Tom Cotton personifies the GOP muddle

Walter Russell Mead writes:

It is hard to argue with that, but why is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — an enthusiastic backer of Donald Trump — retweeting portions of the piece from which the above excerpt was taken? Mead is essentially saying Donald Trump would be worse than President Obama. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin clearly hoped that his interference could muddy the waters of the American presidential race; the Russians believe that Trump is if anything less capable than Obama, and that a Trump presidency would give Russia four more years to work at dismantling American power and the European Union,” Mead writes. “As Putin now contemplates the likely frustration of those hopes, he is likely to think harder about how he can use the time remaining on Obama’s watch to further weaken the United States and erode its alliance system.”

Either Cotton has poor reading comprehension, is afflicted with a terrible case of moral dissonance or has been flat-out lying when telling voters that Trump would be a better president than Clinton. (“I’m confident that with a Republican president and a Republican Congress, America will be safer and more prosperous,” Cotton said in August. “I still believe that Donald Trump with a Republican Congress would be best for America.”)

In sum, Obama may be feckless in responding to Russian aggression, but he doesn’t fawn over Putin. Obama may be an inconsistent, churlish ally, but he doesn’t suggest breaking up NATO. Cotton agrees with Mead’s compelling argument that Trump would be worse. Nevertheless,  Cotton — one of Obama’s most ardent critics — says we should pick the guy who is worse than Obama. Huh?

Cotton seems interested in running for president in 2020, but right now he seems to be repeating the very errors Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) made, most egregiously in defending the indefensible Trump. (Why didn’t Cotton support the hawkish independent conservative Evan McMullin, whose foreign policy views align with Cotton’s?) Being from Arkansas, arguably a redder state than Texas these days, Cotton also has adopted the Trump/Cruz anti-immigrant hard-line position. (He might have stuck with Cruz’s pre-presidential campaign position, namely support for expanded legal immigration and a path to legalization for those already here.) Cotton should not make the mistake of assuming that the entire country thinks like Arkansas — or that it will be forgiving of his glaring hypocrisy.

After the election, Cotton should apologize for supporting Trump, vow to work with the new president where he agrees with her and respectfully oppose her and offer alternatives where he does not. Cotton, like Cruz, opposes any tax increase and wants to expand military spending. One of those has to give; especially with a Democrat in the White House. If Cotton wants to set an example and recover stature on national security after playing footsie with Trump, he’ll support a reasonable package of entitlement reform, tax increases and defense spending increases.

Cotton is not the only Republican to have tied himself in knots trying to defend Trump. Intellectual and moral corruption has been the defining feature of the GOP in 2016. Cotton still can redeem himself by coming clean on Trump, refusing to follow the Cruz path-to-nowhere (i.e., obstruction and extremism), supporting the president when she is right (in his view) on foreign policy and avoiding the talk-radio positions (e.g. build the wall, deport millions, roll back gay marriage) that lack public support. He might even show leadership on entitlement reform. In other words, let’s see whether Cotton can be bigger than a junior senator from Arkansas. Otherwise, he’s just a taller, more polite Ted Cruz.

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