Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative columnist, lights into Sen. Tom Cotton today, in the past praised by her, as “quickly developing a reputation as a first-class apple polisher for President-elect Donald Trump.”
The specific source of scorn for her column headlined “What has become of Tom Cotton,” is his support of Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. She quotes a Cotton tribute to Tillerson.
“….Rex and I enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about Russia, the Middle East, human rights, and many other geopolitical challenges and opportunities.” (Excuse me, but “Rex”? Is there a personal relationship here, or is Cotton feigning a level of familiarity that does not exist?) And he didn’t stop there. “Like Dick Cheney and Bob Gates,” he said, “I’m confident that Rex will bring the same clear-eyed, hard-nosed approach to the interests of the American people as Secretary of State that he brought to the interests of ExxonMobil shareholders. I look forward to supporting his nomination.”
It’s remarkable that Cotton needs no confirmation hearing to make his decision. Cotton is so enamored of Tillerson that he does not even feel the need to see him perform under pressure. Cotton apparently knows precisely how Tillerson will avoid conflicts of interest and implement Trump’s incoherent views on national security. One wonders whether Tillerson provided assurance that he will readily acknowledge that Russia is responsible for hacking and commit to a robust response. (If not, Cotton wouldn’t support him, would he?)
Too bad that Cotton, who ran for office largely on his national security credentials, has not used his considerable knowledge to hammer away at Vladimir Putin’s (and Trump’s) propaganda denying Russian responsibility for interference with our election. Too bad that Cotton has bent over backward to play down an investigation into Russian hacking.
It goes on. Here in Arkansas we’re accustomed to Cotton’s superiority complex. But Rubin is more concerned about world affairs than Cotton’s ego.
To recap, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and other Republicans — along with a slew of Democrats — have been trying to inform the American people about Russian aggression, steer the incoming administration away from its delusions about Putin and put Tillerson on notice that they expect evidence he is more than a rich guy who looks good in a suit. Cotton, meanwhile, gives the secretary of state nominee a pass and fawns over the appointment of a Putin pal.
Whatever his long-term career ambitions, Cotton would be wise to stop trying so hard to ingratiate himself with the incoming administration. Responsible senators have substantive and institutional interests quite different from Trump’s. Cotton surely is free to join Trump’s administration if he wants to leave the Senate. So long as he is in the Senate, however, he’d do well to exercise appropriate scrutiny of nominees and be vocal in opposition to ludicrous and false pronouncements from whomever is in the Oval Office. Otherwise people might confuse him for another freshman senator blinded by ambitions and now openly ridiculed for his obsequiousness and lack of principle.
This is a right-wing columnist mind you, one who still remembers when orthodoxy said to be distrustful of Russia generally and Putin particularly. Polls show the Trump base, however, is warm to Putin, authoritarian that he is. Several commentators have remarked that the Trump-Putin linkage isn’t necessarily a political winner for Democrats. Tom Cotton thinks not, clearly.
Note that Rubin has been getting blasted as a traitor for being critical of Trump appointments.
“Jen Rubin is WAPO’s excuse for conservative; her contempt for all things Trump exposes her and WAPO as Fake News,” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee posted on Twitter last week, after Rubin criticized the president-elect’s Cabinet nominees.
Cotton, with his overweening ambition,may be somewhat more sensitive to criticism from a national commentator. Rubin has written about him often and warmly, such as when she praised him for Cotton’s criticism of President Obama’s policies regarding Iran.