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Unless you've fought in a war for this country, then you should shut up about President Trump's tariffs that might cost you a buck or two on a toaster.

Or a few hundred thousand dollars on commodity prices. Or a chunk of your retirement fund on the stock market.

At least that's what I inferred from U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's remark the other day on CBS This Morning.

Here is what the junior senator said when he went on the program to tout a new book he has out, only to be diverted quickly by the interviewer to the news of the day, which was tariffs: "There will be some sacrifices on the part of Americans. I grant you that. But I would also say that sacrifice is pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas, that our fallen heroes that are laid to rest in Arlington make."

Well, all right, then. We can stipulate, surely, that giving one's life in combat for the country is a sacrifice exceeding that of a farmer selling less of his crop and for a lower price, or that of a consumer paying more for a product.

But we can also wonder what one has to do with the other, except to a politician who can't seem to open his mouth without invoking military heroism and his own service.

In another interview quoted recently by Politico, Cotton said infantrymen such as himself qualify themselves for public service with "mission focus, leadership, boys under fire, discipline, teamwork."

I'd always thought that those who serve militarily in combat fight less for self-aggrandizement than for the kinds of freedoms by which a smart-aleck could write for a newspaper and tell off bellicose and braggadocious politicians.

A smart-aleck writer could dare to complain about economically destructive tariffs and the threat they pose to Americans' livelihoods, even if that smart-aleck commentator, like the current American president, never served.

I'm understanding why Cotton has emerged as the Senate's least-liked member according to a published report from Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. The column offered the perfectly plausible postulate that our state's junior senator has become even more unpleasant than Ted Cruz.

Cotton was on CBS on Monday to tout the book Sacred Duty.

It's about ... the military.

It extols the "Old Guard" detail that escorts funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Cotton did service on the detail, along with service in Iran and Afghanistan that he might have mentioned a time or two.

President Trump tweets that Cotton's book is great, suggesting that he has now read a book, or, more possibly, that he still hasn't read one but is simply scratching Cotton's back in exchange for Cotton's scratching his by saying his tariffs are nothing compared to getting shot in war.

I guess this is Cotton's Rule: If Arkansas farmers suffer a little financial setback from tariffs and want to make a few extra bucks, then maybe they could enlist in the military, take some incoming fire, write a book, and then sit back to wait for a promotional boost from their megalomaniacal president, but only after going on television to say supportive and defending things about him.

Writing an online post for Esquire, the inimitable Charles Pierce warns that Trumpism won't end with Trump and that Cotton--"a complete product of the wingnut welfare candidate manufacturing plant"--has "breeder reactor" ambition within him, and hangs there as an ominous successor.

Pierce writes that Cotton is essentially saying to his state's farmers, "You're all going broke because the president* is a dunce, but that's OK because you're not being machine-gunned at Passchendaele."

The point is that Cotton insists on fashioning all issues in a noble self-referential military context when, in fact, the real nobility of the military context is that it should be compartmentalized unto itself as an essential defense service that is not self-referential but stoic in its heroic preservation of the right of debate and dissent for all citizens on all issues.

Let me show you how that compartmentalization can work: I thank and admire and applaud Cotton for his military service. But I neither thank nor admire nor applaud him for his political service.

Of that political service, columnist Milbank elaborated on Cotton's "least-liked senator" ascension by writing, "Colleagues and staff on the Hill report that he can be as nasty privately as he is publicly, as uncivil to Republicans as he is to Democrats."

Yet Cotton bows consistently before the asserted bone spurs of a president who never served.

It's a small price for a presidential book blurb, I suppose.

"On sale today, make it big," the president tweeted of Cotton's book.

Book sales spiked by a president's tweets to millions ... you can see how that might make a farmer's complaints about tariffs seem trivial.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 05/16/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: The Cotton Rule


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  • Rightside
    May 16, 2019 at 7:55 a.m.

    U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's new book became a bestseller soon after its release Tuesday.
    Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery, quickly claimed a spot on Barnes & Noble's Top Twenty list. Tuesday evening, it was No. 12 at Amazon thanks to Brummett's review.

    Other news.
    Democrats now have 23 in the clown car after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he is running for president.

  • mozarky2
    May 16, 2019 at 8:14 a.m.

    Bill de Blasio, like democrat mayors in big cities all over the U.S., has turned his city into an open sewer.

  • adrink
    May 16, 2019 at 10:17 a.m.

    Trump is doing what the past four presidents knew they, or someone, would have to do someday. The problem with the past four presidents doing what was necessary was that they did not have the political courage to do it. China and many other countries have been allowed to take advantage of the U.S. in trade to the extent that it has begun to undermine our country's financial position in the world. Someone had to step up and get things corrected. And yes, farmers and several other business groups will suffer during the correction. Consumers that are used to cheep Chinese goods will be the ones that will suffer more as a group. But the correction is necessary. It is good to have someone in the White House that has the political courage to do what is necessary and right. He was not my first choice but he has been the only president during my lifetime that has kept his campaign promises. He often gets accused of not telling the truth because, like all salesmen, he uses a lot of hyperbole. If that is a legitimate way of defining a liar, then John Brummett is the biggest liar in the local paper.

  • Packman
    May 16, 2019 at 10:55 a.m.

    Brummett forgot to say President Trump finished in second place. He may not receive his Christmas bonus from Putin if he keeps forgetting to use his media platform to foment dissension among the electorate.

  • Csveta7
    May 16, 2019 at 11:05 a.m.

    I have to say that I pretty much agree with John Brummett’s column today.

  • RBear
    May 16, 2019 at 11:28 a.m.

    Pack yes Trump did finish in second place in the popular vote which means the majority of Americans did not support him for president and do not support him now as his approval rating is still below 50%.
    Regarding Cotton, he is a one song tune that he thinks makes him more qualified for service in Congress than others, that being his service in the military. In reality, it's the ONLY thing Cotton has going. Hence, his book on service in Arlington National Cemetery. I've heard Cotton speak before and he has to drop back to military service because he really doesn't comprehend policy that well.
    He's a great "YES" man, but those kind of people are long on sucking up and short on idea. His role as Trump's lapdog makes for great TV sometimes. But just as we see in his comments about farmers, he comes off looking like an idiot when it comes time to focus on policy.
    That being said, we find others like Cotton in here such as moz who can't really speak to the issue of the column and must resort to copy/paste from obscure sources on off-topic subjects.

  • JakeTidmore
    May 16, 2019 at 11:59 a.m.

    Nothing like an ignoramus shooting off his mouth about NYC. 8.5 million people will be more than glad to b*tch-slap such idiots for dissing their home.
    Crime has continued an overall downward trend in New York City since the 1990s. In 2012, the NYPD came under scrutiny for its use of a stop-and-frisk program, which has undergone several policy revisions since then. In 2014, New York City had the third lowest murder rate among the largest U.S. cities, having become significantly safer after a spike in crime in the 1970s through 1990s.
    Violent crime in New York City decreased more than 75% from 1993 to 2005, and continued decreasing during periods when the nation as a whole saw increases. By 2002, New York City's crime rate was similar to that of Provo, Utah, and was ranked 197th in crime among the 216 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000. In 2005, the homicide rate was at its lowest level since 1966, and in 2007, the city recorded fewer than 500 homicides for the first time ever since crime statistics were first published in 1963.
    Apparently rats are a problem on this web page - coming out to spread their filth, disease, and poison. Snarky little rodents!

  • JakeTidmore
    May 16, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    Lying pukes: 0
    NYC Facts: New York City has focused on reducing its environmental impact and carbon footprint. Mass transit use in New York City is the highest in the United States. Also, by 2010, the city had 3,715 hybrid taxis and other clean diesel vehicles, representing around 28% of New York's taxi fleet in service, the most of any city in North America.
    New York's high rate of public transit use, over 200,000 daily cyclists as of 2014, and many pedestrian commuters make it the most energy-efficient major city in the United States.[ Walk and bicycle modes of travel account for 21% of all modes for trips in the city; nationally the rate for metro regions is about 8%. In both its 2011 and 2015 rankings, Walk Score named New York City the most walkable large city in the United States, and in 2018, Stacker ranked New York the most walkable U.S. city.
    Don't forget that a Superfund is now dealing with cleaning up Newtown Creek, a key waterway in the Post of NY & NJ.
    And are we to believe that an extreme right winger has become environmentally conscious?? LMAO!!

  • mozarky2
    May 16, 2019 at 12:48 p.m.

    May 16, 2019 at 11:28 a.m.
    Pack yes Trump did finish in second place in the popular vote which means the majority of Americans did not support him for president and do not support him now as his approval rating is still below 50%.
    Really, RB? Under 50%?
    RB, with this post, just made my post if I give a Schiff what RB thinks.
    Here are some internals from a Zogby poll released yesterday:
    At the moment President Trump’s approval rating is higher than Obama’s at the same point in his presidency—Zogby Analytics had President Obama at 48% approve/52% disapprove on 05/09/2011. . .
    President Trump scored well with younger Millennial voters aged 18-29 (51% approve/46% disapprove) and Generation Z voters aged 18-24 (49% approve/51% disapprove). The President also received a good approval rating with voters aged 25-54; he received a majority job approval rating from older Millennial voters aged 25-34 (53% approve/43% disapprove) and middle aged voters aged 35-54 (59% approve/38% disapprove). Among the oldest voters surveyed-aged 65+, Trump’s disapproval rating was the strongest (59% disapprove/41% approve). As per usual, the president did well with men (58% approve/40% disapprove) and he improved his support with women (44% approve/54% disapprove). . .
    Another group the president is doing better with is Independents, who have recently changed their tune about Trump’s job performance. . . The president also made strides with college educated voters (55% approve/45% disapprove), and saw support increase slightly with non-college educated voters (47% approve/50% disapprove). . .
    Trump’s approval rating has improved with minorities—27% of African Americans and 45% of Hispanics approve of the president—both very good numbers historically for Trump.
    But wait-there's more...
    When asked who they trust more to grow the economy, respondents said, President Trump-46%, Democrat leaders-42%, Not sure-12%.
    And Zogby's not exactly a Trump lover...

  • mozarky2
    May 16, 2019 at 12:50 p.m.

    Don't get out much, do you, Jake. Garbage is piled up on the sidewalks and in the subways in NYC. You could look it up...if you were capable, that is...