The Washington Times - April 18, 2013, 10:26AM

They are often political opponents, but President Obama has written an poignant piece praising Sen. Tom Coburn, a conservative Oklahoma Republican, as part of Time magazine’s story on the 100 most influential people in the world.

“The people of Oklahoma are lucky to have someone like Tom representing them in Washington — someone who speaks his mind, sticks to his principles and is committed to the people he was elected to serve,” Mr. Obama wrote.


The president said the two men’s wives hit it off at a Senate orientation dinner after they both arrived in Washington — for Mr. Obama, his first stint, while for Mr. Coburn it was a return appearance. Soon, the two men followed their wives’ example and became friends.

They’ve battled over everything from budgets to guns — indeed, Mr. Coburn Wednesday helped sink the background-check expansion proposal Mr. Obama had elevated to be the centerpiece of his gun control agenda.

But they’ve also cooperated on some spending and transparency proposals.

They’ve even publicly embraced — something that didn’t sit well with some of Mr. Coburn’s constituents.

“After I took office, Tom received dozens of letters from Oklahomans complaining that we looked too close on TV. Tom’s response was ‘How better to influence somebody than to love them?’ Each of us still hopes the other will see the light. But in the meantime, we’ll settle for being friends,” Mr. Obama wrote.