CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Dec. 21): Sen. Tom Coburn; Reese Witherspoon

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CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Dec. 21): Sen. Tom Coburn; Reese Witherspoon

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a right-wing icon, tells Lesley Stahl he is proud of the U.S. for electing President Barack Obama. The President may be the Republican Party’s biggest rival, but the two men also happen to be friends.

Coburn is retiring after 20 years in Congress, and speaks candidly about his brash style and his status as one of the most controversial politicians in Washington. The farewell interview with Colburn, who also discusses his fight with prostate cancer, will be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” tonight, Dec. 21 (7:30-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

“I am proud of our country for electing Barack Obama… it says something about us… America’s special: Barack Obama, President of the United States,” he tells Stahl about America electing its first black president.

The two men met at freshman orientation when they both entered the Senate together 10 years ago. It’s a friendship not based on political philosophy, says Coburn. “It’s based on the fact that I think he genuinely is a very smart, nice guy. I think he’s a neat man,” says Coburn.

“You don’t have to be the same to be friends. The interesting friendships are the ones that are divergent,” he says.

Coburn and President Obama have managed to hold onto their friendship even when Coburn has often publically criticized the president over his policies. Coburn, a fiscal conservative, was trained as an obstetrician who has delivered more than 4,000 babies and earned the nickname “Dr. No” because he held up so many bills.

He did this by putting “holds” on bills that he says he thought would grow the budget. His holds often forced others senators of both parties to go to him in order to get their bills passed, giving Coburn a great deal of power.

How many did he hold up? “Thousands,” he tells Stahl. He denies he was a big reason for the logjam in Congress. But Stahl counters, “They would pass if you didn’t put the holds on them.” Coburn replies, “That’s right. And you’d grow the government and our problems would be worse, not better.”

On his battle with cancer, Coburn says say he is currently undergoing chemotherapy and may end up losing his hair. “You all have to die of something. The deal is how to use each day to move things forward, for both you and the people you love and the country you love.”

Then, later in the “60 Minutes” broadcast, she won the Academy Award for “Walk the Line.” She was a successful actress married to a successful actor. It was the peak of Reese Witherspoon’s career, but then her life and her career drifted downhill.

The award-winning actress talks about that trying period in her life – especially seeing herself on a list of “washed-up” actors – and the success she found after starting a production company. Charlie Rose profiles Witherspoon on the next edition of “60 Mintues,” tonight, Dec. 21 (7:30-8:30 PM, ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Her divorce from husband Ryan Phillippe, who played roles in high-profile films like “Gosford Park” and “Flags of our Fathers,” made her sad for a long time. “I spent, you know, a few years just trying to feel better… you can’t really be very creative when you feel like your brain is scrambled eggs.”

Along with the failed marriage came a trying time in her career, during which she made films like “This Means War” and “How Do You Know,” movies that did not draw as well as her earlier films. “I was just kind of floundering career-wise… I wasn’t making things I was passionate about,” she tells Rose. “And it was really clear that audiences weren’t responding to anything I was putting out there.”

A low point came when she was surprised to find herself among a group of actors who the author of a 2012 article in The New Yorker wrote were no longer big stars. “Yeah. I was one of them,” she laughs. “I thought I was reading, like, a profile on another actor. Then somewhere down at the end, it said… ‘The people who are washed-up,’ – I mean, it really hurt my feelings. Really hurt my feelings,” recalls Witherspoon. Watch the excerpt.

Rose’s profile of Witherspoon includes an interview with veteran Hollywood producer Bruna Papandrea, with whom Witherspoon formed production company Pacific Standard three years ago. They produced “Gone Girl,” which has made more than $300 million at the box office so far. She is currently starring in the acclaimed film “Wild.”

Rose also meets the actress in Tennessee at a house she is renovating and speaks with her mother, Betty, whom Witherspoon says has been an emotional and creative inspiration.

Also this evening on “60 Minutes,” Scott Pelley reports from Havana, Cuba as the U.S. reopens diplomatic relations with its longtime Cold War enemy.

“60 Minutes,” the most successful television broadcast in history, began its 46th season on Sept. 29, 2013. Offering hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news, the broadcast begun in 1968 is still a hit in 2011, regularly making Nielsen’s Top 10. The average audience for a “60 Minutes” broadcast still dwarfs the biggest audiences drawn by cable news programs.

“60 Minutes” correspondents include Anderson Cooper, Steve Kroft, Sanjay Gupta, Lara Logan, Norah O’Donnell, Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose, Morley Safer, Bob Simon and Lesley Stahl.

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