So young senator Tom Cotton, two months into his first term in office, really screwed the pooch, didn't he? After all, Tim Mak at the Daily Beast is writing this about Cotton's recent open letter to the Iranian government:
Republicans Admit: That Iran Letter Was a Dumb Idea
Behind the scenes, Republicans are wondering if sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders was the best strategy to keep a bad nuclear deal from being negotiated.
... even among Republicans whose offices have signed the letter, there is some trepidation that the Iran letter injects partisanship into the Iran negotiations, shifting the narrative from the content of the deal to whether Republicans are unfairly trying to undercut the president.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg is arguing that the letter may make the world a more dangerous place -- it could encourage Iran to walk away from the table, which would make it harder for the U.S. to keep Russia, China, and other nations committed to Iranian sanctions. And, of course, the senators who signed Cotton's letter were called "TRAITORS" on the front page of the New York Daily News, and by a lot of other angry observers.
So Cotton's really in the Beltway doghouse now, right?
I'm just joking, of course. He's a Republican! In the Beltway, if you're a Republican, success makes you a star -- and failure makes you a star, too! Ask Politico:
Charlie Pierce calls Politico "Tiger Beat on the Potomac," and if you're not sure why, read this story:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski was knee-deep in the starting ceremony for the world-famous Iditarod dog-sled race on Saturday in Anchorage when her phone blew up. On the other end of the line was Sen. Tom Cotton, eager to recruit as many Republican senators as he could for a letter to Iran’s leadership that would soon anger the White House and inflame partisan tensions in Congress.
The Alaska Republican ultimately declined, one of seven GOP senators to tell Cotton “thanks, but no thanks.” But the exchange highlighted the methodical approach that Cotton, a freshman senator from Arkansas with an Ivy League CV and multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is taking behind the scenes as he emerges as one of the chief antagonists of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
(So Cotton's failure to get Murkowski to sign is evidence of his dreamy rising-star-ishness. "Methodical" is sexy! Oooh! Ahhh!)
With his missive to Iran’s political leadership, ultimately co-signed with 46 of his GOP colleagues, and the fallout over his unusual attempt to circumvent the president’s foreign policy deal-making, Cotton has rocketed to the top of TV bookers’ lists, and fellow Republican senators are suddenly flocking to him for counsel on foreign policy.
All before he’s even given his maiden speech on the Senate floor.
(He's new! And he's done something that's setting off "fallout," much of it negative! Now, if Cotton were a Democrat in this position, Politico might turn up its nose at him for generating "fallout" -- but he's a Republican! Swoon!)
... With his letter and a few headline-grabbing speeches in his Senate committees, Cotton is showing that driving a message can be just as important to building a profile in the Senate as amassing bipartisan support for legislation.
And he’s clearly winning the favor of his colleagues while doing it -- at least the Republican ones.
(And they're the only ones who count, of course!)
Though he clearly has media savvy -- he runs a guerrilla-like Twitter account that constantly blasts Obama’s foreign policy -- Cotton has little regard for the media relationships of his forebears. He declined -- three times -- to answer questions for this story when approached in the Senate hallways.
(He hit us -- and it felt like a kiss!)
Please notice how this works. Over and over again in recent weeks, we've read negative stories about Hillary Clinton that specifically mention her antagonism toward the press -- after she blows off insider journalists, we're told she's thereby earned all the media vitriol she gets. But if Cotton (or any Republican) blows off the media, the journos just slaver for him more! He "has little regard for the media relationships of his forebears," and the result is that he's "rocketed to the top of TV bookers’ lists"! Naturally!
This is how it always goes with the GOP -- a Republican does one showboating, immature, possibly reckless thing, and he or she (usually he) is an immediate star. Look at Ted Cruz. Look at Rand Paul. Look at Ben Carson.
Democrats don't even try to work this system -- well, Barack Obama did, and Elizabeth Warren has to some extent -- but if they tried, there certainly wouldn't be the glide path that there is for every Republican who "makes his move" this way. A big part of the problem is that fellow Republicans (in D.C. or in the right-wing media or in the heartland) always cheer on a Republican who's "making his move" (see, e.g., the aftermath of Scott Walker's CPAC speech), whereas Democrats rarely try to create that sort of "X is a star" impression of consensus about one of their own. Republicans know better. They know if they say someone is a star, the Beltway will always believe them, and advance the message.
Democrats don't get this. So Democrats have no new stars. Democrats have no bench. And the Republican bench just gets bigger and bigger.
UPDATE: Christ, when Republicans have a debacle, they really do just rush out and make gallons and gallons of debacle-ade:
A lawmaker back in Tom Cotton’s home state of Arkansas who wants to make sure the freshman Republican senator can run for reelection and the presidency at the same time in 2020 has introduced a bill that would allow House and Senate candidates to also appear on the ballot for president or vice president.
“Tom Cotton would be my current idea of someone who should be afforded this opportunity. Politics, if I’ve learned anything, it changes every day and there could be the great next hope show up tomorrow,” Republican state Sen. Bart Hester told reporters Tuesday, according to The Associated Press....
I figure the gushing New York Times Magazine cover story on Cotton will happen sometime before all the snow melts in Boston.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog