Mar 16 2015
The last week has been full of news of Sen Tom Cotton (douche bag-AR), the freshman Senator from Arkansas who seems not to have a very good understanding of his place in the United States government. Worse yet is the fact that my two Senators proved themselves every bit as worthless as I knew them to be, by signing on to his stupid letter-instead of fulfilling their purpose in the Senate, namely to tell the young man to take a seat and shut his freshmen mouth until he is spoken to or asked to vote on something.
A sure sign that Cotton is on the wrong side of history is the glowing endorsement he got from William "The Bloody" Kristol. Kristol, who never met a war he did not like, and could not be bothered to actually serve in the armed forces, has been wrong just about , no I take that back, has been wrong EXACTLY, 100% of the time.
What's truly astonishing is Kristol's total obliviousness to why self-criticism might be warranted in foreign affairs: For the last decade, even the places where Republicans earnestly did want to spread liberty have turned into costly debacles. They had dubious notions of what the military could accomplish. They failed to execute. They stubbornly denied anything was amiss for far too long. And as a result, Republicans, especially neoconservatives, lost the trust of American voters.
But still there are folks who want to tread in Kristol's misbegotten path-and our boy Tom Cotton, geographically challenged though he may be, is just the latest of Republican politicians to head down the wrong path with Kristol leading the way.
Thomas Friedman, who I have a love hate relationship with-did a pretty good job of explaining why Cotton was and is wrong in his column of March 3. Specifically he points out the very cogent points that our boy from Hicksville seems oblivious to.:
Netanyahu never made a convincing argument as to why walking away from Obama’s draft deal with Iran would result in either a better deal, more sanctions or an Iranian capitulation — and not a situation where Iran would continue to build toward a bomb and our only two choices would be to live with it or bomb it, with all the mess that could entail. In that sense, Bibi’s speech was perfect for Congress: I’ve got a better plan, and it won’t cost a thing or require any sacrifice by the American people. The guy could be a congressman. The U.S. position — shared by China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France — is: Given that Iran has already mastered the techniques to make a bomb and managed to import all the components to do so, despite sanctions, it is impossible to eliminate Iran’s bomb-making capabilities. What is possible is to demand that Iran roll back its enrichment and other technologies so that if Iran decided one day to make a bomb, it would take it a year — more than enough time for the U.S. and its allies to destroy it.
Tom Cotton does not seem much interested in answering that question-something some very astute political columnists have pointed out.
But Cotton's supporters don't seem to think he has to correct himself or answer a question. After all he did, something that neither Friedman or Kristol did, he served in the armed forces.
To hear some people tell it, that's the end of the story. Tom Cotton cannot be criticized because he served in Iraq. Even by other people who actually did not leave the service to make money as a lawyer and start a political career, but stayed on active duty for some 30+ years.
Lets put aside for a moment how basically flawed Cotton's ideas and his methods are with the letter. It strikes me as more than passing odd, that people think Cotton gets a free pass when he is wrong because he once wore Army green. Besides the fact that there are also veterans with a Democrat next to their name who have taken the erstwhile Senator to task, and it is quite clear that no one on the conservative side of the aisle is willing to take that into account when making criticisms; but the key issue in politics is not, "what did he do back then?", but rather "what have you done for us lately?". And Cotton is a Senator who has only been on the job for 65 days. He really has not done very much except show that he needs to take some remedial lessons on geography and history.
( Oh and for what its worth Tom, despite your valiant efforts in Iraq, the place is still a basket case and the invasion of Iraq was still the worst foreign policy disaster of the last 40 years).
Honorable service is not a "get out of jail free" card for poor decisions made subsequent to the service. It's probably worth pointing out too that there are plenty of strident people who served honorably who, in hindsight, were real dicks, both in and out of uniform. The evidence in the case of Cotton sure looks that way.
He's proving with each passing day to have some pretty bad ideas of what government is and is not supposed to do-and his stated public positions, especially about Guantanamo, hardly square well with a man who portrays himself as being supposedly compassionate and a Christian. The more you dig with him the more you find out, he's probably a pretty bad guy. So I thank him for his service and now, respectfully ask him to stop being such a dick.
As Andrew Bacevich has pointed out repeatedly, the fawning adoration of a guy like Cotton-based solely on his military service-misses a much deeper point.
Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve," retired admiral Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve." Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."
In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops." In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.
Bacevich's entire body of recent work has pointed out that this attitude can be dangerous-especially with a public that gives lip service to trying to understand the underlying issues at play in the conflicts that caused the United States to waste the first 15 years of the 21st century. Cotton, sadly tried to exploit this in his Senate campaign last year. His military service does not give him immunity from criticism, in fact it should invite the opposite question, "Why did you not learn anything substantial during your time on active duty?".
As the mutual fund managers will tell you all the time, past performance does not guarantee future results. And a sitting Senator does not get a free pass on current poor judgment , just because he once was in the infantry.