President Theodore Roosevelt sometimes described his foreign policy -- "speak softly and carry a big stick" -- as "the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis."
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, less than three months into his first term, recently demonstrated he's got something in common with the nation's 26th president: He's decisive, all right, but the ringleader of a GOP effort to undermine United States diplomatic efforts with Iran couldn't be found guilty of exercising Roosevelt's requisite exercise of intelligent forethought.
What’s the point?
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s drive to ascend the political ladder was at the root of his effort to thwart the United States’ negotiations seeking to keep Iran from the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
Oh, unless the forethought is about seeking higher office, as in the one Roosevelt once held. Cotton has unquestionably given that a lot of thought, and he's getting ample help from folks who have made him the golden boy of ultra-conservative GOP politics. One case in point is the aid he's getting from state Sen. Bart Hester, who filed a bill in the Arkansas General Assembly to make it legal for an Arkansas candidate to run for two federal offices at once.
Mmmm, who might Hester be thinking about? Cotton would be up for re-election in 2020, which also happens to be a presidential election year. With Cotton's military service and Harvard education, Cotton is the man from hope for the right-wing of the Republican Party, even though he comes from Dardenelle. Hester filed the bill with Cotton's blessing.
So, yes, Arkansas, it's not crazy to feel like a stepping stone. While most junior senators less than 100 days into their first terms would devote themselves to figuring out how to best serve the state that put him in office, that's small potatoes for Cotton. It's hard to get on national newscasts based on Arkansas issues, so why not try to scuttle U.S. negotiations focused on keeping an antagonistic Middle East nation from developing a nuclear weapon?
Here's Cotton's idea of smart leadership: As the administration of a president Cotton cannot stand is in talks with Iranian leadership to find a diplomatic -- that's nonmilitary -- way to prevent development of the nuclear capacity, send a letter to Iran attempting to diminish that diplomatic effort. President Obama, Cotton said, is powerless to negotiate a binding nuclear deal without congressional approval.
"We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and [Iran's Supreme Leader] Ayatollah Khamenei," the letter, signed by 46 other Republicans but drafted by Cotton, said. "The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time."
Thankfully, Cotton didn't close the letter with a wish for its recipients to "rot in hell," although we suspect he'd like to. Maybe it was in the first draft and the much less hotheaded John Boozman, Arkansas senior senator, convinced Cotton it was just a little over the top. Or maybe Cotton's advisers suggested he'd gotten all the mileage he could out of that phrase.
We're not saying Cotton can't have his own opinions about what to do in Iraq. The letter, however, was designed to interfere and disrupt, or to shock and awe, if you will, a nation Cotton views as an enemy that should only be dealt with as an enemy. Iran isn't any friend of the United States, but engaging in talks to work out a possible deal is a better approach than pushing for a showdown. Cotton is a little too eager to draw a line in the sand.
Of course, Cotton's real enemy is the man who helped him get elected: President Obama. We're not fans of the president, but Cotton's perspective has to be viewed through the lens of his fixation on Obama being the cause of many of the nation's problems. It's overstepping for a junior, freshman senator to so blatantly engage in foreign policy sabotage against the administration as a part of his constant campaign for higher office. Cotton is playing to his base, the right-wing conservatives so eager for his political ambitions to succeed, but his actions in this case did not serve the nation.
Boozman's decision to join Cotton is a bit of a surprise. Boozman isn't vying for president. He's an eye doctor, so we're assuming he could read the flawed document. He's far more level-headed than that young whippersnapper who graduated to the Senate after a single two-year term in the House, but most of the Senate Republicans joined in Cotton's epistle to the Iranians. The party is doing its best to clear the way for young Mr. Cotton's ascendancy.
If this letter is an example of Cotton's leadership in Washington, then he's still got a lot to learn.
Commentary on 03/12/2015
Print Headline: With no love, from Tom/Cotton seeks to interfere in Iran negotiations