Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Don't Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression-- And Tom Cotton Is Stuck


Tom Cotton now claims he was just joking around

Anyone who followed Cotton's single term in the House or his campaigns for the House and, last year, for the Senate already had a good idea about what they were dealing with: a manipulative extremist who will say or do anything to advance his childish far right-wing agenda. And he comes wrapped up in a Harvard education with a fancy magna cum laude bow, making it easy to assume he might know what he's talking about. He doesn't-- as he proved with that cockamamie letter to the Iranian mullahs last week. He made common cause with the radical extremists within Iran to scuttle the nuclear treaty being hammered out by the legitimate government in Tehran with the Obama Administration.

What's amazing it that Cotton was able to persuade 46 of his Republican colleagues-- though, ominously, not Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-TN)-- to suspend reason and take a walk down Sedition Lane with him. The 46 of them signed the letter, which Cotton and some of his embarrassed colleagues' staffers are now hinting was "just a joke." No one finds it funny-- and Cotton certainly didn't defend it as a joke when it first caused an explosion among Democrats and the national media.

I suspect more than a few of the co-signers wish they had just told Cotton that freshman senators are supposed to be quiet and pay attention during their first year in the Senate. Tuesday we saw how Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, former Admiral Joe Sestak, clobbered Republican incumbent Pat Toomey for signing this misanthropic letter. "[F]or Sen. Toomey to sign a letter to a foreign leader," said Sestak, "urging that leader to ignore the institution of the American Presidency is inexcusable, embarrassing, and shows a lack of experience and understanding about America’s standing in the world, led first and foremost by the U.S. President." Sestak's missive got more devastating as it went on:
When Sen. Toomey was a Congressman, he fundamentally misunderstood the proper use of our military in the world when he voted to send us into the Iraq War. Today, Sen. Toomey is again wrong in voicing directly to an adversarial leader his opposition to an ongoing process of American diplomacy, by Toomey’s signing of a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who has called for “Death to America."

That Sen. Corker, the Republican Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, did not sign the letter underscores the recklessness of Sen. Toomey’s political actions – that he would tell a leader who wishes us ill to ignore our President’s endeavor. Signing the letter only serves to disrupt a possible effort to bring about a peaceful resolution to the nuclear weapons issue with Iran.

And if the nuclear talks fail, Toomey offers no other option except to go directly to war. Then, once again, we will have a representative who will have pushed our nation into war and-- with no skin of his own in the game-- will once again walk away from the men and women he sent into battle by voting against 12 Department of Veterans Affairs' appropriations bills after his vote for the war in Iraq.
Cotton won't have to face Arkansas voters for 5 years, but several of the suckers he persuaded to sign his joke letter, like Toomey, are up for reelection in 2016. Others who could be in trouble are Ron Johnson (R-WI), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC) and, probably most vulnerble of all, Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out how 4 prospective congressmembers are looking at what a big mistake Kirk made by signing the letter. "That Illinois Democrat Reps. Robin Kelly, Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster and Cheri Bustos hit Kirk on the letter shows that the race is on-- as each one is contemplating a Democratic primary bid... Kelly said in a statement that Kirk, in signing the letter, 'failed to display the party independence and policy thoughtfulness he’d promised when he said he’d work across the aisle on important matters like our national security.' ”
In a statement, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called the letter a “political stunt” and “a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations.”

After Kelly sent out her statement, I asked the other potential Senate candidates for their thoughts. Duckworth and Bustos did not use Kirk’s name.

Duckworth said in an email, “Those who signed this letter have set a dangerous precedent that impedes a President’s ability to conduct foreign policy and negotiate on issues of great importance to our nation.”

Bustos’ spokesman said in an email that she is “extremely disappointed in this political maneuver that she views as not only counterproductive to critical negotiations . . . but reinforces the mixed-up priorities of the letter’s signers.”

In an emailed statement, Foster cited former Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, R-Mich., who famously said we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” Foster wrote: “Republican Senators, including Mark Kirk, have forgotten that message today in their irresponsible desire to continue partisan attacks against the President.”
Besides Corker, there were a few Republican senators who realized Cotton's approach was insane and who refused to go along. Susan Collins (R-ME): "It did not seem to me to be appropriate for us to be writing the ayatollah at this critical time during the negotiations, and frankly, I doubt very much that the ayatollah would be moved by an explanation of our constitutional system." Jeff Flake (R-AZ), clearly disgusted, said the letter was neither "helpful" nor "productive": "These are tough enough negotiations as it stands. And introducing this kind of letter, I didn’t think would be helpful." The other Republicans who were smart enough to avoid Cotton's blandishments were Dan Coats (R-IN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Thad Cochran (R-MS). 

And John McCain, who did sign the silly letter, is now having second thoughts. On Fox News he told Greta van Susteren: "What that letter did was tell the Iranians that whatever deal they make, the Congress of the United States will play a role... Maybe that wasn’t the best way to do that, but I think the Iranians should know that the Congress of the United States has to play a role in whether an agreement of this magnitude... It’s also symptomatic between the total lack of trust that exists now between we Republicans and the president. This has established a poisoned environment here which sometimes causes us to react maybe in not the most effective fashion."

UPDATE: Tom Cotton Now Suffering a Severe Stature Deficit

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is an extremely right-wing newspaper. But even they saw the folly of Tom Cotton's grab for the national spotlight this week!
So, yes, Arkansas, it's not crazy to feel like a stepping stone. While most junior senators less than 100 days into their first terms would devote themselves to figuring out how to best serve the state that put him in office, that's small potatoes for Cotton. It's hard to get on national newscasts based on Arkansas issues, so why not try to scuttle U.S. negotiations focused on keeping an antagonistic Middle East nation from developing a nuclear weapon?

…Of course, Cotton's real enemy is the man who helped him get elected: President Obama. We're not fans of the president, but Cotton's perspective has to be viewed through the lens of his fixation on Obama being the cause of many of the nation's problems. It's overstepping for a junior, freshman senator to so blatantly engage in foreign policy sabotage against the administration as a part of his constant campaign for higher office. Cotton is playing to his base, the right-wing conservatives so eager for his political ambitions to succeed, but his actions in this case did not serve the nation.

… If this letter is an example of Cotton's leadership in Washington, then he's still got a lot to learn.

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At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Glenn said...

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the Cotton fiasco proves is that the "bipartisanship" pathetically chased after by the "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican" who has occupied the Oval Office since 2009 was an incredibly misguided mistake. It would have been much better for the currently sorry Democratic Party to have gone ahead without the GOP on the agenda the 2008 candidate ran with. Their arrogant ignorance would likely have caused them to self-destruct before the 2010 midterms, and global history and current events would be very much different.


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