But Tom Coburn was no Arlen Specter. Coburn, a medical doctor, once said, “I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life.” He was the only member of Congress to endorse perennial candidate Alan Keyes for president in 2000. Originally elected as part of the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” he was part of a conservative coup attempt against then Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Ahead of the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, this writer heard a Coburn appraisal of Mitt Romney that deviated from the standard conservative Christian critique of the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormonism. Coburn said he found it hard to believe that Romney, as an educated Mormon, could have only recently discovered that abortion was wrong. (Romney switched from pro-choice to pro-life before running for president.)

Despite being friends with the current Democratic president—at this same event, he said, “Barack is a liberal, but he’s a good man”—Coburn was willing to criticize Obama. In fact, he would go so far as to say Obama was risking impeachment.