Sen./Dr. Coburn to leave the Senate

The U.S. Senate is losing one of its more intriguing members early next year.

I’ll miss Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn in ways that I still need to define.

Sen. Coburn is leaving to continue his ongoing battle against prostate cancer. His departure in January 2015 will set off a campaign to replace him in a special election. Don’t look for that seat to flip from Republican to Democrat, given that Oklahoma hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1994.

I’m intrigued by the notion that Coburn is (a) one of the Senate’s most conservative members and (b) one of President Obama’s best friends in the Senate.

How can that be? Aren’t the two parties at bitter odds with each other? Well, apparently Sen. and Mrs. Coburn are quite close to President and Mrs. Obama, owing to the time the men served together in the Senate. I’ve heard over the years that Coburn took young Barack Obama under his wing after the Illinois Democrat was elected in 2004. He showed him the ropes, introduced him around the place, got him acquainted with some of the key players.

Coburn and Obama have been fighting tooth and nail ever since, but they’ve managed to maintain their friendship. It harkens back to the old days on Capitol Hill when political adversaries could avoid becoming enemies.

Coburn, a physician by training, knows the health hazards associated with the disease he is battling.

I wish him well as he continues that fight and hope the relationship he has managed to maintain with a key Democrat — Barack Obama — isn’t lost on his Senate colleagues who’ll stay on to continue their service.

Godspeed, Sen. Coburn.