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The principled man

By John Brummett

This article was published August 13, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.

Until now, one always had to concede that at least Tom Cotton was admirably principled. He voted his economically libertarian and anti-government principles, like them or not. And he owned up to voting for those principles.

But now, alas, he has abandoned that laudable personal underpinning. He has retreated to garden-variety politics as usual.

He has done so in the matter of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

He voted against the hospital but won’t admit it. Thus he obfuscates in the style of any other politician saying whatever is necessary to blur issues and best serve his chance of winning.

The Cotton described in the first paragraph would say that, yes, as charged in a Democratic commercial, he voted alone in the Arkansas congressional delegation in February 2013 against an appropriation to re-up $330 million for graduate medical education at stand-alone children’s hospitals.

The Cotton described in the first paragraph would say the federal government is broke and that popular discretionary spending must be eliminated. He would say he adores the Arkansas Children’s Hospital but that tough cuts must be made. He would say the hospital could and would find another way to come up with $6.4 million or thereabouts for a graduate medical education program to develop pediatric specialists.

But the Cotton of the first paragraph has given way to the Cotton of the second paragraph.

This Children’s Hospital matter has put him off-balance from the beginning.

In April 2013, his office concocted that he voted against the appropriation because of a procedural failing—that the bill had not properly been through committee. But it had been through committee.

So now the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a television commercial, assaults him for the negative vote. And he replies that he, in fact, favored the Children’s Hospital money all along.

And, in more politics as usual, he tries to turn the issue back on Mark Pryor by faulting Pryor for sequestration cuts, including to children’s hospitals.

Pryor went along with those sequestration cuts to keep the country from defaulting on its debt. On other occasions, Cotton has said the sequestration cuts were appropriate and not onerous.

Cotton’s assertion of having voted in favor of the Children’s Hospital relies entirely on pointless votes. It is based on roll calls taken not to make law in good faith, but merely to score political points and provide political protection.

Cotton says he voted five times for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Most were on broad budget bills that had no chance of passage. Republicans ran them merely so they could get on record that they voted for budgets from which money for the Affordable Care Act had been excised.

The eventual effect of that kind of budget gamesmanship—indeed brinksmanship—was to shut down the government.

Now Cotton wants credit for voting for the Children’s Hospital in voting to stop the torrent of well-deserved criticism and re-open the government—the government that he and his overzealous right-wing allies shut down in the first place.

The fact is that there was one vote in the House, in February 2013, specifically to reauthorize the $330 million for children’s hospitals. The fact is that it passed overwhelmingly, 352-50. The fact is that the other three Republican House members from Arkansas, all but Cotton, voted for the money.

The fact is that the appropriation was opposed by the Club for Growth—also known by Mike Huckabee as the “Club for Greed.”

This Club for Growth is the extreme right-wing group—economically libertarian, pro-billionaire and anti-government—that seeks draconian reductions in government. And it is the group that loaded up the agreeable Cotton with bundled campaign contributions when he ran for Congress in 2012.

The Club for Growth says we need a new Washington filled with Ted Cruzes and Tom Cottons.

It appears that Arkansas voters must answer three questions:

One is whether they want to install in the Senate someone equated with Ted Cruz.

The second is whether they want to install in the Senate a man who has a voting record reflecting principles admired by a group like the Club for Growth.

If the answer to that is “yes,” then the third question is whether they can trust the declared principles of a candidate who casts those principles aside when the heat gets turned up in electoral battle.

This column could not have been written if Cotton had simply voted in the first place with Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack and against the Club for Growth.

And half of this column could not have been written if Cotton had simply owned up to not doing so.

John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at Read his blog at, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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racinghoman01040838 says... August 13, 2014 at 7:25 a.m.

Begin typing here.I`m a huge believer that Barack Obama and harry Reid have to stopped . Congress is currently just Gridlocked Something has got to Give i really dont have a whole lot of use for Either Candidate this Year . This is a dangerous time for our Country and what we do on Election Day Will make a Huge impact on the Future of this Country ...... Both Candidates have advocated policies that I`m against .. so what Now ?..

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Delta123 says... August 13, 2014 at 7:51 a.m.

You left off the 4th question. Do you want to re-elect to the Senate a man that consistently votes with Barak Obama, Harry Reid and their ilk?

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cdawg says... August 13, 2014 at 8:10 a.m.

Do you want a man completely controlled by big corporate money? A man who owns no property in Arkansas? A man who finds his roots one month before running for Congress?

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KCSAP says... August 13, 2014 at 8:31 a.m.

I don't know if he Cotton lied about this, but I find it odd to say the least that Brummett would focus on Cotton lying here, when in our current world of politicians, Obama lies everyday about important things like ACA/Iraq/IRS/Bengazi/Fast&Furious, along with Reid, Pelosi, Holder and all of their ilk. Really Brummett, why don't you step back and take a look at the bigger picture of politics where the liberals LIE to the people daily. LIB's like yourself do not have the least bit of decency or honesty, and have taken this country to our darkest days and therefore your opinion holds no value!

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map51 says... August 13, 2014 at 8:41 a.m.

While there are many things that I disagree with Mark Pryor about at least he is an Arkansan. He knows the people here and in many ways has their interest at heart. We need change in Washington but it needs to be positive change and not change for change sake. Do we want a big money owned Senator or Mark Pryor? I do not think Cotton has the best interest of Arkansans at heart and what has he done for the fourth Congressional district? I would like to here the Republican party campaign on something their candidates have done as opposed to only hearing about Obama and , Reid and sweet Nancy. Tell us that your candidate has done please.

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Delta123 says... August 13, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.

Hey Map, Mark Pryor is the incumbent. How about telling us what Mark Pryor has done for the state of Arkansas?
Hey Cdawg, guess who the top 6 contributors to Pryors campaign are? I'll save you trouble of looking it up:
Simmons Law Firm
Nix, Patterson & Roach Law Firm
So using your logic I reckon that he's controlled by big corporations too. Now what?
You Libs blasted Cotton for missing the Tomato Fest now you blast him for showing up at the Watermelon Fest. Damned if you do, Damned if you don't. Y'all got to make up your mind.

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map51 says... August 13, 2014 at 9:10 a.m.

Pat all candidates take money for big corporations but Pryor's are in state

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paladin123p06130833 says... August 13, 2014 at 9:33 a.m.

I’ve noticed that the Cotton campaign has stopped talking about his military record. The medal he was awarded wasn’t for combat. A lot of officers in these two wars, Afghanistan/Iraq, have been ethically challenged and have used these wars as stepping stones for employment in the defense industry or politics.

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map51 says... August 13, 2014 at 9:36 a.m.

I wonder how all people who disagree with the far right are libs???? While I am independent (because I think for myself) if I have leanings they are more conservative than liberal. Part of the issue with politics today is if you do not believe exactly as others then you are liberal or tea party. That needs to stop and we need to realize that neither side is always right or wrong. We need to learn to listen to others because they might just enlighten us with another way to look at things.

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Populist says... August 13, 2014 at 9:47 a.m.


I'm in total agreement. The moderates have got to fight for the lesser of the evils. We need principled people in office who can control the budget without sticking it to the poor and middle class. Pryor has a few corporate donors from in-state, and yes, he is getting democratic money. Cotton has consistently voted against the interests of Arkansas and is an extremist who even opposes hurricane relief. Pryor is at least a moderate who crossed the aisle and worked with Susan Collins and other Republicans to get the government back in business so that our country's credit rating would not go down further. Cotton is just a nut. I've never met him, but his voting record is outrageously extremist. He wants to bail out the Defense industry and give tax breaks to billionaires while he wants to cut Medicare and school lunches. He is just outrageous.


You should concentrate helping Asa and give up on Cotton. Asa is at least a decent human being.

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