In the past 42 hours, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has made appearances on all three cable news channels to defend an open letter he organized and signed along with 46 other Senate Republicans encouraging Iranian leaders against negotiating with President Obama on a deal Congress won't approve.
On "Fox and Friends," "The Lead with Jake Tapper" and "Morning Joe," Cotton said that Iranian leaders are unaware of how the U.S. government works and that is why, in the letter, he explained that treaties made by a president leaving office in two years could be temporary. He said he wanted a deal that kept nuclear weapons out of Iran's reach for longer.
As Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic tweeted, as a U.S. senator, Cotton's letter to foreign enemies to not trust the administration on a nuclear deal was "quite a step." What makes it all the more bold is that he's been in office just about 60 days.
Cotton has become the Senate class of 2014's rising star, making more news than even Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), who delivered the Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address and whose "make 'em squeal" ad was a midterm highlight reel favorite. But the spotlight hasn't come without a wave of criticism.
Vice President Biden wrote that Cotton's letter "threatens to undermined the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations," and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) called him "Tehran Tom." His face made the front page of Tuesday's New York Post, alongside Sens. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and the all-caps headline "TRAITORS." It's not every day that a freshman senator shares a front page with the Senate majority leader and two possible presidential candidates.
Last month, Cotton said during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting that terrorists could "rot in hell" and that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should stay open. His exchange during the hearing with Brian McKeon of the Defense Department was dramatic, like a scene out of a movie about Congress. He rejected the administration's argument that Guantanamo is a propaganda tool for militants and should be closed, saying terrorists had been attacking the United States long before Guantanamo opened. He asked McKeon, "How many detainees were at Guantanamo Bay on September 11, 2001?" — before the prison actually opened. The senator knew the answer but asked the question multiple times — referring to different attacks — anyways. It wasn't about getting answers, it was about making a point, and it was political theater.
Politicians will continue to debate Cotton's letter. Some will call it dangerous and others bold, but they all will continue to mention Cotton. It's reminiscent of another bold freshman, Cruz, who led the 2013 government shutdown just months after taking office. Cruz's tactics won him fans and foes, but today, he's the only Senate class of 2013 member considering a presidential run. Plus, he has his own coloring book.
If Cotton continues to make headlines at this rate, don't be surprised if he soon has a coloring book of his own and finds himself shaking hands in Iowa before long.