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MR. KUDLOW: You know, when I started thinking about this interview, I was going to talk about whether the GOP is dead or not. I'm going to get to that in a moment, but there's so much --
SEN. COBURN: I'm not dead. (Laughs.)
MR. KUDLOW: You don't look dead to me, as a matter of fact, and we are grateful for that. But there's some breaking news I want to pass by you just to get and in fact if you could put your doctor's cap on for just a moment, sir, regarding the flu pandemic or whatever. The World Health Organization has raised its warning level from 5 to 6. Do you have a thought on that?
SEN. COBURN: Well, what that's essentially saying is they recognize this to be a pandemic and that we ought to be following certain precautionary measures. I saw Tony Fauci today and visited with him a little bit about it. There's some real concern with this. We shouldn't overreact but we should certainly be prepared that if this is going to be a virulent strain that we need to put the resources there that are necessary to limits its effect on our population.
MR. KUDLOW: How would you grade Mr. Obama and his team on this effort?
SEN. COBURN: Very good, they're doing a great job, even without a head of HHS. The appropriate agencies, both the CDC and the NIH and the Division of Infectious Disease, are all doing -- and by the way. Senator Richard Burrset up the plan under which we now have a large stockpile of tons of medicines, and we've already started dispensing them, to help fight this. So I think the bureaucracy and the leadership in the bureaucracy is doing a great job right now. And they're doing it with somewhat limited information, but they're planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
MR. KUDLOW: Dr. Coburn, let me ask you about this very surprising statement from Senator John McCain where he essentially says if we need to, we should close the border with Mexico. Your thoughts, sir?
SEN. COBURN: Well, I don't think that's a surprising statement to me. That doesn't say anything about his previous immigration issue, it says something about his common sense that in fact if you have a large source of an infectious disease and it's centered in one area and it's coming across a border, then what you want to do is limit exposures. So it doesn't say anything bad about Mexico, and it doesn't say anything about his immigration policy. It's a practical public-health policy that we might have to employ.
MR. KUDLOW: Would you personally and other Republicans support such a move to close the border?
SEN. COBURN: Only when I talk to the epidemiologists and the people at NIH and CDC. If they thought it was appropriate, in terms of what we see and in terms of vectors of this disease and in terms of what it looks like it's doing, we would certainly want to limit it. That's why we need to be very flexible. If we see a focus, we need to try to shut down the focus and bring in the treatments so we can limit the effect. We're still dealing with something we don't know everything about. And so the key word is caution and prevention. And I would compliment the administration on what they've done sofar.
MR. KUDLOW: Is it unfair to call this the Mexican flu?
SEN. COBURN: Yeah because there is some source thought that it may have started in California, was taken to Mexico and then spread. So what it is is H1N1, and it's an influenza, and it looks like it's a new strain. And that's why it seems to be so infectious and has such a high morbidity to it. But youknow, the fact is is the world, because we're all interconnected through international travel, the world has a problem. It doesn't matter where it started. The fact is, how do we all work to limit its impact on every-day citizens?
MR. KUDLOW: All right. Coming off that, let's go back to some politics for a moment. But I'm going to put some economic content in it in a second. But first off, coming off Senator Specter's defection to the Democratic Party. Question, you've seen this around, is the GOP in free fall right now?
SEN. COBURN: No, we're not. The question has to be, how is the GOP identified by the average person out there? And how are career politicians, as well, identified? What the American people are looking for are people whoare going to practice common sense, that are going to put the country first and their political careers second, which Senator Specter did not do, and make common sense decisions that will secure a future for our kids and our grandkids. And quite frankly, we voted a budget today, $3.9 trillion and a tripling of publicly held debt over the next 10 years, which spends money we don't have on a lot of things we don't need. We passed a stimulus bill that is small on stimulus and large on expanding the federal government, that wewill have trouble, and we also didn't do anything about controlling wasteful spending which everybody admits there's $300 billion of a year.
MR. KUDLOW: You know, Dr. Coburn, between now and the beginning of June, it is not at all out of the question that the U.S. government will essentially own or have the ownership majority rights to six banks, accordingto the various news reports, General Motors, Chrysler and then let's not forget Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG. I may be forgetting stuff, the listis getting so long. This sounds more like former socialist President of France Francois Mitterrand than the United States.
What will the Republican Party say? Is there a unified position for an end game, for a limit here, for an exit strategy? Our own John Harwood just reported he does not think President Obama in the next 100 days will have such an end-game strategy. Will the GOP?
SEN. COBURN: Well, the end game depends on the beginning game. And a lot of mistakes were made by Secretary Paulson. As a matter of fact, things he told us he was going to do didn't happen. I think there's been a comedy of errors. There's certainly a lot of waste. I don't think you can unwind this by the end of June. I agree with John Harwood. I don't think there's going to be the first bankruptcy of GM or Chrysler because I think the UAW comes first, not the companies, and I think the Obama administration is going to protect the UAW.
MR. KUDLOW: So then the Republicans, I don't see the alternative vision on TARP, on bailout nation. You saw those tea parties a week or two ago. Where is the GOP alternative?
SEN. COBURN: Well, there's not an alternative night now because