Coble Wants to Keep Serving
Rep. Howard Coble said he is not planning on voluntarily retiring from the House of Representatives.
He's also not planning on emulating Strom Thurmond -- the elderly South Carolina senator who left office at the age of 100.
Asked if he means he's not going to serve into an 11th decade or he's not going to father a child in his 70's, Coble laughed and said he was talking about serving.
"I wasn't immediately thinking about that," he said. "I'm not going after Thurmond's record."
At 77, Coble said his health is good and he is energetic and excited to continue to serve as a representative in North Carolina's 6th District.
"I'm old, but I don't act old," he said. "I'm not going to be up there (in Washington) in my 90's, I assure you."
Coble has represented the 6th District since 1984. He narrowly won in his first two elections but hasn't been significantly challenged since.
He acknowledged during an interview with The Pilot this month that he's facing a tough challenge in Democrat Teresa Sue Bratton.
The 6th District includes all of Moore and Randolph counties and parts of Rowan, Davidson, Guilford and Alamance counties.
Coble admitted that the voters' clear desire for change may make him vulnerable. However, he has been anything but a flunky for Presi-dent Bush.
Coble gained some notoriety when he became the Republican to split with the Bush administration on the war in Iraq. And, recently, when the White House called Coble to try to get him to change his vote on the Wall Street rescue bill, Coble told them that he didn't want to speak to the president.
If Coble does prevail in his race, he's likely to be a member of the minority party. He said a fellow legislator recently told him, "Howard, we're doomed."
Coble responded, "We're not doomed, but the ice upon which we are skating is thin."
The Pilot's late opinion editor, Brent Hackney, once described Coble as "crusty, folksy and irascible."
The Greensboro Republican has compiled a record of conservative fiscal habits and constituent services.
Coble is a member of the Committee on Judiciary and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. He is chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
He is also on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastruct-ure and subcommittees on aviation, the U.S. Coast Guard and highways. Coble served in the Coast Guard for five years and was a reservist for another 18.
An attorney, Coble got his break into politics when he served as Secretary of Revenue during Gov. James Holshouser's administration.
He served in the state House of Representatives before winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1984.
Switched on Bailout
But he has made news mostly during the last eight years with his stances on Iraq and the Wall Street rescue bill.
Coble was one of the members who helped defeat the Wall Street bailout in early October. He later switched and voted in favor of a revised bill that came down from the Senate.
He took criticism for both votes. He went on Fox News and spoke to The New York Times in an effort to explain it, but criticism still came down.
"Any time you switch your vote, there is a target on your back," he said.
Coble said he was originally against the bill because the people of the 6th District didn't support it. Of all the calls and e-mails he got prior to the vote, one out of 90 would be in favor of it, he said.
After he voted against it, his correspondence took a dramatic turn in the other direction, he said. Businesses were calling him worried that they weren't going to be able to make their payrolls.
One of those calls was from the White House. It told Coble that the president wanted to talk to him, clearly in an effort to get him to change his vote. Coble refused, saying that it was his decision to make and that he didn't need the president's help. It didn't go over well at the White House, he said.
"I was not trying to be rude and say, 'Don't call me,'" Coble said. "I said I'll figure it out for myself."
But Coble did change his vote, based on the reaction from his constituents. Doing nothing simply wasn't an option.
Coble said he's still not sure the rescue is working, but he said people need to give it time. It took a lot longer than a few weeks to get into the economic mess, he said, and it will take time to get out.
Wants Out of Iraq
Coble originally supported the war in Iraq. He issued a statement in 2003 in which he cited weapons of mass destruction as a reason to go to war.
"We can no longer quietly stand by while this dictator continues to develop weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver these weapons," Coble said at the time.
But in 2005, Coble became the first Republican in Congress to break with the president and support a withdrawal. He said he was upset that there appeared to be no plan after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.
In 2006, while sharing a limousine ride with Bush in North Carolina, Coble took the opportunity to tell him how strongly he feels about withdrawing the troops.
Coble opposed the surge in 2007, and he still wants the soldiers to come home. He said what still disappoints him the most is the apparent lack of post-invasion planning and exit strategy.
With the economy in such a mess, Coble said that the Iraq war has become a secondary issue in the campaign.
"It's been pushed aside," he said.
Coble said his military friends get annoyed with him when he speaks out against the war, but he said he'll continue to do so until the troops come home.
He said: "I'd like to get out of there, as you all know."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story