Rep. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) entire career in elected office has spanned about seven months, but he's already eager for a promotion.
Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) officially launched his campaign against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) Tuesday evening in his hometown of Dardanelle, Ark., setting up one of the most closely watched Senate match-ups of the 2014 election cycle.Cotton laid out an anti-Washington, anti-Obama message consistent with his hard-charging conservative views, blasting "crony capitalists" throughout the speech and tying Pryor to President Obama and his signature healthcare law, both of which are deeply unpopular in the state.
As first-year freshmen lawmakers go, Cotton, a former Army Ranger, has been embraced by the political establishment much quicker than most. The Arkansas congressman has already made five Sunday show appearances this year -- more than the vast majority of U.S. senators, let alone House members -- and Politico recently described Cotton "an angular soldier-politician ... seemingly destined for higher office." Why? Because Politico says so.
The Weekly Standard can hardly contain its gushing, almost-creepy affection for Cotton, with Bill Kristol arguing on Fox News that the Arkansas Republican should be seen as a possible candidate for national office in 2016. Cotton had been in Congress for a grand total of about two weeks when Kristol made the comment.
But whether Cotton actually deserves all of this attention and Beltway adulation is a very different question.
I first noticed Cotton in April when one of his House floor speeches went viral in right-wing circles. In it, the Arkansan insisted that George W. Bush's record on counter-terrorism is awesome, because 9/11 doesn't count.
A month later, Cotton pushed a measure (unsuccessfully) that intended to punish those who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran: Cotton sought to punish any family member of the transgressors, including "parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews. nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids."
And it was around this time when I started to wonder if maybe the Beltway's fondness for Cotton was a little excessive, given his extremism.
Jillian Rayfield went further, rounding up some even more startling data points, including:
* Earlier this year, he argued against allowing women to serve in the infantry, because "[t]o have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that's been proven in study after study, it's nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth."* Cotton also suggested that Iraq was involved with al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks, which the 9/11 commission determined in 2004 was untrue. "The evidence is inconclusive there, but I know that Saddam Hussein was widely believed by all western intelligence agencies, not just the United States, but western European countries not in a rush to war, to have weapons of mass destruction," he said in January.
Last week, Cotton fought against government-backed student loans, despite the fact that he benefited directly from government-backed student loans.
And yet, despite all of this, Cotton will enjoy the enthusiastic support of the Washington establishment and will not lack resources for his Senate campaign. If Republicans are going to take back the Senate majority in the next Congress, which remains a distinct possibility, they're going to need to win this seat.