Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton has long been a darling of the conservative hawks in Washington. But the left is taking notice, too, if with alarm rather than enthusiasm.

Heather Digby Parton, writing in Salon under the headline I’ve quoted above, takes off from his “rot in hell” moment on detainees at Guantanamo:

All the aging hawks can rest easy. The mantle of bloodthirsty warmongers has been passed to a new generation. And unlike the veterans of yore, this one makes no tepid disclaimer that war is hell or that it should ever be avoided. He straight up wants more of it. And with the GOP on a national security tear these days, he’s sure to be a big hit with the base. There’s nothing they love more than a politician spouting cretinous foreign policy nonsense and ignoring all evidence that challenges their worldview.

Critical though she is, particularly of the premise of Cotton’s questioning about the value of Guantanamo, she sees power in Cotton’s message:

I’m going to take a wild guess and assume he’s not going to be one of those Republican civil libertarians forming a kumbaya circle with Rand Paul. In fact, not one of the new GOP senators is likely to fall into that category. That’s a Beltway and libertarian fever dream. But you can certainly see why he rose to such early fame in right-wing circles. That brand of swaggering authoritarianism is the red meat they need to keep their coalition together in these difficult times for the party.

Tom Cotton is Ted Cruz with a war record, Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree, Chris Christie with a Southern accent — a force to be reckoned with. He may sound like he’s speaking gibberish to you or to me when he asks why there were no prisoners in Guantánamo before the prison existed, but to the Republican base he’s speaking their language as clear as day and it will fit nicely on a bumper sticker: “Let ‘em rot.”

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