reminded of the line from Bloom County: "A statesman is a dead politician ... Lord knows, we need more statesmen."

Michael K said...

He retired when he developed prostate cancer. He and Phil Graham are my two Senate favorites,.

Lucid-Ideas said...

True Tom very true. But I'm also very sorry, half the country hates the other half and with good reason. More than half the country are grasshoppers stickin it to ants for not 'partying in Miami' while the other less than half are ants that have moved (in 2016) beyond sadness into anger and are sick of being told lol dude wtf why you so angry all tha time yolo.

Grasshoppers suck. The colony is pissed. We army ant now.

RK said...

Peace through strength.

Temujin said...

If you knew of Sen. Tom Coburn you would have known that he was one of the few good ones up there in Washington DC. He was very real and very frustrated with the BS posturing that we call 'governing'. He was also one of the few early on who was ringing the bell about our debt and spending.

I laugh at a lot of people in Washington. Sen. Coburn was one that I actually liked to listen to.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeeesh, Althouse sounds like Trump on steroids, (and that was in 2005!)."

Yeah, he got it from me.

Ann Althouse said...

No actual Democrats think I'm really "a Dem deep down." They think I'm a big right winger.

You're failing to give me credit for calling them as I see them and for having an aversion to politics and for doing this blog as an art project.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sad for Coburn. There is peace for him now.

What passes for “divisiveness” these days is someone not picking their accuser’s favored position.

When Democrats start calling for Pelosi’s head after that disgraceful stunt last week, I’ll believe this appeal for less divisiveness is real.

bagoh20 said...

If you ever have to deliver really bad news to people you care about, you can be moved to tears even if that's something you almost never do. It happened to me back in 2008 when I had to lay off half my company's employees and cut the hours and pay for those remaining. I had to gather them all together to tell them. We had 190 employees just before the recession hit, and we had already been downsizing by attrition for a few months, but I know these people, I had been to their homes, had played with their kids, and shared meals with them.

I have also noticed that after you hit 50 years old, men start getting more emotional. We can be moved to emotion for things that never had that power over us when we were younger.

RMc said...

But it was a good sentiment and my heart aches for less divisiveness.

Unfortunately, most people define "less divisiveness" as "Quit arguing and do it my way, you ignorant oaf...!"

Sebastian said...

"Cryin' Tom Coburn bores me to tears except when he amuses me with"

So much for wanting politics to be boring.

Anyway, we on the right are done with crying' Toms, honorable thought this particular Tom was.

Of course, we'll have to keep posturing a bit to appeal to nice women who claim to want less divisiveness.

Dems are a step ahead, with MSM help: "Trump is divisive!" They know their audience, and they fight.

bagoh20 said...

Is the sentiment "just leave shit alone" a conservative or liberal value. You know, "Better than nothing is a high standard"?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Althouse, I do appreciate your art project. That’s why I’m here.

What I notice is this...

You claim an aversion to politics, yet you post a lot of political stuff. That seems like a contradiction. Check your premises.

You don’t seem to see politics as a game. Yes, it has real consequences, but it is fundamentally a game. And it is a nasty, brutal game. It’s exchange... horse-trading. Truly it is — and that’s how our American system is designed. Compromise is horse-trading. When the trust is gone, the horse-trading seizes, and it becomes zero-sum. That’s where we are now. You can’t compromise without good faith on both sides.

I credit you for all you’ve created here. Like all artists, you seem to want appreciation.

I appreciate you. Otherwise, I wouldn’t choose to be here. I have lots of other interests.

Thank you.

MayBee said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say you were laughing because Coburn was talking from a pro-life/anti-abortion standpoint.

hawkeyedjb said...

Coburn was a good man, and not particularly well liked by the denizens of Washington. Folks there hate anyone who isn't a phony. He didn't want what most of the swamp-dwellers want: Unearned wealth and power over their fellow citizens. RIP, Dr. Coburn. Unlike most of your peers in the Senate, you'll be remembered for the good you did for your fellow citizens outside of politics.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

“And it's not even funny right now to state the obvious fact that the opposite of being dead is being alive.”

Why “right now” versus any other time? Has a massive plague littered your streets with buboed corpses? Are you living on the desolate, anarchic edge of an irradiated and blasted civilization? Does your favorite hipster coffee shop have drive-thru only? Jesus. Get a grip.

Fernandinande said...

A cute kitten video on YouTube can make me shed a tear.

"It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man." Or the virtuality of the internets...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And believe me, Althouse, I get it.

Most conservative Catholics think I’m a liberal Catholic. Most liberal Catholics think I’m a conservative Catholic.

It’s very strange.

I see myself as just another sinner. So we’re all in the same boat.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Ah the luxury that peace and prosperity give us to laugh at sincere people trying to push back against divisive partisanship. Laugh away. Now he’s dead. Now you understand what he meant. How sweet.

MayBee said...

And goodbye, Sen Coburn. I'm sorry you have died.

RMc said...

Most conservative Catholics think I’m a liberal Catholic. Most liberal Catholics think I’m a conservative Catholic.

The great thing about being an independent (which I've been since my days as a Perotista) is that nobody ever believes you when you say you're an independent.

Usually, they employ the "one drop" test: "How can you be an independent when you agree with X about Y? You're one of them, ain't ya?"

Amadeus 48 said...

So? You call them as you see them? But maybe you need glasses, ump. I know you got the cataracts fixed. What about the other stuff? We all know umpires set their own strike zones. That's why their jobs may be robotized, if MLB ever comes back.

You sound like Dana Carvey doing Arnold: "Hear me now, believe me later." Laugh at him now, cry for him later.

Where did you think those Roberts hearings were going? Well, after much sneering by media idiots, Roberts became CJ; he pulled a tax out of thin air and against the expressed wishes of those who passed Obamacare. Later, we got the Kavanaugh hearings, where you frankly disgraced yourself with your credulity, your limited perspective on what was going on, and your apparent belief that there must be a pony in that Blasey Ford manure pile.

Nice going, Althouse.

Birkel said...

Less neutral.
More cruel.

15 years is a long time so nobody should hold a grudge.
No divisiveness here.

JML said...

"It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

At our nephews wedding, the best man gave his speech and ended up shedding tears. Embarrassed, he came to the back of the room and sat near me. I caught his eye and he started to look away. I told him, "No need to be embarrassed. I also get emotional. Weddings, dog dies, sidekick in a movie bites it. Then I started martial arts - taekwondo. You should try it. Most people think it is just for fighting skills, but the true essence of a martial art is the mental aspect. It teaches self control and discipline. Now, I still cry pretty easily, but thanks to my training, I can kick the living shit out of someone who laughs at me. And that makes me feel better."

Ralph L said...

He and Phil Graham are my two Senate favorites,.

Do you mean Phil Gramm? Doubt you mean Bob Graham.

after you hit 50 years old, men start getting more emotional.

I blame declining testosterone. The veterans on the war docs cry like they probably didn't at the time their friends were killed.

I Callahan said...

Thanks to JML for giving me one the better LOL’s I’ve had all week.

Scott Patton said...

Can Wishing for "less divisiveness" lead to civility bullshit?

Sebastian said...

So the Althouses of America said, we need less divisiveness.

Dems listened and said: "Trump is divisive!"

The Althouses of America responded: It's sad! We're neutral.

OK, Dems said. How about this: Trump works for Putin! Russia stole the election!

The Althouses of America: Still neutral. We need less divisiveness.

OK, said Dems. How about this: Kavanaugh is a rapist.

The Althouses of America: Could be. Still neutral.

OK, said Dems, so we can divide all we want and still not be blamed?

Sweet. Let's try --.

David Begley said...

I was a huge admirer of Tom Coburn. Successful businessman who sold the family business, then graduates from the University of Oklahoma medical school, practices medicine and then enters politics. A Man in Full.

I thought he was honest and sincere.

JAORE said...

I have also noticed that after you hit 50 years old, men start getting more emotional. We can be moved to emotion for things that never had that power over us when we were younger.

Ain't that the truth.

David Begley said...

Althouse above considers this blog as an art project. I more or less agree, but I have an additional take.

I consider the Althouse blog to be a jazz band or basketball team. Ann is the point guard. She brings the ball up the court. She calls out a play or sees something and then passes the ball. The other players are moving and doing their own thing; bringing their talent to the game. But it all stsrts with the point guard. At Creighton, we call the bests ones “the glue guy.” They make the team work.

Result? A thing of beauty.

narciso said...

I thought it more of a socratic exercise, although dr. kingsfield, would flunk quite a few,


yes the biden rule, the Obama Hillary and schumer filibuster, that tells you how much they care about fairness,

Denton Romans said...

This post is everything I come to this blog for.... Thanks, Althouse!

Amadeus 48 said...

Winston Churchill was a notorious, self-acknowledged "blubber".

I think the real question is, is it obviously phony? Cobern? I don't know. Bill Clinton? Phony. See the Ron Brown funeral video.

Owen said...

Great comments here. I give special props to Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD but others are also most worthy.

Why do guys cry more after 50? Declining testosterone or increasing mass of experience? The stuff of lived life; choices made; consequences coming home; old choices exposed as even more cruel or stupid or self-destructive than first thought to be?

Maybe testosterone is the raw gas that drives our species’ replication and push into the future. But once it burns off? All these cinders and clinkers re-emerge. And there are no more distractions from that accounting.

rhhardin said...

We need more derisiveness. It brings the country together.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...


He always struck me as a decent guy, goodbye and Rest In Peace. People really should strive to be kinder, me included.

Milwaukie guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Milwaukie guy said...

Bagoh20: I have also noticed that after you hit 50 years old, men start getting more emotional.

That is so true. I'm getting tears at watching the best in Americans during this time of troubles. I saw the Walmart commercial this morning praising their employees, from the stockers to the truckers. Watery eyes for sure.

For one aspect, the crisis is a Hallmark movie with the small town pulling together.

Achilles said...

Ann Althouse said...
No actual Democrats think I'm really "a Dem deep down." They think I'm a big right winger.

You're failing to give me credit for calling them as I see them and for having an aversion to politics and for doing this blog as an art project.


We see how you call them.

Is Trump divisive?

Was Obama divisive?

Was bush divisive?

Was Clinton divisive?

Were the Kavanaugh hearings divisive?

Was the Russian hoax divisive?

Was “Hands up don’t!” Divisive?

Iman said...

https://babylonbee.com/news/new-york-times-admits-giant-mural-of-mao-on-building-was-inappropriate

Milwaukie guy said...

I've also heard that "regular" crying in men lowers their chance of a heart attack. Crying releases stress. Good advice for men over 50 especially.

JPS said...

Owen, 11:40:

"Why do guys cry more after 50? Declining testosterone or increasing mass of experience?"

Decreasing give-a-shit level that someone might call them unmanly for it? By the time you're middle-aged, you've probably come to terms with your level of manliness, whatever it is, and you're more tired of keeping up appearances. Younger man's more likely to worry about being laughed at.

Which reminds me of a Deep Thought by Jack Handey: It takes a big man to cry. But it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man.

JPS said...

Argh. Should have read all comments. Fernandistein beat me to it.

Sebastian said...

"We see how you call them."

I also call them as I see them.

Althouse values her claim to neutrality more than her aversion to divisiveness.

Althouse values abortion more than calling them as she sees them.

This is not a criticism, by the way. We all rank our preferences.

The apparent contradictions -- Althouse opposes "divisiveness," but then gives Dems a pass on their obvious politics of division; she calls them as she sees them, except when abortion is involved -- are not irrational or hypocritical.

David Begley said...

Calling for a lack of division just sounds and feels good. But the Left and Fake News never accepted Trump’s win which gave us the Fake Impeachment. And, of course, the Kavanaugh hit job was one of the worst things ever in American political history. Slandering a good man with obvious lies. It still makes me sick.

320Busdriver said...

We were fortunate to have him in the Senate and we need more like him. I read his book "Debt Bomb" and found it compelling.

More than anything he wanted Term Limits for congress and he deserves all the credit in the world for taking that stance.

RIP Dr Coburn

Big Mike said...

And, of course, the Kavanaugh hit job was one of the worst things ever in American political history. Slandering a good man with obvious lies. It still makes me sick.

They just dusted off the playbook from Clarence Thomas and tried the high tech lynching all over again. Thanks to the aptly-named Senator Flake, it came unnervingly close to working.

roadgeek said...

Coburn was a doctor who didn't pay attention to his prostate? Didn't get it checked periodically? Prostate cancer moves very slowly, and if caught early enough will sometimes simply be monitored instead of treated. But he died of it?

You don't even have to bend over these days; my doctor checks mine via blood draw. His death was preventable.

traditionalguy said...

My guess is that from the get go is an orchestral music reference to the theme setting Overture. The African folks being denied our written culture understood playing music better than most admitted. The Scots Irish loved playing with them Their musical numbers from the git go, adding their the Banjo music to create Country Music.

Owen said...

JPS: "...Which reminds me of a Deep Thought by Jack Handey: It takes a big man to cry. But it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man."

Excellent. Thanks for the laugh!

Pete said...

I thought about you, Althouse, when I read the news about Coburn. I remembered your ruthlessness in calling him "Cryin' Tom Coburn" and somewhere, in the dim past of your blog, I made some comment about it that caught your attention long enough to put my quote in your masthead. Ah, memories!

Gahrie said...

Althouse opposes "divisiveness," but then gives Dems a pass on their obvious politics of division;

Not only this, but every time the Democrats do something divisive, she acts like this is something brand new instead of the same old shit the Democrats have been doing since 1964. Even Romney and McCain were betrayed and treated like shit when it served Democratic purposes.

Dismissing Democratic behavior as "They both do it" and rewarding the Democrats with your vote is perpetuating the problem.

Sebastian said...

"she acts like this is something brand new"

Correct.

She has changed a bit, after being called on her repeated "How could they do that! It's so sad!" shtick of a few years ago, and of course, she willingly throws out the rotting red meat to us deplorables, but that's about it. Taking sides against progs as progs, recognizing their MO as MO, wouldn't be nice, wouldn't be neutral. She's a writer, you know, just "observing."

At some point, as I've said before, approaching consistently bad-faith actors with good-faith cruel neutrality itself becomes a form of bad faith.

Howard said...

Just to be a pedantically pissy prick Mister Road Geek, his death was postponable not preventable. I think the main goal of prostrate cancer treatment is to let the patient die of something else

Gahrie said...

You're failing to give me credit for calling them as I see them

No I'm not. I absolutely believe this to be true. I'm failing to give you credit for being neutral. If you truly think you are, you're fooling yourself.

and for having an aversion to politics

I have an aversion to crime. I'm still able to see right from wrong and not fall back to a lame "I'm neutral". I'm still interested in how our society deals with crime, and have opinions based on data on it.

and for doing this blog as an art project.

That's our basic disagreement. I see this as a history project where truth matters, and you see it as an art project where there is no truth, only feelings.

Howard said...

Gahrie: you have it wrong... history is full of emotion and art is all about truth. The way you disparage "feelings" is another egregious mistake. Feeling is the only way that we can interact with and interpret the universe. We feel with our eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, our Spidey senses, etc etc. I do agree with your questioning of Althouse neutrality. There is no center so therefore there is no neutral position. I will concede that she is at least attempting in her own mind to achieve neutrality.

Do you feel me?

Phil 314 said...

damn, Howard is correct on the prostate cancer front.

Gahrie said...

Feeling is the only way that we can interact with and interpret the universe. We feel with our eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, our Spidey senses, etc etc.

Those are senses, not feelings. It is how we use the data from those senses that allows us to interact with and interpret the universe. You can chose to do so emotionally and deal with the universe subjectively, or you can try to limit your emotion as much as possible, and deal with the universe objectively. I believe you will achieve far more success and happiness by choosing objectivity.

Fernandinande said...

Does your favorite hipster coffee shop have drive-thru only? Jesus. Get a grip.

I know, but this is a clickbait pop culture blog, usually about the latest click-bait in the fake news.

I've always thought that the insubstantial (quotes herself laughing at Coburn) and often melodramatic ("not even funny right now") posts, which is nearly all of them, are meant to generate income from page views; that's the one thing she's good at.

So, how's RuPaul's social distancing coming along? Is he reading Camus? Playing with donkeys in his kitchen?

Rabel said...

"I know, but this is a clickbait pop culture blog, usually about the latest click-bait in the fake news."

The blog may often be about the latest clickbait, but it is not a "clickbait" blog. Althouse isn't fooling readers into clicking on misleading links for her personal benefit. Perhaps you don't understand the meaning of the word.

If you want to see "clickbait" go to Instapundit.

Fernandinande said...

Althouse isn't fooling readers into clicking on misleading links for her personal benefit.

Misleading is your word; I said insubstantial and melodramatic.

click·bait
content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.


"I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites."

I read several serious blogs or sites: they're not Amazon affiliates.

rcocean said...

He dies at 72, while Ruth Ginsberg will live to be 100.

Rabel said...

Like I said, you don't know what the word means.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

I appreciate Althouse and her creation of this space. I think her interest in language, how it is used misused and employed over various media. Her interests become our interest by coming into the space she created. I truly appreciate her willingness to write with honesty.

Unknown said...

Catcher in the rye is a story about a loser written for losers. Period

Which also sums up my high school paper on it. My English teacher was so aghast at how I tore it apart as it was clearly his favorite book *cough* but I went to a school with intellectually honest teachers so I got an A even while expressing a non-dominant opinion.


Okay, trying to get this straight in my mind. You have a non-dominant opinion, which makes you a loser. You're reading a book about a loser, written for losers. And you think the book is a loser. And so you rip the book. And your English teacher is intellectual honest, which makes him a winner. And he calls your essay a winner. And years later, you make fun of him?

All right, I got it. Carry on.

ColoradoDude said...

I read Althouse for her careful parsing of the meaning of words. She helps me say things more clearly.

Take the word: “devisiveness.”

Let me suggest there’s a centuries old guide that, if followed, would lower the level of this evil. It comes, courtesy Martin Luther, as an explanation of the 8th commandment about bearing false witness”

“We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”

No human can consistently live up to this rule, but we oughta try.

ColoradoDude said...

I read Althouse for her careful parsing of the meaning of words. She helps me say things more clearly.

Take the word: “devisiveness.”

Let me suggest there’s a centuries old guide that, if followed, would lower the level of this evil. It comes, courtesy Martin Luther, as an explanation of the 8th commandment about bearing false witness”

“We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”

No human can consistently live up to this rule, but we oughta try.

Unknown said...

the Kavanaugh hit job was one of the worst things ever in American political history.

Roe v. Wade was one of the worst things ever in American political history.

The Kavanaugh hit job was part of the cover-up. Its purpose was to keep Kavanaugh off the Court, in order to keep the baby-killing opinion in place.

That's my opinion, anyway. Otherwise, why is it the apocalypse when Anthony Kennedy retires, to be replaced with one of his former clerks?

Kennedy was the fifth vote to uphold Roe v. Wade. He was one of the authors of the not-as-notorious Casey opinion. Kennedy was the nitwit who thought he could just declare that Roe was "settled law" and the whole pro-life movement would just pack it up and go home.

"Oh, it's settled? Thanks for clearing that up. Cause it feels like the controversy is still raging."

Anyway, Mr. Settled Law retires (after accusing the Supreme Court of killing babies here and here), to be replaced with one of his former clerks. And that's when the former clerk is falsely accused of being a rapist to keep him off the court.

Those events make complete sense to pro-lifers. We know, intuitively, what the hell is going on. We know about the Walk of Life and the massive protests that take place outside the Supreme Court every January 22.

It's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Kavanaugh is not a pro-lifer. He's an A+ apple-polisher, like everybody else on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh is probably one of those Republicans who thinks Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. That does not mean he's a pro-lifer. Pro-lifers are worried about homicides and the babies who are getting stabbed in the neck. Nobody on the Supreme Court is worried about that.

Consider that Kavanaugh has no idea why this happened to him. "Why is she accusing me of sexual assault? What is going on? What the fuck?" It makes no sense to him. It seems crazy.

Defining unborn children as sub-human property was a very serious thing to do. When a government makes a sort of categorical mistake like that, the homicides escalate into the millions with shocking speed.

The attack on Kavanaugh was just one incident in an ongoing, undeclared war on unwanted children. The false accusation of Kavanaugh makes zero sense in the "settled" account of American law. But it makes a lot of damn sense in the "unsettled" account of American law, with all the dead bodies that nobody wants to show on television, for some damn reason.