Hypocrisy in politics is like gossip in an office, a venial sin so widespread it’s almost tedious to mention.
But the sheer chutzpah of Tom Cotton‘s lecturing and hectoring on obstruction over appointments is something to behold. Cotton, regarding the nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, said last week, “Democrats, especially on the Foreign Relations Committee, are really engaged in shameful political behavior.” You may recall that Cotton once led the charge to block the nomination of the obviously qualified Cassandra Butts to an ambassadorship. Cotton, the Secretary of Spite, was motivated by no concern other than hoping to personally upset and irritate President Obama, a longtime friend of Butts. Butts eventually died of cancer, still waiting for confirmation after 835 days.
Cotton was taken to task for his selective memory on “shameful political behavior” by more critics than I can count last week. Here’s a sample, from Steve Benen, who recounted the episode for MSNBC:
After “decades of government and nonprofit work that reflected a passion for public service,” Butts received a nomination from Barack Obama to a diplomatic post for which she was well qualified. Her confirmation should’ve been easy, but the Senate kept putting her nomination on the back-burner – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, blocked her as part of a tantrum against the Iran nuclear deal.
And then there was Tom Cotton, who blocked Butts and two other nominees.
Cotton eventually released the two other holds, but not the one on Butts. She told me that she once went to see him about it, and he explained that he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s – the two first encountered each other on a line for financial-aid forms at Harvard Law School, where they were classmates – and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.
Bruni’s report added that Cotton’s spokesperson “did not dispute Butts’s characterization of that meeting.”
All of this became even more notable when Butts died at the age of 50 of acute leukemia, which she didn’t know she had until her life was nearly over. She waited 835 days for the Senate to vote on her nomination, but the vote never came.
“All Cassandra wanted to do was serve her country,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, told the Times. “Looking back, it is devastating to think that through no fault of her own, she spent the last 835 days of her life waiting for confirmation.”
Cotton, writes Benan, “thought it was responsible to use his Senate office to block Butts, not because of the merits of her nomination, because he wanted ‘inflict special pain on the president.’ If that meant seeing Butts as little more than a pawn on a chessboard, so be it. … And now Cotton, seemingly comfortable giving lectures from his high horse, wants to point the finger at senators’ ‘shameful political behavior.’ Maybe the Arkansan has forgotten how he treated Cassandra Butts. Perhaps now is a good time to remind him.”