Tom Cole: ‘I support the Republican nominee for president’

Tom Cole
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole speaks May 5 at Harding Charter Prep High School in Oklahoma City. (Skyla Parker)

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore) visited Harding Charter Prep High School in Oklahoma City on May 5, and afterward he answered questions about the 2016 presidential election and the political process in general.

His answers have been transcribed below:

On how he feels about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump:

“Well, look, I’m a Republican, I’m on the ballot in November. I support the Republican nominee for president. It’s pretty much that simple.”

On if he has any concerns about Donald Trump:

“I’m a lot more concerned about Hillary Clinton than I am about Donald Trump. Look, if I disagree … for instance, I disagreed very sharply with Mr. Trump’s position that we ought to ban Muslims from the country. Number one, it’s unconstitutional. It’s pretty clear, if you read the Constitution, we can’t impose religious tests for anything. And second, we need Muslims in this fight as (they are) a lot of the best friends our country has around the world.

“I’ve never had a hard time differing with my nominee, but again, I think if you’re going to run on the Republican ticket, you ought to be supporting the people on that ticket.”

On Democrats having superdelegates that help support establishment candidates and Republicans not:

“We actually don’t have anything like that at all (in the Republican Party). I think it will be (an issue). I think, frankly, Sanders makes it an issue. Probably the whole nominating process on each side will be looked at a lot more carefully after this election because the contests have been fierce enough that people are worried about the rules. It’s up to the Democrats to nominate the way they want to, and vice versa.

“I’ve never liked the idea of superdelegates personally, I’ve never wanted to be one, I’m glad we don’t have them in our party because it seems to me they are subject to manipulation. Their position is usually a very calculated one, sometimes in terms of political self-interest, and it’s unavoidable.”

On his lack of interest in running for governor in 2018:

“I made my final political calculations in the governor’s race in 2010 and the Senate race in 2012. Sixty-five-year-old senators are fine, 65-year-old freshman senators are stupid because it’s a very seniority-driven body. It’s dumb for the state. The state needs guys who are like (Sen. James) Lankford’s age — they can accumulate the seniority over time and put themselves in good position.”

On his feelings about Hillary Clinton:

“I actually worked with her. I was on the state and foreign ops subcommittee when she was secretary of state. So she’s certainly knowledgeable, well-prepared, able — there’s no question about that.

“Judgment wise? Look, the reset with Russia wasn’t exactly a great success, Libya was an incredible mess and a tremendous miscalculation. We have some difference on some of her policy issues when she was secretary of state. Obviously we have a little bit different view of economics, everything from taxation to regulation.

“She sells herself — and appropriately in a Democratic primary — as a continuation of the Obama administration. I’ve certainly been able to deal with the president. I always joke, I’ve probably got more Obama pictures — I have five Obama pictures on the wall in my house, because four of them are Indian legislation that’s passed. So we’ve worked on some things together. But, I think we’ve got a very different view of what the appropriate level of taxation and regulation is. And somebody that’s going to defend Obamacare, for instance, we just disagree. Philosophically, I am certainly to the right of Secretary Clinton.”

On whether he is more philosophically close to Donald Trump:

“I don’t know, I mean, I think he’s like a lot of candidates, he’s a work in progress. Every candidate changes over the course of a campaign because they’re as much about educating the candidates as the candidates educating the public about their views. He probably will change more than most. I don’t say that judgmentally for good or ill, we just don’t know, because most of these folks we’ve seen over a career, a variety of campaigns, a variety of public positions where they’ve cast votes, they’ve made decisions, and we can make judgments. We don’t have that same level of scrutiny (with Donald Trump), so he could be very successful or not. There’s already some issues I would tend to disagree with him on, but I know in detail where I disagree with Secretary Clinton. We’re in different parties for a reason.”