And speaking as ever about wannabe President Tom Cotton, here’s a rough assessment of his attempt to channel Donald Trump at the CPAC wingnut assembly last weekend.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Theoretically, Senator Tom Cotton was hitting the right notes.
Midway through his speech to hundreds of conservative activists on Friday, Mr. Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, channeled former President Donald J. Trump as he castigated President Biden’s immigration policies. “They have halted deportations for all illegal aliens,” Mr. Cotton said gravely, and falsely. “Murderers, rapists, terrorists, MS-13 gang members are not being deported.”
His cadence quickened: “They stopped building a wall around our border, and they put up a wall around your United States Capitol.” He thundered on: “And right now,” he said misleadingly, “right now, as we speak, they are literally tracking down illegal aliens in Mexico who Donald Trump turned away, to invite them to come back.”
Finally, the big reveal: “That’s not catch-and-release,” Mr. Cotton intoned, “that’s recruit-and-release!”
And then — nothing.
Well, almost nothing. A few polite titters rippled through the ballroom. But in the half-second of awkward energy that followed, it seemed clear that Mr. Cotton’s wordplay — his attempt to repurpose Mr. Biden’s reversal of a Trump-era policy on asylum seekers as a quippy, critical slogan — had not landed as he’d hoped.
Others fell flat as well. Style is everything with the crowd.
And while they expected the party’s next star to be a “fighter” in the mold of Mr. Trump, they also bristled at speakers who seemed as if they were trying to mimic him outright — like Mr. Cotton and Senator Rick Scott of Florida.
“It’s like Hellmann’s mayonnaise — you can’t imitate it, man,” said Waverly Woods, 54, a Republican activist from Virginia Beach. “You’re either real mayonnaise, or you’re not.”
Much of Mr. Cotton’s CPAC address seemed like imitation, with the senator invoking many of the grievances popularized by Mr. Trump — “cancel culture,” critical race theory — yet struggling to elicit the same emotional response.
Judge for yourself. It’s cringeworthy.