The danger of Tom Cotton

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The rest of the world, it appears, is becoming more acutely aware these days of what some Arkansans (albeit the vast minority, November's election results indicate) already know: Tom Cotton is not only annoying but also dangerous.

Cotton, who ran a successful campaign against Barack Obama to earn a seat as one of Arkansas' two United States Senators, recently spearheaded an effort to undermine Obama's negotiations with Iran regarding a potential agreement on nuclear proliferation.

Of course, Cotton's nominal opponent in November was then-incumbent Mark Pryor, but Cotton preyed on Arkansans' general dislike for and lack of trust in Obama to trounce Pryor at the polls.

Cotton, who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives before advancing to the Senate, clearly has higher political aspirations. His name is already being mentioned frequently in the context of the 2020 presidential race, and Cotton is grandstanding at every opportunity, laying the groundwork for a potential run.

An open letter to Iranian officials, signed by Cotton and 46 of his Republican Senate colleagues, essentially implied that any agreement Obama reaches with Iran is unlikely to be ratified by Congress, and even if it is ratified, it's likely to be tossed out after Obama leaves office and is replaced by a new president (presumably a Republican) in 2017.

Now, the merits of negotiation with Iran are certainly fit for a separate debate, but the message that Cotton and his fellow senators sent with their open letter to Iranian officials is that the United States' word on a binding agreement has a shelf life of four to eight years, depending on which political party holds the advantage at a particular time.

That's a dangerous message, and it weakens America on the world stage.

Of course, the whole episode put Cotton in the national spotlight. And while some Americans reacted with much the same outrage that I feel, there are plenty of others who are buying into Cotton's antics -- falsely believing that they represent a show of strength.

The end result, if negotiations with Iran don't succeed, could be war. And if we've learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan, it should be that no war is easy or cheap -- in terms of dollars or precious American lives.

Tom Cotton is a dangerous man, and he's playing a dangerous game.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers.