His stunt is moving his party further from its own goals. His allies are scrambling to make excuses for the fiasco he spearheaded. Observers from the left, right, center are using words like "disgrace," "dangerous," and "stupid" while condemning his gambit to sabotage his own country's foreign policy.
Taken together, it's tempting to think Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), whose letter to Iran is effectively its own scandal, is having a career-ending, credibility-killing week. But by all appearances, the right-wing Arkansan is actually riding high.
With his missive to Iran's political leadership, ultimately co-signed with 46 of his GOP colleagues, and the fallout over his unusual attempt to circumvent the president's foreign policy deal-making, Cotton has rocketed to the top of TV bookers' lists, and fellow Republican senators are suddenly flocking to him for counsel on foreign policy. All before he's even given his maiden speech on the Senate floor.
The headline on the Politico piece heralded Cotton as a "GOP phenom" whose radical stunt has "endeared him to Republicans."
It's amazing to see how this works. Steve M. argued this week, "This is how it always goes with the GOP -- a Republican does one showboating, immature, possibly reckless thing, and he or she (usually he) is an immediate star. Look at Ted Cruz. Look at Rand Paul. Look at Ben Carson."
Paul Waldman added that the Iran letter from the 47 Senate Republicans "looks like quite the fiasco," except Cotton "is probably saying, 'That worked out great!'"
As amazing as all of this is, no one should be surprised.
As a Senate candidate in Arkansas last year, after less than one term in the U.S. House, Cotton told voters they should worry about ISIS terrorists joining forces with Mexican drug cartels and targeting Arkansas. The argument didn't make a lick of sense, but the Republican lawmaker didn't care.
Around the same time, Cotton was caught brazenly lying about Congress' farm bill. When confronted with reality, he said he didn't care and would repeat the falsehoods anyway.
The fact that Cotton would continue ridiculous antics after winning the election shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
What matters, though, is the Republican embrace of this brand of political extremism and celebrating Cotton in the wake of this week's controversy. After he created what was effectively an international incident, his fellow GOP lawmakers are "suddenly flocking to him for counsel on foreign policy"? Two bumbling months into his term, Arkansas Republicans are gearing up for his 2020 presidential campaign?
This really isn't healthy.