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“A Complete Lack Of Credibility On The Subject”: After Sabotage Letter, Cotton Wants US To ‘Speak With One Voice’

Congressional Republicans are unanimous in their opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but even among GOP lawmakers, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) stands out as unique. Arguably no American lawmaker has done more to undermine U.S. foreign policy than the right-wing freshman.

This week, as support for the diplomatic deal grows on Capitol Hill, opponents confronted the very real possibility that a Republican bill to derail the agreement may not even get the 60 votes it needs in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster. This in turn led Cotton to issue a fascinating press statement (via Salon’s Simon Maloy).

“First, the president did an end-run around the Constitution by refusing to submit the Iran deal as a treaty requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate for approval. Now Harry Reid wants to deny the American people a voice entirely by blocking an up-or-down vote on this terrible deal. […]

 “The Congress and the president should speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians, but it seems that Harry Reid believes that only his and the president’s voices matter.”

Tom Cotton, in case anyone has forgotten, wrote a letter to Iranian officials in March, telling them not to trust U.S. officials, all in the hopes of sabotaging American foreign policy and derailing the international diplomatic talks. The Republican senator corralled 46 of his GOP Senate colleagues to join him in this dangerous stunt, which according to our allies, had the effect of helping Iran during delicate negotiations and embarrassing the United States.

Here’s a radical idea: maybe Tom Cotton should avoid lectures about the importance of Congress and the White House speaking “with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” Unless the right-wing senator is deliberately trying to become a laughingstock, he should take a moment to acknowledge his lack of credibility on the subject.

As for Cotton’s affection for up-or-down votes, I’m tempted to ask the senator, “Are you new here?” The answer, as it turns out, is, “Yes” – the Arkansas Republican was only in the U.S. House for a year when he announced his Senate bid, and he’s only been in the upper chamber for seven months.

In other words, Cotton may not realize that his own GOP colleagues effectively created a new standard in the Senate, mandating that practically every bill of any consequence needs a minimum of 60 votes to advance. If Cotton disapproves, he can blame Mitch McConnell.

Of course, the Arkansan’s press release yesterday serves as a reminder of just how poorly the debate is going for the far-right. The Republican target in the Senate has always been 67 votes – in part because they saw 60 votes as a foregone conclusion. As of this week, however, even that goal is in doubt.

Cotton added yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “is obstructing because he is scared.” Someone’s scared, but I don’t think it’s Harry Reid.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2015

August 27, 2015 Posted by | 47 Traitors, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Tom Cotton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”: Cotton Sees Bombing Iran As No Big Deal

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has made no real effort to hide his support for a military confrontation with Iran. But in an interview yesterday on the Family Research Council’s radio show, the right-wing freshman went a little further, suggesting bombing Iran would be quick and simple.

Indeed, as BuzzFeed’s report noted, Cotton argued that U.S. strikes in Iran would go much smoother than the invasion of Iraq “and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.”

“Even if military action were required – and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy – the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days [of] air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior.”

For the record, the Arkansas Republican did not use the word “cakewalk” or assure listeners that we’d be “greeted as liberators.”

Look, we’ve seen this play before, and we have a pretty good idea how it turns out. When a right-wing neoconservative tells Americans that we can launch a new military offensive in the Middle East, it won’t last long, and the whole thing will greatly improve our national security interests, there’s reason for some skepticism.

Tom Cotton – the guy who told voters last year that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels might team up to attack Arkansans – wants to bomb Iran, so he’s telling the public how easy it would be.

What the senator didn’t talk about yesterday is what happens after the bombs fall – or even what transpires when Iran shoots back during the campaign. Are we to believe Tehran would just accept the attack and move on?

Similarly, Cotton neglected to talk about the broader consequences of an offensive, including the likelihood that airstrikes would end up accelerating Iran’s nuclear ambitions going forward.

There’s also the inconvenient detail that the Bush/Cheney administration weighed a military option against Iran, but it concluded that “a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a bad idea – and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.”

But don’t worry, America, Tom Cotton thinks this would all be easy and we could drop our bombs without consequence. What could possibly go wrong?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2015

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Iraq War, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Not Worry About Civil Rights In This Country”: Tom Cotton; Opponents Of Anti-Gay Law Need ‘Perspective’

I’m starting to long for the good old days, just weeks ago, when nobody had to think about Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.

Mr. Cotton, you will remember, was the primary author of the constitutionally outrageous and substantively mindless letter from Republican senators telling the leaders of Iran that they shouldn’t negotiate on nuclear weapons with President Obama. Now, he is adding his voice to those who are telling gay Americans that they shouldn’t get too pushy about their civil rights.

Mr. Cotton was asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday about a law passed by legislators in his home state that is clearly intended to permit businesses and individuals to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“In Arkansas,” he began, “we believe in religious freedom.” Mr. Blitzer, to his credit, pointed out that “everybody believes in religious freedom.”

Mr. Cotton countered with the irrelevant fact that President Clinton signed a federal law on which the current assault on gay rights is based. (The comically named Religious Freedom Restoration Act). That’s true. He also signed the Defense of Marriage Act, an outrageous infringement on the constitutional rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. And he signed the bill that turned military policy against gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces into the moronic law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

So Mr. Clinton was lousy on this civil rights issue. What’s Mr. Cotton’s point?

“It’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” he said. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

So, let’s not worry about civil rights in this country, which Mr. Cotton and other lawmakers can actually protect, but rather in Iran. Why Iran?

I’m so glad you asked — because Mr. Cotton wanted to turn the conversation to his current propaganda campaign about Iran. “We should focus on the most important priorities facing our country, right now,” he said, adding that the prospect of a “nuclear-armed Iran” is one such priority.

So why is Mr. Cotton trying so hard to scuttle the talks in Switzerland that could actually lead to limits on Iran’s nuclear programs?

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, April 2, 2015

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Iran, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Open Letters Without Envelopes Don’t Count”: The Worst Excuse Yet For The Senate Republicans’ Iran Letter

As last week progressed, and the scope of the fiasco surrounding the Senate Republicans’ letter to Iran became more obvious, many GOP officials on Capitol Hill furiously tried to think of excuses. The scramble was understandable: Republicans had tried to sabotage American foreign policy, and the stunt hadn’t gone well.

Over the course of three days, congressional Republicans came up with at least four different excuses, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blaming a D.C.-area snowstorm the week before. None of the arguments was particularly persuasive.

But National Review’s Deroy Murdock yesterday presented the most amazing excuse yet: the 47 Senate Republicans shouldn’t be criticized for sending a letter to Iran since they didn’t literally, physically “send” anything.

Before U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 46 of his GOP colleagues are frog-marched to the gallows and hanged for treason, one vital point of confusion must be cleared up. Say what you will about the Republicans’ open letter “to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Cotton/GOP letter regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks with Obama was not sent to the ayatollahs.

Had Cotton & Co. actually delivered their communique to Iran’s mullahs – perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch or something even more cloak and dagger – their critics would be on less swampy ground in calling them “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed.

The National Review piece added that “the Cotton Club” – Tom Cotton and his 46 GOP cohorts – “did not send its letter anywhere.” Murdock added, “Cotton & Co. never even dropped an envelope in the mail.”

How do we know for sure this is an unpersuasive argument? Because Tom Cotton himself says so.

The National Review argument emphasizes the fact that the Republicans message was an “open letter,” published online. As such, if we parse the meaning of the word “send” in the most charitable way possible, then maybe the GOP senators didn’t actually communicate with Iranian officials, at least not directly, during sensitive international talks.

Indeed, the National Review piece said those who claim the Republicans “sent” a letter are guilty of spreading a “gross inaccuracy.”

Does the argument have merit? Actually, no, it doesn’t. Tom Cotton himself, presumably well positioned to speak on behalf of the “Cotton Club” given his role as ringleader, specifically said he and his Republican partners “sent a letter to Iranian leaders.”

Or put another way, if the Republicans involved in this ridiculous stunt themselves say they “sent” a letter, it’s not unreasonable to think the rest of us can make the same claim.

I can appreciate the creativity behind the defense. In fact, it almost brings me back to an undergraduate course on metaphysics – if someone publishes a letter but doesn’t send it, does it really reach its destination?

But this is the wrong way to resolve the fiasco. The letter was specifically addressed “to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Officials in Tehran noticed, read the message, and responded. The GOP signatories themselves acknowledge that they “sent” a letter intended to derail American foreign policy.

The right may find this embarrassing a week later, but arguing that open letters without envelopes don’t count is the wrong way to go.

On the contrary, the National Review piece arguably makes matters worse for its allies. Murdock wrote that if “Cotton & Co.” had “actually” sent a letter to Iran, the left would be more justified questioning the Republicans’ patriotism.

But according to Cotton, he and his colleagues did send a letter to Iran, which leads to a conclusion National Review may not like.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 17, 2015

March 23, 2015 Posted by | 47 Traitors, Iran, Tom Cotton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Politician Failing A Test Of Self-Awareness”: Cotton Worries About US Interference In Foreign Negotiations

On the Senate floor yesterday afternoon, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) shared some striking concerns about U.S. foreign policy. He also offered a rather profound example of a politician failing a test of self-awareness.

Earlier in the day, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that when it comes to the U.S. policy towards Israel, “We’re currently evaluating our approach.” The comments were important, but not surprising – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent antics were bound to carry some consequences.

But Cotton, the right-wing freshman in his second month in the Senate, called Psaki’s comments “worrisome“ – for a very specific reason.

“While Prime Minister Netanyahu won a decisive victory, he still has just started assembling a governing majority coalition. These kinds of quotes from Israel’s most important ally could very well startle some of the smaller parties and their leaders with whom Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently in negotiations.

“This raises the question, of course, if the administration intends to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to assemble a coalition by suggesting a change to our longstanding policy of supporting Israel’s position with the United Nations.”

Hold on a second. Cotton is now concerned about U.S. officials “undermining” foreign officials “currently in negotiations”?

Seriously?

Not to put too fine a point on this, but it was literally just two weeks ago that Cotton took it upon himself to organize a letter to Iran from 47 Senate Republicans. The point of the correspondence, by Cotton’s own admission, was to target international diplomacy, undermine American foreign policy, and disrupt officials during their ongoing negotiations.

I’m going to assume the Arkansas Republican remembers this. It caused a bit of a stir.

And yet, there Cotton was yesterday, expressing concern that a State Department official, simply by stating a simple fact about U.S. foreign policy, might “startle” officials abroad. These officials are “currently in negotiations,” so the GOP senator apparently believes Americans should be cautious not to interfere.

The irony is simply breathtaking. The mind reels.

Update:  In his remarks on the Senate floor, Cotton added, “I fear mutual respect is of little concern to this administration. The president and all those senior officials around him should carefully consider the diplomatic and security consequences of their words.”

I mean, really. Is this intended as some kind of performance-art statement on the power of irony?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 20, 2015

March 21, 2015 Posted by | 47 Traitors, Foreign Policy, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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