Coble abandons principle for friendship

The conservative movement is accustomed to disrespect and outright sabotage from GOP Establishment figures, and Congressman Howard Coble’s fence-straddling on the Jeff Phillips-Paul Gibson race is merely the latest example. Evidently, Coble’s friendship with a tax-hiking, debt-increasing Democrat (Gibson) is reason enough to justify the abandonment of conservative (and Republican Party) principles.

Here is an excerpt of a statement Coble signed:

“As a resident of Guilford County, I know that the same spending and debt problems that exist in Washington are here, locally, in Guilford. I know Jeff to be knowledgeable about the issues, disciplined in his solutions to the problems we face, and caring of the citizens he will represent as Guilford County Commissioner.”

Reportedly, an earlier version of these remarks (which were written by the Phillips campaign) included the word “endorsement,” but Congressman Coble had the term removed. Presumably, the congressman stands by the statement above, but he insisted that the Phillips campaign correct the record to reflect the fact that he (Coble) did not endorse Phillips.

The Phillips campaign had touted Coble’s “endorsement” in emails and on Facebook, despite the fact that, according to news reports, Coble had told Phillips’ operatives that the remarks were not an endorsement. This from Joe Killian of the News & Record: “In this case, Coble said, he made it explicit that it wasn’t an endorsement because of his long friendship with Phillips’ Democratic opponent, Paul Gibson” (my italics). Implicit in the congressman’s remarks is the suggestion that friendships cannot survive political differences. This is a fallacy, disproved repeatedly by my own experiences. 

Set aside the fact that a Phillips operative fumbled the ball. Consider this: If Coble were friends with Barack Obama, would he refuse to endorse Mitt Romney? If the congressman is consistent in his devotion to friends over party, and to friendship over principle, then yes, he would refuse to endorse the GOP’s nominee.

Likewise, the philosophical divide between Phillips and Gibson is vast: Gibson is a tax-and-spend statist, and Phillips is a limited-government conservative. Refusing to endorse Phillips for fear of alienating a big-spending leftist is not only a blatant abandonment of principle, but also a slap in the face to the thousands of Phillips supporters who have voted repeatedly, year after year, for Mr. Coble. They believed, perhaps erroneously, that Mr. Coble was a champion of the conservative cause.  

Finally, what sense does it make to condemn local “spending and debt problems,” and simultaneously refuse to endorse a candidate for fear of offending a man who has contributed greatly to those very spending and debt problems? The honorable and principled thing to do would have been for Congressman Coble to call Mr. Gibson and say, “Paul, I treasure our friendship, but I am endorsing your opponent, Mr. Phillips. I trust that you, as a fellow elected official, understand my commitment to a cause greater than my self, and that our friendship will remain intact.”

Charles Davenport Jr. is the editor of The Greensboro Guardian.

7 Responses to Coble abandons principle for friendship

  1. Joe Guarino says:

    Charles, thanks for saying some things that needed to be said.

  2. William H. Edwards says:

    Very interesting article, Charles. As a result, I plan on reevaluating the value of my support for Congressman Coble.

  3. sailjcl says:

    Charles, there is simply no room for old friendships and personality contest politics.
    Guilford is in a world of hurt financially, frivolous spending decisions that fall directly in Paul Gibson’s lap.
    Howard’s position is unfortunate. There will be many disappointed soldiers in the field who have worked tirelessly on his behalf. Not just time spent, but many have opened their wallets generously to insure his re-election.

  4. Cheryl Pass says:

    Sadly, this seems to happen too frequently. Politics is making very strange bedfellows these days…none of whom seem to have an inch of principled spine. The Republican Party is full of them. It is very troubling, Glad you pointed this out on this election race.

  5. Cindy M says:

    Coble is not a Conservative. Guess he is compared to Barak Obama.

  6. Harold M says:

    If Coble is not a conservative as you say, then why did Jeff Phillips seek his endorsement?

  7. Bob Grenier says:

    I think Howard should head off to his well-earned non-federally funded retirement.

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